Food is undoubtedly an essential part of our lives, providing nourishment, pleasure, and even sometimes a reason for connecting with others. But for some people (or perhaps everyone at some point in life), food can become an all-consuming mental preoccupation. From meticulously planning every meal to counting calories with unwavering precision, an excessive focus on food can lead to a complex and potentially unhealthy web of thoughts and emotions. This phenomenon of having constant or recurring thoughts about food is known by some as “food noise.”
Obviously humans have to eat every day, and the vast majority of people end up eating three or more times in the course of a day. It’s natural to put some amount of time into deciding what to eat and how much and when to have meals; indeed, even the healthiest eating pattern requires some forethought and preparation. But there’s clearly a big difference between thoughtfully planning out one’s day and being driven by frequent, intrusive thoughts that center around acquiring the next meal.
Food noise (or food chatter) is a colloquial term that can mean different things to different people. It’s normal, for instance, to have specific or general food cravings when a regular meal time approaches. But for some, food noise represents the constant thoughts about food and eating that can happen before, during, and even after a meal. This kind of obsession about food choices and the sensation of eating can and often does lead to overeating, a major factor in weight gain and the development of obesity-related health conditions like heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
For some people, food noise may be an even deeper problem that strays into the territory of mental health. In fact, eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia may even stem from similar thoughts and feelings. Even if it can’t be diagnosed as an eating disorder, though, food noise may be more likely during times when stress is high or when life circumstances have become unusually difficult. There is also some evidence that genetics, certain health conditions, or even some kinds of medication can make this kind of noise more prominent.
One of the biggest challenges with food noise is that it often masquerades as hunger even though it might really only be an emotional state of mind. Actual hunger is a complex physiological and psychological process that involves a combination of signals and responses in the gut-brain axis. When the stomach is empty (usually also when blood sugar levels are low), a hormone called ghrelin is released that stimulates the sensation of hunger. Then, after eating, another hormone called leptin is released in order to signal satiety and fullness.
Food noise, however, can mess up these processes and lead us to increase our food intake even if we don’t truly “need” it. Some people also seem to have a bigger struggle with this than others, and it may be connected to other conditions like having insulin resistance. Insulin is another hormone that promotes the absorption of glucose from the foods we eat; but a person with insulin resistance essentially has more hunger cues and fewer fullness cues due to how insulin interacts with the digestive system.
Paradoxically, one of the best ways to stop food noise is to lose weight, even though food noise makes it harder to lose weight. But there’s a big difference between demonstrably ineffective fad diets and the alternatives. Because while dieting and exercise don’t generally lead to long-term weight loss success, there are a number of weight loss procedures that have been developed in recent decades that can provide the structure and support needed to be in a consistent calorie deficit.
One weight loss method that stands out from the crowd is called endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG), a non-surgical endobariatric procedure that permanently alters the digestive tract in a way that promotes long-term success. As the name implies, ESG is performed with an endoscope, which is a medical device with a flexible tube that is inserted through the esophagus. Once in the stomach, special tools mounted on the end are used to reduce the stomach’s size via special suturing tools on the endoscope.
After the 30-45 minute long procedure is complete, the stomach is approximately 20% of its original size. This dramatically limits the amount of food that can be ingested in one sitting and leads to the patient feeling full more quickly after eating. In addition to positively affecting hormonal levels related to hunger, the procedure essentially forces the patient to develop new eating habits. Over time, these anatomical changes will prompt a calorie deficit that leads to the loss of excess body weight.
Opting into a weight loss procedure like ESG does require a commitment, but the benefits of sustained weight loss are worth it. The nature of the changes to the stomach provide a unique opportunity to have a new relationship with food. The reduced stomach size and related hormonal changes can redefine the feelings of being hungry and full, thereby essentially eliminating the kinds of seemingly uncontrollable cravings that are associated with food noise.
But even beyond the impact on food noise, endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty can also have a major impact on other aspects of health. Being overweight or obese greatly increases the risk of a variety of diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Losing weight, especially the long-term kind possible with ESG, reduces the risk of these diseases while also typically improving blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and conditions like sleep apnea.
Between social media and endless advertisements, the world is full of advice for how to lose weight and ignore the food noise. The truth is, though, that traditional methods like diet and exercise just don’t work for most people. At True You, however, we are passionate about how effective ESG can be at helping you lose weight, and our team is eager to help you find the freedom you’ve been looking for. To learn more about ESG or any of our other weight loss solutions, please contact us today to request a consultation.