A schoolgirl with a food phobia which meant she only ate white toast has been cured after being hypnotized.
Martha Davies, 10, would gag if she tried anything other than her bland diet of toast and the occasional handful of barbecue Pringles. Even her Christmas dinner was a round of Warburtons Blue medium sliced toast washed down with a glass of water.
She developed her fear of food – known as neophobia – when she was 18 months old and went on to munch through five slices of toast every day.
Mom Julie Davies and dad Chris Davies, both 43, ended up spending a small fortune on bread and crisps each week and never cooked Martha a hot dinner in her life.
“Up until she was 18 months old she ate normally like a baby in a high chair with soft food," Julie Davies, from Coventry, said. "Then she started screaming and pushing food away. I persevered with her, but it seemed to get worse over time.”
The mother thought the problem might work itself out.
“By the time she started school when she was five I thought this is the moment she will see other people her age eating she will carry on normally," Julie Davies said. "But I realized this wasn’t working. We would go to parties and she would bring a packed lunch of Pringles and toast.”
Instead of getting better, it got worse.
“Those were the only two things she drank. It was at that point it was not getting better," Julie Davies said. "It was getting worse. Before she would have two pieces of buttered toast for breakfast and three pieces for dinner.”
And it couldn't be any bread to make the toast.
“It had to be Warburtons Blue, not crusty bread and it had to be toasted. We were spending a fortune on bread,” she explained. “She would take a packed lunch to school of Pringles and biscuits like custard creams or gingerbreads.”
“Last Christmas she’d been getting a bit better and had a sausage roll with a bit of the sausage when for years it was just toast.”
Charity worker Julie, also mom to Archie, 15, was so desperate she contacted Cognitive Behavioral Hypnotherapist David Kilmurry for help.
He hypnotized Martha and after the first two-hour session the youngster tucked into her first-ever cooked meal of pizza.
“We are still getting there with sit-down meals but after her treatment, she sat with us and had pizza,” Julie said. “She didn’t eat the cheese or tomato but had some of the crust. Over time the fear had gone and she’s now eating crusty bread.”
But getting their daughter to eat is still a struggle.
“It was very difficult before but we didn’t push her because she was frightened of eating. Her phobia wasn’t medically diagnosed for years,: Julie Davies said. "We were seeing a dietician but because Martha was tall and healthy we were told she would grow out of it, but she didn’t.”
But the mother swears by the hypnosis treatments.
“She was about to go to secondary school and wouldn’t have been able to go on trips or out with her friends," Julie Davies said. "Straight after her treatment she started getting better. It was amazing.”
Holidays are going to be easier now that their 10-year-old will eat more variety.
“She went out with us and was really excited about trying the food we ordered. I think she will be a normal eater one day. Holidays will be easier now because she can sit in the hotel and eat any kind of bread.”
“She can go out with her friends for a pizza and I don’t need to worry about taking her out for lunch or dinner.”
Martha Davies said she doesn't know why she was scared to try new food.
“I don’t remember why I went off other foods but all I ever wanted to eat was white toast with butter,” Martha said. “I’m really glad I’ve had treatment because now I can’t wait to try different foods.”
Toast is still on the menu, however.
“I’ll still eat toast but I really enjoyed trying chicken nuggets and pasta," Martha Davies said. "I’m not worried about eating different things now.”
Life coach Kilmurry, who specializes in treating fussy eaters, said Martha Davies came to him with extreme neophobia. The word is Latin for ‘fear of the new’ it is also called avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder or selective/binge eating disorder and it is a highly misunderstood is a phobia rather than eating disorder.
"Martha told me that she lived on toast, toast and more toast." Kilmurry said. "We delicately went through her fears and addressed them pre-hypnotism. After the session she immediately ticked into my fruits and veg, [spaghetti Bolognese] and hit 50 new foods within a few weeks.”
He expects her to have a more complete diet going forward.
"It’s a full cure for Martha, a very independent little lady," Kilmurry said. "It’s been an honor to have helped her open up her food vocabulary.”
This story was originally published by South West News Service.