WeightWatchers Unveils “Beyond Hunger: Understanding Food Noise” Report Offering Insights Into the Experience of Ongoing, Intrusive Thoughts About Food

New consumer data reveals that more than half of people living with overweight or obesity experience “food noise,” yet only 12% of people were familiar with the term before surveyed

NEW YORK, Jan. 16, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- WeightWatchers (NASDAQ: WW), (“WeightWatchers,” “WW,” or the “Company”) today announced the findings of its “Beyond Hunger: Understanding Food Noise” report focusing on people living with overweight or obesity and their experience of constant rumination about food, known as “food noise.” In partnership with STOP Obesity Alliance at George Washington University’s Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, the study reveals a deeper understanding of food noise, which may reflect a biological contribution to obesity, and brings it to the forefront of the cultural conversation around weight bias, GLP-1 medications, and Weight Health.

“The difference between food noise being problematic or not comes down to how often and how intensely it’s occurring. Food noise that occurs daily can be so intense and intrusive that it negatively impacts food choices and quality of life,” said Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, obesity and lipid specialist physician and medical director, WeightWatchers. “With constant, intrusive thoughts about food, it’s difficult to navigate behavioral change without clinical help. The first step towards relief and greater empathy for those living with obesity is acknowledging that food noise is a real biological issue that many are facing.”

Once the term food noise was explained to those surveyed as “constant, intrusive thoughts about food that are disruptive to daily life and make healthful behaviors extremely difficult,” 57% of people living with overweight or obesity say they’ve experienced it; still, only 12% had been familiar with the term. While food noise is universal and can be experienced by anyone, the intensity can vary from person to person. For many living with overweight or obesity, thoughts of food can become confounding, with 65% stating they fight the urge to eat even though they aren’t hungry.

Food noise can be a significant roadblock to weight health, with 61% of people living with overweight or obesity saying that food noise makes it difficult to stick to a nutrition or exercise plan. Yet, because of the depth of weight-related stigma, food noise is often ignored as a contributing factor to obesity. 83% of people living with overweight or obesity judge themselves for their weight. Additionally, 57% of those not living with overweight or obesity feel that those who are do not take care of themselves.

And with the rise of GLP-1 medications, weight stigma is persisting in new forms. One in four living with overweight or obesity report they avoid talking to friends, family, and doctors about weight loss medications for fear of judgment. 47% of those not living with overweight or obesity agree that GLP-1 users are just taking the easy way out. Additionally, 48% think that people using GLP-1s for weight management are taking them away from those who "really" need them, and 59% have more respect for those losing weight without medications.

However, those on GLP-1 medications have found the lack of all-consuming food-related thoughts allows them to accomplish their goals better, showcasing that the medications can cause a dramatic reduction in food noise. 76% of GLP-1 users find it easier to pick healthier food options, and 72% find it easier to stick to their nutrition and exercise plans for weight loss.

Understanding the concept of food noise can help change harmful perceptions of those living with overweight and obesity as well as those taking GLP-1 medications to manage their obesity. After learning about food noise, the notion that GLP-1s are a tool for managing a chronic condition (obesity) vs. an easy way out increased by 23% among those not living with overweight or obesity.

“As our understanding of the challenge of living with obesity continues to grow, the recognition of food noise provides a new insight into why a preoccupation with food may be hard wired, and is not simply caused by a lack of willpower," said William Dietz, MD, Ph.D., Director, STOP Obesity Alliance. “This first-of-its-kind consumer research truly helps define this concept, allowing us to better educate people living with obesity and others in a way that drives greater understanding, compassion and ultimately reduces stigma.”

Methodology: The “Beyond Hunger: Understanding Food Noise” report was developed on behalf of WeightWatchers and the STOP Obesity Alliance at George Washington University. The survey was done online among 1,174 Americans living in diverse bodies. 264 of those surveyed have a BMI of under 25 (not living with overweight or obesity), 284 have a BMI of 25 - 29 (living with overweight), and 454 have a BMI of 30+(living with obesity). 295 of all those surveyed were using GLP-1 medications.

About WW International, Inc.
WeightWatchers is a human-centric technology company powered by our proven, science-based, clinically effective weight loss and weight management programs. For six decades, we have inspired millions of people to adopt healthy habits for real life. We combine technology and community to help members reach and sustain their goals on our programs. To learn more about the WeightWatchers approach to healthy living, please visit ww.com. For more information about our global business, visit our corporate website at corporate.ww.com.

About STOP Obesity Alliance:
The Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance is made up of a diverse group of business, consumer, government, advocacy, and health organizations dedicated to reversing the obesity epidemic in the United States. Drawing on the strengths of the collaborative, STOP conducts research, makes policy recommendations, and develops hands-on tools for providers, advocacy groups, policymakers, and consumers. Learn more at stop.publichealth.gwu.edu


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