All you can’t eat

How to handle the picky eater in your life

By Angela Espinoza, Contributor

One of BC’s finest attractions is our robust variety of dining options. The list of ethnic cuisines, seafood, and vegan options available is overwhelming to anyone, but more so for those who happen to consider themselves “picky.” Just how picky a person is depends on many factors, but to have any limited, non-medical eating habits consistently results in awkward if not embarrassed conversation.

Those with what we’ll call a refined taste sometimes prefer parts of their meal on separate plates. Others won’t touch anything containing a specific food item, and some, like myself, have trouble finding anything to eat outside their home. In recent years, people have discussed whether or not adult “selective eating” should be recognized as an eating disorder. Part of the reason for debate is that, depending how picky one is, they may actually be missing out on necessary nutrients. There’s also confusion as to how much picky eating is the result of taste buds and how much is in one’s head. Extreme pickiness is different for everyone who deals with it, but one issue all picky eaters have in common is how the people in their lives are able to accommodate.

Between dealings with family, friends, co-workers, and partners, I’ve found that being the picky one is frustrating—partly out of guilt and embarrassment. At my age (23 one month from now), trying to fight the picky habit seems like a better alternative than constantly trying to work around it (i.e. by literally wandering around to find a place everyone can eat at). Unfortunately, it’s taken enough uncomfortable forced meals to realize it may not just be stubbornness; it’s simply a very limited idea or sense of taste.

I think we all know someone we consider to be picky for one reason or another. One of the struggles of being an adult with selective eating habits is learning to not be discouraged by their diet. It’s one thing if a picky person refuses to try new foods; it’s another if they try (sometimes repeatedly) and just don’t enjoy certain foods. Odds are, after a certain age, a person knows they are picky and stops trying.

An adult picky eater does not benefit from being chastised on their diet. There are of course times when dealing with picky people becomes tiresome, possibly even stressful depending on the extent of their habits. In relationships, I’ve found the other half often reaches a point where they feel trapped by the fact that the habit likely won’t change. I think this is partly because people who are more inclined to try new foods have difficulty seeing why somebody else would seemingly choose not to—more so when that somebody else is a person the other half wants to share things with.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is such a thing as accommodating too much. Outright ordering a meal one might think would be great for the picky person isn’t necessary when the person is an adult; they likely know what they want, or they’ve even learned to accommodate themselves.

If nothing else, I’d like if people saw adult picky eating habits as more of a quirk than a handicap or nuisance. Sometimes these habits result in finding unique restaurants, such as The Eatery on Broadway, a sushi place that also serves my preferred foods like chicken wings—perfect for those with a similarly quirky taste.