What's missing from my diet?
February 18, 2012 8:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm 20, and have since at least Middle School been living off of graham crackers, peanut butter, and milk. Tell me what's wrong with my diet and how to fix it.

Graham crackers give me whole wheat and carbohydrates; peanut butter, fat and proteins; milk, protein and carbohydrates. I performed pretty well in High School athletics (lettered), that said I'm about 6'1" and 120 lbs.

The secondary foods I eat are cereal and poptarts (when I randomly have breakfast, or a late night snack), and pancakes and french toast (when I randomly eat out).

I admit there's something psychological going on. I'm not precisely afraid of new food itself, as every so often I'll try something new, but the vast majority of foods that I'm deathly afraid to try is because there is something prior to their actual taste that is incredibly and overpoweringly off-putting: look, smell, consistency, and so forth.

My first question: What are the most important nutrients that I'm currently missing, and how bad is my current diet?

My second question: Will I make it past forty, or sixty like this? When I did athletics, I felt a physical limit, and I currently fill that my mind is limited. Is this related to a poor diet, or do we all naturally hit some sort of limit that either can't be overcome or can only be overcome through harsher practice?

My third question: Any suggestions for good sources of nutrients that might not be so offensive to my senses that can supplement the things I'm missing?
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (45 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
You are dangerously underweight. You're missing a lot of vitamins, amino acids, and fiber. A multivitamin and Metamucil would at least be a starting place. Fresh vegetables would be infinitely better. If you can't stomach a carrot stick (about as inoffensive as it gets), you need some sort of therapy.
posted by supercres at 8:20 PM on February 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


What's missing is fucking fruits and vegetables.
posted by blargerz at 8:22 PM on February 18, 2012 [44 favorites]


Add fish too.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:22 PM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


6' 1" and 120 sound emaciated to me, and I recommend a therapist with experience with eating disorders in the same way I'd recommend the fire department to a house that was burning. Are you a student?
posted by alphanerd at 8:22 PM on February 18, 2012 [36 favorites]


I am not a doctor. You need to speak to a physician and probably a therapist, either directly or on referral. You will also probably end up meeting with a registered dietician or similar. Unfortunately, you will get neither reliable advice about dietary modification nor an accurate diagnosis of your perceived "mental block" regarding food from the internet.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:22 PM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


as per "harsher practices", I think you need to speak with a therapist and dietician about that.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:22 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


1. It is terrible. You are missing a ton of vitamins and fiber and you're probably not getting enough protein and too much fat
2. Maybe? It's always a maybe. You will, I think, get scurvy.
3. Apples. A glass of orange juice. Brown rice. But there's no responsible answer to this.

And you didn't ask this but you should go to a doctor. Your dislike of most foods is unhealthy and is probably something that can be medically treated. This is an eating disorder. What underlies it is unknown. You need to see a professional.
posted by jessamyn at 8:25 PM on February 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


The first step is to see a doctor to identify any major nutritional deficiencies you may have. A multivitamin is not a bad idea, but you shouldn't let it give you a false sense of security.

The obvious things you're missing are fruits and vegetables, which are important sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You might try fruits and vegetables that go well with what you're already eating. For example, raisins, carrots, celery, bananas, and apples are all classic pairings with peanut butter. But you really need to see a doctor to figure out what you're missing, how severe the problem is, and whether it is best treated on your own or with professional help.
posted by jedicus at 8:26 PM on February 18, 2012


Sorry, you should forget the "if" before my recommendation for a therapist. You have an eating disorder. Ill second alphanerd. Therapist specializing in EDs, stat.
posted by supercres at 8:27 PM on February 18, 2012


You should at the very least start taking a multivitamin. That probably isn't a substitute for what you are missing, but as a stop-gap measure it could do a lot of good.

You are dangerously underweight.

You should see a doctor and describe your diet in detail. I suspect they'll want to do blood work and have you see a therapist and dietitian.
posted by phrontist at 8:28 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


- Vitamin C!

Humans and Guinea Pigs are the only 2 mammals that don't synthesize Vitamin C in our bodies - and we need it to live. These supplements are inexpensive. Get some.

- Get a decent multivitamin. There is a chewable from TJ's I think is cheap and excellent. Take 2 a day.

- Fish oil capsules are necessary for omega 3's and DHA's for your brains. Whole Foods makes a generic (365 Brand) that is like 300 caps for $16 bucks. Take 2 a day.

Nthing everyone else, but for about $30 you can start supplementing. Your body needs it.
posted by jbenben at 8:40 PM on February 18, 2012


You're missing many B complex vitamins and that probably is making you mentally foggy. Severe B12 deficits are associated with problems with cognitive functioning.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:43 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nthing everyone else, but smoothies may be a way to work yourself up to eat more things.
posted by k8t at 8:46 PM on February 18, 2012


I totally agree that a doctor can help you out here. Until then, can you handle a multivitamin? If you can't handle swallowing one, I recommend getting a pill crusher and buying a crushable multi and mixing it into a spoonful of peanut butter. Not all multis are crushable, so ask the pharmacist at the store you buy them at. There are also gummy bear type multis, but you might not like the texture of those.

The other "triage" recommendation I have is nutritional milkshakes like Ensure, or making milkshakes in your blender at home following the recipes on this webpage. It is geared at people who need to gain weight. I think you might like the Nutty Butter recipe, which is an Ensure with peanut butter!

I think these things will help while you speak to a doctor about ways of changing your eating. Part of the reason you feel a mental "limit" is because your body is hungry for nutrients. It is focused on conserving your energy, and it needs your brain to help prioritize which systems to put on standby, so your mind isn't available to help you think as clearly as you would like! You will feel much better once you've put on some weight and expanded your food horizons a bit, but keep in mind that until that happens, you will feel crabby and anxious, but that's all the more reason to keep going until you feel good, not to stick with your old habits. Okay? Okay.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:47 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nthing that you should seek therapy, but if you are really interested in stepping it up as much as you can, I'd start with recipes/websites aimed at making healthy meals for children. Here is a good one. Here's another!
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:50 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


i randomly went off and on food plans that had no rhyme or reason (for six months or so, i only ate orange food). i realized after a period of time and distance from it that it was an extension of an eating disorder i thought i had controlled years earlier and that it fed into some of my OCD behaviors. you really need the help of a professional. get under the care of a doctor before you change your food intake.
posted by nadawi at 8:51 PM on February 18, 2012


One thing to keep in mind, the only reason you aren't walking around feeling like you've been hit by a truck is because you are 20. You are right about at the threshold where you will start feeling worse every year if you don't get your diet together. When I was 20 I could eat a large pizza and be fine. Now in my early 30's if I try to do that I'll be feeling terrible for days.

This is something you need to address now, because if you wait too much longer, your body won't be able to recover in the same way. This is seriously one of those things that can cause you to die young.
posted by markblasco at 8:52 PM on February 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


It might be easier if you cook something simple yourself. When I was younger, I did not trust most foods cooked by other people, because I have a very sensitive taste and if something is just a little bit off, I'll throw the whole dish out. If, however, I can pick out a few good vegetables, cook them with little seasoning when I know exactly what and how much went in there, I can eat almost any type of dish.
posted by rainy at 8:53 PM on February 18, 2012


Oh, and if you seriously want to start getting healthy before you see a therapist, you might start making your own juice. It is an easy way to get a lot of vitamins and minerals quickly, since it is easier to drink the juice of a few apples, carrots, greens, and beats than it is to eat them, and I can guarantee that one glass of fresh fruit and vegetable juice will give you more vitamins than you currently get in your entire day (or perhaps week).
posted by markblasco at 8:55 PM on February 18, 2012


You're fine now because you're twenty, but you're going to crash sooner than later. I'm in my early 20s, and I have friends who lived off hot dogs and kraft dinner, or ramen and frozen juice, and they crashed eventually. One was hospitalized, the other went into a deep depression. Both have recovered now and eat normal food (with the occasional fast food when busy), but you want to avoid that crash.

I look at food and health like Michael Pollan. It's a holistic thing, you can't just break it down to vitamin supplements. Chugging down some extra vitamins won't cut it if you're not eating real food. Make your own food. It can be simple, but it has to be real.

I make my own food when I'm not doing the occasional dine out and only eat processed to satisfy the odd Kraft Dinner craving (not more than once a week). Other than that, I eat real food.

Make vegetable stir-frys + rice, or pasta + vegetables. Throw in beans/tofu/meat for protein. Vary it up. Then you're set. Eat fruits for snacks. Don't eat processed crap like pop tarts unless they're just the occasional guilty weekly snack, and hide it in a place that's annoying to retrieve from.

Seriously. Eat real food.

And you can still make real food even if you're lazy. I hate cooking and washing the dishes, so I just cook two giant pots every Sunday. I eat leftovers the rest of the week, and when I'm sick of it by Friday, I go out to eat with friends. I can send you some easy lazy-college-student recipes if you're interested if you're okay with vegetarian/pescetarianism foods.

About picky eating, I'll have to quote the Chinese. Eat with your mouth, not with your eyes.
posted by Hawk V at 9:03 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of the scurvy urban legend.

As markblasco says, your body can just about cope with it because of your age, but you are basically showing the symptoms of someone who's been living in a fallout shelter for months on emergency rations. As someone who's been in a similar situation, I'll nth that you have an eating disorder and you need to talk to someone who specialises in EDs.

Until then, your specific questions are kind of moot, because whatever we suggest (I'll say mashed bananas as a point of departure from your current diet) is going to run smack into the psychological resistance you've built up.
posted by holgate at 9:06 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'll focus on your first question: Your diet is way too high in high-glycemic starch and sugars, and too low in fiber and vitamins. Modern graham crackers are essentially dessert, to say nothing of Pop Tarts, and to be blunt, you are kidding yourself if you think they contain any appreciable whole grains or fiber. Milk also contains sugar in the form of lactose, and unless you are getting the super-hippie peanut butter, it probably contains significant sugar as well. In the long term, you're setting yourself up for an increased risk of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.

Other people have, thankfully, already told you to seek therapy and take a multivitamin. I can't agree enough. Therapy can be great for working through all kinds of anxieties, and many therapists specialize in helping people have a healthier relationship with eating and food.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:06 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Speaking as someone who is recovering from an eating disorder, the tone of comments in this question is making me sad. Please feel free to memail or email me. If you happen to live in LA, I can recommend a super great nutritionist who will work with you to slowly help you intoduce foods into your diet to gain weight and improve your health.

A multivitamin would be a good start in the meantime. Also try to increase quantities to gain some weight if you can - you are very underweight and that's probably the biggest risk to your health right now.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:10 PM on February 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


nthing the advice to see a doctor and a therapist about how to safely expand your diet. There are people who live on extremely limited diets their entire lives, but not in the best of health.

One thing you might do to try to expand your diet yourself is to force yourself to try new foods. I believe the rule of thumb is that you have to try something ten times before you start to tolerate it. Start small and stay within your comfort zone. Don't panic about being healthy just yet--you're not going to die of malnutrition in the next year.

Try to get yourself into a state of mind where you're thinking, "I am going to try something new!" Remind yourself: "I don't have to like this. I don't have to like everything I eat. It's OK to eat something I don't like." Try to separate your mouth from your likes and dislikes. It's a sensory organ. Treat it as a scientific experiment: Put a bit of the new food in your mouth and roll it around and describe the texture to yourself--don't judge it, just describe it. Is it smooth or lumpy or chewy or fatty or creamy or crunchy? When you taste it, think about whether it's salty or bland or sweet or sour. Still don't worry about liking it--what you're doing is training yourself to accept new foods without panic. Liking and disliking come later. If you have to spit it out, spit it out, but if you can swallow it, reward yourself with something you really like to eat.

Get some baby food. Start with the fruits and sweet potatoes, and then work up to the vegetables. Spread these on your graham cracker instead of peanut butter. Heck, mix a little peanut butter in at first if you think it'll help.

Or try one spoonful of the new food, and then have your usual graham cracker and peanut butter meal. The next time, try two bites of the new food before eating. Or try interspersing the bites of new food in with your usual fare.

Another thing you might want to do is expand your peanut butter vehicles. How about a plain english muffin, a bagel, or a wheat tortilla? What about putting it on a slice of apple or pear?

French toast and pancakes have some options too--do you ever eat blueberry pancakes or french toast made with raisin bread? If not, this might be a good way to get some more fruits into your diet. You can also make pancakes with oatmeal or cornmeal in the batter for a different flavor, or shredded apple or pear or peach.

Eggs are a good source of protein. Scramble one slowly in a pan with milk and some salt, and if you need to mask the flavor further, sprinkle some cheese on top (or if cheese grosses you out, maple syrup is fine, too). Eat it on your graham cracker.

Yogurt could also be a good gateway food for you. It's sweet, it's creamy and milky, and usually is flavored with something you don't usually eat. If the texture sets you off, mix it with milk and drink it. If you like that, you can progress to smoothies, which are a great way to pack a lot of good nutrition into a palatable shake.

Let's try to think of other foods you might eat that you're not thinking of offhand. When you're home for the holidays or eating with your family, is there anything else you'll tolerate? Sweet potatoes? Stuffing? Pie? Rolls? Cornbread? Creamed corn? Pasta? Gravy?

I definitely think a therapist will be able to help you better--maybe give you a formal program, rather than this free-form method I've described--but if for some reason that's not an option, maybe some of these suggestions could help you make some changes yourself.

Good luck. Aside from it being unhealthy, extreme pickiness can lead to social minefields later in life when you get invited to dinner or parties or whatever. Unfortunately, these food aversions are often viewed by society as sign of immaturity/unsophistication, and those are probably not qualities you want to project. So it's worth addressing this for lots of reasons.

It's a good thing you're trying to intervene now, before it becomes horribly entrenched. I wish you the best.
posted by elizeh at 9:16 PM on February 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't know anything more than anyone else who has read a few books on food and watched cooking and health shows on television. But I just want to say, I am really happy that you asked this question and that you understand there is a problem. Please read these wonderful, helpful comments seriously and take care of yourself. There is so much help and love out there, whatever your financial situation. Good luck and keep going! You're so young and there is so much waiting for you.
posted by maya at 9:22 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry if the tone in my earlier response came off as condescending, I didn't interpret the OP's situation as an eating disorder. It's just that many students I knew in college who lived on their own had awful awful three-item diets but eventually straightened out.

If the OP is simply a 20 year old picky eater, I know picky eaters who cook healthy meals at home and have no problems with their health (e.g. doesn't matter if the picky eater doesn't eat fruit if s/he has veg to supplement).

If the OP does have an eating disorder (which now sounds like it if s/he's been eating only this since Middle School), then I echo all the posters who suggest a nutritionist or therapist to sort out what's going on, and the next steps that the OP can take.

But OP, whatever you do, act now for the sake of your health. Whatever energy or health you're enjoying now is not going to last. Please take care of yourself.
posted by Hawk V at 9:27 PM on February 18, 2012


Other commenters have basically addressed your nutrition issues - I just wanted to add that if you can get a hold of the series 'Freaky Eaters' (also known as 'Eataholics') you'll see a lot of people with very limited diets like yours getting help to explore more types of food and slowly overcome their food issues. It might help to see that there are others in your predicament who have managed to work their way up to a more varied diet.
posted by lovedbymarylane at 9:28 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


do we all naturally hit some sort of limit that either can't be overcome or can only be overcome through harsher practice?

Intense exercise is one of those things that will expose your health weaknesses in other parts of your life. In this case, your diet is the limiting factor, and you're going to hit those limits because of your lack of vitamins and over-reliance on carbohydrates (it works the other way, too-- when I drastically reduced the carbohydrates in my diet, I felt it because I was exercising so much and had to readjust).
posted by deanc at 9:31 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish people weren't lecturing you here. I hope you know that it's a kind of metafilter knee-jerk thing, where if somebody says "I am having a problem!" people reflexively dump out a bunch of Dr. Phil-style "Tellin' it like it is!" responses: it doesn't mean that they are mean people or that they aren't taking your question seriously, it's just how people around here talk. I mention this because what I really, really hope you know is:

a) If you see a professional about this, they will not respond to you the way people are responding to you here.

b) You need to see a professional.

Your diet is not adequate. But I don't want you to think that I'm saying "You have a bad diet and you are a bad person who should feel bad about their bad levels of willpower! Eat an apple, freak!"

Because - and I am a layperson, so grain of salt - what you are describing sounds disordered to me. This isn't your fault. A diet this limited is probably not something you got into just because you are a mildly fussy eater and is probably not something you can get out of with willpowering your way through some baby carrots.

If you were my child, I would be really worried about you. I would ask you to please, please see a professional (for little kids with food issues, parents sometimes take them to an "eating clinic". Could you google "eating clinic+(your city)", or "eating disorder+(your city)"?) and in the meantime to please take a multivitamin. Your diet isn't sufficient in several ways, but the things I would worry about most in the short term are sheer calories (too low) and a range of vitamins and minerals.

Would you be willing to take a multivitamin? Multivitamins for adults can sometimes be kind of horse-pilly: various companies make ones you can chew, which may or may not (given what you describe about sensory stuff related to food) be easier to handle. For calories, you might try a meal-replacement drink like Ensure: it should be creamy and sweet and not so different from some of the things you are already comfortable with. Perhaps worth a try in the meantime.

(But please do try to talk to a professional about broadening your diet. If you can update a mod with your (general) location, they could add that info here so people could give you local advice.)

Good luck. I think you are great for asking this question and trying to take good care of your body.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:35 PM on February 18, 2012 [23 favorites]


Greens. Salads and green/red vegetable matter.

If it wasn't ask.mefi, I would have thought that you are a troll. On your diet,despite your activities, you aren't very muscular, are you?

If at all possible on your budget, add fresh vegetables - more green stuff the better.

You'll also want more animal protein; lots of people assume that "high protein" vegetables/seeds are enough, but... many people are confused about essential amino acids and think that "lots of protein" are enough. The human body can't synthesize a number of essential amino acids that they need to work properly; just because protein is made up of amino acids doesn't mean it is made up of the amino acids that the human body can make from other amino acids. A vegetarian diet requires a *lot* more protein than necessary (especially in super diets that maximizes the intake of vegetable-poor, meat-rich, human-necessary amino acids), which may cause secondary health problems.

Yeah, you're not eating a healthy diet, but you're not going to die next week because of it. Suck on some limes, drink lemonade, and get vitamin C. This'll delay the macro health deficiencies.
posted by porpoise at 9:37 PM on February 18, 2012


(sorry, that should read: vegetable high = low amount of essential amino acids that we can't make we still can't get; meat high = the amino acids that we can't make, we can absorb through meat)

Vegetables are low in the amino acids that we can't make, but need. So we would need to eat much more vegetables (in the absence of meat) in order to be healthy. A small amount of meat is enough to offset what vegetables aren't able to provide us. Humans are omnivores and a balanced diet is, by definition, the most healthsome.

Caveat; if you are Inuit or Native North American. Carbohydrates will be poison for you, and a high animal protein and high fibre vegetable will be far better than a high carb, high vegetable, medium carb that most Europeans will benefit from.
posted by porpoise at 9:44 PM on February 18, 2012


There was a drawn blog on the blue a while back that this post kind of reminded me of...in a way I hesitate to recommend it, just because if you're 6'1' the likelyhood is that you're a dude, and so therefore I don't know how relatable you'll find it. But it's really interesting a well-written --- the thing that seemed similar was the way she described her repugnance toward food and that she was someone who had a lot of difficulty accepting that she might have an eating disorder, in large past because she was ambitious and successful in other areas of here life, and it didn't fit in with her self image in that respect. I dunno, take a look, you might want to see if what she describes is at all congruent with your own experience when deciding to seek treatment.
posted by Diablevert at 9:47 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I want to echo some of the other comments and suggest that you might have some sort of ED-NOS [Eating disorder not otherwise specified]. Your eating habits are actually not that uncommon.. There was a show on TLC [somewhat insensitively] titled "Freaky Eaters", which followed a number of people who found the vast majority of food unpalatable and subsisted off of one or two types of foods.
posted by oxfordcomma at 9:55 PM on February 18, 2012


Don't suck on limes (or lemons, or even oranges)! You'll destroy your teeth. Watch it with the acidic drinks too.Yeah you need vitamin C but (depending on genetics and hygiene and other stuff too) your diet may already be screwing with your teeth which is not going to make your job of eating better any easier.
posted by BibiRose at 9:55 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hm, it actually isn't so awful, assuming you have an equal number of servings of each and you have 2% milk.

In terms of macronutrients it is about evenly fat, carbs and protein. Which is pretty good. Micronutrients you are getting no vitamin C and little B1 which could be corrected by a multivitamin. Fiber is very low which can be corrected with supplements.

Start there and introduce veggies, fruits and new protein sources.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:59 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, you should see a Dietician NOT a nutritionist to get the proper help you need. Here's why:

A registered dietitian (RD) is a person who has satisfied the academic and experiential requirements established by the American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Commission on Dietetics Registration (CDR). “RD” is a nationally recognized professional credential, which is conferred by the ADA. At a minimum, an RD holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, nutrition sciences, and/or dietetics. In addition to food science and meal planning courses, a dietetics curriculum includes nutrition through life’s cycle, clinical dietetics, medical-nutrition therapy, education methodology, human development and anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, and social science. In order to remain registered, an RD must meet the continuing professional education requirements of ADA that includes at a minimum seventy-five hours per five-year period, and/or a professional portfolio with targeted ADA-approved professional development goals and objectives. A registered dietitian combines the art and science of the profession — to assist individuals and communities in achieving their respective nutritional needs and goals. This includes individualized nutritional plans for persons with special medical diets, and eating plans for persons with special needs and disabilities. All registered dietitians are nutritionists.

Additionally, the title nutritionist does not represent a nationally recognized professional credential. In fact, in those states and U.S. territories without nutrition or dietetic licensure laws, the term may be completely unregulated. Anyone in these states may call himself/herself a nutritionist, despite the presence or absence of relevant academic preparation, training, and/or continuing education in human nutrition. Therefore, not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.

In some instances, a nutritionist may hold a bachelor’s degree in food, nutrition and dietetics, but may not hold the CDR’s registration credential. Often, this individual has not completed a relevant internship or pre-professional practice program, and/or has not passed the national examination test necessary for registered dietitians.

The term certified nutritionist may also vary tremendously in states that do not have dietetic licensure laws.


posted by two lights above the sea at 10:18 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a physician I am baffled as to how you are not dead yet from scurvy. From what I understand, scurvy is supposed to set in after 3 months of severe vitamin C deficiency, and from what I can tell, none of the foods you eat have any vitamin C in them. Unless some of the Pop Tarts have traces of fruit in them that are keeping you from a complete lack of it?

You might also find this discussion in this article about a girl who ate only chicken nuggets since the age of 2 interesting. The beginning is kind of sensationalized, sorry. The difference would be that apparently chicken nuggets and fries have some vitamin C in them (who knew?!)
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:51 AM on February 19, 2012


A couple links of people who eat a very limited diet, as well. Picky eating assocation videos.Picking Eating Adults email list.


There are a lot more people who on the EPE end of things than most people realize. Most EPE hide how few types of foods they eat from everyone around them. There are people on the EPE list who have expanded their diets, and people who have not been able to do so.
posted by SuzySmith at 2:48 AM on February 19, 2012


Fixing your diet on your own is probably going to be really hard. Finding a dietician who specializes in eating disorders may be some of the best money you've ever spent--this is exactly the kind of situation they specialize in and they will meet you where you are. Trust me on this: they do not yell, or lecture, or roll their eyes (and if they do, you should fire them). Truly, a good dietician with an ED background will help you work out what will work for you.

If you're in L.A., MeMail me and I can recommend someone. And all the very best to you: you're wise to be taking care of yourself.
posted by corey flood at 4:20 AM on February 19, 2012


As a student I knew someone who was a supertaster, and so he could only manage to live off very bland foods, mainly white bread and chips/fries. He was pretty normal, but he had terrible skin and never looked healthy. And as others have said, the sustainability of this might have been because he was in his early 20s.
posted by mippy at 6:03 AM on February 19, 2012


anonymous posted">> Any suggestions for good sources of nutrients that might not be so offensive to my senses

Have you tried supplement drinks, for protein and fats? Drinking can be easier than eating when you're just not hungry. If you go to a store like Super Supplements and find a friendly clerk, they should be able to help you find the least offensive. Drink it cold, drink it through a straw, drink it quickly.

Protein bars? Luna Bars are very sweet, which you seem to like. I like coconut Lara Bars; my kids like the lemon and blueberry flavors. They might be too chewy for you, though, if you have some sensory issues. Again, I'd recommend going to some hippie grocery store and browsing the display. Ask for help if you want. Those sales clerks get questions about kombucha and coconut oil and kelp all day; you won't stand out.

Gummi mult-vitamins can be easier to get down.

These are all highly processed items, of course. But they might help for now. You don't have to start right in with a steak and a spinach salad.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:53 AM on February 19, 2012


Know any vegetarians who've gone a whole long time without eating meat? They'll probably tell you that, even if they used to love meat, now the smell/look/thought of it makes them feel gross. It's because they've gone so long without meat that their palette has shifted. Similar with other shifts: I loved Taco Bell when I was a teenager, but now the idea makes me want to gag. Someone who only eats McDonald's will find sauteed kale inexplicable and tasteless---someone who only eats freshly prepared veggies will find McDonald's greasy and tasteless. What you eat determines what you want to eat.

What this means is that you're not weird, or wrong, or somehow twisted. The fact that other foods gross you out doesn't make you broken. Your body and mind are reacting the way they are supposed to, when you find yourself turned off at the idea of eating most other things than what you're used to. That's normal. Repeat: you're not broken.

You have, however, limited yourself to a very minimal diet that is not giving you the nutrition you need. That's not good. And the fact that you've spent so long with such a limiting diet means that you probably don't have the psychological resources it takes to really break out of the habit. This is why so many people are suggesting you see a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. Your brain may not be disordered, but your eating is. You can go and see a therapist without it meaning that you are deranged; you're not deranged, but it sounds like you could really use help getting into a healthier diet.

Please. You owe it to yourself to get some help with this. Life will be so much better, if you can get a professional to help you find the way to a better diet.
posted by meese at 10:12 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


What do your parents eat? Did they harass you about food? If you can find a nutritionist(dietician)/therapist, who can help you overcome your aversion to a more diverse diet, that would be ideal. Next best is a nutritionist, with recommendations to a therapist specializing in food issues.

Otherwise, look at the food pyramid, and add another whole grain, like brown rice, or whole wheat pasta. How about whole grain toast, maybe with cinammon sugar? Add fruits and vegetables, like applesauce, peaches, pears(easily available canned or jarred, probably an easier transition), and strawberries, and vegetables. You might adapt to bland veg, like lima beans, maybe green beans, carrots, and sweet potatoes, before tackling spinach, broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts, red peppers, kale, and other veggies with more pronounced flavors. Tomato sauce, possibly with pasta, is easy to buy already prepared. Protein - add baked beans, maybe hummus, almonds and other nuts, and consider chicken and other proteins. A salad of cooked chicken, lettuce, almonds, mandarin oranges, *lightly* dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar is easy and gets some new foods into rotation.

One way to add new foods is to have them available. They make applesauce and fruit in 'lunchbox' sizes; get some applesauce packs, and some time when you're hungry, try it. Introduce new foods one at a time to start. There may be foods you don't like; that's okay, you can skip them, or go back and try them again later. At 6 feet / 120 lbs., you are underweight, and possibly malnourished. You need more quality calories. Add a multi-vitamin, but, even more important, add new food sources. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 10:32 AM on February 19, 2012


Do you have other sensory defensiveness issues? If an apple or a raisin or a carrot make you gag, that's pretty extreme sensory defensiveness. How are you with sounds you find unpleasant? With levels of light you find unpleasant?

I am so sorry that things are so difficult for you around food. There are people who can help you. A therapist and a registered dietician are two folks you need on your team. If you have a larger issue with sensory defensivenesses, there are therapists who specialize in helping folks with that.

I am umpteenthing everyone who has said that you should do this ASAP, because you're almost certainly still growing, especially in the area of brain development. Would it help to think of this as "giving my body the fuel and building blocks it needs to get strong" instead of focusing on what a difficult time you've had with food so far?

Best of luck to you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:43 AM on February 19, 2012


I just want you to know you're not alone. After eating normally for years, a medication took away my appetite and changed the way I perceived food. For now, because I still have these issues (almost 2 years later) I have a dx of ED-NOS. Right now, the only things I eat on a regular basis is jam on toast, milk, juice and yogurt. Rarely I can eat meat, typically in the form of sushi. I take a multivitamin, B complex and fish oils. Not the best way to get nutrients, but I'm trying

I've lost 80 (much needed pounds) and my body hates me for it as I have fibromyalgia too. When my diet becomes more restricted my pain levels go up.

So as others have said, doctor. Maybe start with your PCP. He/She can make referrals to psychologists, prescribe appetite stimulants, etc.

Good luck. MeMail any time if you want to talk to someone who's in the same boat, albeit for different reasons.
posted by kathrynm at 5:20 PM on February 20, 2012


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