Aside from work, you spend most of your hours at home. And it should function as a respite from the lure of the fast food joint on every corner, or the ease of buying a candy bar from the vending machine. But if your home isn’t set up right, it may be encouraging bad habits. One way to win the battle? “You can restructure your home environment to protect yourself from unhealthy food and a sedentary lifestyle,”says Sherry Pagoto, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the division of preventative and behavioral medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. From organizing your kitchen to your thermostat setting, read on to discover 5 ways your home may slyly cause you to pack on pounds.
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Your cabinets are overflowing
If your cabinets are so stuffed that you need to put food on your counters, fridge, or exposed shelving, you’re setting yourself up to trigger a craving. “A bag of potato chips or candy out in the open will put the food on your radar when you walk by. The minute you see that visual cue, you want it,” says Pagoto.
The fix: Clean out your pantry on a regular basis. Get rid of expired food and stuff you bought that you don’t like and won’t eat (but keep around anyway)—even if it’s healthy. Or, come up with alternate storage plans, like a cabinet in your basement.
Your apples are in the fridge
On the other hand, if healthy food is hidden, you’re less likely to eat it. That’s especially true if you keep fruits that don’t need to be refrigerated (like apples or pears) or whole veggies tucked away in the crisper drawers. When you’re busy, it’s faster to rip open a bag of chips than cut cruditès.
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The fix: Buy a pretty fruit bowl or basket so you’re more inclined to fill it; display in plain sight so you’re more likely to grab a piece. Pre-slice veggies and put them in clear containers front-and-center in the fridge for easy snacking.
Your thermostat is set too high
The fact that you can go anywhere—your home, the office, a store—and the temperature is set at somewhere-in-the-70s comfortable is a surprising contributor to obesity, say experts. Your body simply doesn’t have to work to expend energy to warm itself up, suggests a 2014 study in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. The result: your metabolism sputters.
The fix: Turn down your thermostat a few degrees. Being cold activates your brown fat, which actually spurs your metabolism and improves glucose sensitivity. If the change is too abrupt, start with one degree and gradually decrease the temperature. You’ll quickly adapt to the chillier temp, note researchers.
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You’re inviting the wrong people over
“Look at who your friends are,” says James O. Hill, PhD, director of the Colorado Nutrition Obesity Research Center. “You’re going to behave similarly to the people you spend time with.” If your friends are more the type to sit around and drink beer and eat chips, then you will be, too.
The fix: Okay, no one’s saying to lose your friends—no matter how bad their health habits. “Look for friends who are doing the right thing, and have them over, too,” says Dr. Hill. If they’re more active and like to eat nutritious foods, you’re more likely to adopt their habits. Conversely, their attitude can rub off on your less-than-virtuous pals.
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Your lights are too dim
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body scrambles hormone levels that control hunger, making you crave junk food. In one 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, while those in blue light (the kind from energy-efficient bulbs) had higher leptin levels.
The fix: When you wake up, open your shades to allow natural sunlight in and turn on lamps and overhead lights. Bonus: It’ll also help you wake up faster.