Health Reports for Current Health Concerns

Clutter Can Be Unhealthy

Problem: Cluttered kitchens encourage overeating.

Solution: Create an atmosphere that is conducive to eating well.

Keeping your kitchen clean is the brand new, painless weight loss tip that you’ve probably never heard before! Yes, that’s right, it doesn’t require counting calories or carbs! On its own, it won’t cause you to lose 10 pounds, but if you are trying to lose 10 pounds, it may help you.

Whether you eat meals in your office or your dining room, the same principle applies. The idea is that the environment you eat in affects how much you eat, and even what you eat. It makes sense logically, and recent research shows that it makes a difference.

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, cluttered countertops, the works.

A 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 an orderly kitchen. Guess what? The women waiting in the messy kitchen ate twice as many cookies compared to the women waiting in the orderly kitchen.

The researchers also wondered whether a woman’s frame of mind might be a factor in calorie consumption. They had the two groups of women write something on a piece of paper before they entered the room. One group was told to write about a time they felt out of control. The other group wrote about a time when they felt in control. The women who entered the kitchen with negative thoughts in mind ate 100 calories more. This study shows that cluttered feelings also factor into overeating.

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.

One of the research teams states, “…an orderly environment leads to more desirable, normatively good behaviors.”

Also, “clutter is a constant reminder of tasks left undone and problems unsolved.”

If you think about it, it makes sense. If you are in a clean kitchen, you have a subconscious sense of respect and appreciation. Kitchens are a place that are for one purpose and one purpose only: food. It makes you feel that food deserves a good decision.

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.

Since I know that in about 10 minutes you’ll be busily cleaning up your cabinets, I’ll share with you another tip to keep in mind while you’re tidying up: dish size. Dish size easily becomes portion size. Owning dishes that encourage large portions is not a good idea.

At the same time, investing in smaller dishes is an easy way to watch those portions! Take the time to decide which dishes you want to keep, and which you should make some money on by selling or giving away. Once you’ve sorted through and made some empty shelves, go out and get some new ones that will help you to lose weight, instead of getting in the way.

Action Plan: Go tidy up your kitchen. If it’s chaotic, put some structure into place. For example, make sure each of the cabinets are organized logically. Cups with cups, bowls with bowls. If your kitchen is already clean, check the sizes of your dishes.