The Mighty Logo

18 Things to Know About Your Friend Who's a 'Picky Eater'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

For many of those with chronic conditions, eating is not as simple as cooking up whatever food sounds good or grabbing a bite to eat at whichever restaurant is closest. Different illnesses (or even medications) can have a big impact on your diet and appetite. Some people may have allergies or intolerances that cause certain foods or ingredients to be a firm no-go, while others may experience nausea, pain or other symptoms that cause even the slightest whiff of food to be sickening.

Oftentimes, a person you may perceive as a “picky eater” is actually just trying to do what’s best for their body. No one should be judged for asking the waiter to make a bunch of substitutions on a menu item or for not eating Grandma’s famous apple pie when they go over for dinner. People with chronic illness know their bodies, and if they decline a particular food, it’s likely to save themselves from days or weeks of severe pain and sickness.

We wanted to know the truth behind those who may be judged as “picky eaters,” so we asked our Mighty chronic illness community what they want others to know about their dietary habits. Instead of passing judgment about what your friend is or isn’t eating, try practicing understanding and compassion – you never know what a person may be going through.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. Most of us are in fact not picky. Because of our illness we can’t digest some foods or we become allergic/intolerant to foods. We avoid foods for our health. We don’t want an emergency visit with our providers.” – Tiffany T.
  2. I’m not trying to be rude and I’m definitely not judging your diet!! I just have to be cautious.” – Bee R.
  3. I choose food based on whether or not I want to spend the following few days glued to a toilet with diarrhea and horrible stomach pain.” – Alisah T.K.
  4. I wish they understood it’s not being ‘picky.’ It’s that I can barely tolerate soft foods/liquids because of disease. It’s not some fad diet, nor is it fun. High pain is an instant consequence after drinking or attempting to eat. So please do not judge if you can eat and drink normally.” – Isy J.
  5. I am never hungry anymore and with the pain and my illness I don’t feel like eating and go days without food.” – Susanne O.
  6. Specific foods cause us pain, comparable to a stomach virus or food poisoning. Yes, there are days when we eat those foods anyway, because we’re feeling confident that we can deal with the backlash later. Don’t be rude just because one day we eat that greasy pizza and the next we want something “clean,” gluten-free, etc. We’d love to be able to just what we want when we want, just like you. But we play Russian Roulette every time we sit down to a meal outside our own homes.” – Autumn D.
  7. I have to eat what I’m not allergic to and know will go down without gagging and stay down.” – Megan M.
  8. Mentioning how little had been eaten, or how ‘picky’ we are only serves as a frustrating reminder to us that our bodies can’t function the way they used to, or the way we want them to.” – Kristen A.
  9. It’s not me, it’s my stomach.” – Nicole O.
  10. “Sometimes the smell of food, even my favorite food, makes my stomach churn.” – Sammi F.
  11. If I eat that food you desperately want me to try, I’ll be sick and it will trigger my other health issues. Also, things like, ‘Oh come! Be a little adventurous!,’ even said in jest, are just rude.” – Cassie D.
  12. So many sensory issues with food… certain textures I just can’t stomach.” – Amorie S.
  13. I eat what I eat because it’s what my stomach allows. I have severe gastroparesis , which means my stomach is paralyzed, and that causes severe nausea, vomiting and a great deal of pain… literally everything that goes down comes back up at some point. So my picky eating is how I can keep my food down the longest, it’s how I survive. To a healthy person I may look like a ‘picky eater’ but that’s just not the case!” – Amanda L.E.
  14. I’m not trying to be difficult about my food choices, I’m trying to avoid ER visits.” – Pamela E.G.
  15. So much of the food I want to eat feels like lead in my belly after five minutes. Why suffer? It’s not being picky, it’s pain avoidance.” – Christine R.
  16. I have several autoimmune illnesses and know which foods will cause me problems and which are fine for me. It doesn’t impinge on anyone else in any way so why do people question other’s choices?” – Jill C.
  17. I cannot help that so many foods disagree with my body. If we go out somewhere and I choose not to eat or pick something extremely small it’s because I am being careful, so please don’t ridicule me for it.” – Claire A.
  18. I’m picky because I have to be. I order carefully at restaurants to avoid being ‘that person’ who places a difficult order with lots of changes and substitutions. If someone were to give me a hard time, I’d ask them if they want to be the ones to take care of me after I eat something I shouldn’t.” – Courtney M.
Originally published: April 18, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home