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In fiction, if you're hungry, that means you're healthy. Conversely, if it's noted that you have no appetite, there's a good chance that you're sick. This has a basis in reality, as there are many diseases that cause lack of appetite as a symptom (although there are also quite a few that have Inappropriate Hunger
as a symptom as well). It's also a good sign since, presumably, if your mind's free enough to worry about your stomach, it might not be consumed with other problems (such as other types of discomfort).
Not to Be Confused with Hyperactive Metabolism
, which is a video game dynamic that takes the ideas behind this and extend them to unrealistic levels. This is a trope about character interactions in which having an appetite or a lack thereof indicates something about a character's present state.
Compare Forgets to Eat
, where a lack of appetite indicates obsessive interest in a topic, rather than (or at least not necessarily) ill health.
Film - Live-Action
- Early in Gone with the Wind, Mammy brings Scarlett a tray with food before the O'Haras leave for the Wilkes' barbecue; Mammy insists Scarlett shouldn't be seen eating much at the party to maintain a ladylike appearance. Scarlett initially refuses the food because, in her words, "Ashley said he likes to see a girl with a healthy appetite.''
- In Emma, Miss Jane Fairfax is something of an Ill Girl with shattered health and she's also depressed because Love Hurts. Her doting aunt Miss Bates is worried constantly about the small amounts of food she eats.
- In the fifth book of the Sword of Truth series, Zedd claims he is fine, but then immediately goes on to refuse food. Since he is the Big Eater of the series, the rest get worried.
- Mash: After Klinger has a Fever Dream Episode and talks to a dead soldier, at the end of the episode he wakes up in post-op and reports that he's hungry. Margaret: "That's a good sign." That's not the only time it comes up.
- In Star Ocean 3, after Cliff and Mirage rescued Maria after she escaped from a spaceship wreckage, after which she had lost both her parents, after she wakes up, they worry that she might still be injured. When she replies that she's hungry, both laugh in relief, and Cliff tells Mirage to get her some food.
- In Hey Arnold!, one of the symptoms that worries Helga that she might have monkeynucleosis is a lack of appetite. However, this is a subversion, as it turns out that the entire thing was all in her head. Since lack of appetite can also be a symptom of stress, it's likely that's where the lack of appetite came from.