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ARFID Is More Than Just Fussy Eating: How to Offer Real Support

Parents and carers this one is for you! Here are our clinically approved top tips to support a young person with ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder). What is ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder)? Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. ARFID is not just about being picky, it’s a real and challenging eating disorder that […]
ARFID Is More Than Just Fussy Eating: How to Offer Real Support

ARFID Is More Than Just Fussy Eating: How to Offer Real Support

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Parents and carers this one is for you! Here are our clinically approved top tips to support a young person with ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder).

What is ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder)?

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. ARFID is not just about being picky, it’s a real and challenging eating disorder that needs understanding and support. There are many reasons why someone with ARFID may avoid or restrict their food and eating. These include:

  • Sensitivity to taste, texture, smell, temperature or appearance of certain foods
  • Fear of choking, vomiting or abdominal pain
  • General worries or anxieties around food that are difficult to name
  • Being unable to identify hunger cues or low appetite
  • A low interest in food where eating feels like a chore

ARFID might look very different in one person compared to another, and not everyone has the same experience. Crucially though, ARFID requires specialist treatment with a multidisciplinary team.

Top Tips to Support a Young Person with ARFID:

Now that we understand what ARFID is, let’s talk about how we can best support young people with ARFID.

Seek Professional Help

Don’t hesitate to reach out for support with your GP. They will be able to refer you to specialist services that can provide expert advice, strategies, and therapies tailored to managing ARFID. Some specialist services also accept self-referral.

Be Patient and Understanding

Understanding is key. ARFID isn’t a choice, it’s a challenge. Be patient and avoid blaming or putting pressure on the young person. Let them know that you’re there for them.

Encourage Small Steps

For someone with ARFID, trying new foods can be incredibly intimidating. Encourage them to take small steps. Even a tiny taste or just having the food on their plate is progress.

Create a Supportive Environment

Mealtimes should be supportive but they can be stressful. Finding the best way to support those with ARFID is key. We know that making negative comments about a young person’s eating habits will only create more shame and anxiety.

Avoid Food Battles

On that note, avoid making mealtimes a battleground. Pressure and negativity can make the situation worse. Keep it relaxed, and compassionate. Remember this is not a choice and they are not doing this to challenge you with their behaviour.

Offer Food Choices Within Limits

Give a young person some control over their food choices, without being too overwhelming. Offering just two options they are comfortable with and letting them choose tends to be more tolerable. This can help them feel more in control of their eating.

Exposure to New Foods

Sometimes eating different and varied foods around or in front of someone with ARFID is a good way to increase exposure to new foods with different sensory experiences e.g. appearance and smell.

Celebrate Progress

For some young people, positive reinforcement through praise can be motivating when they try something new. For others, being praised means extra pressure. Find out what works best for your young person. If it works for them, praise their efforts, and let them know you’re proud of them. If praising is not helpful to them, you can still acknowledge how hard they are trying or working.

Educate Yourself

Learn more about ARFID to better understand what your loved one is going through. Understanding the condition can help you provide the right support and empathy. You can find information and resources in our ARFID module.

Connect with Support Groups

Consider looking for support groups or communities, either online or in your local area. Hummingbird is a welcoming space for those who think they might have ARFID and Endeavour is a space for parents and carers. These can be a valuable source of comfort and advice from others who are going through similar experiences. It’s a way to connect and share experiences with a supportive community.

Conclusion

In conclusion, supporting a young person with ARFID is all about compassion, understanding, and patience. It’s a journey that requires time, but with your love and support, a young person with ARFID can progress towards a healthier relationship with food.

If you found this resource helpful, check out our module on ARFID for parents and carers.

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