Is Your House Making You Fat?

In 2015, a study is published in the ‘International Journal of Obesity’ reported that researchers at the Ohio State University have identified a strong predictor of obesity: Keeping food visibly available around the house, outside the kitchen.

The study focused on whether the home environment, like the architectural features and food storage and availability, was associated with obesity. The researchers found that people who were obese kept more food visible throughout the house and generally ate less-healthy foods, such as sweets. Said Charles Emery, professor of psychology at Ohio State and lead author of the study, “In the homes of the obese, food was distributed in more locations outside the kitchen. That speaks to the environment being arranged in a way that may make it harder to avoid eating food.” The study also looked at details like the distance between favoured spots in the house and food storage as well as stairs and doors that might be obstacles to food access. The researchers, who were also a part of the University’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, noted that even though metabolic and genetic factors contribute to obesity, we should be thinking about the home as a place to start helping us establish healthier habits and behaviours.

Another report in 2014, that of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, concluded that the home, which is an important microenvironment in obesity, can trigger behaviours both positively and negatively associated with weight status. It clearly plays a role in terms of easy access to high-fat snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks as also the methods used for cooking – like frying versus baking – in order to make a difference.

Here are a couple of ways in which your house makes you pack on pounds and here’s what you can do about it:

Overflowing cabinets: If you routinely shop for more and stuff your cabinets with all kinds of quick snacks and junk foods, and if you also have them strewn around the house on your counters, fridge, or open shelves, you will only set yourself up to trigger a craving. Clean out your cabinets regularly. Get rid of expired foods you bought, without feeling forced tofinish them off to avoid the waste of money. Think it through when you shop for food next. What is it that you really need? Is it good for your waistline?

Hidden fruits & veggies: If your fruits and veggies are languishing in the fridge drawers, you may not see or remember them easily and, instead, reach out for a packet of chips lying on the counter. Some fruits and vegetables don’t need constant refrigeration. Buy an attractive fruit bowl or basket and let it sit where you can see it easily so you’re more likely to grab a piece. Pre-slicing fruits and veggies and putting them in clear containers in the front-and-centre of the fridge for easy snacking is also a good idea.

Exercise equipment buried under stuff: If you use the exercise cycle to hang bags or clothes on, if your dumbbells are hiding under the beds, if the Yoga mat is standing behind some door, out of sight, you would rather languish in front of the TV than take the trouble to use the equipment. Keep your dumbbells next to your chair or sofa so you remember to use them while watching TV. Set up the exercise bike by a window and there are more chances of you spending a few minutes on it.

Relooking at your guests: Do you spend your spare time with those who like to vegetate in front of the TV screen with drinks and junk foods? Are you inviting more of this type over? In that case, is there any surprise that you have become a lot like them? There’s no need to lose your friends just because they have bad health habits but look for those who are doing the right thing, and have them over, too. If they like to eat nutritious foods, you’re more likely to adopt their habits.

Under-lit house: If you keep curtains closed and like low lighting because it makes the house look cozy, you have a problem. In a report from the ‘International Journal of Endocrinology’ study, sleep-deprived adults who were exposed to dim light in the morning had lower concentrations of the fullness hormone leptin, and craved junk snacks. When you wake up, open your curtains and windows to allow natural sunlight in and turn on lamps and overhead lights. In the evening, a dimly lit house will make you get into a sleepy, sedentary mode much before bedtime. Change into active clothes, turn on lights, and play peppy music.

TVs everywhere: Get rid of the TV from your bedroom and if you keep one in the dining room or kitchen, you will save yourself from lingering in front of it and snacking unnecessarily. Eating evening meals, other meals, and snacks in front of the television is extremely common. Cut down on your TV time, be choosy with your shows, and you’ll get more active without even trying.

The size of plates & bowls: According to research studies, a plate’s physical appearance, particularly its size and colour, can influence calorie intake. If you have large plates, bowls, and glasses, you may be over-serving yourself at meals without even knowing it. You could use smaller, salad-size plates to see if it helps you reduce portion sizes without feeling cheated or curb the impulse to fill a large plate all the way up by measuring out your portions before plating them.

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