11 Ways Your House is Making You Fat
How the layout, colors, design, and accessories in your home can be adding inches to your waistline
Did you know that your weight gain might be less about your willpower and more about how you've decorated your home? Factors like the colors of your walls, how you store your food, or whether your bedroom is comfortable enough can all contribute to your eating habits and stress levels. Read on to learn about the dozen ways your home could be tricking you into chowing down and gaining weight.
According to the Pantone Color Institute, the color red increases blood pressure, heart rate, and appetite. Yellow increases energy, happiness, and—you guessed it—appetite. If any of the rooms in your house are painted in the warm colors of red, orange, or yellow—especially the kitchen or dining room—you are subliminally urging yourself to eat more.
On the other hand, the color blue has been shown to be an appetite suppressant. Because blue rarely occurs as food in nature (more often indicating rot or mold that can make you ill), humans have no appetite response to it. Paint the kitchen aqua, buy a blue light for your fridge, or serve dinner on blue dishware to help fend off cravings.
If you are constantly looking at junk food, you will constantly eat junk food. That's because "you are three times more likely to eat the first thing you see than the fifth thing you see," says by Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. To take advantage of this out-of-sight, out-of-mind effect, banish bad foods to upper cabinets and remote pantries. Instead, shelve healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts at eye level on the counter or in the refrigerator. Leaving sugary or salty snacks out will only encourage you to eat when you notice them.
Try changing the way traffic moves through your kitchen. Another study from Wansink's Cornell lab shows that people who pass through the kitchen during the day tend to eat 15 percent more than people who don't. If a side or back door into the kitchen is the primary way your family goes in and out of the house, try using the front door more to avoid food temptations. If you work at the kitchen table or talk on the telephone in the kitchen, you will be even more encouraged to take part in mindless eating, so move those activities elsewhere.
Having lots of comfy chairs at a breakfast bar encourages camping out in the kitchen. Likewise, a living room full of recliners will lead to excessive lounging. A 2005 Mayo Clinic study that followed both lean and mildly obese people found that obese people sat at least 150 minutes more each day. Living rooms should be comfortable, but if you're going to spend a lot of time in there watching TV, consider keeping manual exercise equipment (like hand weights and resistance bands) accessible in a basket, storage ottoman, or decorative chest instead of stashing them in a closet. If you have a treadmill, consider giving it a home in the living room and squeeze in some exercise in during your favorite shows.
Without fresh foods, your diet becomes unhealthy very quickly. The best way to get them is to grow them yourself—you're more likely to want to eat foods you've worked hard to cultivate. But even if you don't have the skills or patience to put in a vegetable garden, there are still some simple windowsill herbs you could grow to encourage cravings for fresh, healthy food. The scent of jasmine can help increase energy levels and get you going. Lavender helps you relax and sleep better. (Sleep deprivation is strongly tied to weight gain.) Peppermint aromas are known to suppress appetite; in one study at Wheeling Jesuit University, people who smelled peppermint once every two hours for a week consumed 1,800 fewer calories in a week than when they were given a placebo instead.
Also See: Best Plants for a Healthy, Organic Garden.
On average, people eat 92 percent of what they have on the plate in front of them, rather than just stopping when they feel full, according to Brian Wansink, a food expert who does extensive research on food psychology and is the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Use a 10-inch plate instead of a 12-inch plate and you'll serve yourself 22 percent less food. Wansink also proved that subjects eating soup from a bowl with a hidden tube that slowly refilled it ate 73 percent more than those eating from a regular bowl—without feeling as if they had eaten more. So defer to smaller china and take a break before you decide to refill it.
People who sleep only 5 hours a night are more likely to be obese than those who get the recommended 7 to 8 hours. According to a Stanford University study, this is because sleep deprivation increases the hormone ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant, while decreasing leptin, which is an appetite controller. If you are having trouble sleeping, fix the problems that could be causing it: invest in blackout curtains, find better pillows, or try a mattress topper. You can also work on sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and nicotine at night, and not going to bed when you are hungry or have just eaten. If you tend to work on the laptop or watch TV from bed, consider banishing the electronics altogether.
For tips on how to make your bedroom more sleep-friendly, see Outfit Your Bedroom for a Better Night's Sleep.
There is a reason restaurants turn their lights down, and it isn't just to set the mood. A study by the University of California-Irvine concluded that dark rooms lead to more binge eating since people tend to feel less inhibited in the dark. A well-lit kitchen will make for more careful food prep and may discourage snacking. Bright lights (and natural light) throughout the house will also keep your energy levels up, although if the lighting is too bright your energy will be so high you'll eat faster and consume too much before you know you're full. So consider moderating the lighting to somewhere between romantic restaurant and blinding cafeteria.
Houses built in the last few decades are on average bigger than older homes, which would be great if you would just jog around the house more often. But large modern houses often have a central great room where everything is conveniently located on one level. Which means you're only climbing the stairs to go to bed. Instead of waiting until the end of the evening to take a climb, take advantage of any opportunities to hit another level. Don't leave items to accumulate at the bottom landing for a later trip—go ahead and make a quick, cardio-filled run up the steps. A 155-lb person burns about 10 calories per minute climbing stairs. The more trips you take, the more calories you burn.
Plenty of modern luxuries save us time while robbing us of calorie-burning opportunities. Scrubbing the dishes by hand (versus letting the dishwasher do the work) burns approximately 160 calories in a half hour, according to Fitday.com. Instead of using those blenders, automatic mixers, and electric can openers, do the work manually. You could even forsake your dryer and use a good, old-fashioned clothesline; just carrying a full laundry basket from the laundry room to the yard and back upstairs can burn up to 100 calories. You can keep using the vacuum, but consider doing half the job with one hand then switching to the other for a full arm "workout."
Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast—and stimulate appetite, apparently. Researchers at Georgia State University showed that listening to music prompts people to eat and drink more and for a longer period of time, regardless of whether the music is soothing soul or crashing rock. On a related note, television watching prompts people to eat more frequently. So shut off the tunes and switch off the TV at dinnertime to keep your meals from getting out of hand.