Food Noise: What It Is and How to Stop It

Discover the concept of food noise and how to manage it to achieve your weight loss goals.
Published on: May 2, 2024
Updated on: May 23, 2024

Learn more about how FORM pairs patients with a doctor and dietitian to achieve their weight loss goals.

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Beginning your weight loss journey can feel like navigating through a maze of contradictory nutrition advice and trying to manage tempting cravings. Many people who struggle with their weight report that their thoughts are often consumed by food – when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat. This is what we refer to as “food noise” – an intrusive stream of thoughts around food. Understanding and overcoming this noise is a key aspect of any weight loss journey. In this article, we’ll explore the concept of food noise, where it comes from, and how to manage it to achieve your weight loss goals.

What Is Food Noise?

The term “food noise” is used to describe a preoccupation with food that dominates your thoughts, can be distracting, and creates cravings that can be difficult to manage. It is commonly experienced by those living with excess weight and is often associated with overeating. Some symptoms of food noise can include counting calories, constantly thinking about what to eat next, or feeling preoccupied with satisfying hunger. Knowing the difference between food noise and genuine hunger can be hard to determine but is essential for maintaining your weight and health goals. Genuine hunger arises gradually and physiologically, while food noise often stems from external cues or emotional triggers. Some physical cues of genuine hunger include stomach growling, headaches, low energy, or shakiness. The desire to eat caused by food noise can arise from a variety of situations or habits that are ingrained in everyday life such as:

  • Increased cravings after seeing a video or commercial that features  a food you enjoy
  • Ordering dessert because you’re out to dinner with friends 
  • Snacking while studying for a test
  • Using food to cope with a stressful day of work
  • Habitual stopping at the coffee shop on your way to work 

The Sources of Food Noise

There are many situations that we face in our lives that can lead to increased food noise. These often fall into three categories: Emotional eating, environmental cues, or habitual eating. Recognizing and addressing these sources of food noise are essential steps towards fostering healthier eating habits and achieving sustainable weight loss.

Emotional Eating

Eating food as a coping mechanism to deal with positive or negative emotions is referred to as emotional eating. Emotional eating can be caused by a variety of triggers including but not limited to:

  • Stress: Eating when you’re under stress can feel like a reward to yourself for dealing with a difficult time. Stress can not only make us eat out of emotion, it also increases levels of cortisol in the body which actually makes us crave more sweet, salty, or fried foods. 
  • Boredom: Feelings of boredom can trigger mindless eating, leading individuals to consume food out of a desire for stimulation rather than genuine hunger.
  • Emotions as Triggers: Some situations can trigger emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness, shame, or resentment. This may lead someone to turn to food in order to numb these uncomfortable feelings or temporarily silence them.

Environmental Cues

Our environment and the way food is presented to us in our daily lives can have an impact on our eating habits. These external factors can prompt impulsive eating behaviors that contribute to weight gain:

  • Advertisements: Advertising plays a significant role in shaping our food preferences and consumption habits. Exposure to enticing food advertisements can trigger cravings and lead to impulsive eating, rather than eating out of genuine hunger.
  • Social Settings: Many gatherings with friends and family are centered around food, which may lead to overconsumption or poor food choices that are influenced by social norms. It is important to note that these social interactions remain important to our wellbeing, and that there are tactics you can implement to eat out and still lose weight.  
  • Food Availability: The abundance and accessibility of ultra processed food in our environment can make it challenging to resist temptation and practice moderation. Having unhealthy snacks readily available can encourage snacking even when not hungry, or they may be the only option when you are hungry and on the go.

Habitual Eating

Habitual eating refers to patterns of behavior that contribute to unnecessary consumption, they are often repetitive and mindless actions that occur regularly.

  • Daily Habits: In your day to day, you may find yourself following certain patterns such as snacking when you sit down to watch TV or routinely having a late night snack. These impulses are a result of reaching for food out of habit, rather than hunger.  
  • Eating while distracted: Multitasking or eating in front of screens can detract from our ability to pay attention to our body’s hunger and satiety signals, resulting in mindless eating and overconsumption.

While habitual eating can seem difficult to break, there are tactics to build new healthy habits that will help aid in your weight loss journey. 

The Impact of Food Noise on Weight Loss Efforts

Succumbing to food noise can not only hinder progress towards your weight loss goals but also have negative psychological and emotional effects, such as feelings of guilt, frustration, or loss of control. It’s essential to recognize that you’re not alone in this struggle – many individuals blame themselves for perceived lack of willpower when confronted with food noise. However, the truth is, it’s not about willpower at all; it’s about understanding and effectively managing food noise. By acknowledging how food noise impacts you personally, you’re taking the first step towards achieving success in your weight loss journey. This is not an obstacle that you have to navigate on your own, it can be helpful to work with a healthcare professional to develop strategies on managing food noise. Collaborating with a medical provider or joining a weight loss program like FORM that provide support from weight loss specialists can provide you with valuable tools and support that is tailored to your needs. 

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How to Stop Food Noise

Now that we understand what food noise is and how it can affect our weight loss progress, we can dive into methods of quieting food noise and building healthier habits. 

Recognize Your Triggers

You can identify personal triggers for food noise by reflecting on situations or emotions that led to impulsive eating. Keeping a food and emotion diary can help you track patterns and help you understand the relationship between your mood and eating habits. By uncovering your personal triggers, you can begin to develop strategies to manage the next time you experience those triggers that involve new healthier habits.

Mindful Eating Techniques

Practicing mindful eating can be a helpful tool to overcome mindless eating by bringing awareness to your eating habits and your emotional response. Taking the time to understand your food environment and your body’s response to food can help you combat food noise. Try to incorporate practical tips for mindful eating, such as chewing slowly, savoring each bite, sitting down at a table, eating in a quiet room, and allowing yourself to pay attention to your physical hunger and fullness cues. Slowing down and bringing awareness to the flavors and textures of your food can reduce food noise and promote a more satisfying eating experience. 

Create a Supportive Environment

Our environment impacts our food choices and adjusting your environment can help you manage food noise. This can include putting tempting ultra processed foods on high shelves in closed cupboards, making healthy snacks readily available on your countertop, planning meals ahead of time, having nutritious “grab and go” snacks on hand, and creating a quiet place in your home to sit down and enjoy your meals without a phone, tv, or computer. Additionally, seeking support from friends and family members around you can help create an encouraging and motivating environment. You may consider joining a support group or a weight loss program where you can communicate with others on their weight loss journey or gain expert advice. 

Manage Emotions Without Food

Work to develop strategies for dealing with stress and emotions without resorting to eating, such as practicing relaxation techniques or engaging in physical activity. Incorporating hobbies that bring you joy and fulfillment will serve as a healthy distraction from food cravings. In some cases, you may need to seek professional help from a counselor or therapist to address underlying emotional issues that may contribute to food noise. 

How GLP-1s Effect Food Noise

Incorporating lifestyle and environmental changes can help reduce food noise and instill healthier habits for many, but these changes may not be enough for others. For those struggling to deal with food noise, FDA-approved medications such as Wegovy®, Zepbound™, or Saxenda® may help. These medications are called glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1) and are commonly prescribed to aid in weight loss because of the way they influence food intake behaviors. These medications work by mimicking the effects of the natural hormone GLP-1, which regulates glucose metabolism and appetite. Studies suggest that GLP-1 medications can decrease food cravings and promote satiety, leading to reduced food intake. This reduction in hunger signals may lead to less frequent and intense food noise. Additionally, GLP-1 medications have been associated with changes in taste perception, potentially altering preferences for certain foods. While GLP-1s can be a great tool to address the biological hurdles related to food noise, they are most effective when paired with a healthy diet and physical activity while under the care of a medical expert. 

Implementing Change for Long-Term Weight Loss Success

In order to achieve long lasting weight loss, it is important that you make sustainable lifestyle changes and develop a plan to stick to them. 

Set Realistic Goals

Setting achievable goals is key to long-term success. By establishing realistic targets, you can maintain motivation and track progress more effectively. Even small changes in dietary habits and lifestyle choices can lead to significant results over time. Breaking old habits and building new healthy habits can take time, and while these changes feel small at the moment, they are a positive step towards long lasting weight loss and improved health. Not only is it important to make these changes, but also to celebrate milestones along the way. Reflecting on your progress can help reinforce positive behaviors and keep you motivated towards your goals.

Consistency is Key

Consistency plays a vital role in overcoming food noise and achieving sustainable weight loss. Building new, healthy habits to replace old ones requires dedication and perseverance. It’s important to understand that setbacks are a normal part of the journey. Practicing self-compassion by being kind to yourself and maintaining a positive mindset, especially when facing challenges or missing a day of your new routine, is essential for staying on track and continuing on your weight loss journey. 

Overcoming Food Noise with Medical Weight Loss Professionals

Overcoming food noise is not about deprivation but about empowering yourself to make healthier choices. By understanding what food noise is and how to stop it, you’re taking a significant step towards achieving your weight loss goals and enhancing your overall well-being. Working with a program such as FORM will connect you with experts to guide you in your weight loss journey. FORM provides individualized nutritional guidance from a Registered Dietitian along with expert medical care from an ABOM Board Certified Doctor. Your FORM Care Team will meet with you regularly to create a personalized treatment plan that addresses nutrition, physical activity, mindset shifts, and may include a prescription for FDA-approved medication, if appropriate. 

Find out if you are eligible by taking our quiz or send a message to get in touch directly at

Zepbound™ and its delivery device bases are registered trademarks owned or licensed by Eli Lilly and Company, its subsidiaries, or affiliates.

Wegovy® and Saxenda® are registered trademarks of Novo Nordisk A/S.

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