Nutrition Community
2.82k Members
Avatar universal

Teen Doesn't Eat-Never Hungry

I have a 15 year boy that has always been a picky eater.  Last year, I took him to the doctor for a physical and explained my concerns. She said as long as his weight is normal (it was in the low percentile for average) don't push food on him anymore.  To be honest, it was a relief not to argue over meals anymore.  I told him to eat when he wants, what he wants and take a daily multivitamin.  He's tall and very thin, to the point he is aware of it and tries to hide it under bulky clothing.  He has expressed he would love to gain weight, that I should buy protein drinks or anything high in calories.  My question is:  Is there a condition where someone is rarely hungry and has an aversion to most foods?  He says sometimes he gets hungry, then it passes and he's not hungry anymore.  He wants to change, but nothing looks good to eat.  I would like to add he does eat cereal and pizza with no problems and never gets tired of this diet.  He has been this way since about 2years old.  I can't seem to find anything on the internet except about anorexia, which doesn't seem right because he wants to gain weight.
57 Responses
Avatar universal
Anorexia can happen in boys, but it's pretty obvious if someone is anorexic and your his mom, so probably not. This could be due to contrast and the fact that not all people have the same amount of hunger as others. I remember I used to eat a lot when I was 12 and 13, but began to feel full and not botherred with food when the initial stages of puberty were over. Maybe he is just a hungry person and you are comparing his appetite to when he was younger and ate more. You will have to determine this for yourself.

I would suggest giving him a wide range of appetizing foods which he can eat leisurely, which I'm sure you've tried, but I mean a really wide range. Baugettes which have been made into nice sandwiches with lettuce and chicken put in the fridge for him to eat when he wants, waffles, cheese, bacon, lamb chops, rice, nuts, basically giving him the luxury of having the food he wants when he wants. This should break him out of any petty foibles he might have about eating. If you don't want him to end up like Eric Cartman you can always just, buy the ingredients and slowly allow him to cook for himself.
63754 tn?1290966980
Well, glad to hear he likes to eat something!

Sound like the reason for his being thin is that he really doesn't eat much.

Does he have his sense of taste and smell?  Does he have any other signs like those of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?  Is his liver OK, if so?

I heard of a woman who went on a long airplane ride and immediately afterward lost her sense of taste and smell.   I suspect that there was someone sitting next to her that was exposed to 2-butoxyethanol & was breathing it out in their breath.  Exposure is vapors in eyes.  www.valdezlink.com/acute.htm

I am talking about 2-butoxyethanol and its exposure is not age related.  Anyone at any age can get the vapors in their eyes.  I strongly suspect it for being a primary cause of SIDS.  Check for blood in urine, and damage to red blood cells by immune system.  Look for any autoimmune issue, as it could cause many of them.

In particular, it causes autoimmune hemolytic anemia, but doctors don't look into that, because the counts or red blood cells are at least borderline normal for many, many years.

It seems to be a primary cause of autoimmune metabolic issues.

Loss of appetite?  I don't know.  But it is possible
Avatar universal
My brother-in-law is just like that. Today he's 28 and my mother-in-law says he's been this way all his life. He's tall and very thin and he too wants to gain weight, but he just doesn't. He too, loves to eat pizza and some sort of nut flavored crisps which is popular here. He's also been taken to the doctor and the doc said eactly what you were told. But still, make sure that there aren't any other complaints connected with this.
Avatar universal
I have the exact same problem that your son has.  I am 25 years old, 5'9" and only weigh about 130 on a good day.  I get hungry now and then but I usally just let it pass because nothing ever looks good to eat.  It's funny that cereal and pizza is what he eats all the time because that is what I usally find most appitising.  I also drink alot of fluids (I would much rather be able to drink a meal then eat one. Eating always seams boring and like a waste of time to me) I also have terrible sleeping habits, but that might not have anything to do with it.  The only time I have ever been able to gain weight was while I was working out and taking alot of protein.  As soon as I stopped working out and drinking a few protein shakes a day I lost all the weight.  I my self am (planning) thinking about going to see a councler about my problem.  To see if it is mental or physical.
Avatar universal
High protein shakes and an appropriate exercise program are known to add muscle to thin frames. Ask your doctor for a referral to a physician specializing in issues related to atheletic training.

To prevent further heath problems, however, you must get your child to consume fruits and vegetables. A juicer may help in this quest.
553952 tn?1215564224
I sent you a PM message. I hope you read it. I see this post has 3 yrs wroted.
Avatar universal
I am a boy and im 15 years old and im a picky eater.  All i eat is Pizzia, soup, pb&J and thats about it.  i drink 1 glass of milk every day. I all so eat pop tarts for break feast.  i want to gain 30 pounds , i only way 100 pounds. please comment and help me find a way to gain weight.
I see that this was posted back in 2008. How are you doing now? Were you able to gain some weight?
I see that this was posted back in 2008. How are you doing now? Were you able to gain some weight?
Avatar universal
OMG, I cannot believe I found this forum.  My son is 17, he is exactly the same as the rest.  He is 5'11, 110 lb.  All he likes to eat is pizza, cereal, and pb&j  and chips.   Recently he caught a cold and seems thinner and I noticed he has dark circles under his eyes.  We are very concerned and think he might have an eating disorder or some physcological reason for not wanting to eat.  I feel bad because I am always bugging him to eat his dinner.  Now that I have read your comments, it seems like it is not uncommon, we will still go to the doctors, but, I think just having alot of what he likes to eat in the house is the best thing now.  Thanks for all your comments, as a mom, it makes me feel better to know he will be ok.
ok wow these are more of you out there. Our 17 yr old son is super skinny too and a super picky eater. Opens the fridge, and cabinets, that are stocked full of all kinds of food, and says there is nothing to eat. Says he is always hungry but nothing ever looks good. Tells us that he likes food that looks good ( sort of like a restaurant would present the food). Lately has had a sensitive to milk and some dairy products, but does not have Celiac disease. Milk and other dairy products were a staple for him, but having less now. Could live on pizza and mac and cheese, but I can tell he does get sort of bored and sick of it, but still refuses to try "new" foods. It drives me crazy! Sometimes he won't eat anything til dinner, due to stubbornness maybe or ???? Help!!
Thanks for posting your story. My 15 yr old son, too.  Being sensitive to dairy, he won't eat mac and cheese anymore.  sometimes he pulls the cheese off a slice of pizza.  I noticed that he only eats one food item per meal.  Never mixes anything with a side dish.  One pizza slice, done. One hamburger, done. One pancake, done. Growing up he would always eat bread and butter if we went out to a restaurant.  Just plain food no variety.  No complex flavors, no sauces..I know he gets bored of eating pizza or a plain hamburger on a bun.  He will skip a meal if I don't stay after him.  Just no interest or little appetite.   He is 5'7 and weighs 100 pounds.  He wants to gain weight but just can't.  His dr says not to worry because he has always been at the bottom of the weight  chart.   Dr doesn't understand how each day is a struggle getting my son to eat a decent size meal of anything. A sore throat or any kind of mild sickness and he drops 5 pounds!  I found very high calorie boost drink boxes, he's been having daily for 9 months.  no weight gain, but no weight loss either.
Avatar universal
I have a relative who is 11 years old, a boy and he has always had a horrible appetite - just doesn't want anything. He seems to eat what we call a 'white' diet:  white bread, macaroni and cheese, dinner rolls, toast, etc. He will not eat meat - won't even have a hamburger or fries unless it is from a fast food place.  No fruits, no vegetables, no eggs, some milk he will drink - won't even eat candy. He is small for his size and the parents don't push the questions with the doctors and the doctors keep saying - oh, he's small for his age.  He has bad looking teeth and seems pale most the time and his eyes don't look healthy.  Blood work has not shown anything. Any ideas? Endocrine problem?  an eating disorder?
Avatar universal
I have to comment just because all of the respones seem either not helpful, or are futher related to boys (while i do understand that the original post was as well) I just want to say that I'm a 22 year old female and have always been the same way. I can barely manage to eat once a day and am rarely ever hungry. It's not because there is anything wrong but because of our animal insticts. Some people need more food than others while some bodies only require the bare minimum for survival. Not everyone eats until they feel full and not everyone requires the same nutritional values. Our body will tells us when it needs nutrients and when it no longer requires them. We were meants to survive not feel full.

On another note, seeing as your son wants to gain weight and has this issue, I would suggest protein drinks and meal suppliments such as boost. With this type of motabolism the body seems to respond better to liquids instead of solids.
1216231 tn?1272479304
There were times during my teenage years (female; now 23-year-old) when I was virtually never hungry.  I didn't dare mention this to my parents, because my mother would freak out and whine about how I never appreciate her cooking, but after a growth-spurt, I just generally wasn't very hungry.
Avatar universal
I have a 12 years old son who weighs 65 lbs. He never eats anything. He has ADHD and is on some meds that could keep his appetite suppreses but he has never eaten anything. He does get a bit hungry at night but only for junk food. I am affraid that at his age it could affect his brain from growing along with everything else. I have taken him to the doctor but they have found nothing. He just will not eat and when he does he only eats half and then tells me he won't eat anymore. I am scared for his health. Any comments would be appreciated
I noticed your comment was from 2010 so you probably won't answer.   I was wondering if it ever got better.  My 12 year old grandson is also on meds, only 4'7" and 60 lbs.  He hardly eats anything.  Doctor said he will never reach puberty.  Was there any treatment, and did your son finally catch up with his peers?
My son is 12, 4'8 and has weighed 61 lbs for about 4 years. He could live on pizza, pizza rolls, pizza lunchables, wings, cereal, chips and sometimes fruit or salads. We have to make him take a few bites of foods at dinner but he hates it. He won't eat sandwiches, pastas, rice, spaghetti, milkshakes or even Mac n cheese like most kids. His thyroid level was borderline low, vitamin d is low and I am trying to get him checked for gluten issues. He gets canker sores frequently.  He hates being so little but he is never hungry so he won't eat unless we feed him one of these staple foods. He will go all day without eating if someone doesn't make him eat. What is wrong with our children? I can't get good answers from the doctor. They say take a vitamin and probiotic and he will be fine.
You might consider making a new post -- this one is very old.  As for the Vitamin D, doesn't your child go outside in the daytime?  That's how we get Vitamin D, from sunshine.  As for his diet, my brother didn't eat a lot of foods when he was young either and actually still doesn't and he's nearly 70.  He was never small, though.  The things you say he likes to eat, though, should make him overweight.  A borderline low thyroid was probably not properly tested -- they probably tested his TsH, but not his free T3 and T4, which are the two main thyroid hormones.  Without testing those a couple of times to make sure it wasn't a fluke test, you don't know if he has a thyroid problem, which can cause all kinds of problems.  But you know your child better than we do -- I always felt my parents should have been harder on my brother and although it's worked out okay for him, his is on a pacemaker and he has always gotten too many colds.  But as I said, he's had a successful life so it's hard to say it would have been better.  But again, the kinds of foods he ate and your son eats should cause someone to be overweight and fleshy, not small.  Something is wrong both with your son psychologically because if he knows he doesn't eat enough but still does it, that's a problem, and physiologically as well.  Ever thought about seeing a different doctor or a specialist of some kind?
Avatar universal
My 19 year old is never hungry.  In fact he says when he tries to eat, he has trouble swallowing.  He doesn't want to be skinny, so I don't think it's anorexia.  What he eats when he eats is chicken wings, pizza and chips.  He only eats late at night.  He's about 6 ft tall and weights 120 on a good day.  He will drink the V8 Fusion drinks and the 350 calorie nutrition drinks.  He says "it *****" to never be hungry.  I wish I knew what I could do to help him.
Avatar universal
I, too, have one of those sons.  He is 18 now, 5'10", 125 pounds, and diagnosed with ADHD.  Like everyone else here, he has never had any real appetite, from the time solid food was introduced in his babyhood.  Like many others, he vastly prefers to drink rather than eat, and is indifferent to sweets.  Just to keep things interesting, he will occasionally have what he calls “acute hunger” attacks, which are sudden debilitating episodes of hunger accompanied by nausea and, unfortunately, an  inability to eat.  He, too, will experience difficulty swallowing.  We have visited physicians and psychologists without receiving any real help at all, although his pediatrician did note that many ADHD patients will not have good appetites, even without medication.  I think it’s stating the obvious to say that these lads do not have normal hunger mechanisms.  

Our coping strategy is to play to his strength; namely, liquids.  He tries to drink half an Ensure in the morning, along with whatever bread or cereal he can eat.  At night, he will have a glass of chocolate milk, although we have attempted milk shakes as well.  Although we have not tried the fruit-veg fusion drinks, I really like the idea, since we all know vegetables are on the far side of impossible.  Of course, a multivitamin.  He is taking the minimum dosage of Adderall he can cope with.

I don’t think that brain development is at any serious risk.  In our case, my son is currently taking pre-calculus, physics, and macro-economics, and did well on all those standardized tests the kids have to take these days.  He got admitted to the university of his choice.  So, it is possible to have a non-eater do well intellectually.  His physical skills are not great; he will always be the last one picked for any team in phys ed class.   But that he has learned how to deal with.  Good luck!
Avatar universal
I am one of these kids you are discussing i am 19 5'7 135 all of my friends are similar in height but weigh a good 15-20lbs more then i do. I mainly eat pizza, cheeseburgers, and cereal. Infact you could say i live on those three things. from my experiance its more to do with being a picky eater. always have been always will be. Being picky has made me prefer liquids to solids as well as not want to eat when im sick of the same stuff all the time but nothing sounds good so i let the hunger pass. It is frustrating but its something people like me just need to cope with. My advice is to tell your sons to simply try to get one good sized meal a day in and then eat when you feel the need the rest of the day. They are not sick or anorexic just thinner people who will fill out with age as everyone else simply takes time.

P.S. You can also tell your sons they can look forward to being the good looking middle aged men with out guts sticking out over their belts. Then they wont care at all how much they weighed as teenagers
Avatar universal
It is a phobia/psychological problem and should be treated as such.  He needs therapy.

Children who are picky eaters grow out of it, if they dont they need treatment.

At this  age and while being tall, the fridge door should be opening and closing every half hour !
Avatar universal

I am 35 and I am also the same. My whole life.
I went to doc's and even took steroids... Nothing helps.
I would love to gain weight but nothing helps.
And no I did not grow out of it and no therapy will help...

I work at pharmaceutical wholesale supplier and I have try ed a wide range of stuff. Nothing makes me hungry...

Have there Thyroids tested (overactive)
1556084 tn?1294473163
I too am rarely hungry anymore. I’m an 18 year old female and I’ve always been very thin naturally, always eating small amounts of food because I fill up quickly. But lately I’ve been having on/off bouts of simply having no appetite and no desire to eat anything. Nothing sounds “good” to eat. I’ve never known what it’s like to get excited about a meal or something, like I know many people do. i’m 5′2″ and my peak weight was about 94 lbs, which was great. Right now I’m scared to weigh myself, but my low is 87 lbs. I’m probably around there right now if I were to guess. I don’t look malnourished, but I do look quite thin and people have commented on it out of the blue with things like, “You are so thin!” or the more insulting, “You need to eat!” People don’t think about it, but pointing out that someone is too thin is no different than pointing out that someone is overweight. You can tell someone, “You need to stop eating!” But it’s okay to tell someone they’re too thin and need to eat more. Don’t you think I know that?
Sorry I went off on a rant, I’m very upset about this. I’d really like a nutritionist to help me eat in a way that will be healthy for me, eating things with more calories and protein, and making sure I eat regularly. Weight loss and eating “healthfully” is stressed so much in the U.S., but what’s healthful for more than half the nation is not what’s healthful for me. I need high protein, high calorie foods. I don’t know. I’m at a loss here. I just want to have an appetite like everyone else.
Avatar universal
I have the same problem. As a 17 yr old girl, being very skinny isnt looked on as too bad of a thing, but I am unsatisfied with my weight nonetheless. I am rarely hungry, eat few things, and when I do get hungry it passes quickly, just as all of you have described previously. Thankfully, I have found the answer, and a way to return my natural appetite.
I live in a state where medical marijuana is legal and recommended to patients with certain disorders, including Anorexia. NOT anorexia nervosa, the mental disease, just anorexia, the term for a lack of hunger. The cannibanoids in marijuana stimulate the body's natural hunger mechanism. I understand that many of you may not want to use "illicit drugs" on your children, but you must understand that it is a VALID medical treatment. Marijuana doesnt need to be smoked to be effective, it is perscribed for many things, including returning apettite in people with many medical conditions, such as AIDS, and cancer.
I know many of you will not be happy with this, but I am just proposing the solution that I have found. I have found help. Please at least consider it. Talk to a doctor if you live in a place where medical usage is legal.
Avatar universal
I used to be an anorexic and what helped me gain weight was exercise. Intense exercise really burned my energy and I found myself starving afterwards.At that point I had restricted myself long enough that I rarely felt hunger and filled up too quickly. Using those muscles and the energy will probably be a good way to eat more while gaining healthy muscle weight.
Avatar universal
I am very concerned about my 14 year old son, his eating is terrible some days he doesnt eat anything but a piece of pizza but will stuff himself with sweets and energy drinks. He is painfully thin and says he doesnt like the taste of food, when researching this online the only eating disordrs you get information about are anorexia and bulimia and i would say he has neither but he definately has an eating disorder of some sort.

He waits until i am in bed and goes downstairs and gets crisps and biscuits and then stays up till about 3 or 4am and then I cant get him out of bed, at the weekends its like a power struggle between us as he would lie in bed till tea time and I dont think this is right for a teenager, he should be up and out with friends or whatever but when you speak about any of this he just has a major strop and stomps about the house as if i am in the wrong not him.

I know if I take him to the doctor he will go off on one and embarass me because he does this everywhere he goes. I just dont know what to do.
Avatar universal
This is very interesting and comforting to read. My son is 18, 6' 5" tall and weighs 135lbs. He doesn't want to eat. He forces himself to eat and finds it hard to swallow food. The first meal of the day is the hardest for him to get down. He stays up until the early morning hours and is able to eat more then. He thinks it is phycological. He has OCD, but has controlled some of the repetitive behaviors throughout his life with his mind.
Avatar universal
ive noticed tht wen im around my gf and talking to her and stuff im like never hungry... shes always bugged how i never eat in front of her but its bc im never hungry when im with her or talking to her... is there a reason for this?
ive also noticed im never hungry wen i wake up i always hav to be up and running for about an hr b4 im hungry... is there a reason for either one of these?
Avatar universal
My 13 year old son has the SAME PROBLEM!! We have done multiple blood tests, fecal tests, upper G.I endoscopy/biopsy... etc etc. The endoscopy/biopsy showed plaque on his esophogus (not sure cause- probably antibiotic use) but also showed lactose intolerance.He was given prevacid and told to use lactaid if/when eating milk products. The morning nausea has somewhat subsided but he STILL DOESN"T care to eat  but maybe once a day. He has a very slim frame his cheeks are sunken in and many times has dark circles under his eyes. I find it so interesting that many of you have also noted that they stay up late at night-my son also has trouble falling asleep. He has since he was a baby! I am at my wits end, he does not have anorexia-in the most common sense but wants to eat, wants to have an appetite.He just doesn't or if he does eat he gets nauseous. He went out to eat with his brother and dad and said he wanted to eat but the food looked disgusting.  I once made him eat a few almonds just to get something in his body and he threw them up! I am concerned about his physical and mental health. Any suggestions?
Have an Answer?
Top Healthy Living Answerers
Avatar universal
Arlington, VA
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
14 super-healthy foods that are worth the hype
Small changes make a big impact with these easy ways to cut hundreds of calories a day.
Forget the fountain of youth – try flossing instead! Here are 11 surprising ways to live longer.
From STD tests to mammograms, find out which screening tests you need - and when to get them.
Tips and moves to ease backaches
Here are 12 simple – and fun! – ways to boost your brainpower.