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Six-year-old lives on Vegemite sangers for a whole year

Ethan only wanted one Aussie delicacy on the menu

As told to Lucy Notarantonio 

Mum Michelle Crowe, 46, knew her son had a phobia of some foods, but she didn’t expect him to eat the same thing for a whole year. She tells her story in her own words.

Spreading the Vegemite onto my son’s second sandwich of the day, I started to daydream about whether he’d ever eat anything else.

‘Would you like to try a strawberry after with Mummy?’ I asked.

‘Eew, no thanks!’ Ethan, six, said.

It was no surprise to me that he objected. He’d had a very limited diet for the past four years.

Ethan choked on a biscuit when he was two years old. 

It blocked his airway and he couldn’t breathe. Thankfully, I’m first-aid trained. But ever since, he’d had a severe phobia of food.

Ethan choked on a biscuit when he was two years old

He’d manage only a small selection, like plain pasta, plain pizza, fish fingers and cubes of cheese.

‘It’s just a phase,’ reassured my husband, Richard, 46.

But as Ethan got older, we began to realise it was so much more than that.

After many failed attempts of getting Ethan to try something new, he finally said yes to one thing − a Vegemite sandwich.

Then it was all he requested! 

‘Why don’t you have something else for lunch darling, you had a Vegemite sandwich for breakfast?’ I replied, when he asked for his seventh sanger of the week. 

As I put a ham sandwich in front of him, Ethan began to heave, with tears streaming down his face.

‘He won’t eat anything else!’ I stressed to Richard, perplexed. 

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Michelle and Ethan (Credit: Caters News Agency)
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Ethan had a fear of lots of foods (Credit: Caters News Agency)
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Michelle and Ethan: Ethan refused anything that wasn’t a Vegemite sandwich (Credit: Caters News Agency)

His sisters, Hollie, 15, and Sophie, 13, would refuse the odd green bean but not the entire contents of the fridge. 

Family dinners would usually end with Ethan vomiting from a spoonful of something new.

A whole year passed with Ethan refusing to eat anything but Vegemite on bread. 

Then, at parents’ evening, one of his teachers said she’d noticed Ethan wasn’t getting the nutrients and vitamins a boy his age needed.

I understood why she was concerned. Ethan was paler than the other children and spent more time off sick. 

‘We have to hide medicine in the Vegemite when he’s unwell, otherwise he’ll gag at the sight of it,’ I told her.

‘Have you ever considered a hypnotist?’ she asked.

A whole year passed with Ethan refusing to eat anything but Vegemite on bread

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Ethan ate his way through a lot of jars of Vegemite (Credit: Caters News Agency)
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Ethan is now free from his fear (Credit: Caters News Agency)

I was sceptical but desperate to try anything to help my little boy, so his teacher gave me Elaine Hodgins’ business card and
I phoned to ask how the program works. 

Elaine explained she would tell Ethan a little story or play a game with him to earn his trust, then he’d open up and tell her what was worrying him or making him fearful or anxious. 

The aim was to place Ethan in a trance − children are too young to be put intoa hypnotic state − and then make suggestions to him about what food he was able to eat.

Within a few sessions, Ethan was trying small pieces of fruit, vegetables and chicken. 

‘This is yummy,’ he’d say.

Ethan now enjoys meals with the family and is a strong, healthy boy.

He does still love the odd Vegemite sandwich though!

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