Picky Eaters: When Waffles and Fries Are All You Eat

Should Picky Eating Be Considered a Medical Condition?

Bob Krause hates Thanksgiving, and not because of that all forced family time.

Krause, 63, calls himself a picky eater -- one who won't eat anything that's served at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, or any other dinner, for that matter.

Krause survives on little more than grilled cheese sandwiches, French fries and waffles. And, like other picky eaters, Krause hopes that a registry of adult picky eaters, recently begun by Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh, will bring attention to a problem he believes should be considered a medical condition.

The registry, dubbed the Food F.A.D. Study, or the Finicky Eating in Adults study, has already attracted more than 2,000 participants. According to its website, the survey and registry was created to learn more about adults who describe themselves as picky eaters.

"Much of the research on picky eating has been done in children," reads the site, which is run by Dr. Nancy Zucker at Duke University Medical Center along with colleagues at Western Psychiatric Institute in Pittsburgh. "We know very little about what picky eating looks like in adults – and whether such eating habits cause any problems for either yourself or your family."

Krause says he knows all too well what picky eating can do to a person's social life. Now on this third marriage, Krause said that his first two ended partially because of his picky eating.

"I absolutely think picky eating is a type of eating disorder," said Krause.

Pickyeatingadults.com, an online help group created by Krause, has attracted other picky eaters – more than 1,500 – who have confessed that their own eating habits have cost them not only life partners, but also jobs.

"I've seen all sorts of extremes in the group," said Krause. "One thing we all do share is that our eating has affected us to the point that it will cause social embarrassment."

One woman who identified herself only as "Kathy" wrote to Krause telling him that she has turned down "dream jobs" because she feared she would have to explain her picky eating to co-workers. Another woman wrote to Krause that she "just wants to be normal" and is too scared to go away to college for fear that her peers will notice her bizarre eating patterns.

Do Picky Eaters Have a Medical Disorder?

In addition to Thanksgiving, Krause does anything he can to avoid sit-down banquets and weddings where he might have to explain his picky eating. His website even features a list of the best excuses to get out of events that require eating in public.

Krause called picky eating "the great secret" kept by many who suffer from it. He said that he would just "not go" when invited to his ex-wives' families' homes for meals.

"It was a horrible situation," he added.

Marla Lopez, a 51-year-old real estate investor in Idaho, says she faces the embarrassment of her condition every time she attends business meetings, where she often only eats bread.

"Basically I eat French fries, potato chips, corn chips, cheerios , baked potatoes and a ton of milk," said Lopez, "And plain ice cream."

"I just have never eaten meat, fruit or vegetables in my entire life," said Lopez, adding that on the few occasions she was forced to eat a bite of meat she threw it up immediately.

"The biggest frustration is that people don't understand and think that I'm just looking for attention," said Lopez. "I'd give up everything to be able to eat normally."

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