Studies show that listening to music does all sorts of good things for our bodies and minds. It can lift bad moods, make it easier to get "in the zone" during workouts and help distract us from temptations such as eating junk or giving into temper tantrums.
But did you know music can even make you eat better? Believe it or not, adding a daily routine of the right tunes to your “diet” can help you ramp up your good eating habits and kick the junk. Let’s talk about how.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that music can reduce stress. Anyone who has ever been in a bad mood knows that throwing on some loud and upbeat tunes can do a lot to overcome that mood. Simply reducing your stress levels can help you beat back food cravings and eat more healthfully, so the next time you feel like emotionally eating, try a round of your favorite songs first.
But music might even help you make and keep better habits. Says one psychologist: “Music helps reprogram our brains because the right songs can pair pleasure (dopamine release) with our successfully becoming calm. Then we are doubly rewarded as we successfully accomplish a specific goal and with calmness.” In other words, when you have a craving, put on a song you love and listen while you resist that craving. Your brain will forge good connections with not giving in, which will make it easier to resist the urge next time.
We all know that one of the best ways to stay healthy is to make a shopping list and actually stick to it, but this is harder than it looks. Music may play a role here too, helping you avoid temptations like cheese sampling, the cookie aisle or even the prepackaged noodle salads near the deli.
To effectively utilize music as a distraction, make a great playlist beforehand so you never have to break out of your shopping zone. Write out a full, clear list, and give yourself no room for improvisation (i.e. if you need to pick up a pint of ice cream for a friend’s party, write that; don’t write “dessert” and wait to see what happens). Then pop in your best earbuds and hit the store. The reason you’ll want to wear workout earbuds is simple; you want great sound quality so you can block distractions, and you don’t want them to fall out.
It takes about twenty minutes for our brains to get the message that we’re full, more or less. That’s true no matter whether you eat at lightning speed or turtle pace, which makes a strong argument for eating slooooooooooooooowly. Luckily, the slower the music you’re listening to, the more slowly you eat. Put on some calming classical the next time you dig in, and you’ll eat less.
Believe it or not, loud music actually reduces our enjoyment of food. This makes sense, since any situation in which we’re listening to really loud music – a concert, a speeding car ride, a run – shouldn’t really be paired with grub anyway. Use this to your advantage to help kill pure cravings by throwing your sport earbuds in when they get especially strong. Just don't turn the killer tunes on while eating healthy grub, or you’ll defeat the purpose.
Studies also show that music can lead to a better dining experience. Along with the right plating, lighting and company, music can significantly add to the enjoyment of your meal. Why does this matter health-wise? Well, if you’re not super into your three ounces of salmon with brown rice and steamed broccoli, music may be the additional boost you need to retrain your brain. Putting on some calm mood music (Enya? Jazz? It depends on your preference) as you eat can raise your brain’s overall impression of the yumminess factor of your food, and keep you from return to your steak-and-potato or frozen-pizza ways every night.
So you see, while music isn’t a diet cure-all, and can’t technically stop you from reaching for the Pringles (nothing can do that), it can go a long way toward making your decisions-making better and increasing the overall health of your eating choices.