Connection Between Nerdiness and Picky Eating?

I think there is. Most of the kids who were picky eaters growing up were nerds or at least exhibited nerdy behavior in their lives. I see it at work, too. We have a big meeting every summer (software company) and when we go out to eat, the salespeople will argue about getting Indian or Thai food, but many of the engineers won’t even think about it. Burger King for them. Of course, threads here in Cafe Society are full of evidence. Many admit they are picky eaters, but some say things like “I’m not a picky eater, but I don’t eat…” and then give a laundry list of very common foods like eggs, raw tomatoes, olives, etc.

I don’t know why it is like that, but I think it manifests itself in other ways of nerds as well. They pick one thing and stick to it to the exclusion of other good things. Some become completely absorbed in video games. Some will only read science fiction and never anything else. I’ll bet Star Trek conventions are full of picky eaters.

So, is there anything to this or am I full of shit? Is this your experience as well?

I don’t think so. My niece is far from a nerd, and as a child she was the pickiest eater of all time. Now her daughters are as picky as she was. I’m inclined to think it’s more of a rebellion thing than a food thing, anyway.

Mega nerdy as a kid but not particularly picky then. Less nerdy as an adult but one of the least picky I know.

Probably useful to remember the stereotype with the old “meat and potatoes” very constrained diet was blue collar and non-nerdy.

Nah. My nerdy friends really like trying new food, especially Asian food. And spicy food. And beers and wines.

I’m probably the most picky out of everyone, and I’m not the most nerdy (I am the most shy?) I don’t have anywhere near a “laundry list” of stuff I don’t eat. I just can’t physically handle spicy food.

I think it is often associated with a smaller comfort zone, which can manifest itself in all kinds of different ways.

Out of my social group, there’s an inverse correlation with nerdiness and picky eating. The pickiest eater is the least nerdy.

And the ones going on (inordinately) about computers, programming, video games, etc? Thai and Indian are normal and not adventurous at all. And they’re also the ones into craft beers, experimenting with getting their pizza dough just right, killing you before telling you their BBQ sauce recipes, going out of the way to find a new restaurant, etc.

Then again, Houston has an incredible variety of restaurants of just about any ethnicity.

On the other hand, the pickiest eater I know (who isn’t nerdy at all) grew up just outside NYC, so that can’t be it, either.

Everyone around here seems to think I’m extremely nerdy. Even on what is essentially a nerd message board.

I’ve never once been a picky eater. There are a few foods I don’t like, but even those I can eat with just mild dislike. I never turned down any food that was offered me, until I had to start on a special diet.

OP, you try to make a good case by generalizing outside of food, but I think you fell into cultural assumptions. Nerds do latch onto interests to the exclusion of other things, but so do a lot of people. Like guys who watch nothing but football. Or women who read nothing but trashy romance fiction. Or black people who listen to nothing but rap and hip hop. But that’s not considered culturally nerdy.

I’d agree that the most adventurous eaters tend to be, if not nerds per se, a kind of effete intellectual, the stereotypical upper middle class urban liberal SWPL type who does have many nerd characteristics. Hipsters and nerd have some overlap on the social Venn Diagram.

I’d like to see a study though. Are Star Trek con goers pickier than average? What about compared to smaller, more niche SF nerd fandoms that consider Star Trek/Wars cultural pablum? Do they have more refined tastes?

To the extent that you can see aspects of picky eating and nerdiness as being uncomfortable in social situations, I can see some similarities.

IMHO, obviously.

Sometimes what we think of as “nerdy” behavior is actually part of the autism spectrum. Those disorders often come hand-in-hand with sensory issues which can manifest as food aversions / preferences (due to smell, taste, texture, etc.). They can also be associated with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive tendencies (“I know I like this and I’m worried that I won’t like anything else” / “Something bad might happen if I try something new”). This is my WAG, based on what I’ve learned as someone with Asperger’s who is parenting a child with Asperger’s.

I think even sven got it in one; it’s a comfort zone (insecurity/control) thing. Young children often become irrationally picky, not because of any physiological reason, but due to control and security issues on their part. What they eat is something they can control as a 3 year old, so they exercise that.

Adults who do that seem to me to be less about the control and more about the insecurity/risk aversion. I’ll eat my hat if you can find me a particularly risk-averse person who is an adventurous eater, or the opposite- a risk-taking person who’s a particularly boring eater. What someone eats is probably the most basic and down-to-earth manifestation of their comfort with risk, IMO.

I think you and even sven have a point and I’m not playing Gotcha, but I wouldn’t be so adamant about the connection unless I also enjoy eating fabrics ;). I’m in many ways a risk-averse, insecure, comfort-zone-type guy but still a highly adventurous eater, tasting anything on offer and liking many atypical foods (raw reindeer eyeballs, anyone?). An ex of mine is a super-social, skydiving, motorcycling, first-date-sexing traveller who exhibits a wide range of food pickiness (eating only one type of cheese, hating many kinds of condiments, avoiding many types of fish, having strict ideas on cleanliness etc. etc.), and sticks to a specific diet, the year round.

IOW, what you say makes sense, but it isn’t true.

My picky eating has nothing to do with my nerdiness. I am sensitive to certain tastes and textures, they make me gag. I also have a crippling fear of vomiting and nausea.

A + B = a small, dull palate.

I mean, I’m not one of those people who only eats chicken nuggets or anything, but it’s difficult for me to try new foods.

I’m a nerd vegetarian and not a picky eater–I don’t eat meat and the only other food I reject is something too spicy. However, my drinks have to be non-alcoholic, sugar free, and caffeinated.

I’d say that in the general sense it probably is, but there are a lot of exceptions. People can be picky for many reasons- my MIL is about the pickiest eater ever, but it’s because she thinks that just about anything but bland gruel will give her migraines. So onions, garlic, peppers, mushrooms, leeks, and several other foods are out of the question for her.

My son is super-picky, but that’s because he’s 3, and it’s totally a control thing, since the only consistent thing is that it’s done in protest, not because of the actual taste/texture of the food in question (at times, he’s refused desserts he likes!)

But my BIL is a picky eater, and it’s totally a risk-aversion thing. He likes the meat and potatoes Iowa farm food he grew up with, and he doesn’t really appreciate anything else very much. This is a guy who went on vacation to Italy, and said he didn’t like the food, and I doubt he was eating bottarga, cuttlefish and lardo either. He’s pretty much totally risk-averse in his personal life as well, so it lines up pretty effectively.

I’m a nerd at heart (I don’t look nerdy or act nerdy, but my interests are pretty nerdy (video games, science fiction/fantasy, board games, card games) and I’m about as adventurous an eater as we come. I’m not particularly risk-averse either.

it makes sense as long as we define “nerd” as someone who is socially awkward. Most socializing happens over food. If you are so engrossed in books and train schedules that you don’t socialize on a regular basis, you’re likely not going to have the opportunity to experience a range of tastes and textures.

Of course, the reverse is also true. Most people do not care to socialize with people who have very restricted interests and tastes. I like different foods, and I think it would be hard to hang out with someone who only wants to eat, say, hamburgers and french fries. So maybe picky eaters are more likely to be socially excluded, which then leads to them developng a more introverted “nerdy” personality. Because if you aren’t hanging out with the fellas on Saturday night, why not learn everything there is to know about model trains?

Well, a small comfort zone can manifest itself in different ways. Is your ex by chance emotionally distant?

I guess I can kind of see what the OP is getting at, though I can’t say I agree. I’d have to know more picky eaters and over the course of my lifetime, I’m the only one I can readily think of. I can tell you I am the exact opposite of nerdy (my love of Grumpy Cat aside) or risk averse. There are just very very few things I find more abhorrent than experiencing food I don’t like. I’ll try just about anything if it’s spicy enough, yet I’d just as soon suffer physical harm than put, say, a piece of cheese in my mouth. The OP may be right, but I’ve always just assumed my disinterest in food is just a matter of preference akin to some peoples’ intolerance for hot weather or loud music or whatever.

My thoughts on this are similar to even sven and bump … with a twist that I think there is an observable overlap between picky eating and the kind of social awkwardness associated with being nerdy.

Someone who is socially awkward AND a picky eater is likely to do a poor job at blending. The pickiness will be apparent whenever food is consumed socially. Most people who are very socially adept will have a little bag of tricks to make their picky eating less of a headline, they will either deal with it and eat something they dislike for the sake of the group dynamic, or take a small portion that mysteriously ends up somewhere else, or maybe they are dieting, or just ate a big breakfast so they are not hungry for lunch. But the bottom line is that they will not call attention to what they are eating or not eating.

If you have a close relationship with a very picky eater who is generally good socially, like your sister or your spouse, then yeah, you will know they are picky eaters because you are often cooking or shopping for them. But a coworker? Or someone you see occasionally? They might not even be on your radar as a picky eater because they are doing a good job of smoothing it over.

As someone who resembles that remark, can I get some clarification on what constitutes a picky eater? Because I don’t think that not liking a handful of flavors makes one picky. There ain’t nothing wrong with giving something a try, and then realizing that, nope, you just don’t like this. I will try any food you put in front of me, once, and that is how I learned I don’t like raw tomatoes, olives, or undercooked eggs. Isn’t that, like, a normal experience? I think it is, and I think it is instead unusual for people to like every last food indiscriminately.

It’s got nothing to do with comfort zones for me, I just…don’t like those flavors!

Defensiveness over! :slight_smile:

On preview: Or basically what Toxylon said.