No not an eating disorder. At least not any proper one I’ve heard of. Did I talk about this before? Two issues actually, one I think is just mental, and the other sensory/associative.
Usual Disclaimer statements: I don’t have body image issues, my weight has been steady for the last 3 years at least. I have a ridiculous gag reflex -I gag and hork up phlegm EVERY time I brush my teeth and tongue. I find that daily experience unpleasant enough that the idea of purging (if I even binged, which I do not) is just a big NO to me.
So. Question. Does anyone else out there;
buy good food (lean protein, fruit and veg, cheese and non-marshmallow bread)
make good meals, (sometimes even gorgeous ones that might even qualify for food mag photos)
and then sit there staring at it, with no desire to put it in your mouth and eat it? I appreciate the accomplishment of having made food, made healthy food, and the aesthetic balance of a well presented meal. But there it stops. The idea of putting the food in my mouth, chewing and swallowing is a mildly if not severely unpleasant concept. Sometimes the unpleasantness is sensory (see below), sometimes the actual physical effort required to cut it up, get the food to my mouth, and chew it seems like too much. As if my last spoon went into preparing food, and I have none left for eating it.
Sometimes I smell food (e.g. in the mall or walking by a bakery or cafe) and can agree that it smells delicious, but have no desire to eat any. (I know, if I could bottle this I’d be rich in the diet industry.)
Further background information:
I live (mostly) on my own, so am responsible for my own grocery shopping, remembering to eat, and making my own food. I cannot afford to eat out very often. If I was really minding my budget, I wouldn’t eat out at all. I have a largeish amount of freezer space available, so I often buy meat on sale and freeze it for later use. I most often use a microwave for thawing. Fruit and veg are a “have to buy fresh” category -I don’t much care for the texture of frozen-and thawed greengroceries.
I have a sensitive mouth. I’m a bleeder and a screamer (really, I need more (whichever)caine than that) at the dentist. Once I had the extremely unpleasant experience of the topical anaesthetic ( I don’t know which one) causing intense right-down-the-nerve pain. Never figured that one out. I have what they call “soft teeth” -no matter how assiduously I flossed, brushed, used fluoride booster paste, or got my teeth sealed (twice) I got cavities. In my early teens, my parents joked that they sent my sister to college and me to the dentist. I’ve had a lot of work done on my teeth, including several root canals and crowns.
As mentioned above, I have a ridiculously sensitive gag reflex. Not sure if this fits in here, but I could never “chug” alcoholic drinks (during my twenties when I did drink), my body would reject them (vomit) after the third big swallow or so. I could do shots (if they were under ~50 proof), but two in a row was my limit. Slow and steady was the way to get me drunk -lots of little sips over time, usually of candy-sweet type drinks.
My sense of smell is pretty sensitive too. When I feel the need to change the smell of my environment, I buy scented candles and neither unwrap nor burn them, but just set them out in various places, unopened. I can smell them plenty from outside the shrink-wrap.
I like salty food and rich spicing (except curry and cumin), not hot spicing. I do not object to a moderate amount of “biting back” from my food.
I have a good imagination, a HIGHLY associative brain, and a good memory for texture. I am also sensory-seeking (or chronically under-stimulated -is that the same thing?).
THIS IS WHERE THE POSSIBLE GROSS-OUT SENSORY/ASSOCIATION STUFF STARTS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
DON’T BLAME ME IF YOU FIND YOU CANNOT EAT SOME KINDS OF FOOD AFTER READING THIS
My associative brain and (possibly unique, but how would I tell?) sense of smell leads me to wonder why some things smell like other things. Rose scent and some beers. Skunk and certain sausages (cheap hot dogs especially). Ozone and nosebleeds. Willow trees and Chartreuse (a liquor, for which the color is named). Breakfast cereal with sprayed-on vitamins and urine (I suspect this is one of the B vitamins, and may be an actual direct correlation). Baby diarrhea and passion fruit. Something about the bread they bake at Subway and vomit is also the same to me.
I have to wash my hands after handling a dishrag or sponge for cleaning before I can eat; the dishrag smell lingers on my hands and grosses me out. Other things do that too, but that’s the one I can think of right now.
My associative brain and sense of texture are worse. Caramel and some kinds of tree blood (diseased cherry trees, sometimes pines). Cream or cottage cheese and most creamy sauce and the pus in pimples. Chocolate and excrement. Orange-colored sauce and slime mold. Hard egg yolks and powdered sugar and chalk (this one is more of a visual thing). Egg whites and rubber. Lemon cream sauce or raw eggs or chicken fat and mucus. Fresh biscuits and cushioning foam. Refried beans and canned cat food. Meringue and That white poufy kind of mold. Almost any mixed texture or chunky kind of sauce and vomit. Sometimes just the way TV commercials depict food (pouring thick sauces or melted cheese in that supposed to look rich and glamorous way) makes me think of mucus and other spoiled, rotten, oozing things.
Fat by itself is pretty awful, especially the ooze out of cheese that’s been out too long in the warm. Those processed cake products (all the relatives of Twinkies) feel like sponges soaked in oil to me. Sometimes even fresh normal cake or bread is like that. I’m pretty meticulous about cutting all the pieces of obvious fat out of any meat I’m served.
I really don’t like stringy textures, either. Mango and spaghetti squash are right out. I like mango juice just fine, so that one’s definitely the texture. Silverskin (the membranous bits) in raw meat are also pretty awful – I cut them out if I possibly can. Dealing with raw chicken by itself can also trigger this issue.
I don’t have a strong physical hunger sensation. I don’t feel hungry, almost ever -maybe a couple of times a year. I do get flavor and texture cravings from time to time. I wonder if my salt craving is my body’s attempt to get me to eat more protein. I have normal-to-low blood pressure, so I am not concerned about my sodium intake.
I take extra B vitamins (probably more than I need), iron, extra vitamin D, fish oil, and calcium. The calcium supplement comes with some magnesium, copper and zinc. Wellbutrin 450 mg once a day and Adderall 10 mg twice a day (sometimes I forget the second dose of Adderall).
I drink a lot of water. I know dehydration is the main thing that lets an infection overwhelm my immune system.
Anyhow, all of these and the way my senses intensify when I’m depressed (and therefore almost by definition low on positive stimulation) are making it pretty hard to eat enough in a day. I’m using whole milk and protein powder (and packaged fruit/yogurt smoothies) to get enough calories in. I’m breaking all the rules about mindful eating and not eating when distracted because I seem to need to be distracted to not sense the texture or smell of my food (and thus not make associations that gross me out into not being able to eat) in order to eat enough. I’m eating a lot of freezer Meals(tm) to get food made and eaten before I get tired (or distracted).
I made breakfast this morning: two hard-boiled eggs with seasoned salt, onion bagel with dill and lemon-pepper cream cheese. Had the same issue that I started this post with; I got it all prepared, and then sat there and stared at it, with no desire to eat. In the last 5 hours I’ve eaten about half an egg. I have also gone out to play Frisbee with and walk the dog twice.
I look at this situation and think it is absolutely ridiculous. My mind is grossing me out of feeding my body. Intellectually, I know that food gives me energy to do things (once I think of things I want to do, of course), and not eating food makes my emotions more intense, makes it harder to stop negative thought-spirals, etc. Sugar crashing is bad for depression and anxiety both.
Eating is good for me. Not eating is bad for me. I know how to eat healthy for me, if my brain/senses would get out of the way.
The obvious answer from that part of my brain is some kind of CBT – train myself not to make these associations, change my thinking about food. Do I need to go see an ED specialist?
Has anyone out there heard of other things that work for this sort of sensory/eating issue? Is there something like Wilbarger for the mouth? What kind of professional do i talk to about this issue? OT? PT? Neurologist? Hypnotist?
Has anyone out there heard of a similar issue -with adults? I’ve not found the material on (children as) picky eaters very helpful.