Why do I sometimes forget to eat?
When you’re young, eat when your mother tells you to. When you’re old, eat when it’s time to eat — or earlier.
There’s plenty of information about loss of appetite in old people, and three times in the last month I have forgotten to eat. It hasn’t been exactly loss of appetite, though. Rather, when my routine has been disrupted, I’ve waited too long between meals and simply forgotten to eat. Just because of circumstances, and then I got very hungry very suddenly, with annoying consequences. Twice I had an energy crash and felt I could hardly take another step, and then last night a disturbing migraine when I couldn’t find words or speak intelligibly. I blame daylight saving for that one.
Time to revive an old habit: keep snacks handy at all times
I nearly always used to have a bag of nuts and dates in a pocket or a bag to avert sudden hunger. From the age of 30, getting extra hungry meant a sugar crash or a migraine was coming. Migraine triggers are many and varied. For me they usually included hunger or thirst, skipping meals, a disrupted routine, plus usually a bit of stress. So for many years I would shamelessly stuff my mouth with food whenever I suddenly felt hungry. I’ve even accosted strangers and asked if they had a lolly! At a meeting or seminar, at a party, at the theatre — “feel hungry” meant “EAT NOW”.
That’s written in the past tense because in my 70s I barely ever had these episodes.
What’s different about skipping meals in old age
So three times lately I’ve crashed or migrained lately after a change in my usual eating routine. By “routine” I mean I eat when I’m hungry, if at home. That may mean two breakfasts or two lunches, and nobody notices or cares. But as soon as I stay somewhere else or even go out for a long day, that eating pattern doesn’t work. I’m too excited by the adventure to think about eating.
But with each recent episode, strange to say, I have asked myself, “Am I hungry? Surely I should be hungry by now. But no, I don’t feel hungry.” And off I went with dire consequences.
In other words, I do need food, quite urgently, yet I don’t feel hungry. (At home I would eat regardless.)
Does loss of appetite matter in healthy old people like me?
Well yes, it does. It could be a symptom of something fixable or something serious. Also, old people should not get too skinny, especially when that means losing muscle. So let me sort this out for my own case, now, and maybe it will be useful to you too.
So why did I forget to eat?
First rule out serious conditions and medical side effects. In my case (mild and episodic) I can safely say there’s nothing serious going on. So it’s a good time to check everyday causes that I can tweak.
Daily Caring gives 10 reasons why seniors lose their appetite
Now we’re talking. Two of the reasons stand out as valid for me.
- Dehydration. That could well be a cause. Noted. Especially as I rarely feel thirsty, and have to tell myself to drink water, and make it a deliberate habit. Drinking isn’t the natural response it used to be.
- Lack of routine. Absolutely! DC says: “Getting into a daily routine where meals are eaten around the same time every day can help their body feel ready to eat at those times.”
I can rule out all the other reasons for myself, even though they’re all valid.
- Lack of exercise. That’s not me. I might even be exercising when it happens. Still,it makes sense. Exercise helps to fix pretty much every problem you can think of, so why not loss of appetite in older people?
- Inability to prepare meals (not me, love cooking); loss of taste; inability to chew or swallow; depression or loneliness; sensitivity to smell; loss of control; unpleasant mealtimes
Adapting quickly to age-related changes
So I’ve noticed a change that I suspect is a normal age-related change. It’s not surprising, as all sorts of things are changing, including our metabolism. Taking my cue from centenarian Doris Carnevali, I’m acknowledging it early, treating it as neutral and non-threatening, and seeing it as a challenge.
I need to remember the following from now on.
- Keep water and a healthy snack in my day pack or bag everywhere I go.
- Do consider this question seriously: “Wouldn’t I normally be hungry by now?”
- If this thought even crosses my mind, know that the answer is “Yes, so eat and drink NOW!”
- Congratulate myself every time I ask the question and obey the answer.
Have you noticed similar habits of hunger loss?
Naturally I’m interested in whether you’ve had similar experiences, and if so, how you have responded. Our society is fixated on losing weight. So I’m wondering whether some find it a difficult transition to try to keep eating. Easy to joke about, too…Follow Write Into Life