Shopping and Cooking for ARFID

What’s on your list today?

As if trying to shop and cook under normal circumstances isn’t stressful enough, We now have a whole new set of rules, and foods to work with.  I am currently procrastinating making Connor’s dinner because even the thought of all the prep work makes me exhausted.  I literally stood in the dairy section at the grocery store today and cried because I was so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of groceries we will purchasing for the next X amount of weeks.  It is absolutely ridiculous.  Ridiculous, but necessary.

At the initial interview with Kartini we were given a Parent Handbook.  In this handbook is everything a “noob” family like ours needs to know about Kartini and the way we are being asked to live our lives for the forseeable future.  Our meal plan, shopping list, and a sample of the food journal we are required to keep are just a few of the things included.

I run through the included cookbook and look for foods I think Connor may possibly feel like eating.  I know he likes to try new things too, so I pick a couple riskier choices just for variety and adventure.  Also apparently I am a glutton for punishment.  Connor is no longer allowed to go with me when I do the grocery shopping.  So while I used to be able to pick the kids up from school and make a quick trip to the store for milk or whatever, even a quick trip now is tedious and often stressful. (I realized while trying to cook dinner the other night that I had not picked up corn starch.  I searched high and low in every cupboard for the container I was sure I had, in a panic because I knew if I couldn’t find it I was totally screwed.  We’d just gotten home from the clinic, Dane was at work, and there was no going to the store to pick some up.  Well, AWESOME, there goes dinner.  I slammed the cupboard shut, probably said a bad word then took a deep breath and noticed the bag of flour on the counter.  I improvised, and dinner was more or less saved.)  These meals are based on calorie content, and healthy fat content.  It’s not just about weight gain, in fact it’s really less about that than RATE of weight gain.  Slow and steady wins the race right?  It’s also about whole foods, and learning to eat the right amount of the right things.  So naturally there are things like whole milk, yogurt, butter, eggs, cheese, etc on this list of approved foods.  Anyone who knows Connor knows that aside from the milk, he hates these things.   Meals just got a whole lot more complicated.

So I finally find some recipes I am feeling pretty hopeful about, get the shopping done without the boy, and get it all home.  Hard part’s over right?  Not exactly…Connor is also not supposed to be in the kitchen when we cook.  It may seem like a little thing, maybe even a stupid thing, that kids with disordered eating are not supposed to be around food.  But the reasons behind this make absolute sense.  Kids eating disorders are going to obsess over every little thing about food.  How much of it, what kind, etc.  These kids check the nutrition labels then stress over the calories, fat, whatever!  And no matter how small a portion you give them if they are there while you are measuring it all out, it will never be small enough.  It just makes sense to exclude them from everything food related except for the eating of it.  The less they know about it the better.

Connor’s meals must be weighed, measured, and cooked separately from the rest of us.  So basically I have to cook everything twice.  On the weekends when he’s home for every meal that means I am cooking six meals a day.  It takes me roughly and hour to prepare our meals, not because they are complicated meals or anything but because everything is tedious.  Even the sauces and dressings must be made from scratch and in most cases his are made first then I make ours.  One exception is the salad dressing, I am able to make the dressing in one batch then I just measure out the amount he is supposed to get.  Oh and speaking of salad, we have to have one with every dinner.  Here’s what a typical dinner looks for us now.

4oz poultry, fish, beef, or pork

1cup rice or pasta

1TBSP butter or olive oil

1 1/2 cup vegetables

1cup salad with 1TBSP dressing

8oz whole milk

When we set everything out on the table, Connor is served last.  This way he isn’t sitting there staring at his food freaking out about the amount of it while he waits for the rest of us.  He has 40 minutes to eat dinner (30 for breakfast and lunch) if he does not finish his meal in the time given he has to drink a Boost Plus.  The amount of Boost depends on the amount of food he actually ate.  If he eats less than half of his dinner, he drinks 1 1/2 – 2 8oz Boosts.  At least half he only has to drink 1 8oz Boost.  Some meals, okay, let’s be honest – MOST meals we sit at the table listening to the timer tick away while Connor stares at his plate, or has a panic attack, or pretends to take bites of food.  No one is allowed to leave the table until the timer goes off, and that is VERY HARD for those of us who have finished our food.  After the timer goes off, if Connor is drinking a boost, it must be in a clear glass, and we must sit with him while he drinks it to make sure he actually drinks the whole thing.  (At this point he’s drinking at least one Boost per meal.  We are blowing through these like you wouldn’t believe, and they are crazy expensive.  It’s 6 8oz bottles for like $13!!)  After this he is excused and Dane and I sit down with his food journal, and the uneaten portion and try to figure out how much of every thing he did eat and record it in the journal.  I hate math so this is all really painful for me, but never the less… In the journal we also record how he was acting during a meal, his behavior in general that day, problems he’s having, power struggles we go through, any and every little thing that may help his therapists and doctors better manage his recovery.

By the time all of this is over I am so exhausted it’s all I can do to get the kids ready for bed.  Most nights the dishes go unwashed, the table goes uncleared.  I don’t have room in my tiny kitchen for meal prep of this magnitude, and so it all piles up faster than you can imagine.  I seriously hate it.  But I love my kid more.  Oh so much more.

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2 thoughts on “Shopping and Cooking for ARFID

  1. Has anyone ever looked forward to Mondays? I participated in lunch yesterday. One thing not mentioned is that after all the prep of meals, the wasted food is not so much fun either. Praying the scales will tip in a positive direction figuratively and for real very soon. Connor does matter may more and his whole immediate family does as well as they go through this together.

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  2. Oh wow! Two things I always dread, math and paperwork. That added on to all the rest, I can imagine why your stress is so high. You will get through this, you are strong and Dane is strong. Stronger than you feel sometimes because the Holy Spirit forms that three stranded cord that is so necessary i n times like these.

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