This is such a good story because it shows how when you're a child you have these imprints of feelings and activities and foods and everything and as adults we react to those things sometimes in really negative ways. I read your post to my husband because he is a really picky eater and says that he was forced to try and eat foods as a kid and now will never touch those foods. But he might like them as an adult, but won't give himself a chance because he connects those foods with being forced by his parents to eat them. We're exploring it a bit and he says, maybe something happened around that time and that's why I can't eat fish. He also doesn't eat cheese (but accidentally tried tiramisu which has marscapone cheese in it and he loved the tiramisu, so your adult and child self are the same but not the same.)
I thought about my own triggers (many) and how the entire North East USA is a trigger for me because I grew up in NY and associate the whole area with being sick in winter, it being cold and dark, the smells and sights etc. That's why as an adult I moved to Texas, but because of a lot of pressure from my husband's family in 2010 (and a "bribe" of giving husband a well paying job), I moved up here with all of my psyche kicking and screaming and I have hated it here for the almost 3 years I've been here. I hated it from day one and wanted to leave.
Now I think exposure therapy is good and it works and we can get over small things and even big things but I think in my case moving back up here was too much, too soon, and honestly I just don't want to live up in this part of the country at all because it doesn't suit my personality (or my wallet haha). I would definitely NOT suggest you have a feast of cole slaw, potato salad and fruit cocktail for 3 years;)
(There are different types of cole slaw and potato salad, maybe you can try one that is least like the one you had in daycare. Like if that one was creamy coleslaw, try the one that's more vinegary. Or if you had regular potato salad, try German potato salad which I think has some mustard in it. It might be a way to eat the thing but make it on your own terms and just different enough to have it not be "the same" thing. Good luck!!!!