Another Facet of Mukbang, Continued

In the most recent installment, we described the comfort that many people find in the ASMR effect, and their ability to be soothed and calmed by certain sounds. The radical opposite of that is misphonia, a condition where people are seriously repelled by sounds, including those that others enjoy. Misphonia can be set off by a thousand things — the whimpering of a puppy; fingers or fingernails tapping on various surfaces; teeth sucking; psoriasis scratching; and the ever-popular eating noises.

Quite probably, children have run away from home, and husbands or wives have divorced their spouses, to escape someone’s eating noises. There are aural experiences that some individuals would willingly commit violence to eliminate. But other people willingly listen to sounds that would send a misophone into a straitjacket.

Mukbang + ASMR = obsession

For for some mukbang enthusiasts, hearing is the most important sense of all. Sure, the visual spectacle of another human eating is pleasant, but their favorite thing is exactly what would trigger misphonia in another — the sounds of slurping, biting, munching, sucking, and chewing. For this subset of mukbang fans, listening is even better than watching.

Journalist Dana Givens spoke with Rachel Herz, a neuroscientist and adjunct professor at Brown University Alpert Medical School, who attributes this pleasure to a combination of sensory, psychological, social, emotional, environmental, and even neurological factors.

As a result, quite a number of self-described ASMRtists make a more-than-adequate living by providing this service online. They each have individual gimmicks, although all involve sensitive microphones and binaural recording, resulting in a multi-dimensional experience that makes the hearer feel like they are right there in the room. There is, for instance, a specialist who creates exclusive, personal, one-on-one ASMR experiences for $150 per hour.

Another writer, Sue Quinn, quotes two more experts, both of them anti-mukbang. Mattias Strand, of the Stockholm Centre for Eating Disorders, said of a recent study,

We found that watching mukbang could certainly be problematic for people who already suffer from disordered eating, in that it could trigger binge eating or serve as an inspiration for eating too little.

Another professional who finds mukbang to be a destructive force is mental health expert Carolina Mountford, who employs such terms as “growing concern” and “trail of devastation” relative to the combination of eating videos and ASMR stimulation. She believes that any positive effects are far outweighed by the negatives, and says,

At best, this phenomenon risks promoting poor habits and overeating. At worst, it can contribute to the rising numbers of individuals with eating disorders, which are serious psychiatric illnesses, as well as significantly hampering the recovery of those who are trying to get better.

Any reasonable reader might think that by now, everything that could be said on this topic has been said — but that person would be mistaken. We are saving the best for last. There will be one more post about mukbang, then it will be gone from these pages — just as the actual fad, on some blessed day, might disappear.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “American Mukbang: Why We Love to Watch People Eat,”, 02/27/20
Source: “Are noisy YouTube binge eating videos triggering more than just joy?,”, 09/11/20
Image by Surian Soosay/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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