i used to love food, but it's all over now
July 25, 2005 12:10 PM   Subscribe

What has happened to my love of food?

I used to love food. All kinds of food. I was a huge food aficionado - a foodie - a gourmet. I would cook and eat out constantly, looking forward to eating at great restaurants in every new city I visited. My mouth watered at the mention of foie gras, Katz's, Nobu, toro, heirloom tomatoes, tartare, sweetbreads, artisan cheese, fresh caught rockfish, shrimp salad. You name it, I loved it.

In the last two months, though, I am rarely hungry and am often naeuseated even by the idea of food. It's difficult to motivate myself to eat, and I find myself eating mediocre salads and crummy sandwiches at the cafeteria at work rather than walk a block for a bowl of pho or a perfect cheeseburger or mushroom salad. I don't want to talk about food, and I've put aside issues of Saveur and Cook's Illustrated without even browsing them. I seem to have an unpleasant chemical taste in my mouth all the time - and good food often doesn't even taste pleasant. Perfectly ripe avocados with lemon and salt taste coppery and metallic, a plate of previously-delicious rillettes made me want to puke, and homemade lemonade is disgusting. A sushi and robata dinner at Kirala that I had forced myself to look forward to felt like a waste of energy. Nothing tastes good, and nothing makes me want to eat. I ate at Les Halles the other night, and found myself disappointed - not with the food, which I am sure was fine, but with my own enjoyment of it. I could not be motivated to like it. There was no pleasure what I could see (and hear other people enjoy) as a perfect tartare or duck confit. Even beer and cocktails taste like crap to me now, and I've stopped drinking anything but water almost completely.

What in the hell is wrong with me and how do I fix it? My health is otherwise fine; I am 34, male, and maybe 15 lbs overweight. I am very happily married, not depressed, and I enjoy my job. But my greatest love of all was food - and now it's gone.
posted by luriete to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wow. That's like, the saddest tale of woe I've read in a while.

Is the coppery/metallic taste common to many foods? Or is that just a small aspect of a general distaste for flavors?

You say you're otherwise healthy... does this mean you haven't taken any medications or supplements in the past couple years? Has your weight fluctuated at all recently?

Are you unable to identify foods by flavor? Is the unpleasant "crap" taste so bad that, say, you can't tell the difference between similar-but-different beverages?

If this happened to me, I'd promptly see a physician, and then a neurologist.
posted by rxrfrx at 12:19 PM on July 25, 2005

My first thought is to wonder if you've been having any unusual allergies or other ongoing respiratory ailments lately? It doesn't even have to be severe -- i.e., not enough that you might even be thinking of yourself as having any health problems in a general sense. I know that my previous sinus problems (which were usually fairly mild, though sometimes bad) often played a role in my low appetite and occasional inability to savor food in the past. As my respiration has improved over the years, so too has my appetite/sense of taste. Maybe the reverse is happening for you?
posted by scody at 12:24 PM on July 25, 2005

The lack of motivation and lack of gusto sure sounds like depression to me. You say you are not depressed, though. This definitely sounds like get-thee-to-a-doctor material.
posted by matildaben at 12:32 PM on July 25, 2005

A third vote for professional intervention here.
posted by glenwood at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2005

Response by poster: Well I will see my doctor I guess. I have taken allegra and claritin for several years for spring and summer allergies, but am using them less now as the allergies have bothered me less this year than previously. My weight fluctuates between 170 and 180 (I'm about 5' 9") throughout the year, although I've lost a bit lately because I've not been eating as much, or as rich food, as usual.

Some foods do taste the same - soft cheese, foie gras and the aforementioned avocado all has similar textures and I couldn't tell them apart in my mouth which really bothered me, but the metallic and chemical tastes and aftertastes (sort of like that sour taste in the throat that I remember from certain snorted drugs back when I was an irresponsible teenager) come and go and don't seem consistent.

The other night my wife took me out to my favorite Viet restaurant and I couldn't even finish a small bowl of pho, even though I hadn't had lunch. It's like losing interest in sex! I wasn't depressed before, but I'm going to be unless I can figure out a way to turn this around.
posted by luriete at 12:39 PM on July 25, 2005

If your sense of taste has changed, should you see your dentist?
posted by Cranberry at 12:40 PM on July 25, 2005

'Anhedonia is a patient's inability to experience pleasure from normally pleasurable life events such as eating, exercise, and social/sexual interactions.'
posted by driveler at 12:42 PM on July 25, 2005

OTOH, if you are losing weight and find a non-malevolent cause, perhaps Luriete's Easy Path to Slim and Svelte will be the next big diet fad. Let us in on the IPO.
posted by Cranberry at 12:44 PM on July 25, 2005

Luriete, various online medical sources suggest seeing a doctor if appetite loss lasts more than a day or two. Probably worth getting checked out.
posted by occhiblu at 1:10 PM on July 25, 2005

I've experienced troubling taste-alteration from the side-effects of a prescription medication (an antibiotic)... those allergy meds would be my first suspects... definitely consult an expert on the subject.
posted by rxrfrx at 1:17 PM on July 25, 2005

From one fellow foodie to another, let me say that I am so sorry to hear of your plight. This definitely sounds like something physiological to me, especially the inability to differentiate between foods and the metallic taste in your mouth. Google says that it could be a mouth infection, ginigivitis, etc. So, Cranberry may be right-- perhaps it's a dentist you should see.
posted by picklebird at 1:21 PM on July 25, 2005

Response by poster: I will see my doctor. Dentist just gave me a clear bill of health the other day (in fact, if I were a superhero I'd be Tooth-Man: never a toothache, infection or cavity in my whole life). Thanks for the advice and sympathy.

I mean, I was in Manhattan this past weekend and couldn't even get worked up over Crif Dogs or New Green Bo! What the hell.
posted by luriete at 1:30 PM on July 25, 2005

I don't really have anything to add: I second the idea that it's time for a trip to your doctor (the loss of appetite and the metallic taste definitely need examining), but I did want to say that I, too, am a foodie, and feel for you in your sad plight. Good luck.
posted by Specklet at 1:38 PM on July 25, 2005

It's good you didn't ignore the feeling.
Some other venues to explore with your doctor:
You may have lost some aspects of your sense of smell.
Or maybe you're experiencing a hormonal surge/fall that is influencing your sense of taste.

Last Year, I lost my appetite. But unlike you, I ignored it until many many other things started going pear-shaped. (For info, I had a stomach/intestine sickness that could have been treated really easily if I had gone to a doctor when I lost my appetite)

Take care.
posted by ruelle at 1:40 PM on July 25, 2005

luriete, I just read your reply.

If you're losing weight fast, please watch out for yourself.
You must be very vigilant and /force/ yourself to chew the nutritious cardboard, otherwise you're imposing an anorexic regime to your body, and it will eventually catch up with you.
Let's be frank.
When I stopped eating, like you because nothing tasted good anymore, I eventually began experiencing severe diarrhea due to lack of nutrients, which led to such severe dehydration that I was about to be hospitalized in order to be tube-fed. Dead serious.
Don't take this lightly.
posted by ruelle at 2:00 PM on July 25, 2005

I've experienced this, and, usually a low grade infection/virus was the cause. Sinus infections were the worst; everything tasted *horrible*, and I had no appetite on top of that. Onve I'd visit the doc and get it treated, it'd go away and the appetite and taste would come back.

Ensure became my best friend. It still tasted horrible, but at least I was getting liquids and nutrients into me. Tip: it's really best chilled, and the chocolate Ensure is actually palatable.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:42 PM on July 25, 2005

Just to add noise to the data - I often go through phases of enthusiasm and antipathy with food, and I overall love to eat and drink. But I will have stretches, often related to having many things to do (but not always), when I resent the time and expense that eating imposes on my life. Three meals a day feels like constant interruption to other things I am doing.

Sometimes it passes on its own, sometimes when I go out of my way to go get a cuisine I have not enjoyed recently.
posted by phearlez at 4:09 PM on July 25, 2005

A friend of mine has some severe allergies (like, oops, that was a peanut, ok now jab me in the neck with this syringe or I'll choke to death, that kind of severe). He tells me that when he's eaten something that he's allergic to, he can tell right away because of a sort of flat, metallic taste. You don't seem to be having those kinds of reactions, but perhaps food allergies are to blame. My vote goes with seeing your doctor as well.
posted by number9dream at 4:24 PM on July 25, 2005

(sort of like that sour taste in the throat that I remember from certain snorted drugs back when I was an irresponsible teenager)

Mild acid reflux, perhaps? I get that and when it goes untreated, I hate food because food hurts. It also leaves a sour taste in my whole throat, although I don't recall it being metallic.
posted by jennyb at 5:46 PM on July 25, 2005

If you're positive that you're not suffering from depression...then this could be warning bells for something more serious. Get thee to the doctor. (They may refer you to an ENT, also, especially if they think it may be your sense of smell that's gone wonky.)
posted by desuetude at 8:26 PM on July 25, 2005

I had a similar-sounding loss of apetite once. It started with me finding certain foods nauseating and funny-tasting, and this expanded outwards to the point where I could eat almost nothing. I lost 30 pounds, which was about 25% of my body weight.

Turned out I had a serious case of hyperparathyroidism and had to have surgery right away. The doctors said I was lucky to survive.

So yeah, get thee to a doctor. NOW. And be sure to get a full battery of blood tests before letting this get chalked up to a purely psychological problem. I know it's a long shot that you have the same illness as I did (and you're probably just fine), but if by chance it's the case an elevated calcium level will be the first step towards diagnosis.
posted by hazyjane at 11:35 PM on July 25, 2005

Definitely a doctor job. Long-term changes in subjective sensory perception can be due to all sorts of things - some nothing to worry about; some most definitely something to worry about. So do get it checked out.
posted by Decani at 6:40 AM on July 26, 2005

I have been thinking about this thread for a day and I confess I am baffled, but I also suspect that the poster is ill in some way. Dysgeusia, which is basically what's being described, is a symptom of many illnesses, some serious, some not.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:40 AM on July 26, 2005

Response by poster: OK, I have an appointment for Aug 3 (my birthday). Will talk to the doctor and see what's up. Last night I forced myself to eat some flautas and a salad, and the funny thing is the fried tortillas tasted fine but the melted cheese was like swallowing snot or something, and i couldn't taste the guacamole or salad dressing or anything. So I enjoyed the texture of the crispy things, I guess. That was the first food I've enjoyed in a few days. So I got some pretzels to snack on at work today and will try some pasta salad or something, but the idea of soft food is really grossing me out now.
posted by luriete at 11:21 AM on July 26, 2005

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