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Old 11-28-2010, 07:22 PM   #1
tofuburrito tofuburrito is offline
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Questions about odd eating disorder

Hello all,

I'm writing because I'm worried about my uncle. I think he has an eating disorder, but I'm not sure what it is, if we should be worried, or how treatable it might be. I'm hoping someone else here finds some of this familiar and might be able to suggest some resources.

My uncle is in his forties, happily married with three children. Over the past decade he has slowly become more and more picky about his eating. Originally he didn't eat red meat, saying the taste disgusted him and made him throw up. Then he wouldn't eat cheese for the same reason.

Later he stopped eating anything with butter in it, like homemade cookies that he used to love. He would still eat packaged cookies, though, and he still does - he doesn't care if butter is in the recipe there, he says he can't taste it but if it was baked at home he can taste the butter and he finds it disgusting. Even if we make a recipe without any butter, if it would normally contain butter he still refuses to eat it.

I don't recall in what order these things happened, but now he no longer eats any meat at all - he calls himself a vegetarian, but he won't eat tofu or most other sources of protein except some beans. He won't eat cheese or milk, but he likes eggs still. I haven't listed all of the things he won't eat today because they're just too numerous - he eats almost nothing. Rice, beans, eggs, and vegetables, maybe - and he's extremely picky about the way they're prepared so that almost nobody else can prepare them the way he likes them.

For many years it was just an annoyance. His wife has been extremely tolerant throughout all of this, doing her best to cook things that he'll eat, but it's been getting harder and harder. Now it's started to affect all of his friends and family. He brings his own food to parties and people don't want to invite him to anything involving a meal because it's so awkward.

We've talked to him about it a lot and he's somewhat open about the fact that he's very picky, but I don't think he realizes how extreme it is and nobody has had a really frank honest conversation with him. I'm not really the best person to do this, I live farther away and I'm not as close to him, but I can see how it affects everyone in the family. I think a lot of people would be willing to do something to help him, but nobody knows what.

Everyone thinks it's all just in his head. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but I'm guessing that whatever started in his head has now affected his whole body. He really does show disgust when he eats something that he doesn't like, and I've heard secondhand that he has actually thrown up several times.

Anyway, that's the story - I'd love to know if this type of behavior has a name and if there is any information I can read about it online. Are there therapists that specialize in treating people with this sort of condition? What advice would you give his wife and other friends who want to invite him to dinner but don't want it to be so awkward?

Thanks in advance!
- T.B.