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What Should You Do if Stress Has Ruined Your Appetite?

Although many people find themselves eating more when they're stressed, for some, stress can cause a loss of appetite. Here's how to cope.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
2-minute read
woman who has lost her appetite
The Quick And Dirty

If you’re having trouble eating much at a sitting, then this is not the time to be looking for foods that fill you up for fewer calories. Instead, use the opposite strategy—seek foods that provide more nutritious calories without filling you up too fast.

Q

The great amount of stress I am experiencing right now has completely erased my appetite. I could literally go all day without eating at all. I have the hardest time forcing myself to eat more than a few bites of anything. Weight has been coming off way too quickly and I know it can’t possibly be healthy. Do you have any suggestions on how I can either make myself eat more or how I can at least ensure I get the most nutrition possible out of what I do eat?

A

It's not uncommon to experience a loss of appetite during times of acute stress. Assuming you're not already underweight or suffering from a serious health condition, a few days of under-eating is unlikely to do long term damage. (The cool kids call is "intermittent fasting"!)

Assuming you're not already underweight or suffering from a serious health condition, a few days of under-eating is unlikely to do long term damage.

As things improve (or we get used to a new normal), I suspect your appetite will gradually return. In the meantime, try to schedule regular meal times and sit down at the scheduled time even if you are not feeling hungry. Make your mealtimes as peaceful as possible. Clear all the paperwork and clutter off the table, set a nice place setting, turn off the news and turn on some music.

If you’re having trouble eating much at a sitting, then this is not the time to be looking for foods that fill you up for fewer calories. Instead, you want to use the opposite strategy: Seek foods that provide more nutritious calories without filling you up too fast.

  • Eat vegetables roasted or sautéed with oil instead of raw. 
  • Choose full fat milk and yogurt rather than low fat.
  • Don’t drink too much water right before or with your meals.
  • Choose pureed or creamy soups instead of broth-based soups.
  • Sip on a smoothie  (See also: How to Make the Perfect Smoothie)
  • Chose nutritious but energy-dense foods like nuts, nut butter, avocado, cheese, Greek yogurt, dried fruit.

Hang in there! We will get through this.

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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