Meet the 22-year-old who survives on BEIGE food because she’s so terrified that she’ll throw up if she doesn’t stick to eating ‘like a toddler’
- Sara Barnes diet mainly consists of plain bread or bagels and white meat
- READ MORE: boy, 8, who ate chocolate can eat normally after being hypnotised
A young woman only eats beige food over fears that eating anything else will make her choke, vomit or even die.
Sara Barnes, from Ontario, Canada, has only been able to eat certain ‘safe’ foods, such as bread, chicken and plain yoghurt, since she was a child.
However, it was only three years ago that the 22-year-old was diagnosed with avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).
Ms Barnes said the condition means her diet is comparable a toddler’s because she ‘can’t deal’ with different textures. As a result, foods including rice pudding, red meat and pizza are a ‘no-go’.
Ms Barnes, who works in phone sales and is awaiting treatment, said: ‘I get so freaked out by how food looks because I can imagine how the texture will feel in my mouth and I immediately know that I can’t eat it.
Sara Barnes, from Ontario, Canada , says she only eats to survive and has a limited number of ‘safe’ foods
Plain bread, such as bagels, pictured, white meat including chicken and turkey, and some fruit and vegetables are food she considers safe to eat
Some foods are an ‘absolute no-go’ for Ms Barnes, such as, rice pudding, chicken wings because they are ‘stringy’ and red meat because it has ‘chunks of fat’ on it. But carbohydrates and white meat, as pictured left, are some of her go-to foods. Cheesy pasta, pictured right, is another safe food for Ms Barnes
‘I am so afraid that I will throw up after swallowing something because of the texture.
‘I struggle so much to find any food that I don’t think sounds terrible or that I think I could even stomach. Nothing sounds good to me.’
Ms Barnes said her parents noticed that she wouldn’t want to eat when she was a child and only wanted juice instead.
They struggled to get her to try new food and sometimes eat anything at all.
They took her to see a doctor who warned them that if she didn’t eat more she would become unwell.
WHAT IS AVOIDANT RESTRICTIVE FOOD INTAKE DISORDER (ARFID)?
ARFID is the second-most common eating disorder in children under 12 years old.
It is categorized as extreme picky eating.
The common signs are food refusal, anxiety, underweight or slow growth.
A child may have a short list of acceptable foods and skip one or more entire food groups.
This can lead to weight loss, nutrient deficiencies, growth disturbances, and social anxiety.
The onset of ARFID may be due to a form of food-related trauma including a negative experience with eating such as choking, gagging or vomiting.
Eventually Ms Barnes identified safe foods that she could eat.
But it was only when was aged around 10 that her parents realised that she would get hungry during the day but didn’t feel like she could stomach any food.
Ms Barnes said she knew something was wrong but said it wasn’t anorexia, as she wasn’t intending to keep her weight low.
It was only at 19 that she saw a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with ARFID.
Sufferers only eat a very limited handful of foods that don’t cause severe revulsion, according to eating disorder charity Beat.
It is different from conditions like anorexia and bulimia because it’s not linked to body image. Instead, it is more a physical aversion to food.
Rather than just being a fussy eater, those with ARFID are very sensitive to the taste, texture, smell or appearance of certain foods. They may vomit, choke or become afraid or upset around certain foods.
As a result, they may struggle to consume enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, suffer from nutritional deficiencies and may even need to be tube fed.
Children with ARFID may also suffer from stunted growth.
The condition was only recognised in 2013, after it was included in the US Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), widely viewed as the psychiatrists’ ‘bible’.
Typically, those with ARFID will only eat basic carbohydrates, such as bread, dry cereals, crisps, biscuits, chocolate and yoghurts.
In a TikTok video which shows Ms Barnes try to eat a sausage, the caption states that she fears she will ‘choke, or vomit, or even die’ if she looks or thinks about certain foods
Ms Barnes captioned the video: ‘I know I won’t but I can’t convince my body to stomach it’
In a TikTok video which shows Ms Barnes try to eat a sausage, the caption states that she fears she will ‘choke, or vomit, or even die’ if she looks or thinks about certain foods. ‘I know I won’t but I can’t convince my body to stomach it,’ she wrote.
Ms Barnes said: ‘I feed myself like a toddler, snacking on plain food all day such as plain toast, plain bagels, chicken, turkey, crackers, plain Greek yoghurt and frozen things such as ice cream and ice lollies.
‘I can also stomach most fruit and vegetables because they come from the earth so that makes me feel like they’re safe to eat.’
She added: ‘Foods that are an absolute no-go for me are things like rice pudding, chicken wings as they’re stringy, ribs, and red meat as it is the worst for having chunks of fat on it.
‘I also get freaked out by things such as stuffed peppers and pizza with lots of different toppings because can’t deal with all the different textures.
‘I can’t eat mayonnaise, thick salad dressings or sauces with bits in it such as onions and peppers.
‘It’s so difficult to get help for ARFID because it’s quite niche. I had never even heard about it before I was diagnosed.
‘People often think I am just a picky eater, but I’m not eating it because I don’t like something. It’s because I think it is going to make me sick.’
Ms Barnes is currently on a waiting list for treatment, and in the meantime says that she is just trying to survive on the food that she knows she can handle
Ms Barnes is terrified of certain food that could make her vomit and confesses she feeds herself ‘like a toddler’
Ms Barnes is currently on a waiting list for treatment.
Treatments can include cognitive behavioural therapy, being exposed to food that triggers ARFID and anxiety management training. Medication may also be recommended to reduce anxiety, according to Beat.
In the meantime, she is surviving by eating food that she knows she can handle.
She added: ‘I eat for the sake of survival, not out of enjoyment like most other people. I tend to skip breakfast because I never wake up hungry.
‘I don’t really eat during the day either unless my mum makes me something that I could stomach.
‘I start to get hungry around 5pm, and if I am at work I will get a Subway on plain white bread, with turkey, cucumber, lettuce and black olives or I will get a plain taco from Taco Bell.
‘If I’m at home, I will have a plain bagel or English muffin with butter, plain pasta or a fruit salad.’
Ms Barnes said one of her biggest challenges is remembering that she needs nutrients and making sure she is ‘gaining weight’ and ‘then maintaining the gained weight’.
She said: ‘I am also severely anaemic. I get dizzy when I stand up, I have been underweight for as long as I can remember, which terrifies me as I don’t want to end up on a feeding tube, and I am always exhausted no matter how much I sleep.’
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