Eating more is an obvious solution to being underweight, but if you have a weak appetite, it's not an easy one to implement. Certain medications, poor nutrition, food boredom and illness can cause you to lose your appetite. Boost your hunger with revised eating habits as well as culinary, social and physical strategies so you can put on healthy pounds. Check with your doctor, too, if your loss of appetite has no obvious explanation to make sure you don't have an underlying health condition.
Physically Increase Your Appetite
If you're on an antibiotic, chemotherapy drugs, heart medication or a pain reliever, talk to your doctor about the problems you're having with your appetite. She may be able to prescribe a medication with fewer appetite-suppressing side effects. Also talk to her about possibly supplementing with zinc and a multivitamin, both of which may help boost your appetite by improving your nutrient status.
When you're trying to gain weight, burning calories through exercise may seem counterintuitive. Minimal exercise helps stimulate your appetite, though. Even if you just walk 10 minutes at a time, two or three times per day, the activity may increase your desire to eat more.
Make Meal Time More Social
Eating alone may make you feel lonely. Putting the effort into making a complete meal just for yourself may feel uninspiring. Combat these natural feelings by inviting friends over for meals and experimenting with new recipes. Eat meals with your family when possible -- or join a potluck group or meal program through your church or community center to give your meal time a feeling of community.
You may want to consult a nutrition professional to help you get on track, too. A dietitian may provide a sense of accountability and an eating schedule, which will remind you to eat more regularly.
Let Go of Eating "Rules"
Instead of serving yourself considerable portions that you have trouble finishing three times per day, settle for smaller portions, but increase the number of times you eat. Plan to eat small portions six or seven times per day, but choose high-calorie, nutrient-dense options such as natural peanut butter, dried fruits, nuts and homemade smoothies containing fresh fruit, yogurt and milk. The calories you consume through grazing and snacking add up, but you never get a feeling of being unpleasantly full.
Defy the norm when it comes to meals. Sometimes, you're appetite dampens when your plate is filled with a food you have no interest in eating. Stick to healthy options, but if you feel like eggs and whole-wheat pancakes for dinner or chili for breakfast, go for it. The calories still add up and contribute to your weight-gain efforts.
Culinary Tricks to Stimulate Your Appetite
If you've been eating the same meals day-in-day-out for weeks, consider making a culinary switch to pique your interest in food. Invest in a new cookbook or magazine subscription. Add spices, fresh herbs, onions, garlic and citrus juices to vegetables, meats and whole grains to perk up the flavor. For example, top chicken breasts with marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese before baking; make a pilaf by sauteeing onions and garlic with couscous, slivered almonds and raisins; or top salmon fillets with a mixture of honey and mustard before broiling.
Eat Calorie-Dense Foods
If you still can't muster the appetite to eat all the calories you need for weight gain, consider increasing the calorie load, but not the volume, of what you do eat. Cook oatmeal in whole milk instead of water; add dried milk powder and olive oil to casseroles and soups; choose hummus dip over salsa; snack on raisins and nuts rather than grapes; and drink 100 percent juice between meals instead of water. Make just a few of these small changes to increase your daily calorie intake by the 250 to 500 calories necessary to gain a healthy 1/2 to 1 pound per week.