How to Quiet Food Noise: Stop Cravings and Feel Satisfied

Struggling with constant thoughts about food?  You’re not alone.  With the growing popularity of weight loss drugs like Ozempic, the new buzzword is “food noise”.

“It turned off the incessant food noise in my head, and I no longer think of food all the time” is a common response when people start weight loss drugs. 

But what is food noise

How do you stop it? 

Is “turning off food noise” a good thing? 

What could be the long-term consequences of artificially shutting down your appetite? 

In this article, we’ll dive into what creates “food noise” and how you can turn it down while giving your body what it really craves. 

Key Points

  • Food noise is the overwhelming thoughts and cravings for food caused by a lack of essential nutrients in your diet.
  • Our bodies have a “bliss point” for nutrients, including fat, sugar, salt, protein, calcium and potassium.  Processed foods are designed to hit this point, making us crave and overeat them.
  • Weight loss drugs may help turn down ‘food noise’ but do not address the root cause (i.e. our need for nutrients).
  • To overcome ‘food noise,’ we need to get more than the bliss point (minimum) concentration of the nutrients that our body is craving.  

Understanding Food Noise: Cravings Explained

Ever feel like you can’t stop thinking about food?  That’s food noise!  

Concentrating, getting work done, or even enjoying a conversation can be challenging when one’s mind is fixated on one’s next meal.  

It’s like a constant mental chatter about what, when, and how much to eat.  Some describe it as ‘head hunger’, with food constantly calling out to you.  Incessant thoughts about food can overshadow other things you value and make it harder to lose weight.

But there’s hope!  Understanding the root cause of food noise and making smart food choices can quiet the chatter and achieve a healthier relationship with food.

Nutrient Bliss Points: The Key to Understanding Food Noise

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know it’s more complex than “energy in vs energy out”. 

Our subconscious appetite drives us to consume a range of foods every day to find the perfect balance of:

  • energy (from carbs and fat), and
  • nutrients (i.e. the minerals, vitamins and amino acids). 

These cravings ensure we survive, particularly in an environment of scarcity.  Without a healthy appetite for nutrients and energy, we’d become malnourished and starve to death. 

Human ingenuity has always found ways to make our food tastier and more nutritious.  But this levelled up in the 1980s when we discovered how to optimise our food quantitatively.  

Howard Moskowitz initially applied his mathematical genius to make army rations more palatable to stop soldiers from losing weight on the battlefield.  Later, he turned his skills to processed food.  

He used extensive market testing to identify the bliss point — or the Goldilocks zone — of sugar, salt, and fat, which makes food taste great.  Hitting multiple bliss points is the secret to the phenomenal success of modern processed food, now a 10 trillion dollar industry

Today, every packaged food is mathematically optimised to provide the perfect balance of nutrients and energy to keep us returning for more.  The bliss point formula taps into our primal survival instincts.  Our conscious willpower is no match for modern engineered food that contains just enough of each nutrient to hit our bliss points synchronously. 

“We are advised to cut down (but not eliminate) a particular food component, say sugar or salt.  This will allow some eating enjoyment, but the experience will fall short of the bliss point.  This is tantamount to telling you sex is fine, provided you don’t orgasm.”

The Bliss Point Factor, Robert McBride

Once we understand our cravings (or food noise), we can reverse engineer overeating for greater satiety and lasting contentment. 

Why We Crave Food

While most people focus on the big three—salt, sugar, and fat—our data analysis shows that we have a bliss point for all the essential nutrients to some extent.  

Our appetite ensures we get enough of each essential nutrient, even if we consume more energy than our bodies need. 

Sodium

Because it’s critical for survival and rare in days gone by, we have a strong appetite for sodium.  Salt makes food taste great and makes the other flavours pop.  But if we accidentally add too much, it tastes “too salty”, and we’ll eat less.

To illustrate, the chart below shows that we have a bliss point concentration for sodium at 3.1 g/2000 calories. 

  • We consume less energy when our food contains less sodium (because the food tastes bland).  
  • We also eat less when there’s too much salt in our food (because it’s too salty).

Salt is cheap, so food manufacturers have optimised the amount of salt they add to everything, so we eat and buy more. 

According to Michael Moss in his excellent book Salt, Sugar, Fat, if we don’t add salt to bread, it tastes like bland cotton wool.  If we don’t add salt to cornflakes, they’re like sawdust, and the metallic bitterness of the added iron and vitamins makes it repulsive!

When we ‘go on a diet’ and try to eat less of the same foods, we still crave the same amount of salt. 

While we crave salt, it may be a stopgap for the other minerals, like potassium and calcium, that we don’t usually add to processed food. 

Potassium

Potassium is just as important as salt.  It’s the ying to sodium’s yang.  Together, they power the potassium-sodium pump to send energy around our bodies and empower our muscles to work. 

Getting plenty of potassium relative to sodium is critical to maintaining healthy blood pressure, a growing issue.  However, despite its vital role, potassium is a ‘nutrient of public health concern’ that only 2% of Americans meet the daily minimum.  

While salt is added to everything, potassium is typically only found in minimally processed foods.  Pure potassium is bitter, so we can’t add it as a salt substitute.  However, it may provide a more complex and satisfying taste in whole foods.  Nutrient-dense foods tend to have a stronger, fuller taste, signalling to our bodies that we don’t need as much of them to get the nutrients we need from them (McCickerd and Forde, 2015).

Like sodium, If we want to eat less and avoid incessant food noise, we need to pack more potassium per calorie into our food. 

In our Micros Masterclass, we guide our Optimisers to work towards an optimal potassium intake of 5,400 mg/2000 calories, which aligns with consuming 30% fewer calories! 

This is not about adding pills and powders to boost your vitamin and mineral intake.  But once Optimisers change their food to naturally contain a higher concentration of these nutrients, they are amazed at how their appetite and hunger disappear, even though they are consuming much less energy!

If you’re currently getting less than the bliss point (minimum) intake for potassium, you need to focus on high-potassium foods that contain more potassium per serve. 

But once you get more than the minimum, the focus turns to potassium-rich foods that contain more potassium per calorie. 

You can find longer food lists for potassium and all the nutrients in the resources section of our Optimising Nutrition community here

Protein

We also crave protein because it is critical for maintaining our muscles and organs.  Adequate protein prevents sarcopenia — or muscle loss — as we age.  

To the left of the chart below, we also see that, like salt, there is a ‘craving zone’ for protein when we’re below the bliss point concentration.

We’re not that interested in eating very low-protein foods.  But we eat the most when our food contains about 12.5% protein, which is the typical formula for modern junk food like burgers and pizza.  The average American gets 15% protein, slightly more than the 12.5% protein bliss point. 

If we try to eat less without changing what we eat, our cravings for protein will increase, and food noise will get louder.  So before long, we end up binging on the same old foods that made us fat in the first place.

A surprising number of people are not yet getting the minimum 12.5% protein we crave.  

The infographic below shows some examples of popular high-protein foods.  But if meat and seafood are not your thing, you can check out the other infographics and food lists here

To quiet the food noise, we must get enough protein.  Once you turn off the food noise with the minimum amount of protein, the focus turns to protein-rich foods, with a higher protein %, to increase satiety further

In our Macros Masterclass, we guide Optimisers to increase satiety by incrementally dialling up their protein % to 40% while dialling back the energy from fat and carbs to help them lose body fat.  Increasing your protein % is the simplest place to start.  But once you get to 40% protein, you’ll be better off focusing on your other priority nutrients. 

Which Nutrients Are Most Important?   

Hopefully, you’ve noticed the same trend with each nutrient by now. 

  • We crave foods that contain more of each nutrient. 
  • But once we get more than the (bliss point) minimum amount of that nutrient, the cravings switch off, and we lose interest in food for a while because we’re satisfied and eat less. 

But things can get complex quickly unless we understand which nutrients are most important to prioritise and how much we need each to turn off our food noise. 

We recently crunched the numbers on 619,301 days of data from how people eat all over the world and found the following food  parameters enable us to predict our energy intake accurately:

  • energy density
  • protein
  • sugar
  • fat
  • riboflavin (B2)
  • vitamin C
  • potassium
  • calcium
  • sodium           
  • iron 

It’s not that all the other nutrients don’t matter, but if you manage these ten, the others will come along for the ride. 

We’ve used these parameters to develop a satiety score that will work for most people most of the time to identify the foods that empower us to be satisfied with fewer calories and turn off the food noise.

The Solution to Turn Down the Food Noise

So what’s the solution to quiet the food noise and regain control of our eating?

We need to prioritise foods that contain the nutrients our bodies are craving. 

The chart below shows the relationship between diet quality (which considers all the nutrients) and energy intake.  

  • If we try to eat less on a low-quality diet, we’ll always crave and experience food noise and always be powerless to resist the seductive junk foods that are designed to hit our bliss points whenever they’re available.  
  • But if we learn to pack more of all the essential nutrients into our diet, we’ll be satisfied with eating less.  
understanding the relationship between food and and your diet quality

It can take some time, but as we add more nutrient-dense, higher-satiety foods, the food noise will reduce because your body has enough nutrients to survive and thrive. 

Why Do Some People Experience More Food Noise Than Others? 

If you experience more food noise, do you have an Ozempic deficiency? 

weight loss drugs like Ozempic artificially turn off food noise and promote satiety

Probably not.

If you’ve read this far, you can likely see that a major component of the food noise equation is a lack of the nutrients we crave.

While previously reserved for people with severe obesity and Type 2 diabetes, weight loss drugs are now being prescribed for a growing number of people of all sizes and ages, with the explicit understanding that once you start, you will need to stay on these drugs for the rest of your life.  If you stop, the weight will quickly return. 

But the reality is, even according to industry-funded research, two-thirds of people who start weight loss drugs stop within a year due to cost, side effects or a weight loss plateau. 

Even if you use weight loss drugs, your body still needs enough essential nutrients.  Whether or not you choose to go the drug-assisted route, managing your cravings and food noise will be easier if your body gets the nutrients you need from your food.

If you ever choose to stop the weight loss drugs, it’s likely the rebound weight gain, and the increase will be gentler if you learn to improve your diet quality with the added support of the drugs. 

Is It Healthy to Turn off Food Noise with Drugs? 

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of studies on the long-term effects of weight loss drugs.  

But we can imagine what might happen if someone who used to eat two family pizzas a day now only feels hungry enough to eat half a pizza per day?

Without changing what they eat dramatically, they’ll get fewer nutrients. 

We do know that loss of muscle is a major concern for people who lose weight rapidly with the help of weight loss drugs.  The pharmaceutical industry is now scrambling to create new drugs to combat the sarcopenia.   

But what about the long-term effects of getting less minerals, vitamins and omega-3?

Professor Bruce Ames’ Triage Theory states that the body prioritises short-term survival when nutrients are limited.  Without enough nutrients, the body neglects long-term survival functions like reproduction and DNA repair, which increases the risk of developing chronic diseases long-term. 

While weight loss drugs will mitigate obesity, type 2 diabetes and other related conditions, we don’t yet understand the long-term impact of malnourishment that could occur due to artificially switching off our natural appetite signals. 

How Can I Turn Down the Food Noise?

We have developed several free resources and courses to empower our Optimisers to manage their cravings and reduce food noise. 

Interactive Food Search Tool

Check out our interactive food search tool to find foods you love eating that increase satiety and provide the nutrients you need. 

The Healthiest Meal Plan in the World

We love our new satiety score, but ultimately, we believe nutrient density is the icing on the cake.  To see what a week of maximum nutrient-density eating looks like, download our Healthiest Meal Plan in the World for free here

Micros Masterclass

For those who are adventurous and willing to work to optimise their diet at the micronutrient level, we have the Micros Masterclass, where we show Optimisers how to fill their unique nutrient gaps, crush their cravings and quiet the food noise. 

Summary

  • Processed foods are designed to hit our “bliss point” for nutrients, making us crave and overeat them.
  • Weight loss drugs may suppress appetite but don’t address the root cause – nutrient deficiency.
  • The solution is to focus on nutrient-dense foods that keep you satisfied with fewer calories.

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