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An eleven-year-old girl who has eaten nothing but chicken nuggets since she was 18 months old could finally have first proper Christmas dinner this year after finally beating her crippling food phobia.
Jessica Thompson’s mum says she has no idea where the bizarre phobia, which is known as avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), originally came from.
Julia Cain says it was only this September that Jessica’s problem has been diagnosed and up to now doctors had just branded her daughter a “fussy eater”.
But Jessica can now finally enjoy a full roast dinner, as well as lots of fruit and vegetables in her home in Swindon, Wiltshire.
Julia said: "She was eating all her baby food and she was trying lots of new food.
"Then it just stopped, and she would only eat chicken nuggets."
"She'd have about three or four with fries as a meal," says Julia, 49, adding: "But usually [she] didn't finish it.
"In her lunch box, she'd just have plain bread, with nothing on it or in it.
"As a family, we have never tucked into a Christmas dinner altogether as Jessica would refuse to even try one.
"She would have a plate of nuggets and one year, she had a slice of dry bread.
"People would always say, 'she will grow out of it', or 'if you don't give in she'll get hungry and eat what you give her'.
"The problem is, Jessica would literally rather starve than eat some foods.
"Sometimes she would crawl into a ball to get away from the food.
"We knew she was more than fussy but we never thought she would spend a decade of her life eating chicken nuggets."
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For a decade, Jessica stuck to beige foods like nuggets, plain bread, and fries.
Julia said: "They would all say she's just being fussy, or she's having tummy troubles.
"As a parent, all you want is for your child to eat.
"People really don't understand that it is an illness, not just fussiness."
Julia eventually contacted hypnotherapist David Kilmurry, who diagnosed her with ARFID.
After just three weeks with him, listening to relaxation MP4s before meals, and using an achievement chart, Jessica can now enjoy a roast with her family.
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He said: "Julia contacted me worried and concerned about the limited foods that her daughter Jessica was restricted to, just chicken nuggets and very little else.
"Chicken nuggets are not a whole food group and Jessica came to me extremely unwell, lethargic and anxious.
"Trying to get Jessica or any person with ARFID to consume is like trying to get an arachnophobe to hold a spider.
"It sends panic through a persons body retching, gagging and vomiting – just at the thought of an unsafe or new food."
For relieved mum Julia, Jessica's achievement means for the first time in 10 years the whole family can sit down together and enjoy a meal.
Julia said: "It's nothing short of a miracle that Jessica can eat a full plate of food now.
"We hadn't eaten a meal together as a family for years, and now we can.
"She's tried 24 new foods, and even though she hasn't liked all of them, this is a massive step forward for her.”
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