Food is, of course, a necessity and we require it on a daily basis just to stay alive. Our body breaks down proteins, lipids, and carb and produces the energy we need to function properly, breath, walk, move, etc.

But, from time to time everyone gets this strange feeling, mostly when you are sick, have a stomach virus, or just hungover. You know that you are hungry but can’t eat.

You take one bite and are struck by that feeling of nausea and pain in your stomach.

It is important to note that you are not alone, there are millions of individuals all around the world facing this problem, and the number is on the rise. Especially in our modern society where we encounter an enormous amount of stress on a daily basis.

Hungry But Can’t Eat – A Quick Overview

Here is a list of the most common causes which may lead to the loss of appetite (feeling hungry but can’t eat):

  • Depression – if you are suffering from depression, food can become tasteless. There are times when you can’t get yourself to eat anything, no matter how hard you try it. Depression is a serious condition, and should you suspect if, seek medical help. Finding a local support group might also be a good idea, see National Alliance On Mental Illness
  • Anxiety
  • Giardia
  • Pregnancy
  • Liver Disease
  • Medication and Poor Nutrition

Anxiety and Stress

Anxiety is tightly linked to the appetite loss; we’ve all experienced it.

Actually, anxiety can affect our digestive system and force it into one of two directions – we can either overeat or lose our appetite and don’t eat enough.

Though overeating is not the topic of today’s article, it is important to note that it’s also an unhealthy habit. Eating to the point of feeling sick is not the healthiest thing you can do for your body.

On the other hand, being anxious to the point of not eating much, or at all, is a sign of a severe problem.

So, why does it happen?

Serotonin Levels

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for various processes in the brain such as mood, emotions, aggression, sleeping, anxiety, and appetite.

As you can see, disbalance in the levels of serotonin can cause the patients to feel full, even though they haven’t had anything to eat! So you will often feel hungry but you can’t eat anything.

Of course, this imbalance may affect people differently – sometimes it may speed up your metabolism and put your digestive system into overdrive.

Stress and Everyday Obligations

Stress is our body’s physical response to a certain stimulus. When we are under stress, our body switches to a “fight” or “flight” mode and releases a mix of hormones and various other chemcals.

This is a complex mix and causes a number of different reactions within the body – from redirecting the blood to shutting down our digestive system.

Shutting down, or just disrupting, the digestive system may make you feel full even though you haven’t eaten in a while. You can also feel hungry, but since your digestive system is not working correctly, you just can’t eat.

Another common cause of stress nowadays is daily obligations. We are working more and more; our workload is increasing, the time we spend in the office as well; all this is adding to the already high levels of stress we encounter daily.

Having too much work to do might even make you suppress hunger. You might start thinking less and less about food, and your body might also trick you into not feeling hungry at all. And before you know it, you will start to feel hungry but can’t eat.

The good thing about this type of stress and daily obligations is that they will eventually go away. And as they go away, you will slowly start regaining your appetite.

And as for anxiety, it does require professional help.


Giardia is an intestinal parasite which causes a diarrheal disease known as giardiasis.

The parasite lives in the intestines, and it passes in feces. Once it gets out of the body, it can survive for weeks, even months. This is due to its powerful protective shell that also makes it tolerant to chlorine disinfection.

For this reason, giardia is most commonly spread through the drinking water and is present in every region of the US, as well as the world.

The disease hits your stomach, so the most common symptoms are:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Greasy stool
  • Fatigue

Patients also report feeling tired and losing their appetite, so it is also common to experience a slight weight loss.

These symptoms will usually last between 2 and 6 weeks.

But rather than letting the disease take its course, you should see a doctor, especially if you haven’t had a bowel movement for more than a week, or feel dehydrated(frequent headaches and nausea).

The good thing about this disease is that it’s easily preventable. In fact, the only thing that stands between it’s, and your intestines is proper personal hygiene.

You should ALWAYS wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before a meal. You can also use antibacterial creams, and you should be all set.

Liver diseases

Pretty much every disease affecting the liver will have an impact on your digestion. Diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis, fatty liver, Jaundice, and some types of stomach cancer will cause a chronic, long-term appetite loss.

Of course, it is in our nature to always suspect the worse when something is wrong, but know that more severe diseases(such as the ones we mentioned above) are incredibly rare, most often your lack of appetite is caused by something more benign.


Though it is wonderful, pregnancy is a difficult time for a woman and her body.

Most women suffer from morning sickness, especially during the first trimester. Constant vomiting and nausea can hurt your appetite and the desire to eat anything.

You will often feel you are hungry, but you can’t eat. Fortunately, this is entirely normal, and there is no need to panic. Over time, your appetite will come back, and things will go back to normal.

Medication And Poor Nutrition

Medication can affect your digestion, though these instances are rare.

Different drugs may affect your digestion differently. Here is a quick rundown common types of medication and how they affect your appetite:

Antibiotics: some antibiotics can alter the way you perceive smell or taste. Not only that, but this medication can also slow down the movement of the food through your intestines. Since the food is passing through your intestines slower, you will feel full longer. You might even feel hungry but can’t eat without making yourself sick.

Chemotherapy: chemo uses powerful medication that often causes nausea, stomach problems and may make you not want to eat even if your body craves food.

Pain medication: pain medication irritate the lining of your stomach and may alter the way the food tastes.

Heart medication: some heart medication can suppress your appetite and interfere with your desire to eat.

What To Do If You’ve Lost Your Appetite?

In most cases losing your appetite is not a cause for major concern(if it does not last too long). We’ve all had this happen to us and there is no need to panic.

But if you want to make a difference and “force” yourself to eat when you don’t have the appetite, this is what you should do:

  • Nap more often
  • Exercise daily
  • Reduce stress
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Stop with TV dinners and eat smaller meals

Regular Naps

An increased workload in combination with tidying up your home may take a toll on you and exhaust you completely.

Being exhausted all the time is, of course, not healthy; it may make you lose your appetite and stop you from eating even if you are hungry.

This is why you should take a moment to rest, relax and charge your batteries. It doesn’t have to be a long nap, 30min to an hour is just the right amount to get you back on track and restore your energy.

Daily Exercise

We, as humans, are not meant to remain stationary – sit around all day. Our body craves movement! Moving is healthy and positively affects every system of our body.

If you find yourself feeling hungry but can’t eat, losing your appetite and feeling nauseated when you do eat something, know that it is time to do something.

As for the exercise itself, it doesn’t have to be vigorous, intense, or require weights; something as simple as a 30minute walk can be more than enough.

Ideally, you should engage in some sports activity or at least jog for a few miles each day. It will stimulate your body, make you feel good, boost your appetite and even burn off some excess calories.

When the winter comes, you have two options really – either hit the gym or buy yourself a treadmill and run at home. Whatever you decide, make sure you remain active.

Reduce stress

We’ve already said that stress is probably the main reason people lose their appetite and feel nauseated when they even think about food. But the problem with stress is you just can’t cut the stress out of your life.

We all have problems fueling our stress on a daily basis – work, relationships, or as something as simple as not having your morning coffee in time.

But, we are here to give you a little secret. Stress is actually a good thing, which is why (in addition to finding solutions to the problems causing it) you should try just to accept it. Accept the fact you are going to have some stressful situations through the day.

Stress is there to help you grow by allowing you to focus on what is currently wrong in your life. So, the next time you feel stressed out by a particular situation, stop to ask yourself why you are stressed? What is it about that situation that is causing the stress, and what could you do to make it better.

Of course, there are times when something hits you out of the blue, something like losing a loved one. Those are the times you should reach out and try to get some professional help.

Drinking Plenty Of Water

It is a well-known fact that most of us don’t drink enough water on a daily basis. The general recommendation is to drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses each day (roughly 1.5 to 2l).

Drinking enough water will stimulate your digestion and may help you regain your lost appetite.

Small Meals And TV Dinners

When I was growing up, we would always have large, heavy meals and we would not get up until we ate everything our mother cooked for the day.

These large meals are heavy on the stomach and might even make you feel nauseated through the day. You then start associating nausea with food and you quickly find yourself feeling hungry but can’t eat.

Eating smaller meals more frequently through the day will keep your digestion in check and help with your appetite.

And as for TV dinners, you should avoid them as much as possible. I say to avoid because they are usually unhealthy, it’s something you make in a hurry just to be able to watch your favorite show.

But even if you cook a healthy meal, you might focus on the show rather than on the food and become too distracted to eat. By making this a habit, you will become less and less focused on food, might lose your appetite and stop eating even though you feel hungry.

What Do You Eat When You Have No Appetite?

Should you experience loss of appetite spanning across several days, you should consult a doctor. Before you do, here are a few tips to help boost your desire to eat.

Mixing It Up

Eating the same food day after day will have a negative effect on your appetite. You will become bored and fed up with the same food and might even hate the idea of eating even though you are feeling hungry.

This is why you should mix things up! Go to your neighbor, get some new recipes, swap recipes with your friends or just go online and look for something new.

There are 1000’s of different websites with all kinds of simple, easy-to-make dishes that will blow your mind.

If you are looking for a lifelong dedication to cooking, you might even join a local cooking class. You can learn to make remarkable new meals and spend some time meeting new people!

Boosting The Flavor Of The Food

If you’ve been on a certain medication for a long time, chances are your taste buds are damaged, and the food begins to lose it’s taste even before it hits your palate.

If this is the case with you, you should try to boost the flavors that are already there. You can do this by adding spices and herbs you don’t normally use (ginger and turmeric), adding garlic or onions, or using virgin olive oil.

Possibilities are endless!

Foods That Increase Your Appetite

Unfortunately for us, there are no magic foods that will make you want to eat more and boost your appetite to such extent.

So what can you do? Well, your best bet would be to try and eat foods that pack the most calories per serving, so that even if you eat just a little bit, your body is getting enough fuel to get through the day.

Some of you might think the answer is fast food. Though it may seem like a convenient option, this is not the right road to take since most fast foods are unhealthy.

What you need are foods that are rich in nutrients and packed full of calories. Some of these foods are:

  • Sweet and white potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Eggs
  • Whole-grain breads
  • Dried fruit
  • Peas and corn

Also, make sure you don’t skip breakfast. You will most often feel hungry in the morning, right after you wake up. If you ignore this urge and desire to eat, you might not feel like eating later in the day.