Music, said English poet and playwright William Congreve, has charms to soothe the savage beast. But does music have the power to quash the dieter's appetite?
Maybe. After all, consider how widely your moods and memories are associated with music. Joggers know that you can press yourself a little farther with the right tunes coaxing you on; soothing music in the doctor's or dentist's office can help calm frightened patients. Spiritual music can inspire.
According to Brooklyn doctor Edward Podolsky, fast music ratchets up your metabolism and muscular energy, accelerating your heartbeat and elevating your blood pressure. A slow beat does the exact opposite.
What effect does music have on appetite?
Taste is the most obvious sense associated with food, but it is by no means the only sense we engage to enjoy a good meal. In fact, all our senses come into focus when we eat. Think of the sizzle of a steak on the barbecue, or the contrasts of textures in a smooth crème brûlée topped by a crisp sugar crust. Imagine an attractively laid-out meal or the scent of your mother's roast dinner. All of these scenarios describe food through a different sense, and all are capable of stimulating appetite.
A Johns Hopkins study found that music has the ability to influence the speed with which we eat. Slow music slows us down: test subjects listening to slow music downed three mouthfuls of food per minute, as compared to the five mouthfuls diners listening to a fast beat consumed.
Hoteliers and restaurateurs know that taste is only one aspect of a good meal. A recent British survey examined consumer responses over eighteen evenings. Diners were treated to classical music, pop music or no music during their meals. Results showed that people were willing to (and actually did) spend more money on the evenings they ate to the strains of classical music.
What does this mean to the average dieter?
Be aware that sounds – and music, especially – can trigger eating habits you may or may not want. If playing Christmas carols sends you into a frenzied state of Christmas baking, you might want to time your music selection accordingly. Experiment with music while you eat. Do you eat less to the strains of Bach? Or does the beat of the latest boy band have you up and moving around instead of snacking in front of the fridge?
The bottom line
Pay attention to how your body reacts to the external stimuli it receives. Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste are all part of the equation.
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