British woman with ARFID lives on chicken nuggets and hasn't eaten fruit or vegetables in 22 years

Photo of Summer Monro at a restaurant
Summer Monro, a 25-year-old project coordinator from Cambridge, suffers from avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) - and hasn't eaten fruit or veg in about 22 years. Photo credit: Summer Monro / Instagram

We all know fruit and veg are vital for a healthy life, but sometimes, the prospect of spinach in a smoothie or a side salad with a plate of cheesy pasta just isn't all that appetising. 

And one British woman finds fruit and veg so unappealing, she hasn't eaten any in 22 years.

Summer Monro, a 25-year-old project coordinator from Cambridge, suffers from avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). According to the New Zealand Eating Disorders Clinic, ARFID is defined as an "avoidance of food" typically triggered by "persistent feeding or an eating disturbance".

Unlike eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, ARFID is not characterised by a preoccupation with body shape and weight or by intentional weight loss behaviours. 

"Instead, patients suffering from ARFID may be disinterested in food and eating with a lack of appetite leading to a slower rate of eating, eating smaller portions, and greater struggles around food," the clinic says.

"There appears to be a genetic predisposition towards picky eating or heightened sensitivity toward internal and external stimuli and patients may avoid foods because of dislike of colour, texture, smell or taste... some individuals might also develop a fear of choking, gagging or vomiting."

For Monro, the thought of eating fruit or vegetables is so sickening, the prospect of stomaching a single banana is enough to make her gag.

"I can't remember the last time I ate a fruit or vegetable," the 25-year-old told local media. "It's not that I don't want to try. It just makes me feel sick, there's a part of my brain that physically won't let me do it."

As a result, Montro survives on a diet of chicken nuggets, fries and potato chips - the only foods that don't prompt a violent reaction. 

Her condition is so severe, Monro couldn't even eat a single pea for £1000 (NZ$1900) - an offer her grandfather put on the table to test her limits. 

"I like the smell of food but if I try to eat it, it makes me physically sick. As soon as it touches my lips, I can't do it," she said. 

A typical day on Monro's plate includes no breakfast, a bag of potato chips for lunch, and every night, six to eight chicken nuggets with a side of fries.

Stock photo of chicken nuggets
The woman eats fries and chicken nuggets for dinner every day, as well as a packet of potato chips for lunch. Photo credit: Getty Images

Surprisingly, the picky eater says she's perfectly healthy and doesn't take any vitamins or supplements to fill in the gaps in her diet. Her good health comes as a shock to many, she says, with people often surprised by her buoyant energy and upbeat disposition. 

"It doesn't affect me physically. I don't feel lethargic and I've had blood tests but they're all fine."

Doctors are also baffled by the fact that Monro is in good shape and a healthy weight, which she simply puts down to the "protein" in her chicken nuggets.

The 25-year-old has been to therapy twice and has also tried hypnotherapy in a bid to beat the condition, but all attempts have so far proved futile.

Speaking to local media, the young woman says she believes her extreme phobia of foods was sparked when she was forced to eat mashed potatoes against her will as a three-year-old, the one food she didn't like.

"It's definitely something to do with the texture. The things I do eat are crispy, which is the opposite of mashed potato," she mused.

Despite the challenges, Monro has the enduring support of her partner, 26-year-old Dean, who cooks separate meals for himself each day. But even her good health and significant other's support don't override the boredom she faces with her restrictive diet and severe food aversions.

"I don't get excited to eat," she said.

"It affects me mentally, especially when I go to restaurants and I sit with nothing. We went out for my sister's birthday and I didn't eat and it made me feel crap."