A mum-of-two with a “fear of food” has revealed that she’s been living off cheese sandwiches for almost 30 years.
In a bid to overcome her mealtime phobia, the mum has forked out a fortune on hypnotherapy sessions, but nothing has been able to cure her of the obsession.
Griffiths, 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.”
She said she finds it very awkward going out for meals with new people because she has to explain why she’s ordering a cheese sandwich.
READ MORE: How to deal with the fear of puking
The phobia has affected her relationships too.
"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,” she said.
Though Kendall attempted to encourage Griffiths to try some new foods, she never managed to do so. She has now resigned herself to the possibility that this might be the diet she lives off for the rest of her life.
"I am bored of cheese sandwiches but even with years of counselling, I am unable to overcome my phobia,” she said.
Even the way the cheese is prepared has an impact on whether Griffiths can eat it.
"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,” she said.
“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.”
The mum said she dreams of eating certain foods, like a roast dinner, but the thought of vegetables, potatoes and meat touching makes her feel sick.
"The only other thing I can stomach is crisps and that is the only excitement my tastebuds get so I always pick a flavoured pack,” she said.
"I usually eat cheese and onion crisps or prawn cocktail, and treat myself to sour cream Pringles on special occasions."
Griffiths, mother to Charlie, two and Daisy, eight months, is conscious of not passing her eating phobia on to her children.
She says it is becoming difficult to feed her toddler as he notices she isn't eating the same, so she eats after him in another room to ensure he doesn't develop the same eating habits.
Griffiths says her eating phobia likely developed when she was little.
"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,” she said.
"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.”
Though she has had counselling since she was a child, Griffiths said it hasn’t worked and the only time, she came close to being “cured” was following 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,” she said.
But at £300 a session, she couldn’t afford to continue, meaning she was left with no choice but to return to her diet.
The online saleswoman now hopes something similar will 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.
What is a food phobia?
Among a checklist of ways eating can impact people’s lives, the site explains that it is possible to feel strongly repulsed at the idea of eating certain foods and be scared of certain types of food.
A lot of the times an eating or food phobia is mistaken for an eating disorder, but Mind says there is a difference.
“An eating disorder is a medical diagnosis based on your eating patterns and medical tests on your weight, blood and body mass index,” the site says.
“An eating problem is any relationship with food that you find difficult. This can be just as hard to live with as a diagnosed eating disorder.”
Anxiety Care UK says there are two distinct types of eating phobia. One is an inability to swallow for fear of choking, which may lead to the rejection of most solid foods.
The other is more of a food aversion, where certain food textures or odours cause nauseous feelings or even vomiting.
If your relationship with food and eating is affecting your life, Mind suggests visiting your GP, who will be able to refer you for more specialist help.