Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662) said there is no idea so bizarre that a philosopher has not advanced it. These days, the philosophers in question are psychologists and the bizarre ideas are their explanations of human behavior. Said explanations are bizarre because (trust me on this, I am one) psychologists wear, as a rule, ideological blinders that prevent them from accurately understanding what makes humans tick. Unable to see human behavior for what it truly represents, they justify their existence by inventing and marketing diagnoses as if giving something a name is equivalent to understanding and knowing what to do about it.
The latest manifestation of this fraud is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID, formerly known as picky eating. Lots of university health centers and independent practitioners offer therapy for people of all ages whose parents never taught them that not eating what someone else, including one’s mother, has taken the time to prepare and serve is rude.
One psychologist points out that most of the ARFID sufferers she sees eat the same stuff: macaroni and cheese, pizza, chicken nuggets, French fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Lots of folks will recognize those foods as the very ones they wanted their parents to serve at every meal. I know I did. Staring at several tablespoons of steamed broccoli for three hours before I decided I wanted to get up from the table was one of the most therapeutic experiences of my childhood. My next therapy session involved Brussels sprouts. That session lasted only minutes.
Now, instead of picky eating being narcissistic and just plain rude, it is a psychological disorder that some people “have.” This ARFID thing has become big business, mind you. Google ARFID therapy and you will discover just how big. Some of the therapy programs for picky eating children are residential and cost more than what most people earn in a good year.
One psychologist, quoted in an online article, claims that picky eaters have control issues. That’s right. They have control over whether they eat broccoli and Brussels sprouts or not. They choose to be rude because they seek constant affirmation that their almighty feelings represent universal truths to which everyone else should genuflect.
A true story: Once upon a time, a child became infested with ARFID demons at an early age. He would begin gagging and sobbing at the very sight of a food that caused his tongue to feel even slightly less than fully happy. His parents — bless their hearts — catered to the ARFID demons by feeding him only macaroni and cheese, French fries, and fried chicken nuggets. Sure enough, the ARFID demons grew increasingly clamorous.
By the time the parents sought my advice, the child was certifiably insufferable when it came to food. He was well on his way to becoming an adult whom no one wanted to be around if the event involved eating. I told the parents to (a) feed him only what they were eating, but in half-teaspoon portions, (b) set a timer for 15 minutes, (c) put him immediately to bed if he didn’t clean his plate before the time expired, and (d) let him have seconds of anything on his plate if he ate everything within the time allotted. Within a week, the ARFID demons had fled — demons cannot tolerate common sense — and said child was eating everything on his plate and asking for seconds.
My parents invented that therapy, by the way. It costs nothing.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.