Is Food Noise Really a Thing? Or an Invention of Diet Culture?

It seems that people who are finding tremendous relief from obesity with GLP-1 medicines just won’t shut up about the benefits of turning down the volume on food noise. Nancy Barnes, one of these people, tells the PBS News Hour:

“The noise in your head stops. It is just so unbelievable”

Obesity medicine physician Melanie Jay says the noise can be overwhelming for patients:

“Some people with obesity report thinking of food all the time, planning their next meal when eating their current meal, and constantly worrying about what they are going to eat. Patients report that GLP-1s suppress this experience.”

A Philosopher Who Loves the Noise

Of course, not everyone is on board with thinking this is a problem. Philosopher Kate Manne says people should celebrate food noise:

“There are implications for the wider culture in derogating our appetites. We are effectively telling people – again, especially women – not to trust their bodies in ways that smack of gaslighting.

“Food noise should not be treated as pathological and medicated away. Rather, we might call it ‘food music,’ and dance to it.”

This leaves us wondering who’s gaslighting who? Is it possible that Manne is gaslighting people who are struggling with obsessive thoughts that have a physiological cause?

Pushing Back on Shoulds and Oughts

Increasingly, research is telling us that physiology is at work in regulating our attention to the food cues all around us. When at risk for hunger, paying extra attention to food is really good for our survival. When suffering real harm to health from obesity, the benefit of this “music” is not so helpful. Unless you are a food marketer looking to promote excessive consumption of your products.

So we’ll vote for sticking with the facts and avoiding broad generalizations about the music that people should choose for dancing. All this music talk reminds us that one person’s ceiling is another one’s floor.

Click here and here for more about food noise and here for Manne’s dismissal of it.

FOOD Sign, photograph by Ryan, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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April 20, 2024