By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
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Videographer / Director: Jacek Hubner
Producer: Nathalie Bonney, Ruby Coote
Editor: Marcus Cooper
Jill Hayman, 36, from Montrose Scotland, lives off a diet primarily made up of crisp sandwiches and fizzy drinks – and has never sat down to eat a proper hot meal with a knife and fork.
Jill has a list of approximately 18 food and drink items she can stomach – what she refers to as her ‘safe’ foods; these include fizzy and energy drinks, jelly sweets, crisps and chocolate, with bread making up the majority of her ‘meals’. Unsurprisingly Jill gets through, on average, seven loaves of bread per week.
Jill said: “I’ve never had to sit down for a hot meal. I’ve never used a knife and fork. Toast is about as much as it gets so, it feels alien to me. It’s very weird.
A petite size 6, Jill suffers from Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), formerly known as Selective Eating Disorder (SED), where the consumption of certain foods causes anxiety, panic attacks and even physical sickness.
When faced with ‘unsafe’ foods Jill retches and can even be physically sick.
She said: “My throat will close and the panic sets in. I have panic attacks: I can’t control it and I have a meltdown.
“I’ve been physically sick quite often. It’s really bad to say I’ve actually been physically sick just speaking about food. “
For breakfast Jill typically eats two slices of toast, another three slices of bread at lunch and for dinner she’ll alternate between a couple of slices of toast, bread or her favourite: a Frazzles crisp sandwich. The carb-heavy, nutrient-low diet is washed down with a class of Irn-Bru, Coke or an energy drink.
Jill’s phobia began at just eight months old when she started to reject the solids her mother tried to introduce her to.
ARFID specialist and director of the Heath Clinic Felix Economakis suggests that Jill’s phobia was brought on sub-consciously by an early-life feeding experience:
He said: “It’s likely that something at the time scared Jill - perhaps an instance of choking or an unexpected taste and her brain made a note that this wasn’t as expected and panicked. A sudden shock like that can activate a fight or flight response and create a future aversion to food.”
Jill said: “My mum put a cooked dinner on the table every night. The whole family would sit down and enjoy the meal but I would just be sat there with bread and butter or a sandwich.
“I was very lucky my primary school was not even a minute away from the house so quite often I’d go home to eat.
“Still to this day when I bump into anyone from primary school they’ll say ‘are you still on the bread and Frazzles Diet?’”
Jill said: “I was always a chubby child. Nobody would believe what I eat because of the size me. They were like, ‘Well, you look healthy.’
As a teenager Jill went up to a size 16 before dropping to five stone, age 19.
She said: “I was really weak and feeling dizzy every time I stood up. I lost a few stone without doing anything different, without changing my diet. If I stood up, I passed out. If I walked more than 100 yards, I had to stop, take a breath or hold on to the wall.
It was at that moment the doctor prescribed painful vitamin B12 injections that Jill still has every few months.
Jill works in a pub in Montrose, Scotland, where she is a landlord. While other pubs in the area will serve hot meals, for obvious reasons Jill’s doesn’t:
“If someone is coming in at lunch asking for a bowl of soup, they’re not gonna find it appetising when I come out retching and looking the other way“.
It was at the previous pub Jill was working at that she met her partner of six years Craig Mathers, 29.
Craig said: “I think it’s easy for people to class her eating habits as fussy eating. When we try and go out you do get some weird looks from people. I know how difficult it must be for her and the embarrassment.”
“There are a lot of foods Jill can’t be in the same room as. It could be as simple as me coming in with a portion of chips with a slight bit of tomato sauce on the chips. Even if she sees it, it can cause severe fear and anxiety.”
The couple have talked about getting married in the future but Jill is adamant she doesn’t want to have children:
She said: “I don’t know if I could ever have a kid because I don’t think it would be fair. I can’t go near a kid covered in food or think about feeding them food with chunks.
“How can I be a mother if I can’t feed my own child?”
Despite numerous visits to doctors and specialists over the years, It was only this year, while researching online that Jill came across ARFID and was finally able to give a name to her eating disorder.
Jill said: “It’s made an amazing difference in my head knowing that there’s actually a term for it, that it’s not just me being fussy, picky or awkward.”
Jill joined the Selective Eating Disorder support forum on Facebook and will embark on a new hypnotherapy technique with Felix Economakis, introducing her to 15 more foods, to try and get her eating more foods.
Jill said: “I just want to be able to go and pick up a knife and fork, sit down and have a meal. I want to be normal.”
JILL’S SAFE FOODS:
White and Wholemeal bread (ideally Hovis)
Ski Smooth yogurts (strawberry and raspberry only)
Under ripe Bananas
Golden delicious apples
Green and red grapes
Frazzles and French Fries crisps
Haribo Jelly sweets
Dairy Milk chocolate (plain only)
Mint choc chip or chocolate ice cream
Chocolate or victoria sponge cake NO cream
JILL’S DAILY DIET:
Breakfast: 3 slices of bread, Can of Irn Bru
Lunch: 2 slices of toast
Can of Irn Bru
Handful of Haribo sweets
Dinner: 2 slices of toast or a Frazzles sandwich
Pint of dilutant juice (squash)
Evening treats (if not working): ice cream or an Aero mint hot chocolate