To many people, the words “try this” aren’t a big deal, and they follow through with the simple request. However, for me, it was those two little words I dreaded more than anything for 13 years of my life.
For as long as I can remember, I have been terrified to try new foods. I remember feeling extremely nervous, scared, and beyond embarrassed whenever my parents or friends would ask me to try something on their plate, especially if we were at a public gathering. Whenever my parents would ask me to try something at the dinner table, I remember getting so frustrated and anxious to the point of tears and storming away from the dinner table.
I always had a fear that whenever I would try something new, I would get sick from it, making me stay away from any food that was foreign to my tongue. With this constant fear looming over me, I was always worried I would end up being malnourished and my body would never be able to function properly. That is, until one day, I found out about Food-Neophobia.
By definition, Food-Neophobia is the fear of trying new or unfamiliar foods — it’s particularly common in toddlers and young children (however, I wasn’t afraid of food itself, which is known as Cibophobia). Upon reading this definition, I was still worried about this because I’ve been dealing with it far past the age that is a deemed a “young child.” It is something that is grown out of, but obviously for me it was a bigger problem.
After reading this personal story, you’re probably thinking “she’s just a picky eater, this isn’t a real problem.” But it was. My fear of trying new foods got so bad that I would have to have a special meal for me made every night (special shoutout to my mom for doing that, you rock).
Some nights I would just refuse to eat dinner and would sneak my favorite snacks into my room and eat them until I felt sick. For 13 years, I continued these poor habits; I just became accustomed to it, and I thought this was how I was going to live out the rest of my life.
I let Food-Neophobia control me. I never truly ate a proper diet my whole life, since I would eat the same few foods on repeat every week. However, when I arrived to college, all of this worrying about food and being fearful of trying new things stopped, and it changed a lot of things about me.
I gained a few needed pounds, and I’ve established a more balanced diet. I don’t have one reason as to why I suddenly overcame this almost lifelong challenge, but I can narrow it down to a few things that most likely spurred my growth.
For starters, freshman year was the first time truly being on my own, without a parent or someone looming over my shoulder asking me to try something at the dinner table. I don’t feel forced to try something new every time I eat, I do it at my own pace, which helps me remain calm in the whole process. Also, I’m in a city where there is so much food to offer, and I want to explore it as much as I can — to my limits, anyway.
Although this sounds cheesy, I truly do think my boyfriend had a big influence in helping me get over and conquer my Food-Neophobia as well. Personally, I don’t like to keep an empty plate when someone buys me dinner anywhere, so that mindset has helped me try a lot of new foods. But also, I always get the puppy-dog, “do it for me?” so how can I resist that? But seriously, he really has been a help in the sense that he doesn’t force me into trying something new all the time, and is very accepting when I do decline.
Since I’ve been in college, I’ve tried a lot of new foods that you may be surprised to hear. I have finally tried hamburgers, buffalo chicken, more vegetables than I can even name, calamari, sushi, chicken and waffles, and so many other foods that I cannot name off the top of my head because I’ve forgotten them.
I used to never feel anything about food other than it was necessary to live, but now I see it as so much more. I love writing about food, taking pictures of food, running a food Instagram account, and truthfully I now love to try new foods. The changes in my diet have helped me feel healthier, and a lot more satisfied.
If you’re like me, and you’ve experienced this or still are, just remember you’re not alone, and there’s a lot of adults out there who deal with this daily. Take it day by day, and don’t force yourself to try things if you’re not comfortable with them. It’s all about progressing with it, and you’ll get there sooner or later.