At first, Zachary Bell's doctors thought he was just a picky eater.
The 12-year-old Edmonton boy hasn't eaten anything other than a specific selection of beige-coloured foods since he was a baby.
Fries, pretzels, toast with peanut butter, cookies, garlic bread, cheerios and explicitly McDonald's chicken nuggets are the only items on the menu, Bell's mother Kathy told Edmonton's Vue Weekly.
For years, doctors said Bell would outgrow it or told Kathy to force her son to eat.
“They said he’s not going to starve himself,” Kathy said, in an interview with Metro News. Later, she admit he didn't eat for two days once.
“You could hear his stomach growling. We just traumatized him more than anything. It didn’t solve anything.”
Finally, last year, Bell was diagnosed with a rare new eating disorder: avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).
"I just want people to know that's it's not picky eating."
ARFID was only added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in 2013, making it a relatively unknown eating disorder.
Unlike picky eaters, people with ARFID will only eat foods that follow an extremely particular criteria. One example would be a child who refuses to eat any food they have to chew, according to the Eating Disorders Review.
“If left untreated, children and teens may be left with serious, long-term complications,” Dr. Debra Katzman, an eating disorders specialist at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children told Good magazine.
Bell, who's being treated with supplements and is seeing a psychologist for his social anxiety, is hoping to raise awareness so others with the disorder won't be pegged as just "picky."
"I don't want people to think it's picky eating and get forced to eat food," Bell told CBC News, during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which runs from Feb. 1-7.
"I just want people to know that's it's not picky eating, it's ARFID," he said.
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