How to Eat When You Have No Appetite


A large cheeseburger with a side of fries is pictured. Anxiety and stress can lead to a loss of appetite. (Michael Stern/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Dan Hogan, Science and Technology Editor

Many people have troubles with their appetite. Sometimes, even when we’re hungry, we can’t get ourselves to eat. It’s important to know that this is a common issue and you’re not alone. 

Before addressing your lack of appetite, you should try to recognize why this is happening in the first place. According to Better Me, there are several common causes of appetite loss. Among these are stress, depression, anxiety, illness, and certain medicines. When depression, anxiety, or stress are affecting your urge to eat, it can be very hard to realize what is going on. However, it can be even harder to change how you feel. 

To start eating again, begin with small, frequent meals. This can help stimulate your appetite, and is a much simpler way to start, according to The Life Raft Group. Make these starting meals and snacks look and smell appetizing. The more appealing your plate looks, the more you’ll want to eat it. Also, avoid areas that give off unpleasant smells, as they can affect your appetite negatively.

Eat foods that are easy to digest. Some examples include white rice, soups, and smoothies, according to Better Me. These foods are a lot easier on the body, making it easier to gain an appetite and eat more. Avoid gassy and fried foods, as they can make you feel full faster. It is important to nourish yourself, rather than feeling full. 

At first it might be easiest to stick with food you know you enjoy. That being said, don’t go for unhealthy treats, as these will just make you feel worse over time. Try to eat as healthy as possible in the moment. Foods high in calories and protein such as peanut butter, meat, nuts, and eggs are very beneficial. Sometimes healthy foods require the most energy to prepare, so listen to your body and only do what you feel you can do. 

Some non-food-related tips include exercising and being with friends while you eat. If you’re able to, exercising before eating reduces stress and increases metabolism, thus increasing your appetite, according to The Life Raft Group. Start off with simple exercises that get your heart rate up. Eating with friends can make you eat more without realizing it. If you’re enjoying the mealtime, then it makes it easier to eat. Furthermore, doing something while you eat such as watching tv or reading can help distract you from the daunting task, once again making it easier.

While it’s easier said than done to begin eating at a healthy level again, the benefits can be seen almost immediately. Starting is the hardest and most overwhelming part, but once you get going, the eating becomes easier and easier. Talking to close friends or family about what you’re facing is an important step, as well as contacting medical professionals if you can’t overcome the obstacles. Instead of facing these challenges on your own, know that you’re not alone, and there are many people who can help.