How Music Affects What You Eat

If you struggle with your weight, you may have been told that eating more slowly will help you shed the extra pounds. This is because it takes a certain amount of time for your brain to receive the message from your stomach that you're getting full, and if you're a speed eater you may pass the point of fullness before your brain registers that fact. But slowing down may present a particular challenge in restaurants, for one simple reason: the soundtrack.

While not all restaurants offer patrons recorded tunes or live music, those that do can (purposefully or unwittingly) affect how quickly or slowly diners eat. This is in keeping with a growing body of research on how music affects consumer behavior in general: The more "arousing" music is—in terms of rhythm, tempo, and volume—the more quickly people do whatever it is they're doing, whether exercising, shopping, or eating.

A 1999 Scottish study analyzed the behaviors exhibited by patrons at a popular Glasgow restaurant. Researchers arranged to have either slow or fast music playing at different times over a period of weeks as diners ate. Based on direct observation and questionnaires given to diners, the study's authors discovered that people dining with fast music left the restaurant an average of 13.56 minutes before those eating to a slower beat. Did they actually eat more quickly? While the study didn't directly measure this, it stands to reason that less time in a restaurant means food is consumed more quickly. Indeed, health experts have asserted that restaurants sometimes play upbeat music precisely to get patrons to eat more quickly and make room for the next round of diners.

The simplest solution for the calorie conscious is, of course, to eat at home. You not only control what's in your food but also what you listen to as you eat. Find slow-paced background music that will relax you and help you space out your forkfuls. If you do dine out, call the restaurant ahead of time and ask if they play music and what kind it is. If it sounds too "peppy," find another restaurant. Or, at the very least, walk into the place knowing the music will be upbeat and make a conscious effort to slow down your mouthfuls.




Association for Consumer Research. "Play That One Again: The Effect of Music Tempo on Consumer Behavior in a Restaurant." Web. Vol. 4 (1999); 58-62.