May was a pretty challenging month in our house. My husband had been called away to his first temporary duty training since our daughter was born. For a military family, it’s pretty amazing that we got to her fourteenth month of life before he was gone, but it doesn’t mean it was any less challenging for me making the shift from one two two parents.
I also had a lot of stress to deal with in other areas as well.
- My daughter and I were preparing for a longer trip than we’d ever taken before (longest for her, at least).
- We were getting ready for more intermittent military training for my husband.
- We’re moving in October to a state I’ve never been to, nor will we know where we’re living until we get there and find a home.
- I’m trying to publish at least four, possibly five or six books in 2016.
- I need to take two more professional development classes to keep my teaching license updated.
As I’ve said before, it may not sound unusual to other military families, but I know my body. And my body doesn’t like that kind of stress. In May, it acted out by losing its appetite.
Why does my appetite disappear?
It’s not the first time i’ve lost my appetite to anxiety or stress, but it’s never fun to deal with when I’m in the midst of it. Curious, I decided to research just why some of us lose our appetites when we are anxious. To my surprise, we seem to know less about this phenomenon than I’d expected.
There were mixed reasons reported for people losing their appetites the way I did.
According to the Calm Clinic article, Anxiety and Appetite Problems
, the reason that some people lose their appetite while under anxiety isn’t clear. It seems, however, that a number of reasons could be to blame.
- Excess stomach acids from the anxiety
- A Serotonin imbalance
- Hormones and neurotransmitters related to anxiety, digestion, and hunger
- An interesting point they make is, “Many people with anxiety simply have too much on their mind to care about eating, and if you don’t respond to your body when you’re hungry, your body stops telling you you’re hungry. Furthermore, some people experience nausea when they’re full with anxiety, and this may cause hunger to be associated with something negative.”
The Anxiety Centre article, “Lack of Appetite, Loss of Appetite,” blames the “fight or flight’ response in particular.
“For example, the stress response causes the stomach to stop breaking down food. The stress response also causes the digestive system to become suppressed and the elimination tract to become accelerated. All three of these actions help us when we’re in real danger, but can cause problems if the body experiences to frequent stress responses.”
“Loss of Appetite Due to Anxiety,” an article on Livestrong, says,
“The loss of appetite that may accompany the feeling of anxiety isn’t usually a result of the anxiety itself. It’s actually a symptom of depression.”
Of course, I’m not a professional, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I personally don’t believe this to be the case for everyone. At least, for me. I don’t suffer from depression, but I do lose my appetite when I’m under large amounts of stress. I’m not at all saying a loss of appetite can’t be a symptom of depression, because it is, but I’m just saying I don’t know if I personally find this to be the case with myself. It’s something to keep in mind though, when talking to your physician.
Despite the many possible reasons for this loss of appetite, however, as with many things, I believe that the key is not so much worrying over which theory is correct, but knowing how to cope instead.
Dangers of malnutrition
When I’m not in the mood to eat large meals, then I try eating smaller quantities often, rather then large meals a few times a day. According to Medical News Today’s article, “Malnutrition: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
,” Losing out on healthy foods like proteins and good carbs and good fats can be detrimental to health, and lead to problems like (just to name a few):
- Weight loss
- Breathing problems
- Slower healing
- Lower sex drive
- Loss of muscle and tissue mass
Managing your lack of appetite
First, talk to your doctor.
Second, be aware. Take note of:
- When you feel a loss of appetite (Is it constant, or during a certain time of day?)
- How often you feel the loss of appetite.
- Do you feel nauseous?
- What kind of food are you eating, and when are you eating?
- How often are you eating?
Having the answers to these questions can help your doctor better diagnose the source of your struggles, as well as help you find a healthier way of attacking the problem.
So, how do we eat?
When you can’t rely on your body to send you the correct signals about when and how much to eat, I believe the key is to be intentional with your food intake. For me, this means making sure to keep it easy, healthy, and favorite foods readily available around the house. Here are some of my favorite go to snacks for those days when I struggle to eat enough:
- Dark chocolate
- String cheese
- Organic granola bars
- Garlic pretzels
- Spinach (That I can hide in other things so I don’t taste it)
- Quaker cheddar rice cakes w/ Laughing Cow Cheese
- Beef jerky sticks
- Fruit and yogurt special K cereal
- Almond milk
- Sliced Kalamata olives (to put in salads and quinoa)
- Shredded light cheese
- Greek yogurt
Notice how small and light most of these foods are. If you’re not hungry, there’s a good chance that you won’t be cooking gourmet food for yourself. And if you do not need to feed others, or you are like me, and your little ones are too small to eat a full meal, you need to make sure that you keep food around the house that will keep you healthy, full of nutrients, and satisfied. I also make sure to take my vitamin daily so that I’m not missing out on any basic supplements my body needs.
Another option is to consider smoothies, or other pre-mixed or pre-prepared meals. I like to mix spinach, pea protein, berries, almond milk, and one pack of Stevia for a great power booster that is easier to eat when I don’t feel like chewing.
So to sum it up…
Again, always talk to your doctor before changing your diet, eating habits, or when experiencing problems with your appetite or weight. In addition to that, some of the things that help me to stay healthy are:
- Making a list of foods that are nutritional and I personally find enjoyable.
- Eating small quantities more often
- Mixing smoothies or other pre-mixed nutrition supplements.
- Being aware of my body, its needs, its reactions, and my personal habits.
Have you ever experienced a loss of appetite due to stress? I’d love to hear how you handled such struggles. Just comment in the comment box below, or contact me. Also, if you’re interested in getting updates on posts, as well as a free resource guide, subscribe for free to my email list! As always, thanks for reading!