Remembering To Eat?
July 2, 2011 10:18 AM   Subscribe

One of my reactions to stress is to stop eating. It's not a conscious thing, food just stops being palatable and my hunger vanishes. Two days of nothing but coffee leaves me in a worse state and I ended up more stressed and it just starts over again. How do I force myself to eat when I really don't want to and break this cycle and/or what can I eat that will give me enough energy and nutrition to plow through a mood and not end up on accidental fasts?
posted by The Whelk to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I have the same problem. I tend to drink high calorie/protein drinks like "Ensure" just to get some calories in me. It's not ideal, but it tends to get me by for a short period.
posted by murrey at 10:23 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I do exactly this. Try to find things that don't feel like eating but give you nutrients and calories for very little effort: Slimfast (Ensure seemed to be exactly the same stuff!), protein shakes, bread and butter, yogurt right out of the carton. If you're doing coffee, a quick caloric trick is to get a full fat milk latte. Nothing is going to sound good, but find something that doesn't actively sound bad.

The thing that helps me not get too bad about it is regular exercise - it forces me to have an appetite, and for classes/meeting other people, you have an external reason to not want to pass out when you exercise. "Oh, I must have lunch today, and a protein shake at 5, otherwise I will not survive judo and everyone will laugh at me. "
posted by ansate at 10:24 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ensure and smoothies. I find really sweet, rich, semisolid things work for me (ice cream, mashed potatoes, rice pudding, even soft mac and cheese). Eat something first thing in the morning, whether you want to or not. I find not eating in the morning can start a death spiral of not eating all day.

It's won't kill you to eat like this for a few days or even a week or two if you are otherwise healthy, although if you are concerned you could take a multivitamin.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:24 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ugh I'm the same.. meal replacement drinks, and bread, until it passes.
posted by Erasmouse at 10:25 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

It helps me to pack small, easily consumed snacks to eat through out the day. Also to reward myself with meals I usually like at intervals during stressful times. Or plan meals with others so that you are obligated to meet for a meal.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:26 AM on July 2, 2011

To me, the key to stress reduction is protein. Whatever you eat, be sure it is a proteinaceous thing. String cheese sticks, granola bar with nuts, yogurt drink, something egg-based are my go-tos.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:33 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, me too. I don't eat my emotions, I starve them. I must agree with everyone above who recommended forcing yourself to eat in the morning. I seem to have to learn this lesson over and over again. It totally is a hunger death spiral without breakfast. Things I weirdly find palatable when I'm stressed (maybe it will work for you?): Avocados, plain yogurt, wasabi peas, mini cupcakes (4 at a time).
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish at 10:33 AM on July 2, 2011

Nthing the Ensure and smoothies suggestions. I'm a big fan of Jamba Juice for providing me with something foodlike (although horrifically calorie laden) during the times I really don't feel like eating.

Even just some Carnation Instant Breakfast made in a blender with a raw egg tossed in before mixing can get you some of what you need when you're not in the mood for eating.
posted by hippybear at 10:38 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like Odwalla protein shakes when I feel like this. Other winners include nuts and avocados. A little something with a lot of flavor--think pickles, olives, salsa--can sometimes help me over the initial "ugh, I don't want to eat" moment.
posted by corey flood at 10:45 AM on July 2, 2011

I'm very much the same way. I try to have easy, quick-to-eat proteins and comfort foods available: hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, avocados, good french bread (on which to spread the ripe avocados = sandwich!), mashed potatoes, and cream of wheat have gotten me through many a stressful period.

As a reformed coffee-IS-breakfast person, too, i highly recommend getting something in your system in the morning, too -- again, even if it's just a little yogurt or a small bowl of oatmeal.
posted by scody at 10:47 AM on July 2, 2011

I'm another person who stops eating when stressed. Depending on the level of stress I won't even feel hungry, or I will "feel" hunger but the idea of food is just unpleasant and unpalatable. At such times I allow myself to have treats that I don't have on a regular basis, like rich ice cream or a monstrous burger with everything, or go to the restaurant I'd been meaning to go but I'd been putting off because of time or money concerns. Basically it has to be food that's not part of my routine, because it's too easy for me to say that I don't want to eat something because I ate that yesterday or this week already. In my case having comfort foods available wouldn't work, because that would be exactly what I would not want to eat.
posted by needled at 10:50 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm like Murrey too and have a name for the stuff I eat in this state: astronaut food. Clif or other protein-type energy bars, Odwalla protein drinks or Superfood, and trail mix are great for this. One of my undeniable food hacks for this is Trader Joe's "Wasabi Wow" mix with some kosher salt mixed in for spark.
posted by rhizome at 10:56 AM on July 2, 2011

Same here. I usually go with smoothies to make sure I'm getting enough sugar.

However, one thing I've found is to give myself x amount of calories I HAVE to eat in a day, and write down everything I eat. This both forces me to not eat crap, and to eat when I haven't. It seemed really weird to me at first, but it worked to instill a discipline in eating.
posted by strixus at 11:13 AM on July 2, 2011

I often lose appetite to nausea, and what I've found works best its to make a normal-sized serving and then eat it as slowly as I want. Even if it takes me four hours to work though a bowl of pasta and noodles, at least I'm eating. Sometimes its easier to force myself to take a bite here and there than to sit down and end up with a leaden stomach.
posted by gilsonal at 11:23 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yogurt mixed with almond butter and honey. Hersheys chocolate bars have saved me from innanition several times too.
posted by yarly at 11:23 AM on July 2, 2011

Odwalla juices like Superfood are great.
posted by wowbobwow at 11:24 AM on July 2, 2011

You could try some clear soup, like miso, or chicken broth with a few small veggies. It's more like drinking, but still provides protein and nutrients. I love Vietnamese soups when not feeling well.
posted by annsunny at 11:36 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bananas. And orange juice.

They will also help you get your appetite back.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:53 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have this same problem, and when feeling this way I like those Naked smoothies (especially the green ones). They're pretty food-like compared to coffee or juice, anyway.

This may not work for you, but I find that pickles and, to a lesser extent, olives, can stimulate appetite. Actually I seem to remember reading/hearing somewhere that pickles were historically used as "appetizers," but I could be wrong about that.

Also, eggs. I know some people loathe them, but scrambled eggs are usually pretty easy to get down. Even just one will be far, far better than living on coffee for days.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 11:56 AM on July 2, 2011

Going to places that have really good foodsmells usually makes me want to eat, especially if I'm feeling depressed and/or a bit sick. Bakeries are especially good. Weirdly, one of the best places for this for me is Subway, because they have chemically perfected breadsmell; YMMV. You can also do this yourself, of course, but I'm usually not motivated enough to bake anything when I'm in an emotional place where I don't feel like eating.
posted by NoraReed at 12:15 PM on July 2, 2011

Usually I eat my feelings, but sometimes I do lose my appetite. Things that help: eating foods I really love (I might not be able to work up much interest in an egg salad sandwich but a fancy french meal will perk me up). Eating Cliff bars and the like - just to get the calories in there. Nutritionally-dense items such as dried fruit and nuts. And smoothies, as so many other people have suggested. Within a few days I'm usually hungry again.
posted by bunderful at 12:23 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Same here. Lately Greek yoghurt has been a good appetizer (I'm especially fond of Greek Gods honey yoghurt, with blueberries).
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:06 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I'm stressed I tend to live on smoothies and meal replacement drinks.
posted by Laura_J at 1:12 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

This happens to me too. A couple things I do:

Go to the grocery store, walk up and down the aisles, and grab anything that looks even remotely palatable, even if it's not super-healthy.

Stock up on finger foods -- for me, usually dry cereal -- something that comes in pieces that you can pick up with your fingers. And eat it while keeping yourself busy with something else, so you're distracted from the eating process. Read a book, watch tv etc and engage in some mindless eating just so you can get some calories in your body.
posted by phoenix_rising at 1:28 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I too lose my appetite when I'm stressed but more often when I am anxious. Out of the few times that I have actually been stressed in my life (usually over some lost love) the only thing palatable was either a can of coke or some hot tea. Once I had that, my energy level was usually boosted and my stomach settled just enough for me to eat a half sandwich or something like that. But that could just be me. My family is notorious for beliving in the healing powers of Coca Cola though.

Other than that, the only thing that has aided my hunger was suppressing my stress through, say a loritab or something more "herbal".
posted by GreatValhalla at 1:53 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I try to get in the habit of eating something with my morning coffee, even if it's just a bit of fruit and not a proper breakfast. I'll end up hungry an hour later, where coffee alone would just twitch me up and drive my appetite away.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:08 PM on July 2, 2011

No matter how gross and bleh I feel about food, I can usually still eat McDonald's and Chipotle. A Chipotle salad or a McD's Grilled Southwest Chicken sandwich with a Coke are quick, palatable meals that have gotten me through many a rough day.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:32 PM on July 2, 2011

Two things I have found that seem to always be palatable and sort of pierce and moderate the overcaffeinated jittery nausea are rich nuts (like cashews, pecans, macadamias) and dark chocolate. I often nibble these when I am on the verge of going down that coffee hole.
posted by nanojath at 3:22 PM on July 2, 2011

I get a lot of no-appetite and nausea.

I deal with it by:

Drinking Bonsoy (Filtered water, organic whole soybeans, tapioca syrup, job's tears, sea salt, calcium carbonate);

Drinking peppermint tea with honey;

Drinking ginger tea with honey;

Drinking flat ginger beer (I like Buderim Ginger Beer because it has a lot of real ginger. Some ginger beers are all sugar and hardly any ginger); and

Eating bananas.
posted by Year of meteors at 5:50 PM on July 2, 2011

Sometimes just eating whatever seems most palatable to you at that very moment helps, whether it's a bowl of yogurt or a bag of chips. Try to go for that instead of forcing yourself to eat something you think you "should" eat. Above all, be kind to yourself and be mindful that you're not berating yourself over food choices, which can be tricky during times of stress.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 7:05 PM on July 2, 2011

Similar here, and also a fan of the Ensure and Carnation Instant Breakfast packets. I am very prone to skipping breakfast entirely and then getting stressed or busy at work and forgetting lunch until it's about 4pm and the bottom of my stomach feels like its dropping out.

I've fixed this by having an Ensure every morning as my breakfast-on-the-go and having a small fridge with sammich fixins, fruit, yogurts, etc. in my office at work. I always get my nutrients and I have a healthy and tasty sandwich for lunch. It helps even out my whole dietary intake, blood sugar, etc.
posted by darkstar at 11:12 PM on July 2, 2011

Not actually suggesting this, but (I've heard from a friend) smoking weed = stress reduction and appetite increase. Just saying.
posted by AutoPilot83 at 6:57 AM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Me too. Eat with family and friends. I find that eating in the company of other people lowers my stress level enough to get some food down.
posted by kitcat at 1:19 PM on July 3, 2011

Barlean's Greens + ~3 oz. orange juice + ~ 5 oz water + flaxseed oil + ice.

I have the same problem. I can always manage to drink this, and it gives me tons of energy for hours.
posted by TG_Plackenfatz at 11:04 AM on July 4, 2011

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