The Picky Eater

How to change your attitude about healthy food and fight obesity.

By Nando Pelusi Ph.D., published on August 4, 2008 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

I can't stand most fruits and vegetables and literally have to force back a gag reflex to eat them. I've done that by what I'll call 'visualization' combined with a desire to be someone who eats healthy. However, I fail constantly at eating healthy and I just passed the obesity level on the BMI scale. Is picky eating a disorder?

When you say you cannot stand most fruits and vegetables, I assume that this is comparative—compared to the unhealthy foods you eat, you "can't stand" fruits and vegetables. Your gag reflex tells me you've built up a visceral reaction to healthy food. You may have reinforced the idea that you "can't stand" it, and it is now an established problem. Picky eating may not be a disorder, but eating habits can lead to a physical disorder called obesity.

The "visualization" that you're doing seems only to reinforce that you're eating something inedible. A raw floret of broccoli can be made into an object of disgust when compared to Crème Brûlée. If, however, you truly find some objects disgusting, you don't have to eat them, but conversely, we'd want to limit the amount of unhealthy foods you're eating as a response.

Studies show that people fail on diets in the first three days, because we become ravenous, and don't see any immediate results. After slipping, we sometimes give up altogether. The body will do whatever it can to keep its stores of fat—and only a concerted effort over a few days can get you over the hump of resistance.

The key: When it comes to eating—don't listen to your body! Instead, listen to a nutritionist and physician. That may sound radical, but only a radical approach gets excess weight off and keeps it off. The insight, which few people apprehend, is that dieting gets easier the more rigorously we stick to it.

  1. Determine to get through the first few days of temptation.
  2. Learn about diets that are similar to what our ancient ancestors ate. That includes lean meats and some veggies.
  3. Avoid refined starchy foods like breads and cereal.
  4. After a few days, you may discover that not only can you tolerate fruits and vegetables—you actually think they're OK.
  5. Remind yourself of the deep benefits of feeling healthier, and the short-lived pseudo-pleasure of reinforcing an addiction to sugary and starchy foods.

Don't give up. With the help of your physician and an encouraging nutritionist you can reverse the course of obesity. It's hard in the short run—but it's harder on you if you don't.