Woman hasn't eaten a vegetable in 30 years due to phobia of new food

Woman, 34, who hasn’t eaten a vegetable in 30 YEARS and lives off chips, cheese sandwiches and garlic bread admits it’s ruining her life as she tackles her fear of trying different meals on Extreme Food Phobics

  • Emma, 34, lived on a diet of chips, cheese spread sandwiches and garlic bread 
  • Appeared on W’s Extreme Food Phobics to tackle crippling fear of new foods 
  • She was warned she’s in danger of developing heart disease, stroke and cancer 

A woman who hadn’t eaten a vegetable in 30 years due to her crippling fear of new foods has been forced to change her eating habits after being warned about her future health.

Emma, 34, from Harrogate, would even dine on garlic bread and chip butties on Christmas Day instead of a traditional roast with all the trimmings – thanks to her life-long aversion to trying new food. 

In a bid to tackle her fear of healthy foods, she appeared on this week’s episode of Extreme Food Phobics, which aired last night on W, where she said she was ‘desperate’ to overcome her phobia. 

Eating such an unbalanced diet leaves her so tired she goes straight home from work to sleep, and can’t enjoy an active social life.  

Emma, 34, from Harrogate, hadn’t eaten a vegetable in 30 years due to her crippling fear of new foods but was forced to change her eating habits after being warned about her future health

In a bid to tackle her fear of healthy foods, she appeared on this week’s episode of Extreme Food Phobics, which aired last night on W, where she said she was ‘desperate’ to overcome her phobia

‘I’ve come to the clinic today to sort out an issue i’ve had since the age of four’, said Emma. ‘I’d love to wake up one day and click fingers and I can eat whatever I want. 

‘I’ve been unable to try new foods, just the thought of trying them stresses me out, makes me all tense. 

‘I think my goal would be to have a Christmas meal with my family and not have chip butties and garlic bread on Christmas Day.’ 

‘I am desperate to overcome this phobia not only for my own sanity and health but for my friends and family.’ 

Emma had been forced to substitute a roast dinner for a meal of garlic bread and chip butties on Christmas Day – thanks to her life-long aversion to trying new food

In a candid chat with the show’s host, Dr Ranj, he warned Emma the amount of refined carbohydrates she consumes daily are putting her at risk of obesity and associated health risks – including heart disease, stroke and cancer

Emma has been afraid of trying new foods since she was a child, explaining that she has ‘safety foods’ which include chips, bread and soft cheese sandwiches. 

‘At the age of four my mum had difficulties with me eating new foods,’ said Emma. ‘She took me to the doctors back and forth. 

‘All my mum kept getting was “It’s just a phase she’ll snap out of it” and I didn’t. So basically I’m 34-year-old and I have an eating disorder where I can’t physically try new foods.’ 

Emma, who was forced to have a separate meal on her best friend’s wedding day, knew that her diet could be putting her health at risk, admitting it would be ‘life- changing’ if she could taste different meals. 

What is avoidant/ restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) and how does it affect people?

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)

ARFID is when someone avoids certain foods, limits how much they eat or does both.

Beliefs about weight or body shape are not reasons why people develop ARFID.

Possible reasons for ARFID include:

  • negative feelings over the smell, taste or texture of certain foods
  • a response to a past experience with food that was upsetting, for example, choking or being sick after eating something
  • not feeling hungry or just a lack of interest in eating

Source: NHS 

‘I can’t go on with this diet,’ said Emma. ‘If I do there’s no guarantee I’ll even have a future because it’s impacting on my body and in the long run, who knows what could happen?’ 

Her best friend added: ‘I really fear for her health. She gets headaches, she gets tired all the time and obviously me and her friends and family want her around in our life. 

‘We do worry if she goes on eating the way she does, she’s going to get so unhealthy and obviously we don’t want her to get poorly because of it.’ 

In a candid chat with the show’s host, Dr Ranj, he warned Emma the amount of refined carbohydrates she consumes daily are putting her at risk of obesity and associated health risks – including heart disease, stroke and cancer.

‘The particular issue with bread is it contains a lot of refined carbohydrates and that will play havoc with your blood sugar levels’, he said. 

‘The garlic bread contains a lot of oil, which plays a lot of havoc with your blood fats. Put it all together long term it’s going to put you at risk of obesity. 

‘The other issue is you’re not getting your essential vitamins and minerals. One in particular is iron, iron is important for your red blood cells helps you feel energised and more able to do the things you want to do everyday.’

Emma told the host her eating habits have a ‘massive impact’ on her life, revealing she’s so tired she ‘goes to work and come home to sleep’ and misses out on social events because of her diet.  

‘I want this not to be my lifestyle, I need to change, and I need help to change’, she said.   

The first step in Emma’s rehabilitation is aversion therapy with Anthony Tait, a leading food phobia expert, who takes her into a room full of vegetables, with a plate of sliced tomatoes under a serving platter.  

‘That’s starting to stress me out a bit’, said Emma of the tomatoes. ‘When I see vegetables, cut up ready to be eaten then the freaking out starts, I just get all clammy and tense and panic.’  

Next in the therapy course was hypnosis with the help of clinical psychologist Felix Economakis, who aims to create new neural pathways in his patients to tackle fear of food.  

‘The path on your left Emma is your future, what does your health look like at 44 if you’re living off chips and garlic bread?’, he asked.  

‘Let’s check out your life here on the right compared to here. I feel better, i’ve avoided obesity, i’m slimmer, healthier, more energy, everything is better because of better fuel.’ 

The first step in Emma’s rehabilitation is aversion therapy with Anthony Tait, a leading food phobia expert, who takes her into a room full of vegetables, with a plate of sliced tomatoes under a serving platter

Emma admitted the vegetables were ‘making me feel emotional’ and she was able to pick up a tomato, but wasn’t able to try some

He went on: ‘To Emma’s subconscious mind, if you’re really want to help Emma, take the right path, let go of the fear, in it’s place let’s put a feeling of trust. 

‘It’s the same trust you have when you see garlic bread, ask your mind to change your perception of food.’

Remarkably, Emma was able to try slices of apple in the middle of the session, admitting: ‘I was quite sceptical, as crazy as it sounds to say i’ve just eaten that much of an apple is an achievement’. 

Emma’s final challenge was a banquet with her best friend, where she was delighted after tasting pizza with cherry tomatoes on top. 

‘I might actually be able to go for a meal with you, look at a menu’, said Emma. There’s actually a way forward now, having an actual Christmas dinner. 

She added: ‘I cannot believe what’s happened today, it’s probably not even a big deal to some people but it’s a massive deal for myself, i’m so happy.’ 

Four weeks on, Emma revealed how beneficial the experience had been, insisting: ‘I’m so happy with how it’s gone. 

‘I’ve made progress. I had a cheese and onion pasty, I really enjoyed that. I tried some bacon, I enjoyed that I just need to keep it up and push myself.’

Extreme Food Phobics airs on W at 9pm Wednesdays  

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