Integrative Nutrition Blog

A Messy Kitchen Can Cause Overeating

March 10, 2016

Image via Shutterstock

Winter is almost over, so chances are you’re gearing up for some major spring cleaning - or cleansing. Whether you plan to organize your closet, go on a detox, or dust all the furniture - don’t forget to tidy up the kitchen, too! A study published last month in the journal Environment and Behavior actually found that a cluttered cooking space can lead to overeating.

As part of the “Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption” study conducted by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, 101 female undergrad students were put in standard kitchen and chaotic kitchen environments and were asked to write about a time when they felt in control or out of control. Next, they were given cookies, crackers and carrots. The result? Participants in the “chaotic kitchen” who were asked to write about feeling out of control consumed about twice the cookie calories as the people in the in-control situation. Interestingly, the chaotic environment didn’t impact how many crackers or carrots they ate.

The researchers concluded that a chaotic environment can actually make people more susceptible to eating unhealthy food, but the person’s mindset within that environment can either trigger or protect against overeating. In the messy kitchen, women who wrote about a time they felt in control consumed fewer cookie calories than the women who wrote about being out of control.

As Cornell researchers pointed out, our mindset affects whether we will overeat unhealthy foods while in a messy kitchen. If we go into the kitchen with an “in-control” attitude, we might not eat as many cookies. But then again, why not try out cleaning up the kitchen and see what it does?

At Integrative Nutrition, we talk a lot about Primary Food: everything that feeds you that doesn’t come on a plate. It’s your career, relationships, physical activity, and spirituality; and your home environment is a big part of that nourishment. So whether you tidy up your kitchen or feng shui your living room – being mindful of your living space (just like your diet!) can have a positive effect on health.

So what’s the best way to set yourself and your kitchen up for success?

Start with a simple task like cleaning and putting away the dishes. Then you can make your way through the room, cleaning out your fridge and organizing your pantry and cabinets. Chances are, there are plenty of expired foods in there! By cleaning the kitchen, you’re more likely to clean up your diet.

We’d like to hear from you - does the state of your kitchen affect the way you eat? Share in the comments below!

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