Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(9):online

See related article on unintentional weight loss in older adults.

How do I know if I'm losing weight or not eating well?

If your clothes are getting loose, it could be a sign you are losing weight. Any of the following could mean you aren't eating well:

  • You have an illness that makes you change the kind or amount of food you eat

  • You eat fewer than two meals per day

  • You don't eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, or milk products

  • You have three or more alcoholic drinks almost every day

  • You have tooth or mouth problems that make it hard for you to eat

  • You don't always have enough money to buy the food you need

  • You eat alone most of the time

  • You take at least three different prescription or over-the-counter medicines per day

  • Without wanting to, you have lost or gained 10 lb in the past six months

  • You can't always shop, cook, or feed yourself without help

When should I worry about the weight I've lost?

If you are older than 65 years, you should see your doctor if you lose 5% of your body weight over six to 12 months without trying.

What can I do to stop losing weight?

  • Drink nutrition shakes (examples are Boost and Ensure) 90 minutes before meals to help increase the amount of calories you are getting.

  • Put flavor enhancers, such as ham, natural bacon, or roast beef flavor, on your food; this may help you to eat more.

  • Avoid eating alone.

  • If the cost of or access to food is a problem, ask your doctor about resources that can help you.

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