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Session 1

Selective Eating vs ARFID

Session 1

Introduction to ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder)

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Welcome to Selective Eating vs ARFID! For people who may have Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) or avoid/restrict certain food due to sensory experiences (colour, smell, taste, texture, temperature etc). Learn more about ARFID, a serious eating disorder, and develop ways to cope with food sensitivity, anxiety and fears. Use NHS-backed tools for managing ARFID.

The difference between selective eating and ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder)

Understanding hunger

Managing anxiety around food

Brought to you by

East London
NHS Foundation

NELFT NHS Foundation Trust

Let's learn more about Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

We created this material to support you to understand more about your eating difficulties

We also give you some strategies to put into practice and to improve your eating

We encourage you to use this with someone that can support you and maybe can explain the information in a different way
(it can be a parent, even a friend)

We understand that it might be overwhelming at first, so take your time to go through this

What is ARFID?

People with ARFID eat a very limited variety or amount of
food and it causes problems in their lives.

These problems may be health related, like losing too
much weight, or not getting enough nutrients.

These problems may be social, like not being able to
eat meals with others.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is different from other eating disorders, like anorexia nervosa, because people with ARFID do not worry much about how they look, or how much they weigh.

Instead, people with ARFID might have one, two, or all three of these Important concerns:


1. Some people with ARFID find that some foods have strange or strong tastes, textures or smells, and they feel safer eating foods that they know well.


2. Others have had scary experiences with food, like throwing up, choking or allergic reaction, so they may avoid the foods that made them sick, or stop eating altogether.


3. Others don’t feel hungry very often, think eating is a chore, or get full very quickly.

What is ARFID?

It's important to understand that someone with ARFID is not just being “picky” or “stubborn”

People with ARFID have underlying biological traits that initially made their eating habits a logical choice

Once established, a pattern of food avoidance can become longstanding and highly resistant to change

There are helpful steps you and your families can take that can interrupt these patterns of behaviour.

Flavour preferences
are partly genetic

There may be
advantages to
food preferences

Foods like fruits, vegetables, and meats were those most likely to be poisonous when our ancestors were hunting and gathering

You may be a “supertaster” - meaning you could have been born with a high concentration of taste buds on your tongue and dislike bitter foods, like vegetables

Why do people have different preferences to food?

How does a limited diet keep ARFID going?

Eating the same foods all the time makes new foods taste even more different Certain nutrition deficiencies can change the way food tastes, making new food even less appealing

Eating a very limited diet can also cause serious health problems. Eating preferred foods high in sugar and fat has been associated with diabetes and heart disease. Avoiding non-preferred foods, like fruits and vegetables, is associated with certain cancers

Eating a particular food over and over may also make you tired of that food and stop eating it, further limiting your diet

It may be hard to eat with others, causing you to miss out on opportunities to learn about new foods

What happens when you
become more careful about
your eating after a negative
experience with food?

Negative experiences with food such
as choking, vomiting, an allergic
reaction, or pain after eating can be

These experiences might cause you
to limit your diet to prevent further

You might even avoid any
food that reminds you of
the traumatic experience
or stop eating

You may be using "safety behaviours" to try and prevent another traumatic experience from happening

-Taking very small bites
-Chewing for much longer than needed
-Only eating at familiar restaurants
-Not eating at all

Safety behaviours prevent you from testing negative predictions about eating The more you avoid eating, the scarier it becomes!

What happens when you eat a limited
volume of food?

How hungry you feel and how much pleasure you get from eating is partly due to your genes.

Eating too little can promote excessive fullness when you do eat an adequate amount because your stomach capacity decreases with chronic food restriction.

Eating without a regular schedule of meals and snacks can impact your hunger, especially if you go long periods without eating.

Eating very little can cause you to feel full quickly, even though you are not getting enough nutrients.

Understanding Hunger

Over time eating too little confuses your hunger and fullness cues.

The best way to increase your awareness of hunger cues is to keep track of how hungry you feel before you eat and how full you feel afterwards.

To begin shifting your hunger cues, you will need to start eating at a 3 or 4 (neither hungry or full), rather than waiting for a 1 (extreme hunger). You will also need to keep eating until a 6 or 7 (extreme fullness) rather than stopping at 4 or 5 (neither hungry nor full).

Hunger Chart

  • 0
  • 2
  • 4
  • 6
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Early Snack
Mid morning
Afternoon snack
Evening snack

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My Notes

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