Are you hungry? Why don’t you sing?


Even if you are hungry, food might not be what you need

I’m sure it happened to you as well: you start the day singing a song which then gets stuck into your head. That’s what made me dance the whole way to the bus stop this morning while everyone else in the street was looking at me as if I had a screw loose. Which I think I have, by the way!


This small episode made me realize that I have been using music as a coping strategy for my entire life. I listen to music when I need to calm down because I’m stressed or when I need to take a break from work because I’m tired or bored.


But what has the fact you feel hungry to do with music, let alone with singing? Well, actually, quite a lot….


Many of you probably think that the feeling of hunger is a physiological stimulus that our body sends us when we need more fuel to make our body functions. Nothing wrong with this. However, things are a little more complicated. Hunger is also a signal that our brain sends us when we need help, for instance when we feel anxious or stressed and we would like to turn to food because it helps us numb out and forget our concerns. At least for a few minutes….


That is actually the main reason why I always recommend my clients to stop a few seconds before eating anything and to ask themselves: am I really hungry?


What many authors have defined as “emotional eating” is actually a coping strategy that our brain uses every time we deal with a situation that cannot be solved in the short term. For instance, when we think about a relationship that is not going well or when someone knocks at our door nervously waving an unpaid bill! In these cases, the easiest solution our brain can find in a very short term is to induce a temporary state of trance during which we can, even for a few moments, forget our problems. Although this will not make creditors disappear, unfortunately! However, it is widely known that eating keeps us busy while whatever negative thoughts cross our mind, isn’t that true?


Once we have identified that your feeling hungry is not physiological, but rather emotional, we can decide to cope with our problems in a different way. As Dr. Susan Albers suggests in her book 50 ways to soothe yourself without food an interesting solution is to use the other senses. Instead of tasting something, why don’t we smell, touch or watch something we like? Another idea is to listen to some music that we like or, even better, why not go a step further and make things even more fun? Why not sing our favorite song?


Music therapy is considered the professional use of music as an intervention that has shown to be effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression (Wang and Agius, 2018). The latter can, in turn, contribute to poorer diet quality and higher intake of sweet products and snacks or fast-food (Paans et al., 2019). To listen to music can optimize our quality of life and improve our physical, social, communicative, emotional, intellectual and even spiritual health and wellbeing. Doesn’t this sound simply amazing?


The simple listening to music improves the symptoms of depression in adults (Chan et al., 2009) and recent studies have shown that singing improves depressive symptoms while group singing interventions may have beneficial effects on the health-related quality of life (Wang and Agius, 2018).


Finally, music therapy can even be beneficial for sleep quality (Lai and Good, 2005) which, again, is inversely related to the risk of gaining weight and to poor dietary habits (Muscogiuri et al., 2018).


The smartest coping techniques when you feel hungry are the ones that turn unpleasant situations into occasions for having fun. Singing instead of digging the spoon into another cup of ice cream can also be your way to a longer and happier life.



Chan, M. F. et al. (2009) ‘Effect of music on depression levels and physiological responses in community-based older adults’, International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 18(4), pp. 285–294. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0349.2009.00614.x.

Lai, H.-L. and Good, M. (2005) ‘Music improves sleep quality in older adults’, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 49(3), pp. 234–244. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2004.03281.x.

Muscogiuri, G. et al. (2018) ‘Obesity and sleep disturbance: the chicken or the egg?’, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, pp. 1–8. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2018.1506979.

Paans, N. P. G. et al. (2019) ‘Depression and eating styles are independently associated with dietary intake’, Appetite, 134, pp. 103–110. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.12.030.

Wang, S. and Agius, M. (2018) ‘The use of Music Therapy in the treatment of Mental Illness and the enhancement of Societal Wellbeing.’, Psychiatria Danubina, 30(Suppl 7), pp. 595–600. Available at: (Accessed: 15 January 2019).


Picture of Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon is an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. He started his career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden. He has been involved in several EU research projects and has extensively worked and published on the association between diet, longevity and cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, also studying potential interactions between diet and genes. His work about the Mediterranean diet in Sweden has been cited by many newspapers worldwide including the Washington Post and The Telegraph among others. As a speaker, he has been invited by Harvard University and the Italian multi-national food company Barilla.

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