As I said in my previous post, many if not most of the kids who come into foster care have issues with food. My lovely G is no exception.
When she first came to our home, every meal took a minimum of 90 minutes between her sitting down at the table and her standing up again. Each meal followed a pattern: she would look at the options on the table and ask for a serving of the option that looked the least threatening. If she didn't want the first item, she would choose the next least threatening, then the next, and so on until she arrived at an item she determined she could eat. Once she decided she could eat something, G would eat all of that item until it was gone and then meltdown, crying that there was no more; or if that food didn't run out, she would eat all of that item that she could possibly cram into her body. We're talking about a 3 year old eating a loaf and a half of bread, 2 pounds of frozen peas, 5 pounds of oranges, or 2 pounds of roast beef. She would only, however, eat one food at each meal. If I served bread, peas, and beef, she would only eat the beef, and if the beef ran out before she was nauseatingly full, she would cry, rather than eating some bread.
If there were no un-threatening foods on the table, G would ask for a huge serving of everything and then sit for hours, staring at her full plate and pushing foods around with her fork without tasting any of it. If you pressured her to taste something or asked her to get down from the table without eating, she melted down and screamed for what seemed like an eternity.
On top of that, the list of foods she found un-threatening was minuscule. It took me 6 weeks to find a dozen foods she would consistently eat. Pizza, peanut butter on bread, and cheese on bread were the only mixed foods she would tolerate. Peas and pasta in the same bowl were rejected. Any sauce was unacceptable. Even putting pepper onto a food rendered it too threatening for G to taste. She lived on plain starches, salt-and-nothing-else seasoned meats, cheese, frozen peas or corn (still frozen), and oranges for months.
The first sign that there might be light at the end of the tunnel came 3 months into the placement when G started getting down from the table to go play with the other kids. Finally, meals and snacks could last an hour or possibly even less. Slowly, she started eating more than one food at a meal. Slowly, she started tasting foods. Slowly, she accepted that her most preferred food on the table could run out, and it wouldn't be an emergency.
Don't get me wrong, there are still major issues. G still eats until she is Thanksgiving-dinner-stuffed-full almost every time she sits down at the table, and we sit down to eat 4 times a day.
G still obsesses about food: if I make enough hamburgers for everyone to have one, she'll gobble hers up and then ask to eat other people's for the rest of the meal. She still asks repeatedly for me to pick preferred foods out of a mixed dish so she can, for example, eat only the chicken in the chicken noodle soup or only the olives in the chicken with olives.
G still asks for foods she doesn't want. She requests a huge serving of chili, and then eats only bread. Or she eats 5 servings of pasta and requests a 6th before leaving the table without taking a single bite.
She hasn't gotten any more consistent, either. She'll eat pears twice in a row and then reject them for 10 days straight, so it's difficult for me to guess what she's going to eat at any given meal.
This week, though, G surprised me twice. On Wednesday, I served beef and cabbage stir-fry with white rice on the side. She ate both, asked for seconds of both, and notably didn't ask me to serve her only beef. On Thursday, I made a pot of navy beans and a pan of kale, onions, and bacon. My plan was to eat both mixed together, but to keep the navy beans plain as the safe choice for G. She tasted both, preferred the veggies, and happily ate multiple servings.
An outside observer dropped into our home at mealtime would see disordered eating. I, however, can't help but be encouraged with the progress this little girl has made in only 9 months.