Turns out, you're not just what you eat -- you're also where you eat.
Researchers from Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab found that study participants snacked on double the number of calories when standing in a messy kitchen compared to when they stood in an orderly one.
The researchers had 98 women spend 10 minutes in a kitchen, under the guise of asking them to wait for someone. Half of the participants stood in a cluttered kitchen, which was scattered with piles of newspapers and dirty dishes and had a ringing phone. The other half of the women waited in an organized kitchen.
Both kitchens contained bowls of crackers, cookies and carrots, laid out for the participants to munch on. Each woman in the chaotic environment ate twice as many cookies -- a total of 53 more calories -- compared to those in the clean kitchen.
Why did this happen?
"Being in a chaotic environment and feeling out of control is bad for diets," psychology professor and study author Lenny Vartanian said in a statement. "It seems to lead people to think, ‘Everything else is out of control, so why shouldn’t I be?’”
Vartanian said he suspects the same behavior would be true for men, but he'd need to confirm it with research.
While the study's sample size was small, the findings emphasize something we know all too well: Stress is bad for you. Stress often causes people to overeat, as cortisol, the stress hormone, can trigger an increase in appetite. Beyond weight gain, too much stress can also increase a person's heart rate, decrease sex drive and lead to painful conditions like headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers.
While there are many ways to manage stress, including meditation, exercise and therapy, this particular study underscores the fact that there are easy and quick things you can do to find calm. The next time you procrastinate tidying up the kitchen, remember that the exercise will benefit you in so many ways. Plus, less clutter decreases the chances of unwanted, four-legged kitchen visitors coming around.
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