- People who take Wegovy say it helps silence “food noise.”
- While food noise is not a medical term, experts define it as compulsively thinking about and being distracted by food.
- Experts say there are also ways to silence food noise without using medication.
For much of her life, food dominated Gray Beard’s thoughts.
“I would wake up hungry and think about what I was going to eat for the day,” she told Healthline.
As a kindergarten teacher, after waking up, she would immediately think about what to eat during morning and afternoon snack times and what to bring for lunch. Her thoughts were also preoccupied with what to eat for dinner and nighttime snacks.
“Everything was centered around when’s the next meal going to be,” Beard said. “After dinner, I’d still feel hungry and think ‘there’s some ice cream,’ maybe I’ll eat that. The food noise was always there. When I was bored, I’d go snack.”
“[It] has been quieted and gone away,” she said. “My family now gets annoyed ’cause sometimes it’s 6:00 and they’re like, ‘are you going to make dinner?'”
During the first four months of taking the medication, she lost 16 pounds and experienced mild side effects, including constipation and nausea the day and day after she gives herself the shot. The side effects are manageable and she is happy with the pace she is dropping pounds.
“I want to do it slow because I know from reading and research that the slower you lose it the more likely you are to keep it off,” Beard said. “I’m trying to feel better about myself and I’m trying to get my confidence up so to me it’s not about the number on the scale or how skinny I may look; it’s how I feel.”
While “food noise “ is not a medical term or diagnosis, Dr. Rekha Kumar, practicing endocrinologist in NYC and Chief Medical Officer of Found, said patients who have challenges with their weight or eating behavior describe “food noise” as a preoccupation with food, healthy food, trying to avoid unhealthy food, planning the next meal, or thinking about whether to stop eating.
The term is similar to “hedonic hunger,” which
Kumar noted that many clinicians who treat disordered eating conditions also use the term.
“To me, it always implied an overwhelming effort patients are making to control their eating behavior when our biology should do much of that naturally (with some element of mindfulness rather than total preoccupation of thoughts on this),” Kumar told Healthline.
She explained that the reason glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists like Wegovy and Ozempic might help to silence “food noise” is because they restore the gut-brain connection that might not be functioning properly in people who are living with overweight, obesity, prediabetes, diabetes, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
“The hormone GLP-1 in Wegovy is a hormone that signals fullness to the brain after a meal,” she said.
Foods that are higher in protein, fat, and fiber can raise your natural levels of GLP-1, said Kumar.
“Avoiding getting overly hungry and starting a meal with protein and vegetables can help as well,” she said. “Getting adequate sleep will keep appetite-regulating hormones stable and reduce the risk of food noise. Regular exercise, which raises natural endorphins and adrenaline can also help increase fullness.”
Healthy eating is a combination of eating healthy foods and having a healthy relationship with food, said Christina Brown, MS, ACSM CPT, nutrition and weight loss coach.
While some people may not be able to quiet food noise without the use of medication, she points out that, for others, there are also effective ways that can help silence it that don’t require weight loss medication.
She suggested working with a therapist to determine the reason why you are constantly thinking of food or using food for emotional purposes.
“Many of us have an unhealthy relationship with food, which often causes the food noise. We need to heal that relationship in order to truly get rid of the food noise,” she said. “Taking a weight loss drug may help to mute the food noise, but it will not completely silence it.”
Her biggest concern with weight loss drugs is that the people taking them may not make any healthy lifestyle changes, such as learning to eat healthy and exercise daily.
“The other issue is that because they have not created any healthy lifestyle changes, as soon as they stop taking the weight loss drug, they will gain the weight back, and typically gain even more back than they lost,” Brown said.
Taking the drug for the remainder of one’s life in order to keep the weight off concerns her. She said people should question whether the side effects are worth it and if there are long-term ramifications of taking the drug.
Keeping this in mind, Beard said she isn’t sure how long she’ll take Wegovy.
She is also leaning on lifestyle coaching provided through the Ro Body Program. Over the years, she tried weight loss plans like Weight Watchers, Medi-Weightloss, and FASTer Way to Fat Loss, as well as different workout regimes. While she found some success with all of them, she has found it challenging to keep the weight off.
After seeing her sister lose 30 pounds while taking Wegovy, she was intrigued. Her doctor also suggested the medication for weight loss and health reasons, but Beard’s insurance didn’t approve it.
She received access to the medication through the year-long Ro Body Program, which provides her with health coaching and a weekly curriculum that includes educational information on healthy eating and exercising.
“A lot I already knew because I’ve tried so many different programs, but the biggest thing it’s helped me with is mindset,” said Beard.
While silencing food noise is something Beard strives for, she realizes that learning to eat when her body needs fuel is important for a healthy lifestyle.
“I can see how it might be easy to not eat [on Wegovy], but I am trying to make healthy habits so I try to eat three meals a day and make real healthy choices,” she said.
The greatest benefit of taking Wegovy is that she no longer feels like mindlessly snacking, and doesn’t have as many cravings for unhealthy food or alcohol. When she thinks she is hungry, she has learned to question whether she really is before grabbing food.
“Food can be so controlling in your life…I have a better understanding of what’s going on in my body now,” she said.
After taking Wegovy for two or three weeks, she said the silencing began. However, after taking the medication for several months, she said she is learning to keep the food noise at a manageable volume.
“[It’s] just freeing not having to think ‘what could we do today? Let’s get ice cream, let’s go out to eat.’ Things now are not centered around that,” said Beard. “If my daughter does something special, I’m like what can we do that is not food related to celebrate these things? Let’s get our nails done or have a movie night, so I’m feeling a lot better mentally.”