Home » Autism » Food battles, how I loathe thee

Food battles, how I loathe thee

Oh, the might food battle. Exhausting. Draining. Never-ending. I hate it. And I’m quite sure it’s payback for me being such a picky eater growing up….well, still.

There are lots of parts of autism that suck. Food is one that sucks the most. I was working on our 2014 scrapbook, which included photos of Little Man in swim trunks. He looks awful – I could count every rib, more-than-wrap my hand around his upper arm, see his stick-like legs. I hate those photos. I hate seeing him that way. He would hardly eat a thing. I finally took to taking him a warm lunch at school nearly every day, and sitting with him for a week or two while he ate it, just to get him eating lunch.  We moved him from the lunch tables to the MPR to get away from the noise. He was in the pediatrician’s office every other month for weight checks. He was awarded the guilt-inducing label of “Failure to Thrive.”

He’s come a long way since then. He no longer looks emaciated. I can’t count his ribs anymore just by looking at him. But his food choices are pretty limited. I call it his “P Diet”….as in, if it starts with a P, and is hugely processed, he’ll eat it…poultry (especially popcorn chicken or chicken strips), Pop Tarts, potato chips, popcorn, pepperoni……It’s pretty bad, but when  you’ve seen your kid eat almost nothing, endured all the joy of a failure-to-thrive diagnosis, you get to the point you’re happy he’s eating anything.

There are days he will just dig his heels in and push back eating at all, unless I’m letting him eat his preferred garbage. We do make him good stuff. He will eat fruit if we remind him it’s there. But some days, we end up both in tears over a meal he simply refuses to eat, despite the fact he’s eaten it a thousand times before. This morning, he swore there was “nothing in the house he wanted to eat,” besides nachos. Sure….nachos at 7am. Sounds reasonable, right? NOT. AT. ALL. Food battle ensued. Mom won. He ate an apple.

We’ve spent countless hours and dollars trying to expand his palate. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve taken him to the store, letting him choose foods he thought he would eat. Or, once we figure out something he likes, he stops eating it. It’s a constant guessing game. I worry about his health, but again, he’s a pre-teen boy who needs calories so he can grow, so while we fight to keep him eating at least somewhat-healthfully, we cheer every calorie going in, and fight the good fight when he digs in and says he doesn’t want to eat at all.

6 thoughts on “Food battles, how I loathe thee

  1. So valid.
    I’ve noticed this tendency in recent years. Lots of kids around me like this. They say it’s texture issues. Popcorn chicken or chicken nuggets seems to be the common denominator.
    As a teacher, I had a student who ate so many carrots she was orange.
    Only my boy is a fantastic, well-rounded, adventurous eater as I am. The girls are all picky in different ways. Sissy had a knack for only ever being hungry for junk…so we just didn’t have junk and she was stubborn, but eventually caved. She eats better now. She is not autistic, and still it was hard.
    I experienced the Failure to Thrive with the boy one and with Moo, in that the drs and nurses would tell me they were on the borderline. Too much guilt for me! I’d tell them, “All I can do is feed them and exercise them. No one asked me how I wanted them shaped.” Meanwhile, Sassy was always 90% or off the charts!
    Of course, it seems the kids who need nutrition shakes refuse them, and their sturdy counterpoints would drink them up. I’m happy to say that both my tiny ones came out of lower percentiles around age 10.
    I can remember medicating my son, who was already underweight, and he lost his appetite. We had to go in and trade meds so he could eat. These days, he carefully watches his waistline.
    I know there are all kinds of food therapies and tricks and tips, but I understand the frustration and the despair. Mealtime is hard for most moms, let alone with finicky, underweight kids. Any new dr (like an urgent care trip) would take me back into the guilt.
    Keep hangin on.

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