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Stressed Out in a Messy Kitchen: Is It Making You Overeat?

By Expert HERWriter
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Stressing Out in a Messy Kitchen: Is It Making You Overeat? martinfredy/Fotolia

A new study shows that a messy kitchen can cause people to eat more junk food than a clean kitchen. Looking at a messy space may cause people to feel out of control, and the state of your surroundings can contribute to your weight.

“Being in a chaotic environment and feeling out of control is bad for diets,” explained lead author Lenny Vartanian, PhD, in a press release. “It seems to lead people to think, ‘Everything else is out of control, so why shouldn’t I be?’”

The Cornell Food and Brand Lab evaluated reactions of women in a recent study. Half of the participants were placed in a neat and quiet kitchen. The other half of the women were placed in a messy, loud kitchen with dirty dishes and papers everywhere.

Both kitchens had snacks such as carrots, crackers and cookies on the table available for the participants to eat.

Those in a messy kitchen ate more — actually twice as many cookies as those in the neat kitchen — about 53 calories more in 10 minutes.

The study went a step further and created a writing exercise that stressed out some of the women before they entered the kitchen. These women ate 100 calories more than women who had been given an exercise to be calm before they entered the kitchen.

When our bodies are stressed and release the cortisol hormone, this encourages us to eat. A Harvard Health Publications article entitled “Why stress causes people to overeat” reported that “the adrenal glands release another hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat.”

They said that one-fourth of Americans consider their stress level an 8 on a 10-point scale. That means that many people are releasing cortisol as part of a continuing stressed state they are living in.

The Harvard article goes on to state, “Stress also seems to affect food preferences. Numerous studies — granted, many of them in animals — have shown that physical or emotional distress increases the intake of food high in fat, sugar, or both.”

The high-fat, high-sugar foods have an effect that inhibits the part of the brain that contribute to stress and emotions.

The Surprising Reason You Might Be Overeating and What to Do About It. Time.com. 10 March 2016.

Why stress causes people to overeat. Harvard Health Publications Harvard Medical School. 10 March 2016.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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