Thursday, September 21, 2017

Losing weight by cleaning up your mess and getting organized

How dirty is your kitchen?  How much stuff is laying around all over the place?  Do you have a hard time finding anything - like the potato peeler or a single clean spoon?

Recent research has shed new light on a simple, painless way to help you shed weight.  The solution is right before your eyes; the order, or disorder, in your kitchen or workplace.

A research team at Cornell University set up two identical kitchens.  They made one clean, neat and orderly.  They totally messed up the other one - dirty pots, pans, dishes and cluttered countertops - the works.

The kitchen made them do it


One hundred women took part in the study.  Some were told to wait alone in a messy kitchen for another person to arrive, and to help themselves to snacks: cookies, carrots, and crackers.  Others were told the same thing, but waited in a neat and orderly kitchen.

Results? The women waiting in the messy kitchen ate twice as many cookies compared to the women waiting in the orderly kitchen.

It was that simple.

The researchers also wondered whether a woman’s frame of mind might be a factor in calorie consumption.  Some were told to write (before entering the kitchen) about a time when they felt out of control.  Others wrote about a time when they felt in control.

Guess which women ate 100 more total calories?  Right.  The ones who entered the kitchen with negative thoughts in mind.  So two factors were found to be linked to increased calorie consumption: A cluttered environment and feeling out of control.

But another study sheds light here as well...

The office made them do it


This same fascinating notion came up in research at the University of Minnesota on how messy rooms - in this case, in an office setting - can affect our eating behavior.

The experiment put participants either in a messy office, with papers and supplies scattered all over, or in an orderly, uncluttered office.  No differences other than that - same furniture, same light, same view out the window. 

Results?

The people in both offices were given a choice of snack - an apple or a chocolate bar.  Those in the orderly office were more likely to choose the apple.

Conclusion?

As one of the research team put it, “…an orderly environment leads to more desirable, normatively good behaviors.”

OK…but why?


This all makes intuitive sense, to a large degree. But it always kicks my curiosity into high gear when I see how much our behavior can be affected by factors we have no idea are in play (like the color of a room or a restaurant’s décor can affect our mood and behavior).

So… why?

One suggestion I like is that “Clutter is a constant reminder of tasks left undone and problems unsolved.”

There’s no science-based yes or no on that suggestion, but I’ll give it an intuited yes. Fascinating to note that even though the messes encountered in the research were not even of the subject’s own doing - they still sent that message: tasks unfinished, problems unsolved.

Response?  Subconscious anxiety.  Response to anxiety?  Often enough, overeating.

So clean up your act


Could it be any simpler to take a hint here?

At the end of the day, it comes down to mindfulness, doesn’t it?  Now that you know your familiar, everyday kitchen, dining room, TV lounge or office environment can negatively affect your eating behavior (if these spaces tend to be cluttered or disorganized) it might be time to clean up your act.

And here’s a bonus tip.

Another way to eat less is to use smaller plates and bowls.  A big plate or bowl subconsciously begs for big portions, which then beg to be eaten.  No one likes to leave food on the table.

Exception: if it’s fresh fruits or veggies, or other healthy foods, stick with the big plates or bowls.  But clean up after you’re done eating!

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