Every day, April Griffiths starts her morning with a cheese sandwich or two slices of toast. Then she has a cheese sandwich for lunch. And one for dinner too.
April, 29, has a severe food phobia, and experiences intense anxiety at even the thought of eating food that isn’t a cheese sandwich.
The mum-of-two has been living off a diet of cheese sandwiches and crisps since she was a child, only mixing things up with melted cheese on toast on special occasions.
April, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire said: ‘Every time I attempt to try new things, I have a panic attack, my whole body begins to shake, and I am terribly nervous.
‘The fear of choking and experiencing a different texture of food scares me and even though I have tried to eat pea-size portions of rice, pasta or vegetables, I have never been able to swallow it without throwing up.
‘It has become very awkward for me to go out for meals with new people as I have to explain why I am ordering a cheese sandwich and it often becomes the talk of the table.
‘When I first met my partner of nine years, Leigh Kendall, 34, I had to pre-warn him about my food phobia to save myself of the embarrassment on our first date.
‘I chose a fancy restaurant that I have been before where they are ok with me ordering the usual, whereas I have been out for dinner before and they have refused which was awkward.
‘Leigh used to always try and encourage me to eat something new but it is impossible, I think this will be my diet for the rest of my life.’
April is – as you might expect – pretty bored of eating cheese sandwiches, but she can’t stomach anything else.
She’s tried hypnotherapy sessions to soothe her anxiety and try something new, but couldn’t afford regular appointments. After two meetings with a hypnotherapist in 2014, April was forced to return to her diet, alternating between sandwiches filled with mature cheddar and red Leicester.
‘Sometimes I have a cheese toastie to mix it up, but I must eat it when the cheese is hot because I start to gag when it cools down and the texture changes,’ April explains.
‘It sounds silly but if I have sliced cheese I have to avoid thinking about it because the texture is completely different to my usual grated cheese sandwich.
‘But I don’t have a panic attack because I know it is still cheese and I can eat toast as I know bread is safe to eat.
‘I would love to eat a roast dinner, but I couldn’t face it – the vegetables, potatoes and meat all touching makes me feel sick.
‘The only other thing I can stomach is crisps and that is the only excitement my taste buds get so I always pick a flavoured pack.
‘I usually eat cheese and onion crisps or prawn cocktail and treat myself to sour cream pringles on special occasions.’
Raising a child with healthy eating habits is tough enough, but when you can’t lead by example it becomes even trickier.
April’s food diary:
- Breakfast: two slices of toast
- Lunch: Grated cheese sandwich with a packet of cheese and onion crisps
- Dinner: Grated cheese sandwich with a packet of cheese and onion crisps
- Special occasions: Melted cheese on toast and sour cream Pringles
April has noticed it’s becoming difficult to feed her two-year-old son Charlie, because he has noticed she isn’t eating the same thing as him and would like crisps for dinner too.
The mum now has to eat in a separate room so her children don’t copy her dietary habits.
Her food phobia has caused April years of stress and anxiety, having tried all sorts of counselling to no result.
After two hypnotherapy sessions allowed her to eat rice, April is desperate for more of the treatment, and wishes it could be available on the NHS.
For now she has to make do with the foods she’s comfortable eating, plus three cartons of orange juice a day to get essential vitamins.
April said: ‘When I was a baby and moving from milk to solid foods, my parents became extremely worried as I wouldn’t eat or vomit straight away.
‘A lot of people say my parents weren’t tough enough but that isn’t the case, I am genuinely scared of food and always have been.
‘They have had so many nights crying and stressing over it, they took me to our GP but there wasn’t anything medically wrong with me and there still isn’t – I have been told by doctors I am healthy.
‘I have been in and out of counselling since a child, but it has never worked, the only time I have been somewhat ‘cured’ is when I had hypnotherapy.
‘I had two sessions and I managed to eat rice a couple of months after which was a massive deal for me, I was so proud.
‘But it was £300 a session and I simply couldn’t afford it; I hope one day something will be available on the NHS.’
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