Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Commonly know as ARFID, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder is an eating disorder characterized by the inability for an individual to eat certain foods or types of food. 

Although research on ARFID is not extensive, it has been found that the prevalence is between 0.5%-5% among the general population

ARFID is often wrongly known as picky eating by people who don’t fully understand the disorder. Doing so minimizes and invalidates the real struggles that the individual has to face in trying novel foods, making it even harder for the person to expose themselves to their fear foods. It is therefore important to understand the real causes of the eating disorder and not label the strugglers as being difficult. 

Diagnostic criterias do not include eliminating food from one’s diet due to religious beliefs, a medical condition, allergies or due to lack of access to food.


Unlike with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, the sufferer does not limit their food intake due to body image issues. Instead, the following factors are common triggers for selective eating: 

  • Sensory sensitivities causing strong aversions to the texture, taste and smell of certain types foods
  • Past trauma when eating certain foods which may have resulted in vomiting, choking or severe stomach pain. As a result, the person can develop an intense fear of eating those same foods. 
  • Lack of interest in food due to low appetite or never being hungry, making meals feel more like a burden.  

Warning signs and symptoms

If left untreated, ARFID could have several detrimental impacts on an individual’s physical and mental wellbeing. For instance, the following are common symptoms experienced:

  • Always eating the same foods
  • Several nutritional deficiencies
  • Weight loss or failure to grow in children
  • Use of enteral nutrition or meal replacements or supplements
  • Disturbance in psychosocialwell-being as it becomes anxiety-provoking to eat out
  • Increased isolation especially if food is to be served in social events
  • Hard to feel hungry and feeling satiated very early 

Co-occurring conditions such autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and depression, are common amongst those with ARFID.

If you are worried about your restrictive or avoidant eating behaviours or of your loved one, this tool can be used as a screening tool to identify some problematic behaviours and thoughts. Please note that it is not a diagnostic tool and help from a healthcare professional specialized in eating disorders is still recommended. 


A multidisciplinary team consisting of a doctor, psychologist, nutritionist specialized in eating disorders and sometimes an occupational therapist (in the case of sensory issues) is often required to address the medical, mental and nutritional impacts of the disorder. The approach is usually tailored to specific struggles pertaining to the individual and can include: 

  • Family-based therapy for children and adolescents
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy
  • Exposure therapy

At NutriVie Santé, our nutritionists specialized in ARFID will help you meet your nutritional needs by helping you understand them better. We also work with you to stabilize the weight if needed, and increase food variety by introducing new foods in your diet while taking into account your degree of anxiety that comes with each fear food. 

Our eating disorder dietitians also provide parental guidance to give parents the tools and advice to help them navigate the issue so that they can in turn better support their child. Recovery from ARFID is possible and our eating disorder nutritionists are available to help you at our treatment clinic. Feel free to contact us!


The nutritionist at NutriVie Santé has helped me with my eating disorder in such a compassionate and caring way. I was very weary to speak about my eating disorder to a nutritionist for fear that I would be judged or lectured about my eating habits. However, I quickly became trustful of the nutritionist; she proved to be very knowledgeable about eating disorders and was very kind and gentle in her approach. I felt that I was in the driver’s seat of my journey while she was gently guiding me from the passenger seat. She gave me strength and hope that this was something I could overcome. If you have an eating disorder and are reading this, I believe that you will not regret contacting the team at NutriVie Santé even if it’s just to ask a few questions.”

“The nutritionist at NutriVie Santé is very caring and generous with her time. From our first contact, I felt listened to and supported. She gives me the support and reassurance I need to finally see progress in my journey. Her advice is valuable and she constantly adjusts to my situation. She takes into consideration the whole nutritional side, but also the whole emotional aspect. I am very happy to have a nutritionist from the team at NutriVie Santé by my side to move forward through this ordeal.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Does ARFID only occur in children?

Although, the diagnosis is often made in children, ARFID can occur in people of all ages: children, adolescents and adults. 

Do I need a diagnosis or a referral to be seen at our treatment clinic?

A diagnosis or referral from a doctor is not required to start treatment with one of our eating-disorder nutritionists. In fact, it could prove to be beneficial to start the recovery process even if your symptoms do not meet the diagnostic criterias yet. This is because early intervention in the treatment process can minimize the detrimental effects of the eating disorder on the sufferer and enhance chances of long-term recovery.

Therefore, do not hesitate to contact us.  Our dietitians specialized in ARFID will be able to help you heal your relationship even if you don’t have a referral from a doctor. 

How many sessions do I need for ARFID recovery?

Since everyone’s needs are different and given that the ARFID treatment plan and intervention are very individualized for each person’s needs and reality, the number of sessions varies from one person to the other. 

At the beginning, the treatment process can involve a weekly or biweekly appointments. However, nothing is imposed and our eating disorder dietitian will respect your pace. 

Are sessions covered by insurance?

Our services are typically covered by most private insurance companies and may also qualify for tax deductions, making it more accessible to get nutritional support for your eating disorder recovery journey. All of our eating-disorder specialists are members of the Ordre Professionnel des Diététistes et Nutritionnistes du Québec (ODNQ). Therefore, do not hesitate to consult your plan to see if you can benefit from any coverage. 

How do I make an appointment?

One of our nutritionists at NutriVie Santé will gladly help you in your recovery from ARFID. You can simply write to us or call us. We will take some time with you to explain our approach and discuss about your needs and eventually book an appointment for you. 


You can answer the following questions to assess where you stand