September 13th, 2010
12:35 PM ET

'Freaky eaters' cling to same food everyday

TLC’s new show that started September 5 shows people with a compulsion toward a particular food, meaning they eat only one item -  like cheeseburgers, french fries or pizzas - all the time.

On the upcoming shows, a 29-year-old mother eats only french fries and a 34 year-old diabetic is addicted to cheeseburgers.  In “Freaky Eaters,” psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow and nutrition specialist J.J. Virgin, intervene to figure out what compels the finicky eaters to obsess over the same food.

Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, the medical director for Child and Adolescent Services at the Eating Recovery Center, said he hasn’t heard much about this type of behavior in adults.

“Usually it’s a problem with children with extremely picky eating,” said Bermudez, a past president of the National Eating Disorders Association.

CNN's Eatocracy on Routine Repasts

Children who usually stick to just one type of food have suffered some sort of emotional disturbances or have fears of vomiting or choking that compels them to stick to one food.  They usually outgrow this.

“It’s rare to see adults with that narrow of menu choices,” Bermudez said.  “It’s almost unheard of.”

The average person cycles through his or her menu every 10 days, meaning an average lover of pizza might eat the item once every 10 days. Some people cycle through the menu less frequently by eating something every 20 days instead.  The 10 to 20 days is the normal range, he said.

Eating the same thing every day is highly abnormal, he said.

“There’s two ways of looking at it- there’s an obsessive component – ‘I want the same thing all the time,’” he said.  “That can be obsessive.  The other is avoidance. ‘These are the only things I feel safe eating.’”

soundoff (416 Responses)
  1. marc dank

    ...if you do not know people who eat the same thing often, you do not know many people.

    September 13, 2010 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Sharon

    Actually, we were just discussing this "phenomenon" in the office the other day. Most of us have the same breakfast and lunch every day (bagel in the morning, salad at lunchtime) over and over again. Nothing unusual about it. It's the convenience and cost that determines this. And dinner was usually the same things on the same nights each week. Another matter of convenience and cost savings. Nothing unusual about it. As a matter of fact, years ago before the baby boomers were born this was normal for most households, especially farmers and rural area citizens.

    September 13, 2010 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. charles s

    When I was going to college, my wife would fix me a egg salad sandwich for lunch every day. I would have a cup of Dr Pepper and a Reese peanut butter cup along with the sandwich. I had no desire to eat anything different. It was easy and cheap and fast. My lunch would take about 5 minutes to eat. I was very busy and eating was not a high priority. I would guess a lot of people fall into the same category. At night I would drink cup after cup of coffee because it was cheap (5 cents) and helped me stay awake while doing class work.

    Once I graduated, my food habits slowly changed over the years. Now I concentrate on eating healthy and try to get a wide variety of foods; especially fruits and vegetables. I would guess a lot of people follow a similar dietary history. Our society is not geared to eating healthy. Most people learn their dietary habits at home from their mother and so much depends upon her mother. A lot depends upon the culture that surrounds you. Changing eating habits is probably the hardest thing to do.

    September 13, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. michael

    pie is good every day

    September 13, 2010 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. kwaters7

    They are describing people with Sensory Processing Dysfunction which manifests itself in many ways, including very limited diets. Also, may be tactile defensive, cutting tags out of clothes, avoiding messy hands etc. May be auditory defensive, the child that covers their ears as the classroom gets loud, or avoiding fire works etc. They need to seek out an occupational therapist trained in sensory and feeding therapy. I am a psychologist and work with these types of clients, children in my case. But kids grow up and if not treated grow into problem feeders.

    By the way many people with these difficulties are gifted. The higher the IQ the more troubles are possible. Not everyone with sensory issues is gifted however. Another large group with this issue are people on the autism spectrum. Most psychologist are not trained in sensory issues, look for one that is.

    September 13, 2010 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dr RatstaR

      Thank you. You are one of the few people here that has it right. I can relate to many of the things you have said.

      October 7, 2010 at 01:26 | Report abuse |
  6. tj

    I eat the same thing everyday for lunch and usually breakfast. I do that for months and then will change what I eat. I don't think it's strange, just what I enjoy. Why should anyone care. People need to turn off "reality" shows and have their own reality.

    September 13, 2010 at 21:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Susan S

    We worked with an OT. The truth is that the changes or successes with an OT are VERY limited. they can "work" on it but accomplish little. To have any kind of real success it would require a daily dedication to tongue exercises and all manner of other exercises, and still the success is very small or nonexistent. A very little of it get's better with age but not much.
    It is kind of like a cold, untreated it will go away in 7 days, treated with meds it will go away in 7 days. This doesn't go away but the improvements are more age related than OT work related. Not really worth it.

    The point is that this Picky Eating group does NOT generally have the other sensory issues, just the taste, smell, look and texture of the food. That is why it is so often not recognized by medical professionals, they haven't been "taught" this in school.

    September 13, 2010 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Quizzle

    I have a friend with this issue, and I'm not sure what you can do. She drinks Diet soda for breakfast and lunch and has a Happy Meal (burger + fries) for dinner. Every day. For probably 15 years. Her car is full of straws because she conserves the straw from breakfast soda and uses it for lunch. She "hates" a lot of foods: hates fish to the point of gagging to see others eating it at the table, and vegetables are out of the question. She has a preference for bland things, when I've seen her deviate (rare). She jokes about it all the time, but I am worried about her health. I have talked to her seriously about it, but she is "afraid" to "get in trouble" with a doctor.

    September 13, 2010 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Darren

    I used to eat a Whataburger with cheese and a large chocalate shake every day for at least a year, absolutely delicious – of course I jogged 5 miles a day then.

    September 13, 2010 at 22:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Valerie

    This can not be a healthy habit for people to have. It sounds as if it is a sickness or disorder. I understand if you do not like certain foods and are a picky eater, however, there has to be something that can be done. These people are not getting the recommended daily values of food. By only eating one thing all the time your body has no way of getting energy or protein. If these people are physically active then they are going to have nothing in their bodies to help them move along, they are going to crash hard.

    September 13, 2010 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Azrael

    Well there always could be a third reason... Which is medical and a person may not even know it.... I suffered from and still do to an extent from a little known esphogeal disorder called achalasia.... Had a surgery to help "correct" the problem.... But I still have issues with foods of certain consistency's...... Meaning my diet still consists of foods that are realativly easy to swallow.... If i didn't I can get violently ill or suffer from extremes of pain.......

    September 13, 2010 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Louie

    I need to talk to someone about this. I am not a freak. So what if I know what I like. Is that wrong? What does this mean when you are an adult and you limit your menu?.... I do that a lot. Compulsively. Never paid attention to it till I read this article. Do I need a doctor?

    September 13, 2010 at 23:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. MemphisMom

    @Kstock-have you had your son tested for a heightened sense of taste? My son has a list of about 10 foods he eats & has been a veggie since 2 years old. He eats mostly pizza but will branch out into related italian foods. Also, he eats french fries, lots of peanut butter and bread, and thankfully, yogurt. We had the whole family put a strip of treated paper into our mouths and he freaked out. The rest of us tasted paper or mild bitter. I'm not going to lay on the guilt for something that is biological. He has told us that he likes tangy more than anything and can even taste if Sprite is even remotely off in a restaurant. Before you tear your hair out, get some taste tester strips. They are about $3.00 for 4. I appeal to him to try foods that are related to something he already eats and he tries it, but I don't push it. Good luck!

    September 13, 2010 at 23:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. AgentFrank

    Mary, where are you Mary ?? I'm a worried bout you gurl ! I hope you okay, I gots yor bacon filled choclate cake here baby, with extra drippins on the side. Come on Mary, where you at ????

    September 13, 2010 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Austin

    It's it absolutely amazing how the human body can still survive even if you eat the same unhealthy food all the time?

    September 13, 2010 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. MOOMOO Mary

    Mmmmmm. Fooooood. 64 slices of american cheese........

    September 13, 2010 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Aileen Dover

    The majority of the people here that have posted the smart ass comments can't fathom is that when they say this is ALL people eat that are affected by this disorder eat...that is ALL they eat and have probably for their entire life. I have a family member who has this problem, and for the longest time I could not understand why, tried to change their habits, and then eventually understood that it is not their CHOICE to be this way. It is hard to describe for someone who has never seen this or dealt with it their whole life. People who have this not only avoid meals, but that in turn makes them avoid social situations that involve the possbility of meals, holidays...etc. It is because of people who don't understand and think it is just a choice, stubborness, or being spoiled as a kid that this is just being realized by professionals and being acknowledged as an eating disorder. Throw your stones...and think how miserable your world would be if your brain made other food choices the mental equivilent of a pile of dog crap. I would bet that if each and every person who has this disorder and was offered a magic wand to cure this problem, each and everyone would gladly take the cure. It is not a choice...however ignorance IS a choice.

    September 13, 2010 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Sarah

    Evan: I like healthy food too. I mostly eat healthy foods because I grew up on them so my palate was trained to enjoy them. I actually crave vegetables and I shop at Whole Foods every chance I get to buy organic versions of my favorite healthy foods. (So, I don't think that you are a "food snob" at all and your breakfast sounds delicious). But that is not to say that I don't enjoy the occassional hamburger and french fries too. I think the key to good health is "everything in moderation". Having a bowl of icecream a couple of nights a week after eating super healthy foods most of the time isn't going to do anyone in. I'm living proof of it. And those who think that they will live a long life while smoking, drinking a lot and eating junk food all the time are just fooling themselves. Bottom line: Our bodies need certain nutrients that are rarely, if ever, found in junk foods such as antioxidants, vitamins, amino acids, etc. Living off of junk food translates to starving your body of these vital nutrients which over time translates poor health and a shorter life span. Don't worry about what other people say about your diet. Eat what you like and enjoy.

    September 13, 2010 at 23:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sarah

    As far as the so called "freaky eaters" are concerned, most people couldn't live off of only one type of food. Eating pizza day in and day out would make me go insane. I'm sick of Pizza by the time I get t the 3rd slice so I don't know how anyone could eat it as their only source of nurishment. There must be something these people are experiencing when they eat that others don't. But, since it is so unhealthy to live that way, people who have this problem should definitely get some professional help

    September 13, 2010 at 23:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. erin


    September 13, 2010 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Elizabeth

    I have Asperger's (although most people can't tell) and for most of my childhood and adult life, I've found food that I like and will eat it exclusively for weeks (sometimes months) at a time. Same with clothes – I make sure they're clean but I pretty much wear the same thing every day. I'm sure the "Freaky Eaters" generally either also have some degree of either autistic spectrum disorder or OCD.

    September 14, 2010 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. dana

    I only ate oatmeal for about a year. It was the only thing that ever tasted delicious to me and the only thing I ever craved...breakfast, lunch and dinner...I just wanted it!

    September 14, 2010 at 00:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Sheyla

    Ok plp is one thing to just eat ramen because is all you can afford (but would eat a fine steak if you could) and anothe to point blank refuse any other food! This is not about pbj for lunch and chicken for dinner is more of pbj for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and anything in between and having a meltdown if that is disrrupted. These poor people deft have a problem and should get help, specially if they have kids as is a very dangerous example to them.

    September 14, 2010 at 00:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Bonnie

    I eat Broccoli 2 times a day. Done it for 30 years. I feel good doing it. Super food.

    September 14, 2010 at 00:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Shannon

    I eat spagetti sauce alot. Sometimes I eat it religiously a couple times a day. What is the point of eating all the spagetti under the sauce it doesn't taste? I only formely liked angel hair spagetti and that has to be under massive amounts of sauce anyway. So I just decided one day I was gonna make some spagetti sauce with parmesian cheese and crushed red pepper and a bit of balsmic vinegar. I throw that all in a bowl and put it in the microwave. Bam.

    September 14, 2010 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Beebs

    So I am a freak, because I only eat what I grow in my own garden......and I choose not to eat dead critters and processed garbage. If that makes me freaky, I can "live" with that. The swill that is passed of as food is what is really freaky. Laboratory grown, chemical laden garbage hopped up with steroids, growth hormones and preservatives. Consuming resh raw milk from well cared for cows makes me a nutcase to, I suppose. Again, I am okay with that. At least I am a freak with glowing skin, hair and nails-and no excess weight.

    September 14, 2010 at 02:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. JB

    I don't think anyone else has mentioned this so I will put it out there.

    I and a few others I know have had gastric bypass and there is a tendency to stick to the same type of meals. Some of it is psychological since it may feel like deviating from the same foods may cause weight to be regained. But also some foods don't sit well after surgery.

    September 14, 2010 at 02:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Toby

    anyone with a 'disorder' like this is a narcissist who wants attention, plain and simple. let this person start starving to death and see what they will eat. seriously. and anyone who allows a child to eat nothing but french fries needs to go straight to prison.

    September 14, 2010 at 03:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Donna Keith

      It's really not imaginary, Tony. I might have thought like you in an earlier time of my life – maybe not as blunt. I live with someone who has this problem and has done so all of his life. I now have two children with autism who also have this issue...I pray you don't have to learn about this the hard way...

      October 21, 2010 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
  29. Sarah

    I could almost get my brother in law on that show. He eats 4 things tho, not one. Steak, fries, pizza and spaghetti. And he lives with us, Id be happy to cook for him if only he would eat something different.

    September 14, 2010 at 03:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Kevin

    This can be one of the "diagnosing" signs of autism/aspergers. Again, the people reporting this stuff have no idea. I wonder if the show even mentions it. I will eat a lot of different stuff, it all tastes pretty good, but I go for a month at a time eating the same stuff. I have never really been a "plain" eater, I eat all sorts of food mixed up. This has kind of always been the case, me eating the same thing, but after a SEVERE head injury 9 years ago, it is 4 times what it was when I was 20.

    September 14, 2010 at 03:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Geeman

    Evan don't worry you'll die of Cancer before most of your friends from all the pesticides they spray on your veggies. LOL
    Healthy eating is not a guarantee to a long life, it just means you don't have to carry the excess baggage that all the Fat people do for the time you are here on this earth. I'm no Fattie, but I go back and forth on my eating habits good and bad depending on what I'm in the mood for. I don't believe in denial just moderation.

    September 14, 2010 at 04:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Michelle

    Evan, it sounds like you have an eating disorder: orthorexia nervosa. Enjoy.

    September 14, 2010 at 05:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. NewsReader

    All of this talk is making me hungry...I'm not obsessive about my food choices. You could also get hit by a bus tomorrow.

    September 14, 2010 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NewsReader

      Maybe there will be a show someday about people who only watch reality shows...Man that's like looking into the facing mirrors in a FunHouse.

      September 14, 2010 at 05:24 | Report abuse |
  34. gadzilla

    The things people do for attention.....

    September 14, 2010 at 05:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Stanley

    I have the same breakfast [eggs] not hard to fix and I don't think clear in morning [oatmeal boils over half time]. lunch varies slightly pasta or sandwich [cheapest ingredients], supper is $1 tv dinner. 3 flavor I can stand. not high quality but cheap. I sometimes eat out [$1 menu only]. I refill water bottle to save money. too many of these health folks never took an economics class and must live in parents basement as they have have no clue how rest of us have to scramble to forage in bleak times.
    or they make lots of money and don't have to count it.

    September 14, 2010 at 05:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. badger5079

    Many people in China eat rice every day....but perhaps they don't have a choice.

    September 14, 2010 at 05:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. cathy

    you guys are being too mean to Evan.....if he enjoys living a healthy life then more power to him...we all could probably take a lesson....I am old fashioned...cook most every day...big on veggies and protein and although I do eat carbs, not that many. I have a weight problem that if I didn't eat as well as I do would go out of control....I like cheeseburgers and pizza myself but hardly eat them and soft drinks for thhe most part, I can do nicely without.

    September 14, 2010 at 07:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. mto

    @Monty: Yep, beating a teenager is a SURE way to instill healthy eating habits!
    Seriously, he sounds like he might be at least mildly autistic, or at least have some form of OCD – he certainly classifies as having an eating disorder.
    So Monty...I guess you recommend beating anorexics too? Maybe tie them down and force feed them? That will instill healthy eating habits for LIFE.

    September 14, 2010 at 07:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. mim

    Babies should be on this program too. They only have milk all day, day in and day out. Of course, around 1 yr. that changes. I can't imagine eating just french fries. Gag. I'd have to have beer with them.

    September 14, 2010 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. rvd

    We all ate weird diets when we were kids. I ate a bagel with cream cheese and chives for breakfast, french fries for lunch, and some kind of meat and green vegetable for dinner pretty much from 7 to 17. Aside from being a little underweight, I was otherwise near the peak of physical fitness. It's not unusual in the slightest. I still have a distaste for a lot of things: coffee, chocolate, excessively sweet things (they don't normally taste appetizing to me, although there are exceptions). Before you internet doctors flip out on me: I don't have a psychological factor inhibiting me from ingesting them. I eat a fairly broad range of spicy and sweet things (I ate curry like twice a week at one point, and I'm fine with candied sweet potatoes or pecan pie, for instance). The rest of you flipping out over this probably just need to change your diet: a steaming hot mug of shut the **** up every day.

    September 14, 2010 at 07:30 | Report abuse | Reply

    I eat the same p@#$%6 seven days a week and 365 days a year. Year in year out. Do you thing I am a compulsive eater? So be it and I am loving it!!1

    September 14, 2010 at 07:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Frustrated

    My 5 year old eats only Elio's pizza, Wendy's chicken nuggets, and silver dollar pancakes. He never even tried mac n cheese, chocolate milk, cheese burgers, fries, ketchup. I think he likes cotton candy.

    September 14, 2010 at 07:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kwaters7

      Look into sensory processing dysfunction and picky eating. An occupational therapist trained in those areas can help.

      September 14, 2010 at 16:26 | Report abuse |
  43. Matt

    "Everyday" means commonplace. "Every day" means every day. FIx your headline.

    September 14, 2010 at 08:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Randy

    I've seen this first hand. I have a 30 year old nephew that has never eaten anthing but chicken nuggets and hot dogs and I mean just the wiener. No bun or condiments. And I really mean never. Every single day. The same thing. Since he was a kid. We used to get on my sister for not making him eat other things but he would literally starve if you tried to give him anything else.

    September 14, 2010 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Randy

    They need to have a show about people that compulsively fix others grammar........Matt

    September 14, 2010 at 08:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Troll

      Is it unreasonable to expect a professional journalist to use proper grammar?

      September 14, 2010 at 12:38 | Report abuse |
  46. BroadCasting

    KStock.... obviously your son has never been really hungry. Let him get really hungry and he will eat whatever you want him to. I think most of these spoiled people would get over their "freakyness" if they were faced with starvation.

    September 14, 2010 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. BroadCasting

    Beebs....doesn't it bother you to kill those poor defenseless plants? I'll bet you even eat poor little baby spinach and little baby carrots before they have even have a chance to grow up.

    September 14, 2010 at 08:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Boka

    Americans have an excessive obsessive culture. People go over board on things(including me). Wheathers bad food, health food, we work too much, watch too much tv. We are a culture of extremes.

    September 14, 2010 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Leah

    The texture of food can also influence what you will eat. I can't eat avocados (too fat) or oysters (too slimy) or certain herbs because they overpower taste buds. On the other hand I seem to zero in on foods that are very high in antioxidants. Do we have taste buds for those?

    September 14, 2010 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Crested

    I could not imagine eating anything other then white foods – just any variation would stop me from eating for days. I can eat bananas, rice, pasta, chicken, turky, bread, anything white. But if I find something colored in my food I get sick and can't eat for days. Its been like this since I was a kid, absolutely drove my parents up a wall. LOL it still does. Can't eat out and only drink water, have one meal a day because it so difficult to make sure it's not too gross.

    September 14, 2010 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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