I generally always talk to the parents of the fussy eaters I work with about I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! So, it seems only fitting that I write about it at the moment whilst the programme is in full swing. I should start by saying I love this programme, it’s one of my guilty pleasures and I actually look forward to it starting. I love watching the relationships unfold, I love how the group dynamics evolve, I love Ant & Dec’s childish humour and I love watching the trials… particularly the eating trials.
Why do I talk about it when I speak to parents of fussy eaters? Because it is such a good way to explain how a child feels about new or disliked foods. Have you seen the I’m a celebrity eating challenge? The celebrities are awarded meals for eating what they consider to be revolting ‘foods’ – fish eyes, witchetty grubs, pigs snouts, sheep’s testicles and all sorts of other unappealing items that they are repulsed to put in their mouths and gag on when trying to swallow. To be honest we in the UK don’t actually consider these items to be foods at all.
But the thing is… there are people around the world that DO eat these foods quite happily and have no problem with doing so. Why? Because culturally they have grown up eating these foods. They have been exposed to them from an early age and they are just part of everyday life.
I’ll explain it a little further by painting the scene of a situation I found myself in many years ago whilst I was in China. I was in a night market in Beijing and I had a group of locals staring, pointing and laughing at me because I was eating raw broccoli and cauliflower on sticks. I was so happy to have found those foods that night! However, to those people, what I was eating was not supposed to be eaten in that way and perhaps they did not consider that to be a meal at all. The people laughing at me had items such as scorpions and spiders on their own sticks which they were happily eating. To me, that was definitely not a meal! I would have been quite scared to put those foods in my mouth.
What does that story represent? To me it is a good representation of the fact that as humans we need to go through a learning process in order to accept and enjoy the foods that are on our plates. As babies and children we spend a great deal of time exploring which foods to trust by looking at, touching, smelling and tasting them. This helps us to understand which foods we enjoy eating and which we do not. It is more than likely that if I had grown up in China and not in Essex that I too would be wandering the night market chomping down on a deep fried scorpion instead of that broccoli and cauliflower. It is also why children these days eat lots of foods like hummus and olives that the older generation did not. Simply because they are exposed to them more often at home.
So I put it to you, when your child cries when you put broccoli on their plate. It may well just be a piece of broccoli and nothing to be afraid of in your eyes. But to your child, that broccoli is just like the tarantula on the stick. Frightening and unusual and they need to learn to accept it as a food before they will be happy to put it into their mouth.
Hopefully knowing this will helps you to feel less frustrated and more compassion towards your child when they won’t eat a certain food straight away. Even if it has taken you over an hour to make it!
If you need help with a fussy eater, please do get in contact to see how I can help at firstname.lastname@example.org.