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Changes to your appetite

3-minute read

Have you noticed that you are eating more than usual, or you are not feeling hungry and not eating enough? Or you may have gained or lost a lot of weight without being on a diet.

Loss of appetite is one of the symptoms of COVID-19. Even if your symptoms are mild, get tested for COVID-19 immediately — use the COVID-19 Symptom and Antiviral Eligibility Checker if you're not sure what to do.

Changes to your appetite can be caused by many things, including:

  • diseases, including heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease and COVID-19
  • lack of energy or motivation
  • cancer
  • medications or drugs you may be taking
  • an eating disorder
  • anxiety or depression

If you find you are overeating, especially lots of high-calorie, sweet foods, you may be ‘comfort eating’. This type of eating can give you a short burst of energy but then leave you craving even more sweet food.

On the other hand, if you are not eating much at all, this can make you feel drained and much worse than if you were eating small, well-balanced meals.

Easy ways to balance your diet

Food is vital to nourishing your body and mind, so it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Try these tips for getting your appetite and eating habits back on track.

  • Aim to eat regularly. Eat 3 meals a day — breakfast, lunch and dinner — and snack on nutritious foods like fruits, raw vegetables, low fat crackers and dips.
  • Try to do some moderate physical activity, like walking, as often as you can.
  • At least once a day, and for at least 30 minutes, sit down to eat in a calm, relaxed way.
  • Buy foods that are quick and simple to prepare, so you don’t have to spend a long time cooking if you don’t feel like it. Or cook food slowly if you enjoy it.
  • Choose foods that will provide you with lots of nutrients. For example, a simple stir fry can include lots of healthy vegetables.
  • Drink lots of fluids, especially water. Try to avoid alcohol since this can make situations seem much worse than they really are.
  • If you can’t manage solid food, try smoothies or soups and add some protein powder to boost their nutrition.
  • Your pharmacist or dietitian can advise on meal supplements.

Where to get help

If you have become very underweight or overweight and need help, talking to your doctor is a good place to start. They may refer you to a dietitian. If you’d like to find out more or talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:

  • MindSpot Clinic (anyone suffering from anxiety or depression) — call 1800 61 44 34.
  • beyondblue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by depression and extreme mood swings) — online help.
  • Lifeline (anyone experiencing a crisis or thinking about suicide) — call 13 11 14 or chat online.
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2021

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