10 reasons why I don’t believe in the term 'fussy eaters'
Have you ever been told you’re a “fussy eater” or that your older loved one is? How did it make you feel?
I don’t agree with the term “fussy eater”. It has so many connotations of negativity, annoyance and even ungratefulness. When used to describe our elderly loved ones, it creates a label of being difficult and stubborn, and I don’t believe it’s fair at all. There are so many factors that contribute to our older loved ones developing different preferences about food as they age, and it’s really important we’re sympathetic and supportive, as the effects can be dramatic to health and wellbeing. Instead we need to understand the underlying reasons and realise that fussiness isn't fussiness at all but perhaps interchangeable preferences resulting from factors outside of one's control.
1. One of the most common reasons why our older loved ones have different preferences in their food choice is introductions of medications or changes in their medications. Medications can alter their taste, smell and appetite and also create other issues like constipation, irritation, sleepiness, dizziness which will effect their desire to eat or eat certain foods.
2. Another common reason is because of illness, whether it be a common cold or something more serious.
3. A diagnosis of dysphagia where the individual has problems chewing, swallowing and digesting is another reason for different food preference.
4. Our older loved ones inevitably experience dental problems which lead to changes in food requirements and preferences based on their dental health, ie mouth sores and ulcers, missing or damaged teeth, dentures creating pain, infection, chewing problems etc
5. Some of our older loved ones develop allergies or intolerances as they age which can contribute to different food preference and requirements to keep them safe.
6. Our older loved ones come from all kinds of backgrounds, customs and cultures and considerations around these factors need to be delicately considered and accommodated for.
7. Many of our older loved ones begin to experience cognitive decline as they age, and this absolutely effects many factors to do with food, smell, taste, routine, preparation, hygiene and remembering preferences or actually eating.
8. A lack of physical activity due to ageing and mobility can change food preferences because of lack of appetite and wellbeing.
9. Physical capacity can also effect how well food is prepared, things like arthritis, muscle wastage, muscle weakness, chronic pain, tremors, Parkinson’s Disease contribute to this and consequently change food preference.
10. Finally, mental factors such as depression and anxiety common in our older loved ones can effect food preferences and habits and delicacy and compassion need to be practised in these situations to produce meaningful outcomes.
This list is not exhaustive, but there are some really good reasons to consider when realising that our older loved ones food preferences might be changing or have changed permanently. I believe it’s important to remain open minded and compassionate and shift our language away from words that have negative and derogatory connotations. And instead investigate why and how we can be flexible and accomodate in a real way.
I always consider with all my clients 3 basic principles around food which you can put into practice yourself when deliberating food preference changes in our older loved ones. And that is what relationship with food does my client hold, is what we're doing a sustainable path forward and is what we're doing above all, safe?
If you care for an older loved one experiencing changes in food preferences and need some help from a Certified Practising Nutritionist, click the button below and head to My Bookings.