Can Clutter in the Kitchen Affect Your Appetite?
It’s not just your mindset that can shape your eating habits. Your environment also plays a role. And in the case of your kitchen, a pile of dirty dishes can affect you in ways you don’t know.
This post was originally published in The Conversation .
Anyone who has ever tried to cut back on sweets has probably heard that all it takes is “mind is more important than matter.”
But new research by Lenny Vartanian of UNSW Australia and Christine Kernan and Brian Vansink of Cornell University sheds light on how your thinking interacts with your environment and influences your eating behavior, particularly unhealthy snacking.
Want leftover food? How Your Environment Affects Your Self-Control
It also ties in with the idea that your state of mind influences your behavior at any given moment. For example, a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology showed how thinking about friends and family can reduce violent behavior after a romantic partner rejects you or gets fired from your job. And self-affirmation , which involves writing the most important values, can mitigate the negative effects of threatening or stressful situations.
Then, by combining two different theories of behavior, Vartanyan and his colleagues uncover unique ways that humans interact with the world around them, helping or hindering healthy eating.
In their study, the researchers asked 100 female students to taste and rate cookies, crackers, and carrots, which the participants felt was the real experiment: the taste rating. However, the real experiment began when the experimenters asked the participants to eat the leftover food.
The activities leading up to this diner varied greatly. The participants either found themselves in a messy kitchen filled with papers, pots and pans, and in noisy riots, or in a clean, calm and orderly kitchen.
In this diverse kitchen environment, the participants were also prepared for one of three worldviews. Some were told to write about a time when they felt particularly depressed. Others have described an incident in which they felt collected. Finally, the control group simply wrote about the last lecture they attended.
So who ate the most? Perhaps unsurprisingly, women who were determined to lose control – and who sat in a chaotic kitchen – ate significantly more cookies than other subjects.
However, in all other conditions, the results did not differ significantly. For example, in an orderly kitchen, women who wrote that they were out of control did not eat significantly more cookies than those who were determined to feel like they were in control.
Environment and willpower
These results indicate an interesting and unique interaction – only the combination of a feeling of loss of control and being in a chaotic environment resulted in higher cookie consumption. While further research is needed to confirm these results, these results suggest that a sense of control may serve as a defense against the effects of a chaotic environment, while having an ordered environment may serve as a defense against the effects of a feeling of uncontrollability.
It is also noteworthy that neither the state of the kitchen nor the preparation for work affected the consumption of crackers or carrots. This suggests that perhaps only our unhealthy addictions are subject to the combined influence of thinking and the environment.
Other health-related behaviors can also be susceptible to the dual forces of thinking and the environment. For example, when we come home from work exhausted and are about to run, but we really don’t feel it, a sunny day may prompt us to put on our sneakers and still go, or less optimal weather conditions may give us an excuse. we need to stay on the couch.
The results of this study are certainly compelling. But as a mindset student, I thought there were some areas to explore further.
The authors use a self-regulation model of willpower to explain their results. This model argues that willpower is a limited resource, and that stress depletes our limited willpower, leaving us less willpower to use in other areas of our lives. However, other research suggests that it is actually our beliefs about whether willpower is a finite resource that determines whether it is actually prone to depletion. Those who believe they have excess will show higher levels of self-control – even under stress.
The authors also point out that a limitation of this study was the lack of a specific measure to validate post-priming thinking. Without such an assessment, we cannot be sure that this experiment actually caused uncontrolled or uncontrolled thinking, although past priming studies suggest that the study design of Vartanian and his colleagues should have been effective, at least for feeling priming. to be in control or to be out of control.
However, compared to feelings, thinking is generally considered more stable over time . It’s unclear if this study really sparked a new way of thinking, or just aimed participants at a specific but fleeting frame of reference that could quickly disappear after the experiment ends.
So, while past research suggests that a chaotic environment can be a risk factor for unhealthy choices, the findings of Vartanian and colleagues complement this work by showing how a mindset can act as a buffer or a means of support.
What does this mean for those of us trying to eat fewer cookies and ice cream? When we feel the urge to satisfy our sweet tooth, it may be in our best interest to remember times when we felt particularly in control. And it also wouldn’t hurt to take care of the pile of dirty dishes in the sink.