Pretty girl who suffers from extreme food phobia only eats chips
A pretty girl who suffers from a food phobia has lived off a diet of chips for five years – because all other foods make her sick to the stomach.
Jennifer Radigan, 17, eats mostly oven chips and is so repulsed by the thought of eating meat and vegetables, she often heaves at the sight of it.
The teenager, from Galston, East Ayrshire in Scotland, is so fussy about what she eats; even the brands have to be right, with her typical daily diet consisting of a plate of McCain chips topped with cheddar cheese.
College student Jennifer, who started refusing food from a very early age, said she used to be so ashamed of her phobia, she would starve herself at school, then later lie to her parents that she had eaten.
Jennifer is thought to suffer from a condition known as Selective Eating Disorder (SED) which causes sufferers to be anxious or nauseous when they’re presented with new or feared food, leaving them at greater risk of extreme weight loss and malnutrition.
Jennifer’s eating habits, thought to be one the main reasons she regularly faints in public, have caused 5ft Jennifer’s weight to plummet to a skeletal 6st 10tbs giving her a low BMI of 18.4.
Jennifer, who volunteers at a local vet, said: “I used to live off mostly chicken, but now the smell makes me sick.
“It feels like the older I get, the fewer foods I can actually stomach, but I can’t go wrong with chips and cheese.
“It affects my everyday life, not so much the eating around people or out, but the symptoms that come with the health issues it has caused.
“I can’t go one day without feeling completely exhausted or ill at at-least one point. It’s like a never ending cycle of hell.”
Although Jennifer was a fussy eater throughout her childhood, it wasn’t until she turned 16 that she realised her eating habits had spiralled out of control.
But it was only when she smashed her head on a concrete floor after fainting on her first day of work experience that she decided to go to the doctors for help.
Tests were run by doctors who found Jennifer had a deficiency of iron and vitamin B12. They suggested Jennifer’s food phobia could be Selective Eating Disorder and have referred her to a specialist for formal diagnosis.
Jennifer said: “Fainting on a concrete floor on my first day of work experience was not the nicest of things.
“I’ve fainted a total of five times now, and each time was different.
“One time I was shaking and when I came round I was still shaking – it was terrifying.
“I find myself getting very easily upset by it. I’ll look in the mirror and think ‘I’m nothing but skin and bones’ and ‘ is this how people see me?’.”
The teenager says she hasn’t been able to finish a proper meal in five years, narrowing down her diet to mostly chips and cheese with the rare exception of boiled potatoes and readymade pasta – but only when she feels like it.
Jennifer will usually skip breakfast, have a plate of chips and cheese for lunch at college and pick at whatever her mum, Karen Radigan, 41, puts in front of her at dinner.
She said: “There is nothing worse than having a beautiful meal put down to you and going to take the first bite and thinking I can’t put this in my mouth.
“No matter how much I want to eat it, I can’t.
“I’ve always had major issues with meats. The fat on it is just sickening.
“On school days I wouldn’t eat lunch I’d live off a KitKat and a small part of my dinner at night, no breakfast or anything.
“It wasn’t because I felt fat or wanted to lose weight or anything, it was because that’s all I felt I could eat.”
Mum Karen, said: “Her eating habits really scare me, she seems to go through stages where she improves slightly but they never last very long.
“To be honest her food phobia started at primary with her mainly avoiding red meat but has spiralled and can result in her eating virtually nothing in a day.
“I have let Jen make a shopping list and buy the foods she wants, but even this can fail.
“Jen will often come shopping with me and I let her get what she wants but this mainly consists of junk food.
“I support Jen as does the rest of the family, I attend doctor’s appointments and dietician appointments with her and will support her to overcome this disorder.”
Currently studying for a Higher National Certificate, Jennifer, who hopes to start university in September, is terrified her phobia of food will only get worse when she moves away from home.
But having been recently referred to a specialist by her GP, she is finally hoping to be diagnosed with SED so she can get the therapy she needs.
“I’m quite fearful about going to university, I’ve got used to eating around people I know but being around people I don’t know will be quite scary.
“I feel I will have to explain my situation in case I faint or don’t eat in front of people.
“The foods I know I can’t eat make me nervous as I know I need to eat them for the nutrients and that makes me upset.
“I can still get nervous when eating out but I’ve learned to brush it off. The only thing that scares me most is what could come from my eating or lack of eating.
“What if I fainted and no one was around to help me and I never woke up.
I’ve worked hard myself to get to the stage that I’m at but I feel it slipping away as more foods are added to my ‘can’t to eat list’.
“Hopefully a proper diagnosis will help me get the therapy I need.”