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Why Do We Have Food Apathy?

What To Eat When Nothing Sounds Good

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What Does It Mean When No Food Sounds Good?

If you’re racking your mind as to what to eat and nothing sounds good- you’re not alone. There can be many reasons for food apathy.  Sometimes a disinterest in food can be related to medical conditions. 

In this article, we will discuss the lack of enthusiasm surrounding food choices based on food restriction or binging. 

People with restrictive and binge eating disorders may experience episodes where all foods seem dissatisfying.  This could be related to: 

  • altered digestion and hunger/fullness cues
  • Hedonism with a binge (seeking the best food possible with easiest access for the most immediate reward)
  • OCD surrounding food purchasing, storage or prep
  • ADHD causing difficulty completing and organizing tasks including tasks associated with food. 
purple smoothie in glass

Why Is It So Hard To Find Food To Eat!

Let’s talk about all the barriers that can come into play before we put food into our bodies.  

  • Time of day (we might be at work and not allowed to eat!)
  • grocery shopping (did we have time to make it to the store?)
  • time to cook (many meals require 30-60 minutes of prep!)
  • social barriers (not having someone to eat with or feeling pressure from others you’re eating with). 
  • food prep skills (not everyone feels good about knife handling, meal prep, or even which pan to use!)

These barriers may lead us to going too long between meals, skipping meals, or having meals that don’t physically and emotionally satisfy us.

scrambled eggs with tomato

Why Does Food Not Taste Good Anymore?

There can be several reasons for this.  One common reason food may not taste as good for those with restrictive eating disorders is that they are experiencing vitamin and mineral deficiencies. 

Zinc is a common deficiency that can alter taste. 

Food deficiencies can be common with conditions like binge eating disorder, even if they are meeting adequate calorie requirements.

When someone is starving, their body is also going to produce a hormone called neuropeptide Y,  which can spike our preference for carbohydrate rich foods, thus making other foods seem less appealing. 

Pain in the gut from restricting or binging may also lead to a decreased satisfaction with food. 

oatmeal with blueberries

How Can Easy Prep Meals Help Us Feel More Excited About Food

In order to get out of caveman brain (caused from starvation) we need to nourish our body! 

This can be difficult when cooking seems overwhelming, we lack the motivation to shop, and our body tells us we need food NOW! 

Easy meals and snacks incorporated no more than 3 hours apart will help us to increase intake as well as acceptance of a variety of foods. 

I also recommend convincing yourself to do one easy meal prep task a week and build on this. Do this when you’re NOT hungry.  This could be as simple as cooking some rice, overnight oats, or hard-boiled eggs in advance for easy grab and go.  

However, most of us will need to be in the mode of honoring our hunger on a regular basis before meal prep might seem feasible.

If you are suffering from a restrictive eating disorder, your meal plan should be discussed with your treatment team.  You will need to develop a specific eating disorder recovery meal plan in order to meet your needs.  Your eating disorder voice may be too loud for you to make food decisions on your own. 

peanut butter and jelly on bread on white plate

What Should I Fix For Dinner When Nothing Sounds Good?

The more balanced we can create the meal, the greater both the emotional and physical satisfaction is likely to be. 

When we balance a meal, we should look for: 

  • A Carb
  • A Fat
  • A protein

However, it’s important we do not make this a hard and fast rule!  We can nourish with different macronutrients and various points in the day and still be satisfied. 

Here is a list of foods that take about the same time to prep as a PB &J.  You can also download the full list at the top of this page. Please note these meals and snacks are not designed to be perfect, but rather quick and offer a variety of nutrients. 

  • pre-made salad with canned beans and dressing or hummus
  • avocado wrapped in lunch meat
  • bean and cheese burrito
  • microwaved nachos with canned beans and salsa
  • meat sandwich or pb & j
  • top roman with salsa (add frozen veggies if desired!)
  • pre-made black bean burger
  • tuna or chicken salad on cracker or rice cake
white yogurt with 5 blackberries

What Are Good Breakfast Foods When Nothing Sounds Good?

If someone is restricting, breakfast ones can be the most common meal that is missed. 

Many breakfast foods take less than 5 minutes to prep.  These include

  • yogurt
  • smoothies (made with frozen fruit)
  • a piece of fruit
  • toast with avocado
  • toast with peanut butter
  • frozen waffles with peanut butter
  • cereal
  • toast with butter
  • bagel with cream cheese (add fruit if adventurous)
  • Overnight oats or instant oats
  • scrambled eggs

Always keep in mind- you don’t HAVE to have a breakfast item just because its in the morning. You can also choose leftovers- even if it’s spaghetti! 

I also personally love this nooch sauce for a quick burst of added protein kept on hand for when you are in a rush! It takes about 3 minutes to make and can be added to just about anything!

hummus in dish

How Can Binge Eating Alter What Sounds Good?

Binge eating disorder is a restrictive eating disorder.  

Many individuals that experience binge eating have bouts of restriction (or thinking about restriction throughout the day). We call this the binge restrict cycle

When it comes time to eat, a person with binge eating disorder may feel like they are STARVING!.  Their body has decreased their leptin (fullness hormone) increased their grehlin (hunger cues) and increased neuropeptide y and cortisol.  

While someone with binge eating disorder may feel incredibly hungry, they may have difficulty deciding WHAT to eat.  

For many- a meal seems like a scarcity.  So choosing the BEST meal becomes important and can feel overwhelming. They may focus on very specific “safe foods” and avoid “fear foods” to honor their restrictive mindset while allowing their bodies to nourish.  

This may also fixate on carbohydrate or fat rich foods as these are the foods the body prefers if restricted. The body knows that these foods will hold the most energy value- and produces hormones to signal these are the preferred fuel source!

This may lead other foods to seem less appealing. 

protein bar with partial wrapper

What If I Don’t Know What To Eat Because I Don’t Want To Cook

When we are restricting our food intake for any duration of time, our brain goes into caveman mode. When it comes time to eat- the body is simply going to choose what is going to give it the most energy (calories) the fastest! 

We are less likely to want to 

  • cook food for a single meal
  • batch prep food for easy advanced meals
  • purchase a variety of foods involving both fresh and dried goods
  • use fresh foods before the go to waste. Thus increasing the chance we wont purchase this again at the grocery 
  • grocery shop

We can’t begin to take care of our body and manage our time when it comes to food on a starving brain.  

Thus implementing quick meals with a variety of macronutrients through the day will be the BEST way to put a plan in place if we want to do any future meal prepping. 

Egg Bites

How Has Food Apathy Impacted You?

When I was experiencing binging and restricting, I recall feeling apathy about food frequently. 

When binging- No food ever seemed good enough. As I began my intuitive eating journey, I was more able to clearly distinguish my hunger and fullness cues and what my body truly wanted. 

Sure, the first few bites were a win, but it quickly turned into an urgency to finish the food.  I was left barely tasting and certainly not enjoying the food that I was consuming. 

Are there days you have just felt a general apathy towards food? 

Shena Jaramillo. Registered Dietitian

Hi I'm Shena. I'm an eating disorders dietitian in Washington state. I hold bachelors degrees nutrition & dietetics, cultural anthropology & psychology. I believe in honoring your hunger, having your cake whenever you want it, and that critically analyzing diet culture can change the world!

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