Can’t lose weight? Redecorate

by Camille on May 5, 2010

If you want to slim down, don’t bother swearing off sweets or vowing to never eat another French fry. Instead, a new Cornell University study suggests you should take a long hard look at your house–especially your kitchen.

The study–conducted by the brilliant Brian Wansink, who I’ve interviewed several times over the years–asked 200 people to change one of three things: their environment; their eating behaviors; or their food choices.

Guess which group found it easiest to stick to their diet and lost the most weight? People who tweaked their surroundings.

The crazy thing is, they didn’t Feng Shui their dining rooms or put padlocks on their fridge. They made super simple changes, like:

-Using a small plate (10 inches or less) so their plates looked full when they ate smaller servings.
-Hiding candy dishes and putting healthy food (like fresh fruit) in visible places.
-Cleaning out cupboards so it’s easy to spot nutritious choices.
-Keeping computers, Blackberries and TVs out of eating areas, including the kitchen (distracted dining is one of the easiest ways to eat more than you mean to!).

The payoff was impressive: Over three months, the change-your-environment participants (who were overweight but not obese) lost one to two pounds per tip followed each month.

Interestingly, Wansink found that consistency was a huge factor in whether weight watching participants were successful in their efforts to slim down; if people were able to follow a tip for at least 20 days out of the month, they were able to make real and lasting change, allowing them to lose weight.

For more simple ways to avoid fat traps around your house and office–and ideas from Brian Wansink–check out this story I wrote for Glamour.

-Camille

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