Why is food gross to me?
August 8, 2010 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes food makes me feel sick. Sometimes I don't want to eat and so it feels like I'm just doing a chore. Is this normal? Or common?

1. Sometimes when I'm making food for myself the thought of eating anything just makes me feel sick--not to my stomach, but rather a feeling of revulsion in my mouth. In that case, sometimes I force something down or I find something indulgent that I know I will like, like cookies, just so that my stomach has something in it. I don't eat a lot of junk food otherwise. If someone serves me food, I don't have trouble eating it. For a while I didn't keep cookies or juice around the house, so I would eat grudgingly or just not eat.

2. After eating a meal sometimes I have the same feeling of revulsion, like I hate to know what has been in my mouth. The last time, it was macaroni and cheese and I ate a piece of candy to get rid of it.

I'm all right with my body, exercise a few times each week, am a healthy weight, and don't have a history of eating disorders. Cooking is fun enough. The best times of eating for me have been when someone else prepared my meals and when I was very physically active.

Has anyone had this experience with food? Given that I have a sedentary job and am making my own food, what can I do to address it? Is it even a problem?
posted by ramenopres to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It's entirely normal to prefer food cooked by others - or, rather, food one hasn't just cooked. The act of cooking makes me far less hungry, and I'll often have to force down whatever I've put together - even when I've prepared it because it was what I was craving, and have an appreciative dinner guest. Everyone I've spoken to about this concurs.

If you're in danger of under-eating, you'll get hungry enough to get over it.
posted by pompomtom at 9:10 PM on August 8, 2010

First I would see a doctor to rule out problems related to loss of appetite, which can range from depression to ulcers to thyroid disorders.

I've had this symptom myself, and it might be somewhat related to stomach problems I've had, but it's persisted even as I've successfully treated them. My theory is that for some people a sedentary and somewhat engaging job suppresses appetite. When I'm camping with friends I eat normally. When I'm writing software I become a zombie that would rather just not eat. My main tips for dealing with are:
1. Plan your meals in advance.
2. SALT. Salt stimulates your appetite and makes the food you are eating more delicious. I remember when I dated a chef and he took me back in the kitchen and I watched them pretty much dump salt on everything.
3. Eat out. Yes, it's more expensive, but I find that my appetite is better, I'm in a better mood, and I just feel better if I allow myself to eat out.
4. Work out in the morning. Even if it's just 20 pushups and jumping jacks in your bedroom. Get the blood flowing...it will stimulate your appetite.
posted by melissam at 9:12 PM on August 8, 2010

Yep. cooking makes me not-hungry for at least a few hours. I eat a lot of sandwiches and things that you can freeze as a consequence.
posted by fshgrl at 9:13 PM on August 8, 2010

I have this same problem. It's worse in the summer, when I'm often hungry, but everything sounds gross, and this goes on for days at a time. I end up eating a lot of cereal and granola bars. I make sure to have bread, peanut butter, and eggs around, because often those things are tolerable. No help on what causes it, or how to stop it, but I have a theory that maybe it has to do with being dehydrated? I guess my only real suggestion is to keep things on hand that you usually find palatable and can prepare quickly.
posted by elpea at 9:17 PM on August 8, 2010

I find the solution is that when you feel nausea or "I don't want to eat!", you eat foods that don't feel challenging or difficult or scary.

Things like:

dry wholemeal toast,
rolled oats with soymilk or milk,
peppermint or ginger tea with honey,
white rice,

Often this raises your blood sugar enough that it reduces your nausea, and you can eat something more challenging.

For me (your mileage may vary) challenging/difficult foods =

I can eat these most of the time, but not if I am already feeling nausea or 'don't want to eat.'
posted by Year of meteors at 9:24 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

yep. i totally feel that way. also: sometimes my crashing blood sugar makes me not hungry. it makes me want to scream - i mean, my body's reaction to "i need food!" is to say "i'm nauseated! don't eat or else i'll puke!" damn contrary stimulus.
posted by nadawi at 10:03 PM on August 8, 2010

This definitely happens to me, especially when I'm stressed, dehydrated (as previously mentioned), or so over-hungry that I've passed from actually feeling hunger into simply knowing I need to eat, but not wanting to. Eating a bunch of small meals/snacks instead of a few larger meals sometimes helps, but otherwise, I find I just have to wait it out until I'm actually hungry again.
posted by Pochemuchka at 11:00 PM on August 8, 2010

Might you have an allergy? I have a mild milk allergy or intolerance that manifests as post-meal nausea. Hard candy is exactly the kind of thing that I'd eat to quell it. Eating cheese, ice cream, or raw milk leaves me not hungry for about three days. Even your example features cheese. How about the meal you were cooking, or any cooking snacks?

You might think that you'd know by now, but I didn't. I drank milk and ate cheese and ice cream my entire childhood. My symptoms are pretty mild. But when I became vegan at age 17 and mentioned how good I felt, my mom remembered that, as a baby, I was colicky (cried lots) until they switched me to a soy-based baby formula. So, it's possible for something to both be biological and generally ignorable. Since I was always consuming milk, I guess I never noticed I was always mildly uncomfortable. Similarly, a friend discovered she had a wheat allergy, and she was amazed to see which aspects of "the way her body works" were actually "symptoms."
posted by slidell at 11:07 PM on August 8, 2010

Did you try just eating less / fewer meals? Does it happen with all foods? I think macaroni and cheese are a kind of meh food, I could see feeling like that if I wasn't totally hungry, but I never feel that when I have a well made meal of beans, lentils or brown rice -- with sauteed vegetables. Maybe the issue is that the food you cook is not appealing to you and you can try different dishes and also fewer meals in a day?
posted by rainy at 11:14 PM on August 8, 2010

This happens to me a lot, particularly if I'm very hungry, which is very inconvenient. I can be really looking forward to a meal and then suddenly something in my brain is like OH GOD DON'T WANT TO EAT.

What has helped me is to cook a really big meal at the beginning of the week -- something that reheats well, like chili, or lasagna, or curry -- and then eat that for dinner throughout the week. If I only have to scoop, reheat, and throw together a simple salad, I'm much more likely to be able to eat a "real"meal, instead of just chips or a granola bar (which always makes me feel worse in the long run, anyway).

I've also found it helpful to eat small snacks during my workday and skip the big noon-time meal. For some reason, I can eat baby carrots, fruit, almonds, etc. at my desk and feel fine, but the act of getting up and going to a place to eat a full meal really makes me queasy.
posted by neushoorn at 12:38 AM on August 9, 2010

I like miso soup when I feel this way. 2 tsp of miso paste in some boiled water, add some tofu and spring onion/scallions (I skip the last 2 items if I am feeling especially squicked out). It's salty which helps kick start my appetite and being so light my body doesn't go into revolt when I have it.

I also try and drink a big glass of water before I eat which gets me in the mood so to speak!
posted by latch24 at 2:19 AM on August 9, 2010

The very best thing I've ever had when feeling too sort-of-ill to eat, like that, was tom yum soup. I think the combination of ginger, lemongrass and chili is particularly good at settling the stomach and by the end of it I was invigorated and so glad I'd chosen to eat afterall.

The one bit of it I don't think I've ever really had is the whole, feeling off about what you've just eaten. I mean, unless I've eaten something really rich and wasn't prepared to. But I do sometimes get the spending half an hour cooking and then deciding I can't eat a bite of it thing.
posted by opsin at 2:27 AM on August 9, 2010

yep. i totally feel that way. also: sometimes my crashing blood sugar makes me not hungry. it makes me want to scream - i mean, my body's reaction to "i need food!" is to say "i'm nauseated! don't eat or else i'll puke!" damn contrary stimulus.

Same here, sort of. It doesn't make me nauseous, but it does make my unsatisfied with *anything* I choose to eat. It also leads to comical "what are we going to eat" arguments. So not so much nausea and physical revulsion, but "oh my god, I was so hungry and this sandwich looked so good but it really wasn't that good and now I want a hamburger, but I am full and please just let me take a nap and forget."
posted by gjc at 3:39 AM on August 9, 2010

I made one of my favorite meals last night and by the time I was done cooking it, I'd been smelling it so long I no longer felt like eating it. Happens more often in the summer, and happens more often with meals that have stronger smells (especially if they cook over a long period of time). I don't know if I've just smelled it for so long that it's no longer appetizing, or if it's just that after you cook it's often not as interesting to eat, but, yeah, frequently after cooking I just don't want to eat anymore.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:20 AM on August 9, 2010

This is probably/possibly not your problem at all. But it's something else to consider.

I'm gluten-intolerant and when I haven't eaten properly (or at all) for a day or two, just cooking for my kids makes me nauseous. I have to drink milk - which I hate but it stays down - just to get something vaguely solid into my tummy. Then I can stomach eggs and particular vegetables or fruit. It's a gradual thing then, getting back into eating something approximating a decent feed.

Yesterday my kids and I went out for lunch. I had a lamb shank which was spectacular. I got halfway through it and thought, "ugh, do I have to finish this?". I made a half-hearted stab at eating the vegies which were also delicious, but I just couldn't do it. Partway through meal, something triggered to make me not enjoy it or want it.

Maybe take a look at the foods you do eat? Perhaps you have an intolerance/allergy of some kind? IANYD but it can't hurt to keep a diary for a few days and see if what you DO eat somehow affects your displeasure of eating in general.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:20 AM on August 9, 2010

This happens to me if it's summer (ie, very hot). I have eaten smoothies of various ingredient combinations for dinner almost every night since May because of this, in fact. Somehow, drinking something is easier.
posted by millipede at 5:40 AM on August 9, 2010

For the record, I am well hydrated and love dairy products, except plain milk, which was my first squicky food in childhood. Maybe that's something to look into.
posted by ramenopres at 3:46 PM on August 9, 2010

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