Some diet tips, like giving up sugar for the rest of your life, are hard. Others are not that big of a deal. This newest weight loss trick definitely falls into the easy camp — that is, unless it drives you totally insane first. I’m just going to apologize in advance.
Listening to other people chew is my version of hell. The completely normal (and one might say necessary) sounds of crunching, slurping, smacking and swallowing all drive me bananas, and don’t even get me started on the “rude” ones like belching, finger-licking or teeth-picking. In the past it’s been enough to make me flee the room in horror and rage, swearing I’d never eat with another living soul again. But then I had kids and that was no longer an option.
So it was interesting to learn, via a study out of Brigham Young University, that my misophonia (a disorder — that I most definitely have — where repetitive, ordinary noises inspire outsized emotional reactions) might actually be a cool, new diet trick.
Calling it “the crunch effect,” the researchers say that the more conscious you are of the sounds you make while eating food, the less of it you will eat. All those gustatory noises, the chewing and swallowing, act as an auditory cue to remind you that you are eating and also that you should probably stop when you are full.
“Sound is typically labeled as the forgotten food sense,” explained Ryan Elder, Ph.D., an assistant professor of marketing at BYU’s Marriott School of Management and co-author of the paper. “But if people are more focused on the sound the food makes, it could reduce consumption.”
To do this, they recommend eating while not watching TV, looking at your phone or listening to music. Basically they want you to be able to really hear all the eating noises… which makes me want to die just thinking about it. But yes, I could definitely see how that would make someone eat less or, if they’re like me, not at all.
And this theory held up in the lab. Subjects who wore headphones with noise loud enough that couldn’t hear anything else ate nearly twice as much as those who could hear themselves and others. While the effect was pronounced, it should be noted participants were just snacking on pretzels so “twice as much” may not hold up during, say, a three-course restaurant meal.
“When you mask the sound of consumption, like when you watch TV while eating, you take away one of those senses and it may cause you to eat more than you would normally,” Elder added. “The effects many not seem huge but over the course of a week, month or year, it could really add up.”
It makes sense. Researchers have long said that being mindful of what we eat (i.e. not allowing ourselves to be distracted during meal times) is one of the best ways to intuitively lose weight. We’ve been told that metaphorically listening to our bodies will help us recognize those subtle feelings of satiety. And now it turns out that literally listening to our bodies also helps — well, for normal people anyhow.
For myself, while I recognize the benefit, I’m going to have to tap out on this one. (But not literally, because tapping also drives me bonkers.)