**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, or symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
Farheen Ahmed is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park, studying Neuroscience on the pre-medical track. She is originally from Virginia and spends almost half of every year in Houston, Texas. In her free time, you can find her working at her research lab, volunteering for Rock Recovery, hanging out with her friends, or reading romance novels. Farheen struggled with an eating disorder throughout her high school years and can proudly say she is a recovered survivor.
For the longest time, my friends had me labeled as a picky eater. To them, I didn’t like pasta, I hated pizza, and I’d rather not eat at all than eat anything with cheese. Some excuses I told them were that cheese hurt my stomach, dairy made me break out, and ice cream hurt my teeth. All of this was nothing but lies. I was trying to cover up my fear of most foods. To my friends, I was just a picky eater, which is how I justified eating the same foods every day. I called myself “a creature of habit,” but in reality, I was simply living my life in fear of foods that didn’t deserve to have any sort of power over me.
In high school, my friends started to realize that something wasn’t right. Some people might have seen me eating the same food every day and thought it was due to my Type A personality, controlling tendencies, or Virgo traits. However, that was far from the truth. When my best friend approached me about my limited diet and strict exercise routine, I decided to come clean about my fear of most foods and the comfort I found in the routine I had built for myself. I had found the few foods that I felt comfortable eating and adjusted my diet and schedule to allow for this. I often found myself fearing dinner plans with friends, vacations, or any type of schedule change due to the fear that it would change my eating and workout schedule.
At the end of it all, the only one harmed was me. I missed out on lifelong memories out of fear of changing my daily schedule, deprived my body of countless meals, and didn’t allow myself to change and grow in order to protect my eating disorder. Picky eaters do exist, and in fact, I know many of them. But there is a difference between being a picky eater and using picky eating as an excuse to avoid certain foods out of fear. This can become very dangerous and lead you to deprive yourself of core memories and tons of amazing food. Coming to terms with my eating disorder made me realize that I don’t hate dairy and ice cream doesn’t hurt my teeth. In recovery, I discovered that I loved all the foods I feared eating and I found myself saying yes to dinner plans more and more. I am now able to put making lifelong memories above a strict food schedule and continue healing my relationship with food.
Sometimes we begin to believe the lies our eating disorder tells us. At one point, I began believing that I was a picky eater and truly did prefer the food I ate every day. However, when I stepped back and was able to accept what was actually happening, it became clear that being a picky eater was a way to hide my dangerous eating habits. I encourage those who only allow themselves to eat certain foods to ask themselves: Are these the foods I prefer and enjoy or is my fear of food making this decision for me?