What can I eat when I'm hungry, but all food seems revolting?
September 22, 2014 10:03 AM   Subscribe

What can I eat when I'm hungry, but all food seems revolting?

I'm lowering my dose of an anti-epilepsy medication (with my Dr's supervision and approval.) It's a gradual process, 5mg every 3 weeks.

The problem is, for more than four days after each dosage reduction, all food seems revolting/aversive. So I don't eat enough, and then wake up at 3am with my stomach cramping from hunger.

Whereupon I go to the kitchen... and I don't want to eat ANYTHING there. It all seems revolting and unappealing!

What can I eat when I'm hungry, but all food seems revolting?
posted by The locked room sockpuppet to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Is your kitchen fully stocked?

Do you cook?

Does anything stand out as being slightly less revolting? For example, sometimes things like eggs are unpleasant to me and in those times, something light like a carrot or a cucumber sounds good.
posted by michaelh at 10:09 AM on September 22, 2014

I went through a similar sort of thing. Keep around a variety of crackers (salted/unsalted/butter/etc.) and dips (hummus/onion dip/etc.) Between a few bags of crackers and a few bags of dip, you should be able to find at least one combination that isn't utterly offensive.
posted by griphus at 10:10 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nuts are salty and crunchy (which might appeal to you) and very calorie dense. I also like thinly-sliced cheese and good crackers at times like these.
posted by kate blank at 10:12 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

We have had similar problems in my family and the solution is usually to keep tiny portions available, already portioned out.

For instance, a third of a cup of custard isn't as revolting as looking at a bowl of it.

A tiny sauce-bowl full of chicken pieces is less revolting than a whole chicken you have to cut pieces off of. If it turns out you end up eating two sauce bowls of chicken? Yay! But you don't feel obliged.

It's illogical but it seems to work really well.

EDIT: I guess the point of it is to assume that nothing will look tasty, but food is fuel and we need it, so the solution is to make it less revolting.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:12 AM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would go with neutral flavors, and easy to prepare - you obviously don't have much motivation to cook, and sometimes staring at the food for longer makes it even more revolting. Simple things like unadorned sandwiches, baked chicken (make it in bulk for the week), or pre-prepared soups might be good options.
posted by fermezporte at 10:12 AM on September 22, 2014

I'm thinking you should have something already prepared in advance of your next reduction. Less momentum to overcome.

How about constantly sipping on some drink? Whole milk wouldn't be a bad option. A trip to a whole foods would give you lots of protien drink options.
posted by fontophilic at 10:15 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've felt like this due to medication from time to time. I have better luck making myself drink something than eat something. Plain kefir is, for me, a relatively inoffensive way to ingest some calories quickly and quiet the hunger pangs a bit. YMMV with your feelings about the palatability of kefir, but maybe something else you can either sip on or chug down will work for you?

More generally, things that I can eat one spoonful/handful of and then stop if I want to - crackers, vanilla pudding.
posted by pemberkins at 10:15 AM on September 22, 2014

Can you drink things? If you can, I'd go with some sort of calorie and nutrient-rich drink such as those fruit drinks that are basically puréed fruit, or a milkshake/smoothie, or maybe just milk or soy milk. If you put them in some sort of opaque container and/or use a straw, you won't even have to look at it.
posted by orange swan at 10:17 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I was pregnant with my second child, I felt nauseous from abut 2pm until 10pm every day. I took to eating uncooked ramen noodles. They are precooked, so it's perfectly safe to eat, and plainer than even saltine crackers. I could stomach that when I couldn't stomach anything else. I would break up the noodle brick before opening the package and pour it into a bowl.

When I am having trouble eating, I don't do well with fatty/oily foods. Carbs of some sort are better.

Having had a lot of trouble eating for much of my life, I have learned to stay hydrated as my highest priority. It takes two weeks (or more) to starve, but you can die in a couple of days from dehydration. If the things you drink have calories, then you are also staving off starvation.

So I used to drink a lot of carnation instant breakfast, fruit juice, tea, etc. It helps keep the hunger pangs at bay and it will sustain you for four days, even if you just can't deal with solid food at all.

When I pregnant the first time around, fizzy water beverages helped me a whole lot. I threw up for 8 months. Fizzy bottled water drinks helped me both eat and drink enough.

When my dad was in treatment for cancer, homemade slushies (made in a blender from frozen fruit, fruit juice and ice) and homemade milkshakes (made in a blender with milk, ice cream, and frozen fruit) had him putting on weight at a time when most patients are losing weight. (This worked so well, my mom got yelled at by the doctor because he also had a heart condition and they were worried about all the extra weight putting a strain on his heart.)
posted by Michele in California at 10:20 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I lose my appetite often when I feel anxious, so I have experienced something similar before. I have found that for me, sweet foods are less of a turn-off than savory/fatty foods, and fresher flavors like ginger and lemon. What I find works well is a store-bought nutritionally-balanced protein shake without too much sugar, or maybe a homemade shake (yogurt or milk, fruit, maybe some kind of fat like peanut butter, etc.). Far easier for me than trying to sit down to a full lunch or dinner of meat and so forth.
posted by ClaireBear at 10:20 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

watermelon, already cut up. (possibly honeydew melon also - probably not cantaloupe)


water crackers

peeled sliced cucumber, maybe stored in brine (refrigerator pickles, but less intense than regular pickles)


canned noodle soup, not tomato-based

cucumber or avocado sushi rolls (white rice, not brown)

chocolate-covered pretzels

regular pretzels

ramen noodles, but never with the whole spice packet.
posted by amtho at 10:21 AM on September 22, 2014

If the goal is more about unpleasant hunger feelings than nutrition, I'd go for stuff that's neutral and very filling, like rice cakes or dry popcorn. A handful of popcorn and a couple big glasses of water and you won't feel very hungry.
posted by colin_l at 10:22 AM on September 22, 2014

Just make toast. The smell of toasting toast should stimulate you, and if it doesn't, you are unlikely to puke from buttered toast.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I used to get like that from medication issues as well and after much experimentation and loss of enjoyment of things I previously liked a lot I settled on those gel concentrates that distance runners use, because at least then I'd be getting some kind of calories in and if I decided to hate it after a while it would be no great loss.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:30 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also in the event of uncontrollable nausea they are not too terrible coming back up. I stopped because the fruit flavoured ones started aggravating my heartburn, iirc. Oh and because the medication thing was no longer an issue.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:37 AM on September 22, 2014

(I like toast - especially with cream cheese or something- but I hate the smell of bread toasting, so YMMV.)
posted by small_ruminant at 10:40 AM on September 22, 2014

For some reason when I'm so hungry I feel sick and all food seems HORRIFYING mashed potatoes still seem okay; they have some good enough microwaveable ones to make that an easy enough dish on short notice.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:43 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a similar feeling in early pregnancy, and found that granola bars, Ensure, or energy bars worked. More important than that though was in the fact that I had to make a bit of a game of pretending I wasn't eating. Don't look at it, don't think about the taste, just know that you're putting some medicine in your body that will last for ~4 hours, and that after 4 days you won't need to take that medicine anymore and you'll be able to eat real food again. (My recommendation would be different if this was a long-term thing, but for 4 days every 3 weeks for a defined period of time, food-like supplements will be sufficient.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:50 AM on September 22, 2014

A lot of this depends on personal preference. For me, even when I can't eat, I can always drink, so smoothies or something like carnation instant breakfast are my go to when I really can't stomach anything. Greek yogurt, oatmeal, and peanut or almond butter on an English muffin (or toast or celery) are some of the other foods I keep on hand. If I need something more portable, trail mix and Kind bars work well too. I also like grapes, particularly smaller ones.

Also, eating slowly, taking small bites, and drinking enough water with my meal helps the food go down easier. Doing something distracting (like watching a TV show or reading ask metafilter) also helps me not focus on how much much I don't want to be eating. I also aim to eat much smaller portions more frequently.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:08 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like high-quality homemade beef stock for this purpose, because I just treat it as medicine. Personally, I add strips of nori seaweed and beat an egg into it and drink it quickly. But even without anything added, it really helps me. I sometimes buy mine from here, both their broth and their gelatin.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 11:11 AM on September 22, 2014

Is there something from childhood you liked? Even if it's not good for you? I find that when all food sounds terrible to me (even food I like), those things I liked as a kid work OK -- cheese and crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, box macaroni and cheese, etc. (of course, sub in your own childhood favorites). Some of this isn't good for you, no, but if it's a difference between eating something and not eating, I go with the "eating something" part.

I think it's the comfort/nostalgia factor that helps these things sound more appealing than other options.
posted by darksong at 11:14 AM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Ensures. Made to be easy on the stomach. Can drink one in about 30 seconds. Filled will all kinds of vitamins and minerals has sugar, fat and protein to meet some daily needs.

Drink chilled.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:51 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Along the lines of Clair Bear's suggestion, when I was dealing with the end of my previous marriage, I didn't have much of an appetite. I went though a lot of jars of lemon curd from Trader Joe's. The tart clean flavor was pretty palatable. I think I spread it on ginger cookies (prob also from TJs). And ginger is supposed to be good for upset stomachs.

Maybe try a new fancier grocery store? Just browse and see if anything different catches your eye? Does salty crunchy appeal? Sweet and creamy? Maybe if you can identify why the foods you see are off-putting, you can find something without those qualities.

Good luck!
posted by Beti at 2:06 PM on September 22, 2014

I asked a similar question a few months ago. I lived on yogurt (Yoplait Whips to be precise). It's more like a light mouse than yogurt. The vanilla is pretty inoffensive.

Strangely enough, I could tolerate ice cold things better. I froze all manner of fruits, but grapes were my favorite.
posted by kathrynm at 2:51 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Plain toast and ginger ale are traditional in my family when illness makes food unpalatable. I also can usually handle canned fruit.
posted by lollusc at 5:11 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I get this too, and I would go with something high-calorie, like cheese or peanut butter. It might not be easier to get down per se, but if anything you eat is going to be unpleasant, might as well go with something that will give you more "bang for your buck".
posted by threeants at 7:40 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

(And in that sense I disagree with suggestions like dry popcorn or watermelon. The idea isn't to make you feel full or to go through the motions of eating because Reasons, it's to give you calories that you need to prevent yourself from passing out!)
posted by threeants at 7:42 PM on September 22, 2014

Protein shakes or meal replacement shakes like Boost or Ensure.

Sometimes when I just can not eat but know I need to get some calories in I'll have a couple spoons of peanut butter and honey, little bit of protein and carbs with enough sugar to give a bit of a boost.
posted by Lay Off The Books at 10:04 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you by any chance reducing your anticonvulsant dosage because your liver enzymes are elevated?

Twice in my life I've had an enlarged liver with elevated enzymes and one of those times it was determined to be due to 20+ years on Dilantin and phenobarbital. But what rings the bell to me is that I found the very idea of food repulsive - it made me nauseous to think about it, and the smell of anything cooking was awful. After the liver enzymes got back to normal, my taste for food came back to normal also.

As an addendum that may or may not be important: Related directly to the Dilantin, I also had a macrocytic and megaloblastic anemia, which is not the same thing as iron-deficiency anemia that we're all familiar with. I was ungodly sick at that time, had lost a lot of weight (and I was small to begin with), my skin was discolored in brownish splotches, especially on my face, I was dealing with exhaustion and worry and anxiety, and had a constant burning pain in my right leg and in my shoulder. The doctor put me in the hospital to find out what was wrong with me and that's when they found the megaloblastic anemia. The doc was tickled to death that it was something so easy to treat - Vitamin B12 shots and oral high-dose folic acid - and no more Dilantin. I can't even begin to describe the improvement, right from the beginning, even though I was furious that he'd put me in the hospital because what I needed was "a stupid vitamin!" He laughed and made me give myself the first of many shots. I took them for three or four years, starting with every other day, then weekly, then monthly. Oh, and just for the record, my doctor was a GP, an MD, and he had no particular interest in vitamins or herbs or supplements - but he sure was a good doc.

So make sure your blood is being checked thoroughly for liver enzymes and "pernicious" or macrocytic anemia - mine showed up in the CBC (complete blood count) with an abnormal MCV. When they tested the B12, the range was something like 200-800 for normal and mine was 13. Also, I think they may get around shots nowadays because there's a sublingual form of B12 that just dissolves under your tongue.

Anytime your appetite just flat-out tanks and stays that way, get your liver enzymes checked.

Good luck to you. I came out feeling like I'd been reborn (pain in leg and shoulder disappeared immediately!, skin color slowly normalized, fatigue went away, depression/anxiety disappeared!, appetite came back, and more) - hope you get back to normal soon.
posted by aryma at 1:09 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ensure and Jello
posted by WeekendJen at 10:36 AM on September 23, 2014

slices of cheese (maybe with saltines); buttered pasta; boxed mac-n-cheese; cheez-its; potato chips
posted by anotherthink at 11:18 AM on September 23, 2014

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