eating · nutrition

Forgetting to eat? Who are these people?


People do that, I hear. They forget to eat.

I have a friend who works at a computer all day, most days and his Facebook posts occasionally say things like “3 pm, guess I should eat something today.”

But not me. I wake up hungry. If I don’t snack in the evenings I’ve been known to wake up at 3 am hungry.

I never forget supper. Mid afternoon comes around and I’m thinking about food. I snack, the goal is to snack healthily, so I can make it to dinner. I snack on veggies while I cook.

People talk about eating when hungry and stopping when full as if it might push them to eat less. But I’m often hungry. Not vaguely snack-y, I mean stomach growling, actually full blown hungry hunger.

Until recently.

Twice recently I’ve realized that I’ve forgotten to eat. Both times, of course, on bike rides. That’s bad.

Last week I had a 5 pm training ride. They’re hard. I had lunch. Returned to my desk. Started to get ready to leave for the ride and realized, “Oh, crap. Food. I have to eat.”

That’s an external cue, bike ride!, rather than an internal one, hunger, but it didn’t matter. Intuitive eating be dammed, I need to eat. So I found a protein bar in a vending machine and off I went.

But it wasn’t enough. Three quarters way through the ride, I was rustling through my jersey pocket trying to unwrap gel blocks without either a)tipping my bike over or b)getting dropped. I managed but I stopped halfway home and ate a sports bar and then real dinner when I got home at 7.

We’ve written a lot on this blog about cycling and food. See:

Here’s some of what I’ve written:

For me biking is one of the few contexts in which eating intuitively doesn’t work at all. If I work hard I don’t feel like eating but you can’t ride a bike without food.

I blogged about my experiences in the post Hunger and Nutrition.

I wrote,

I struggle a bit with this because I’m often not hungry when I know I need to eat–during long, intense bike rides is the most common example–and at other times I’m famished even when I know there’s no need for extra calories (after long bike rides when I’m often hungry for the rest of the day and into the next one even after I’ve refueled.)

I know from experience that if I don’t eat while riding my performance suffers. It’s not just that I struggle while riding, I’m also hungry for days afterwards. By the time I get off the bike I’m eating anything and everything in sight. Often I’m still hungry the next day.

But if I eat regularly, before I’m hungry, and keep eating throughout the ride, I’m fine.

If I get the balance right not only can I ride faster, for longer, there’s no big swing in hunger associated with a long hard ride. I can have dinner that night as usual.

So I do it because I know it works even if it means setting aside my usual “eat when hungry” mantra.

If I find it tough, I think, again based on experience, my smaller cycling friends have it tougher. Food management can hugely affect cycling performance. It’s worth experimenting to find what works.


I’m not sure what’s caused the missing meals thing with me. I’ve got some guesses related to medication I’m taking. The experience has been a bit of an eye opener about intuitive eating If my hunger cues are so radically different when presumably my energy needs are about the same, hunger might not be such a reliable guide. Indeed, regulating hunger and appetite turns out to be something the body isn’t very good at and many people think these hormones (not a relapse to old ways and bad habits) are a big part of the explanation of weight regain.

The good news is that I might even be able to run in the morning. See here for why I haven’t been able to in the past.


15 thoughts on “Forgetting to eat? Who are these people?

  1. I have never forgotten to eat, because I can’t concentrate very well when I’m hungry, especially when I’m writing essays for university
    I guess we’re all different, so some people can easily work through a day without eating anything, either because they don’t feel hungry or they, like you’ve said, just forget to

  2. I am on medication that suppresses my appetite right now, so I very rarely notice I’m hungry until it’s 11 at night and the only things available to eat are liable to keep me awake all night and I’ve also already brushed my teeth. It’s actually become a bit of a problem for me, especially since I’ve just begun running and exercising in general on a regular basis. Fortunately, I have people at work who know when my mood starts going, it’s time for me to go have my “snack break.”

  3. The only times I forget to eat are when I’m being lazy – if I’m on the couch all day watching Netflix, I’m not very hungry. But the instant I get up and move around, I’m starving!

    I’ve tried to work on fueling up before runs, workouts, etc., but I’m still really hungry after.

  4. Thank you for your great post! I’ve forgotten to ear sometimes. Usually when that happens I’m so focused on a task (usually computer related) reality in any form just doesn’t exist, including sleep. I’ve been known to pull all nighters and not realize it until it’s pointed out to me. My migraines also have a nasty effect of messing up my eating habits, including producing some strange cravings. I’ll crave a bunch of protein right before a very nasty one. It’s like my body is saying “You need to stock up because you’re not eating for two days… ” and for a couple of days afterwards I really just can’t eat even though I should be. Sigh. 🙁

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten to eat. When I miss a meal I know it and it is because something really out of the ordinary has happened, like this week. I have a terrible sore throat and it hurts to eat.

  6. I forget to eat regularly, so I usually eat by the clock to get my basic nutrition in place. I have very stable blood sugar, and my performance and mood are consistent for well over 24 hours after a meal (and yeah I’ve discovered that by accident quite a few times). I’ve tended to do most of my exercise fasted, especially outdoors, just for the easy logistics of it. I also get appetite suppression with big exercise sessions, even when well hydrated, although I’ve been told anecdotally by an experienced trainer that he only has that when dehydrated. (So “well, probably what your body really is is thirsty” might be good advice for the non-hungry as well as the hungry!)

    “Intuitive eating” as a mindset you can simply decide to learn is not reality. We didn’t succeed as omnivores in an environment where the leading threat was starvation by passing up food. Some people are into eating, and some people aren’t. If you aren’t, you don’t get to tell people who are that they “just have to learn to eat intuitively.” (The book-based “Intuitive Eating” approach is as much about rejecting the self-scourging treadmill of crappy relationships with food and exercise – which everyone should do! – but I think the term “intuitive” is beyond misleading there.)

    *MIndful* eating as a skill you can develop to regulate your intake efficiently to make a priority of good nutrition and and appropriate energy balance, in the presence of enjoying life, is completely doable, but the idea that a person who is “always hungry” can simply learn to “eat only enough” (or my favorite variation, “eat until you are 80% full”) is unrealistic and, frankly, a little accusatory. You can learn to account easily for your food, so that you always have a good sense of what your intake is, but hunger cues are such a crazy mix of hormones and psychology, almost everyone will have to do some introspection to come up with the best strategy and tactics, and for most of us that probably ends up looking like some arbitrary rules.

  7. My “forgetting” happens all to often when I’m super stressed at work. I’ve learned the hard way that the 30 minutes I take out of my day to eat is way more valuable than the 30 extra minutes I can spend running around stressing out about my to-do list. And as a cyclist, I agree that it is 1000x even more important, since I often leave work and rush to an evening ride, where I again choose chasing daylight over breaking for a snack. Arg! My boyfriend gets super irritated when I don’t eat, and so some days when I shoot him a text “super busy” he always replies “DO NOT FORGET TO EAT”. Haha

  8. I often forget to eat. And my blood sugar drops. And I become difficult and my immediate response is to refuse to eat. Or to restrict food to see how long I can go. It gives me a “high”. My mood drops and I can become very self pitying.
    It sounds crazy writing it like this, it’s not quite so exciting, but it’s there.
    That’s the reality of disordered eating.
    So I try to ensure I eat something regularly. I like food. But I don’t love it.

  9. My husband forgets to eat most days. We’ll be speaking at 8 pm and he’ll say something like, “I guess I should have some peanuts or something because I forgot to eat anything today.” It totally confuses me. If I don’t eat something, even a small snack like an apple, within a hour of waking, I feel nauseous and light-headed.

    1. Hunger cues are interesting. Lots of variance between people, over time. I was my most hungry, ravenous even, during pregnancy and nursing. That would have been very tough to ignore.

  10. I try to eat mindfully in my life, but that only works for me when I’m actually about to eat, or presented with the opportunity to do so. Because of disordered eating in my past my body now forgets to remind me to eat until it’s at the point where my stomach physically hurts from hunger and I begin to feel sick and lightheaded. I find that I’m a much better social eater because the external cue of others eating reminds me to eat regularly. I still eat until I’m satisfied and know what over filled feels like, but sometimes when I travel I forget to eat dinner. I’m alone in a hotel room and until someone asks what I ate for dinner, I don’t even think to go and get it. The body can get so messed up sometimes!

  11. I’ve always been a grazer and up until very recently, I would never miss a meal (or scheduled small snack) but this spring my dad got sick and passed away suddenly, which sent my body into overdrive. During that period I routinely forgot to eat and all the regular cues like a growling stomach, the feeling of hunger, etc. disappeared. When I did eat it was hard to keep it down. It’s been about three months since everything began, which I realize isn’t THAT long but I still haven’t regained my appetite so I wonder if a more permanent than expected change has occurred.

  12. My eating habits have changed over the past years. I now eat 2 mini breakfasts –1 at home/quite early (usually small bowl of cereal with fresh fruit, a cup of tea with milk) and a 2nd one at work –coffee with milk and sometimes a scone or fruit or baked German pretzel. Between the 2 breakfasts, it’s just 1-1.5 hr. gap.

    Then I seldom have lunch. (I guess I should) But I’m not ravenous nor hungry. I guess I forget. This has been this way for the past 2 decades.

    Supper– I usually have a home-prepared one 95% of the time no later than 7:00 pm for past few years or even as early as 5:30 pm.

    If I go for a longer bike ride after work, I stop midway for a drink and small snack. ( OR if I go for an all-day bike ride, my breakfast is quite large with a late lunch during ride stop or multiple snacks along the way. It depends.)

    Note: I bike commute a short distance to work nearly daily during non-snow/ice days.

    If I eat a large lunch (work/social- related or vacationing trip), then supper is very little, etc. That’s not weird: the traditional European style in some countries is to eat a huge lunch and have hardly anything for supper. You burn off calories during the day.

    Certainly my style of eating should never for someone who is pregnant.

    And no, I am not anorexic. I eat a noticeable significant amount of food. I am not a picky eater (except for too much junk food/fatty/deep fried food.)

  13. I guess I “forget to eat”. Though I don’t tend to think of it as forgetting to eat as much as not always planned intermittent fasting. I can fairly easily go 18-24 hours without eating without really thinking about it.
    I think a lot of people don’t give enough credit to the fact that hungry levels vary a lot between people and from my understanding there are numerous biological factors that influence them. Some people’s bodies produce more of the hormones that control hunger and so will feel more hungry.
    I couldn’t imagine trying to force myself to do that if I was hungry the whole time (well, actually I could, I have before- it’s not pleasant). It works for me because it works with my own natural hunger and lack thereof. Being hungry and not “allowed” to eat, is really terrible though. I think this is far too often ignored in traditional diet advice that seems to treat people as if there are no inherent differences from person to person when it comes to these things.
    (I also am not a cyclist, so no experience with that. For me though I typically find that running, the slow and short distances that I do, isn’t much a problem if I haven’t eaten in awhile. However, I can’t lift if I haven’t eaten relatively recently- I will feel it, and I won’t be able to lift as heavy.Though I’m also always incredibly hungry after, even if I eat a lot before, but that’s never seemed like a problem to me.)

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