How to Stop Food Noise

We all have an internal dialogue. When it comes to food, that internal chatter is called food noise.

Food noise is characterized by persistent thoughts about food — what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, reflecting on what we’ve already eaten, or interrogating ourselves about what we’ve eaten and why. Food noise might be a craving for a cheeseburger from your favorite burger joint while debating with yourself whether you should just cook the salmon steak, broccoli, and quinoa you had planned to eat that night. Food noise can lead to unhealthy food choices, overeating, or unwanted weight gain that could compromise your health.

Having an internal dialogue about food is not necessarily problematic. However, when the internal dialogue becomes persistent, repetitive, and becomes an all-consuming echo chamber, it is time to take note and to act.

How to Stop Food Noise

The first step is to identify whether your food noise is an actual hunger signal or if perhaps you are feeling bored, anxious, angry, tired, lonely, sad, or excited and you are using food to fill a perceived need. While successful weight can be reduced to a “calories in, calories out” formula, anyone who has tried to lose weight knows it is more complex than that. Will power and determination to cut calories, though important, may not be enough.

Weight loss medications like Ozempic or Wegovy have been effective in helping patients with obesity and/or type 2 diabetes lose weight. But can these medications tamp down food noise? For some people, these medications can help. Current thinking on why this is points to the way the active ingredients in Ozempic and Wegovy (and similar medications) signal the part of the brain into thinking you are full as well as the reward centers of the brain. If you are someone whose food noise has been quieted by weight loss medications, it is important to explore if this might actually be related to gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea rather than actual benefit of the medication.

When patients stopped taking Ozempic, Wegovy, or similar weight loss drugs because of side effects or the medications’ availability, some have reported that their food noise came back with a vengeance and it was louder than prior starting a weight loss medication.

How to Get Rid of Food Noise without Medication

Although weight loss medications can help patients lose weight, they may not be suitable for all patients. So, what do to if you are experiencing food noise but cannot tolerate or afford Ozempic, Wegovy, or the like?

  • Address the cause of your food noise — is it a hunger signal? A signal that your blood sugar may be dropping? Or are you perhaps feeling bored, anxious, stressed, or tired? If you think your food noise is more psychologically or emotionally based, talking with a counselor who specializes in this area should be considered.
  • A mindful eating strategy could help. When you hear your food noise and decide to eat, pay attention to the foods you are eating — what is their texture, what is their mouth feel, what is the taste. Are you actually enjoying them? Or are you just eating as part of a habituate response to a psychological or emotional need?
  • Acknowledge the food noise and turn your attention elsewhere. Go for a walk and notice the sounds, the smells, the breeze. Engage with a hobby or interest.
  • Notice any physical cues of hunger. Is your stomach really rumbling because it’s been several hours since you’ve eaten? Are you feeling low on energy? Do you feel shaky or lightheaded? If so, maybe your blood sugar is dipping and it’s time for a snack.
  • Eat small healthy snacks throughout the day. Eating every few hours can help you feel satiated and reduce food noise, if it is food noise related to hunger cues.

Internal dialogue, chatter, and the voice in our head are part of day-to-day living. It’s important to pay attention to any chatter around food that seems persistent and is turning into an echo chamber inside your head. Food noise may be due to hunger, or it may be due to an unmet psychological or emotional need. It’s important to identify patterns that are part of food noise because the patterns can offer insight into what the root cause may be. Taking a weight-loss medication like Ozempic or Wegovy may help quiet the food noise. If you are not able to tolerate these medications, it is important to explore other approaches to managing food noise. Talking with your health care provider is good first step. Prior to starting any weight loss program, whether it includes anti-obesity medication or not, be sure to consult with your health care provider to make sure your desired weight loss strategy is right for you.



About the Author: Dr. Dawn M. Sweet has over 20 years of experience in the field of communication. Dr. Sweet has given several invited talks to and workshops for academic and private sector audiences on the role of nonverbal and verbal communication in achieving positive outcomes and mitigating bias. Her research has been published in several top ranked peer-review journals, and it has been featured on NPR’s River to River / All Things Considered, Buzzfeed, and Science Daily. Her research has also been used to inform expert testimony.

* Wegovy® and Ozempic® are registered trademarks of Novo Nordisk A/S. Novo Nordisk is a registered trademark of Novo Nordisk A/S.

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