How to Eat When You Don’t Feel Hungry

By Ayanna DeVance. Reviewed by Lauren Ranley, MS, RD, LDN

No matter what we accomplish throughout the day, our bodies are machines that require energy to function. That energy comes solely from food, like smoothies, pizzas, salads, and ice cream, not from caffeine, water, or even sleep. Without this energy, our bodies have difficulty carrying out all the amazing tasks they are designed to do, including breathing, digesting, creating new cells, supplying the brain with fuel, and much more.

There is no such thing as perfect eating, and you may not always feel in tune with your body’s hunger cues. Food restriction, stress, anxiety, and other strong emotions can turn off our hunger signals which make eating sound unappealing. However, the body sends us clues that we need to eat in other ways. For example, when someone is “hangry,” a growling stomach may not be an indication that they are hungry.

Other indications of hunger might include: 
  • Low blood sugar can make you irritable or have a short fuse 
  • Thinking about food or being distracted by food ideas 
  • Difficulty paying attention 
  • Low energy or weariness

The need for eating exists even if you are not physically hungry. Typical hunger cues may be suppressed if you are under pressure, anxious, busy, focused on work, or feeling unpleasant emotions. But your body still needs food, and skipping meals is more likely to make those problems worse and more challenging to handle. Therefore, keep in mind that your body and you are on the same team, and when you eat, your body works to ensure you get everything you need.

Perhaps the composition or appearance of our meals is different from what we usually prefer. If eating three substantial meals and a few snacks don’t seem as appealing as eating two meals and several snacks, perhaps we might add another snack. There are no rules other than making sure you eat enough. Keep in mind that our bodies are still working hard to keep us moving, breathing, and overcoming the obstacles put in our path, even if the same feeling of hunger isn’t present.

A few tips and techniques for days when you don’t feel like eating

Eat something in the morning. 

  • You don’t have to eat an omelet at seven in the morning if you don’t feel like it. Instead, eat something easy to prepare or something you can grab on the go that matches your needs and degree of comfort.
  • Include a protein and a carbohydrate, if possible, to provide longer-lasting energy and satiety.
  • Some examples:
    • Smoothie (you can add a combination of fruit, milk, yogurt, nut/seeds, etc.)
    • Fruit + Peanut/Almond Butter
    • Toast + Egg (add some avocado to get some delicious healthy fat)
    • Yogurt + granola

Maintain simplicity and be easy on yourself! 

  • Eating doesn’t have to be complicated.
    • Food delivery 
    • Using meal delivery kits to prepare and enjoy meals can be practical. 
    • Takeout—instead of cooking, take a break and order something from your favorite restaurant. 

Consume foods that you like.

  • Pita bread and hummus
  • Celery and peanut butter 
  • Milk and chocolate cereal 
  • Whatever YOU choose!

Take care of yourself. 

  • It’s completely normal to have waves of discomfort in your life. 
  • Consume foods that make you feel good or bring pleasant memories. 
  • Let go of some of the notions of what snacks and meals “should” entail

Allow yourself to experience all of your feelings and changes, but remember that despite the adjustments, our bodies still require nourishment. So go ahead and grab something you truly enjoy, take a big breath, and be. You will succeed in getting through this!