Weight Loss Drugs: Can They Help You Quiet Food Noise?

Ari Cofer Fact Checked
Hands holding a knife and fork over a plate with a brain
© Yaroslav Danylchenko / Stocksy United

In today’s society, it can be hard to have a healthy relationship with food. From anxiety about body image to pressure to try the latest diet trend, it’s easy for food to always be top of mind.

And for some, thoughts about and around food can morph into a constant stream-of-consciousness, creating a seemingly never-ending cycle of rumination around their next meal and how much they’ve eaten, and of self-judgement about what they’ve consumed. Such thought patterns have no clinical name or definition, but many refer to the phenomenon as “food noise.” 

“These ongoing thoughts about food can be exhausting and come with a lot of self-doubt and criticism,” says Chelsea Whealdon, a dietician at the Nutrition Clinic at UW Medical Center - Roosevelt. 

If you find yourself trying to drown out food noise, it’s possible to quiet the chatter.

Is it food noise or hunger?

When you feel hungry, it’s often a physical sensation that lets your body know that it’s time to eat. These cues could include tummy rumbles, emotional shifts (think: getting hangry) or dizziness. Food noise, however, is more mental than physical. If you have an abundance of food noise, your brain can keep food on the top of your mind all the time, whether you’re hungry or not.  

It’s not true that thinking about food is always bad or unhealthy.  

“Diet and wellness culture can promote any food thoughts as a negative experience, when one actually has much to learn from their body’s internal cues,” says Judy Simon, a registered diet nutritionist at the Nutrition Clinic at UW Medical Center - Roosevelt. “The noise or chatter you hear could also be biological signs your body wants you to pay attention to, such as low glucose levels or other signals that shouldn’t be ignored.” 

But it can be tricky to differentiate a real hunger cue from anxious chatter. 

“Food noise is more of a mental experience, whereas hunger is typically more physical; however, sometimes, people have trouble recognizing signs of physical hunger,” says Whealdon.  

Can weight loss drugs help with food noise? 

Semaglutide medications, like Ozempic or Wegovy, are typically used as a medication to treat type 2 diabetes, but more recently, you’ve probably seen these drugs, and similar ones like Mounjaro with the active ingredient tirzepatide, trending as the latest weight-loss solution. In 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved these drugs for weight loss for adults with obesity or who are overweight with at least one weight-related health condition, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes. 

Some people report their food noise has dramatically reduced or even disappeared after starting these medications. 

“It’s not exactly clear why this is,” says Whealdon. “We know that these medications slow how quickly food leaves the stomach, which can make people feel full for longer. They also have an effect on brain areas that govern hunger and fullness as well as reward centers, which could potentially contribute to the decreased thoughts about food.” 

However, there can be some downsides to these medications. Whealdon says that some experience a decrease in food noise because their appetite is just so low or because they feel nausea or gastrointestinal stress — side effects of these medications.  

“It’s important to point out — that’s not normal or healthy either,” she says. “We are often helping patients on semaglutide medications to simply make sure they’re eating enough.”  

And for others, when they stop taking these medications, they find themselves right back in the food spiral they were in before — and sometimes, it’s worse. 

“Our patients have shared that when they have had to stop taking these medications due to availability issues or insurance changes, they not only gain back the weight they have previously lost but also crave carbohydrates more intensely, and their food noise is back stronger than ever,” says Simon. 

For these reasons, your doctors typically won’t prescribe these medications to you with the sole purpose of treating your food noise. However, if you meet a specific set of criteria related to your metabolic health (aka how your body responds to food), it could be worth discussing with your doctor to see if these weight loss medications can help address your health needs.  

How to quiet food noise without medication 

The good news is that there are non-medication ways to address food noise. These strategies may even be more sustainable than weight loss medications in the long-term. 

Here are some of Whealdon’s tried and true ways to begin building a healthy relationship with food: 

  • Have regular meals and snacks throughout the day to help facilitate normal eating patterns. Structure helps cue your body into more regular eating patterns, even if you can’t always feel your physical hunger. With time, it can also help regulate your hunger and fullness hormones, which can help you cue into your physical hunger and fullness more effectively, without shame or judgment. 
  • Challenge “food rules” perpetuated by media or friends and family to allow more flexibility with eating. For example, you might feel pressure to eat during social outings or family gatherings, when really you should only eat if you feel hungry. 
  • Remind yourself that health is influenced by many different factors, not just food. Activity level, mental health and more can contribute to your overall wellness. 
  • Turn your attention to something you enjoy to reduce the space food takes up in your mind, such as connecting with your community or participating in hobbies you like. 
  • Ask for help — you don’t have to solve the problem alone. If your food noise feels like it’s getting to be unmanageable, reach out to your doctor, a nutritionist or a therapist for support. 

Finally, remember to pay attention to the physical cues your body sends you, which takes work, especially if the food noise feels so much louder than your body’s messages. Practices like mindfulness can be a great place to start. In the end, doing this work can improve your relationship with your body — as well as your relationship with food.