Can Clutter Cause Overeating?
Last updated: April 2022
Does clutter lead to overeating?
Maybe, especially if you’re feeling out of control or stressed out.
Two kitchens were set up for the experiment: One neat and tidy, one messy and cluttered. One hundred women were asked to write an essay, some about a time when they felt in control, others about a time they felt out of control. They were also given free access to cookies, crackers, and carrots, and were told to eat as much as they wanted.
The women who were in the messy kitchen and were told to write about a time they felt out of control consumed about twice as many calories from cookies as those who were in the neat kitchen and wrote about the same subject.
In addition, the women who wrote about a time they felt in control while in the messy kitchen also consumed fewer calories than those who wrote about the same subject while in the cluttered kitchen. (In other words: The women who ate the most calories from cookies were in the messy kitchen and had to think about a time in their life they felt out of control.)
The authors of the study had this to say, "The results suggest that an individual's mindset can moderate the impact of a chaotic environment on food intake, particularly for sweet foods."
What does this mean for you? Well, it’s hard to know for sure, but it seems like if the environment you’re in is cluttered or messy, and you add on top of that a feeling of being stressed or out of control, you’re likely to eat more sweet stuff.
Here are some ways to avoid having this wreck your healthy eating plans:
- Well, uh, you should probably tidy the areas where you are most likely to eat. Is your kitchen at home spotless, but your desk at work (where you cram down lunch) a complete disaster? Clean it up! And if your kitchen is a constant disaster area, maybe spend a weekend getting it organized and come up with a plan to keep it that way.
- Try to avoid eating when you’re feeling out of control, especially in an environment that’s cluttered. If going to your sister’s house stresses you out and it’s always covered in a layer of cat hair and candy wrappers, maybe eat before you go over there.
- Work on your mindset. Sure, this study points to the clutter having something to do with overeating, but immersing yourself in a story about a time when you felt out of control was clearly very important to the overeating, too. If you feel overwhelmed and are about to eat a meal or snack, try taking 5-10 deep breaths before chowing down.
- Work on clutter in all areas of your life. If the piles of old magazines and boxes of memorabilia from your senior year in high school are taking over your garage and your mind, who’s to say it’s not also causing you to turn to an extra serving of ice cream when you head to the kitchen?
Do you find it difficult to "eat right" and stick to a nutrition plan?