Clutter and Weight – What is the Connection?
“People with messy kitchens or cluttered desks at work snack 44% more than if their kitchen or desk is clear” – Professor Brian Wansink, Cornell University
Every day we’re exposed to a torrent of information and advice about healthy eating and the importance of exercise. This information is fairly consistent in telling us what to eat, and how to exercise, in order to stay in shape.
We have shopping trolleys full of fresh, lean protein. Our fridges groan with colourful vegetables. We grill; never fry. But yet our waistbands feel tight, and the pounds refuse to budge.
Is your kitchen full of “stuff”?”
Research shows that the omnipresent “pile of stuff” in our kitchens may be why we’re piling on the pounds.
Seeking solid data on this, Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab examined the eating behaviours of groups of women in two very different environments.
The first group of women were placed in a clutter-free kitchen.
The second were made to wait in a similar kitchen but it had a dish-filled sink and constantly ringing phone. These women were also asked to recall a recent stressful experience.
Both kitchens contained a plate of biscuits.
Guess what? In just ten minutes, the women who were exposed to mess and chaos had consumed twice the calories of those in the calmer environment.
Is clutter making you fatter?
The study leads us to speculate that messy spaces outside reflect messy states inside; and vice versa. When we’re feeling chaotic, our living spaces become chaotic. Stressed and overwhelmed we reach for the easiest fix which, for some of us, is the biscuit tin or that last tempting bit of bread or cheese.
With half the UK population overweight, and obesity an issue for adults and children, it’s time we finally curbed mindless snacking. But how? Cornell’s food psychologist and behavioural economist Professor Brian Wansink thinks he has the answer.
Based on the premise that ”becoming slim by design works better than trying to become slim by willpower”, Wansink thinks we can start to regain the loss of control that’s making us mindlessly snack in the first place by creating calm and clutter-free kitchens.
Using research data from his Cornell lab, Wansink’s book “Slim By Design” reveals how mindless eating episodes can be reduced by setting up living environments where we are not constantly testing our willpower.
You can design your kitchen to avoid mindless snacking
Here are 5 of Wansink’s top tips to become slimmer by design:
- Declutter your kitchen
- Move your junk food to the most out-of-sight cupboard
- Never have chocolate, biscuits or cereal out on your surfaces (people who do are likely to weigh on average 10 – 21 pounds more than they would do otherwise)
- Do have a bowl of fruit on an easily reached surface
- Reduce the size of your dinner plates. Bigger plates = more calories
Your kitchen must-have guide
Part of Wansink’s philosophy is to extend focus beyond what we’re stocking our kitchens with. He thinks it’s time to examine how we’re arranging what’s in them.
In his view, what actually belongs in kitchens is surprisingly simple:
● Food you’re going to eat
● Something to prepare it with
● Something to eat it on
● Something to clean it up with afterwards
That’s it. No piles of paper, sun cream, tissues, toys, printers, bags or glasses cases; just some of the things I’ve decluttered from kitchens this week!
How can I de-clutter my kitchen? I don’t know where to start!
Whether or not you are worried about your weight, you can start to declutter your kitchen today! Don’t know where to start? Here’s a handy guide:
- Do your washing up/empty the dishwasher; put everything away
- Clean all your surfaces
- Sweep and mop the floor
- Recycle every piece of paper that does not need to be kept, such as old newspapers, school letters and piles of unwanted notes to yourself, or kids’ drawings
- Label four boxes with “keep”, “store”, “donate” and “throw out”
- Work shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer, in 20 minute chunks
- Once you’ve finished each shelf or drawer, clean it
- Organise your “keep” items so things you use often are most accessible to you
If the thought of doing all this makes you feel anxious and exhausted, contact me. (If you think you should be able to tidy your kitchen all by yourself, you might like to read this)
Further reading “Lose The Clutter, Lose the Weight” by Peter Walsh