When you have no appetite, it can be hard to decide what to eat. In many cases, you may decide not to eat at all.
While it’s okay to skip a meal every once in a while, if you are constantly skipping meals due to lack of appetite, you can face a few different issues.
When you have no appetite on a regular basis, it’s important to try to eat something to establish a regular eating schedule.
In this article we will discuss what causes a lack of appetite, if you should eat when you have no appetite, what to eat when you have no appetite and how to prevent low appetite in the future.
Why do I have no appetite?
First let’s discuss why you have no appetite, because there are several reasons this could be occurring.
It could be something as simple as a cold or a bad reaction to a food you ate. This is especially the case if the lack of appetite came on suddenly.
If you notice your lack of appetite is accompanied with a variety of other symptoms such as a headache, congestion, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache or diarrhea, it’s likely you are sick from some type of infection.
Be sure to see the doctor if your symptoms become uncomfortable. While lack of appetite for a day or two probably isn’t going to do harm, it can become an issue if it lasts longer.
You aren’t eating regularly
If you aren’t eating regularly, it’s fairly normal to not have an appetite during certain times of the day. For example, if you always skip breakfast, it’s normal to not feel hungry in the morning.
To remedy this, try to get regular meals and snacks throughout the day. If your first meal is at 11am, try moving that to 10am for a few days, and then moving it to 9am and so on.
Make slow and small transitions until your natural hunger cues remerge. Even a small meal in the morning can help with this.
If you only consume one or two meals daily, try spreading out these meals to three or four meals. This can help establish regular hunger cues and appetite throughout the day.
Decrease in activity
If you recently transitioned from an active job to a more sedentary job or an intense workout routine to a lower intensity routine, it’s normal to experience a decrease in activity. This is actually a sign that your body is adapting to a lower daily expenditure.
A good way to know if the calories you consume match the calories you burn is your weight. If your weight is stable, your body is doing a good job. But if you are gaining or losing weight, you may need to make adjustments to your diet.
Various health conditions
There are a variety of health conditions that can lead to decreased appetite. Here are a few conditions where loss of appetite is common:
- Digestive conditions like Crohn’s or IBS
- Liver or kidney disease
If you have persistent loss of appetite that has resulted in weight loss please speak with your doctor to see if there is an underlying medical condition.
There are several medications that may result in a loss of appetite. Here are a few that can result in a loss of appetite:
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Stimulant drugs
If you are starting any new medications, make sure you speak with your doctor and/or pharmacist about any potential side effects. And make sure to advocate for yourself and ask to switch medications if you aren’t comfortable with certain side effects.
Should I eat when I have no appetite?
Yes, you should try to consume something even if you have no appetite. It’s probably okay to skip a meal every once in a while, but if you regularly have no appetite, it’s always best to get something in your system.
Eating even a little something can help establish a regular eating pattern and improve hunger signaling in the future.
What to eat when you have no appetite
When you have no appetite, the idea of eating anything can be difficult. But, there are a few things you can do to make eating with no appetite more enjoyable.
Focus on meals you enjoy
It’s so important to focus on meals you actually enjoy. If you are forcing yourself to eat oatmeal or avocado toast for breakfast even though you hate these foods, you are more likely to skip the meal.
I recommend writing down at least 4-6 meal ideas that you genuinely enjoy eating. Get the ingredients to make 2-3 of these meals every week and rotate them each day.
Once you get sick of one of the meals, brainstorm another meal to take its place. Continue this process and you’ll find that you will start looking forward to meals and eventually will get your appetite back.
Opt for palatable foods
Have you ever finished a full meal and despite being incredibly full, still have room for dessert? There are some foods that are simply irresistible, and these are especially great for when you don’t have an appetite.
Now, I’m not saying you should just eat ice cream and french fries when you have no appetite, but opting for more energy dense, hyperpalatable foods can make eating with no appetite more enjoyable.
Some foods that are pretty easy to consume include cereal with milk, fruit salad, flavored yogurt, toast with butter, pasta with marinara or butter sauce and smoothies.
Utilize meal prep
Having some meals prepared beforehand makes eating with no appetite much more enjoyable. The easier you make it for yourself, the more likely you are to eat it.
Here are a few ideas of foods to have prepped to make for easy meals throughout the day:
- Fresh fruit salad
- Rice and pasta
- Ingredients for smoothies
- Hard boiled eggs
- Ingredients for sandwiches
- Roasted or steamed vegetables
- Dips for veggies like hummus or ranch
- Pre made salads and toppings
You don’t have to prepare full meals, but having some ingredients you can throw together can be helpful.
How to prevent low appetite in the future
Sometimes prevention is the best way to treat an issue. While sometimes having no appetite is out of your control, there are a few things you can do to help.
Eating constantly throughout the day is one of the best ways to ensure your hunger and fullness cues stay consistently.
Trying to consume a meal or snack at least every 4 hours is a good place to start. Having a snack in your purse or at your desk at all times is a good way to ensure you don’t go too long without eating.
There is some evidence to suggest exercise can be very important when it comes to regulating your hunger and fullness cues. Considering the numerous benefits of exercise, there’s no reason not to get more active.
It’s best to start small and work your way up. Just 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week has been shown to reduce risk of all cause mortality.
Consider the medications you are taking. Are they affecting your appetite? If they are, speak to your doctor about switching to a new medication or perhaps reducing the dose of your current medication.
Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself! You are an expert on your own body, and if the side effects of a medication you are on are becoming too overwhelming, don’t be afraid to demand a change.