Cancer: "I'm Not Hungry"
Loss of hunger is a common complaint. Sometimes treatments for cancer are the cause, but it also happens at times to people who are not having treatments. It may be due to changes in metabolism during cancer, pain, fatigue, stress, and depression. Appetite can come and go. Try to make use of times when food tastes good and eat as much as you can then.
Ideas for coping with a lack of hunger
- Eat small amounts often throughout the day. Become a snacker; choose foods that appeal to you. Do not expect to eat regular size meals.
- It may help you to eat by the clock. Set the clock for every 2-3 hours and eat a small snack even if you are not feeling hungry.
- Keep snacks handy for snacking. Make it easy to snack at any time. Carry a snack pack of easy-to-eat nibbles in your pocket or purse. Ideas for your snack pack include granola, nuts, dried fruit, and crackers with cheese or peanut butter, bite size candy, or create your own trail-mix.
- Eat foods you really like during times when you aren't very hungry.
- Eat a snack before going to bed.
- Weigh yourself every 3 or 4 days to make sure your weight remains stable.
- If you begin losing weight, refer to the section on High Calorie Foods
Dealing with meal time
- Select foods that remind you of happy times. Most of us have special comfort foods which cheer us up. Select those foods as often as you can. Some patients have found that foods such as mashed potatoes and meat loaf were comforting or they found they could eat more if they chose foods that they liked as children.
- Increase or decrease the flavor of your food to help with any taste changes you may be having.
- Try to make mealtime pleasant with a nice setting and colorful tasty food, but do not expect to eat a large amount.
- Drink a glass of wine or beer before meals. This often brings out the hunger. (Check with your doctor to make sure small amounts of alcohol are okay.)
- Try to change the time, place, and surroundings of meals. Eat with others or watch something you like on TV while you eat.
- Create a mealtime that is relaxed, non-stressed, and not rushed.
- If this is a time when you really do not enjoy eating, you may want to plan on eating and drinking just for the nutritional value of the food. One patient stated, “My body doesn’t care if food tastes good or bad and it doesn’t care if I don’t feel like eating, but my body does need food and nutrition to fight the cancer”.
If you are a UW Health patient and have any further questions or concerns, please call the nutritionist at the University of Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center, (608) 263-9128.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/14/2012
Copyright © 08/03/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#502
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