I graduated from college with a degree in Mathematics, which I used to land myself a job in Information Technology (IT). I worked in IT for 12 years, during which I learned one of the most valuable life lessons - how to fix things at the "source", not at the "surface". I remember the analogy that was given in a brainstorming session I was a part of. The leader gave us the scenario of an oil leak. We could wipe up the oil as an easy fix, but then the oil would keep re-appearing, and we would have to keep wiping it up. If we took the time to find the source of the oil leak, then we could fix the leak once and for all. And this is the approach we took to developing and supporting software - we didn't allow surface fixes that will repeat and anger the customer, but rather we would find the source, fix it there, and be done with it once and for all.
I changed careers and for the past 7 years held certifications and licenses in Personal Training, Massage Therapy, Holistic Nutrition, and Mobility. I became a student of the human body. I worked with runners and cyclists to strength train, rehab, and support nutrition. Again, this analogy popped up with the injuries that my clients were facing. Many runners came to me with knee pain. They would tell me "running makes my knees hurt". I would immediately tell them in return, "running is not making your knees hurt. Running is merely highlighting that you have a dysfunction in your body that is showing up in your knees". The real cause of most knee pain is a weakness in the hips, and when you run, the knee cap gets pulled out of traction causing friction and pain at the knee. So, if we want to "wipe up the oil", then we would merely stop running to solve the problem. This would only make us feel better temporarily and not fix the actual problem. If we wanted to fix it at the source, then we would stretch and strengthen the hips, creating stability and mobility which would result in a strong and stable knee joint that could withstand activities such as running.
When I think of my son's ARFID, I realize that the single most important discovery was when I learned what the actual cause of my son's ARFID was. I only learned this recently when I began my training to become a Certified ARFID Specialist. My son's ARFID was caused during his delivery. Both myself AND my son had a very traumatic experience as he was born. I went through my own experience that caused me long term problems, but I didn't realize that my little baby had suffered a trauma as well. He was stuck under my pelvis and was suctioned multiple times. He also had the umbilical cord wrapped around his little neck. He was yanked out with his head at a bad angle, he didn't get to push off my abdominal wall, and he failed his first APGAR test. He needed skull x-rays after he was born to top it all off.
What I didn't know at the time, was that his nervous system understood this birth to be a serious trauma or threat. His body went into "Fight or Flight". This memory of his birth was literally stored in his body's tissues as a memory. The feeling of the cord around his neck and having his neck yanked at a bad angle. His nervous system went into "protection" mode, which included constricting his digestive system. When the body is in "flight", it shuts off the digestive system to make itself lighter on its feet in order to flee from the threat. Except, these days, the threats aren't real threats that would actually kill us. BUT, the ARFID individual's nervous system does not know that. When my son was born, everything that was happening to his head and neck, told his digestive system to "survive" - which meant to "constrict".
When my son became old enough to start eating table foods (which meant chewing and swallowing), guess what happened? Since the act of chewing and swallowing reminded his nervous system of his birth, his digestive system constricted. When it did this, his little body thought it was under attack. His BODY actually thinks "he will die" if he eats food. This is what Dr. Kim DiRe taught me. This was the missing link to being able to understand what really lies at the "source" of my son's ARFID. ARFID is the "fear" of food. I learned that my son's body stored this "fight or flight" response at birth and every time since then, when food is presented, or smelled, or even talked about - my son's body reacts as if it will die if he eats it.
This was eye opening. So, it became very clear why many of the therapies that we had tried over the years seemed to make him worse. Exposure therapy is one of them. When the food was being presented in a session, my son would be "activated" and he would shut down, instead of being open to trying new foods. The fix to ARFID is not to expose people to food enough times to make them want to eat it. The fix to ARFID is to regulate the nervous system and to re-train the body and brain to be open to the idea of eating food.
So, if we can all take a moment to back up and view ARFID from the trauma that caused the first response, then we can successfully navigate the treatment to fixing the ARFID at the source, rather than trying to patch it at the surface.
I am an ARFID Mom. I am the mother of a 12 year old boy with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). I have become the "expert" on my son's feeding issues. I am here to share what I've learned.