A schoolgirl who lived on chicken nuggets for ten years has finally overcome her food phobia.
Jessica Thompson, 11, from Swindon, Wiltshire, spent her life eating only chicken nuggets after refusing to try new foods when she was 18 months old.
Her mother, Julia Cain, 49, a graphic designer, has no idea what caused the anxiety and panic around food — but after seeking professional help, Jessica was diagnosed with avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) in September.
People who suffered from ARFID develop a phobia of the texture of certain foods, the smell of the general appearance and will refuse to try them.
Now, after just a few weeks of working with her hypnotherapist, Jessica can finally enjoy a full roast dinner, as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables in her home.
Jessica Thompson, 11, from Swindon, Wiltshire, has only eaten chicken nuggets since she was 18 months old after developing a food phobia known as avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
Her mom Julia said Jessica would rather starve than eat anything but chicken nuggets
Julia said, “She ate all her baby food and she tried a lot of new foods.
“Then it just stopped and she only ate chicken nuggets.
‘She ate about three or four of them with fries, but usually didn’t finish it.
‘She had plain bread in her lunch box, with nothing on or in it.
The poultry lover, pictured, has seen a hypnotherapist after her diagnosis and finally ate her first roast ever
“As a family, we’ve never had a Christmas dinner at all because Jessica would refuse to even try one.
“She would have a plate of nuggets and a slice of dry bread for a year.
“People used to say, ‘She’ll outgrow it,’ or ‘If you don’t give in, she’ll get hungry and eat what you give her.’
“The problem is that Jessica would literally rather starve than eat some food.
“Sometimes she would crawl into a ball to get away from the food.
“We knew she was more than picky, but we never thought she’d be eating chicken nuggets for ten years of her life.”
Jessica, in the photo, ate normally until she was 18 months old, but then refused to eat anything but nuggets
The 11-year-old, pictured, has to listen to relaxing songs and track a performance chart to overcome her food phobia
Doctors told Julia for years that Jessica was just being picky, and well-meaning people told the mother not to give in to Jessica’s fuss
Jessica was labeled “picky” by doctors over the years, and over the years she stuck to beige foods like nuggets, plain bread, and fries.
What is avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) and how does it affect people?
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
ARFID is when someone avoids certain foods, restricts how much they eat, or does both.
Beliefs about weight or body shape are not reasons why people develop ARFID.
Possible reasons for ARFID include:
- negative feelings about the smell, taste, or texture of certain foods
- a reaction to a previous experience with food that was distressing, for example choking or being sick after eating something
- not feeling hungry or just having a lack of interest in food
Julia said, “They’d all say she’s just being picky, or she’s got a stomachache.
“As a parent, you just want your child to eat.
“People really don’t understand that it’s a disease, not just unrest.”
Julia eventually contacted hypnotherapist David Kilmurry, who diagnosed her with ARFID.
After just three weeks with him, listening to relaxation MP4s before meals and using a performance chart, Jessica can now enjoy a roast with her family.
He said, “Julia contacted me concerned and concerned about the limited food her daughter Jessica was allowed to eat, just chicken nuggets and very little else.
“Chicken nuggets are not a whole food group and Jessica came to me extremely unwell, listless and anxious.
“Trying to get Jessica or someone with ARFID to consume is like trying to get an arachnophobe to hold a spider.
“It creates panic from the gagging, gagging and vomiting of a person’s body — just at the thought of an unsafe or new food.”
For relieved mother Julia, Jessica’s achievement means that for the first time in 10 years, the whole family can sit together and enjoy a meal.
Julia said, “It’s a miracle Jessica can eat a full plate now.
‘We haven’t eaten together as a family for years and now we can.
“She has tried 24 new foods and while she didn’t like them all, this is a huge step forward for her.”
Proud mom Julia, left, said Jessica has tried 24 new foods since she was diagnosed with ARFID in September
Desperate Julia admitted the family hadn’t eaten together in years because of Jessica’s eating habits