How to Combat Food Noise

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Every weight loss journey starts with an iron will. But all of us have given in to our cravings at some point – some sooner than others!

This isn’t simple self-sabotage. It’s because there are so many interrelated factors that can cause our cravings to become overpowering. Bad habits, sleep patterns, stressful lives, and even the way our brains are wired can make food cravings seem irresistible.

When you’re battling the siren song of the store cupboard, the pitfalls are plentiful. It can seem impossible to hear yourself think over the constant chatter of food-based thoughts, otherwise known as food noise.

What is food noise?

Food noise is a well-documented phenomenon by both physicians and patients. It’s the constant intrusive thoughts about food and appetite that disrupt everyday life and place obstacles on the path to healthy living.

Food noise can be both homeostatic and reward-driven. Sometimes appetite is driven by genuine hunger. You’re low on energy and it’s been a while since your last meal – no wonder you can’t stop thinking about food! This is homeostatic hunger and it’s normal.

But sometimes hunger can have nothing to do with our physical needs. Instead, it’s driven by the brain’s reward system. Foods high in sugar or fat trigger a release of stress-reducing hormones. When you’re stressed, or just need a reward, your brain starts craving those foods.

The relationship between biology and food environment is where food noise starts, and understanding both is the key to combating it. Ultimately, it is about building healthy food noise habits in both your physical and mental life.

Manage your biology

Not all food noise is bad. Sometimes it’s a sign that you need more or better fuel. It might sound strange, but weight loss researchers say eating more can be key.

If you skip or put off meals because you’re too busy or to jump start your weight loss journey, before long that food noise chatter will be a roar.

Instead, eat sensible meals regularly and ensure you include a source of protein in both main meals and snacks as this will keep you full and satisfied.

Manage your stress

Food noise gets louder when you’re stressed out. Your brain wants to calm you down and associates stress-reducing hormones with fatty, sugary, salty food.

Recognize situations that cause you stress ahead of time. Plan stress management routines like deep breathing or taking a walk, so your stress dissipates before food noise gets too loud. If you do find yourself in a stressful situation, recognize it could be a trigger for food noise and instead reach for a soothing playlist rather than the cookie jar.

Manage your environment

Food noise is most overwhelming when the solution seems just within grasp. If your favorite snack is just next door, it’s even harder not to constantly think about it.

Try not having your biggest temptations in the house or hide the ice cream at the back of the freezer. When the answer involves a walk to the shops, food noise quickly gets quieter.

Manage your enjoyment

Food should be a pleasure, but when it’s so often a response to stressful situations or internal nagging that can be easy to forget. Slow down when you eat. Allow yourself to enjoy each bite. Take a note of the way the meal makes you feel and recognize when you feel satisfied. This will help you feel full for longer, and recognize when food noise is brought on by your brain crying out for a reward rather than your body needing fuel.

You might never shut out food noise completely – and you shouldn’t want to! Sometimes it’s an important reminder to take a lunch break. But by managing a few small things within your control, you can remove the obstacle of food noise from your road to weight loss. 

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