- Changes to your appetite can be caused by many things like stress, medicines, some health conditions, anxiety or depression.
- It is important to eat a healthy balanced diet, and changes in your appetite can be a signal that something is going on.
- If you feel you are underweight or overweight speak with your doctor.
Why do I feel a change in appetite?
You might feel that you are eating more than usual, or less hungry and not eating enough. Maybe you have gained or lost a lot of weight without trying to. Changes to your appetite can be caused by many things, including:
- diseases including cancer, heart disease, liver disease and kidney disease
- symptoms of COVID-19 which can also change your sense of smell or taste
- if you are unwell and feeling nauseous
- medicines or drugs
- an eating disorder
- changes to your mental health including anxiety or depression
How do I manage an increase or decrease in my appetite?
Managing an increase in appetite
If you feel you are overeating, especially 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 more sweet food. Try swapping out junk foods for nutrient rich foods, like fruit and vegetables, lean meats, low fat dairy. Over time, you might find that your appetite goes back to normal.
Managing a decrease in appetite
If you don’t have much of an appetite, and you are not eating much at all, try eating small frequent meals. For example, instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner, try eating 6 small meals a day. It is important to remember that when you have a low appetite, your body still needs food and water to continue to work properly.
Why has my appetite changed?
Ask yourself if something has changed to trigger your appetite changes:
- Did your doctor recently diagnose a health condition?
- Have you started taking a new medicine?
- Are you unusually stressed, anxious or depressed?
- Have you started doing more (or less) exercise recently?
- Has your access to healthy food changed?
- Your doctor can tell you if you are underweight or overweight. If you need help to adjust your appetite, they can recommend ways to do this.
Tips to balance your diet
Food is important to nourish your body and mind. It is important to eat a healthy balanced diet. There are five food groups that you should enjoy daily. These include:
- vegetables and legumes (beans)
- grains and cereals
- lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes (beans), tofu, nuts, seeds
- dairy foods (milk, cheese, yoghurt) or milk alternatives
Try these tips to get your appetite and eating habits back on track:
- Snack on nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, yoghurt, cheese or wholegrain bread.
- Try to do some gentle physical activity, like walking, as often as you can.
- Choose foods that will provide you with a lot of nutrients. For example, a simple stir fry can include many different healthy vegetables.
- Drink a lot of fluids, especially water. Try to avoid alcohol and sugary drinks.
- If you can’t eat solid food for any reason, try smoothies or soups and add some protein powder to boost their nutrition.
- Speak to a pharmacist or a dietitian who can advise on meal supplements.
Think about how you eat, as well as what you eat for example:
- Aim to eat regularly.
- At least once a day, sit down to eat in a calm, relaxed way and allow plenty of time to eat.
- 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.
Resources and support
If you have become very underweight or overweight and need help, talking to your doctor is a good place to start. They might refer you to a dietitian.
A dietitian can provide you with nutrition advice to help manage a health condition, if your energy needs have changed (for example, due to a health condition, or stage of life), or if you would like personal nutrition advice to meet your health goals.
To find a dietitian near you, use the healthdirect Service Finder tool.
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — Use the Service Finder find a dietitian near you.
There are great online sources such as:
- Dietitians Australia has diet and nutrition health advice.
- The Australian Dietary Guidelines provide up-to-date advice about the amount and kinds of foods that we need to eat for health.
If you feel you are gaining or losing weight because you are anxious or depressed and you would like to find out more or talk to someone, here are some organisations that can help:
- MindSpot Clinic (for anyone suffering from anxiety or depression) — call 1800 61 44 34.
- beyondblue (for anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
- Black Dog Institute (for people affected by depression and extreme mood swings) — online help.
- Lifeline (for anyone experiencing a crisis or thinking about suicide) — call 13 11 14 or chat online.
- Suicide Call Back Service (for anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467.
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Last reviewed: August 2023