Hopefully, "home" is a word with which you have a happy association. If, however, you’re like most Americans, there are facets of your home that may be working against your health.
Scientists have been looking at the causes of obesity and chronic illness, and some have found that they can be exacerbated by how we arrange and relate to the spaces we live in. But by making a few simple changes, we can break our bad home habits. Below is a list of ways your home might be hurting you, along with tips on how to rearrange your home for better health and weight loss results.
1. Your cupboards are full of empty calories
“Whether it’s ice cream, cookies, candy, chips or other items, just knowing that your trigger foods are in the kitchen or office desk can derail any healthy eating program,” says Christine M. Palumbo, a Chicago-area registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant. “This is especially true between 3 p.m. and bedtime, when cravings tend the be the most difficult to ignore.” One of the best ways to overcome a craving is to keep the tempting foods out of the house. Can’t imagine kicking your favorite cookies out of the house for good? NYC-based registered dietitian Leah Kaufman suggests individually portioning the foods you tend to overeat. If you know each Ziploc bag of cookies is 150 calories, you’ll be less likely to go back for a second serving.
2. You're letting too much light into your bedroom
More and more research is shedding light on the relationship between a getting good night’s sleep and a healthy weight. According to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, research participants who slept in the darkest rooms were 21 percent less likely to be obese than those sleeping in the lightest rooms. That connection is tied to the main sleep hormone produced by our bodies, melatonin. Too little melatonin means that we don’t properly get into sleep mode, which you can also think of as slimming mode. Lose the night light and look into getting some blackout curtains for a darkness-induced boost to your weight loss goals.
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3. Your gadgets live in the bedroom
A study in the Pediatric Obesity journal found that kids who bask in the nighttime glow of a TV or computer tend to have poorer lifestyle habits and are less likely to get enough rest. Researchers found that students with access to one electronic device were 1.47 times as likely to be overweight as kids with no devices in the bedroom. That increased to 2.57 times for kids with three devices—so leave your iPad in the living room.
4. Your plates and bowls are the wrong size and color
Put the same amount of food on a big plate and then on a moderately sized plate. It’s highly likely that you’ll perceive the amount of food on the larger plate as being less because you can see more plate showing. When serving food onto bigger plates, we subconsciously want to fill the empty space—and end up piling on more. Research from Cornell showed that both adults and kids poured more cereal into larger bowls and consumed 44 percent more calories. Another study from Cornell demonstrated that the color of the plate could have a significant effect on the amount of grub unwittingly heaped on to it. In the study, participants who served themselves pasta alfredo on a white plate loaded their plate with 22 percent more pasta than those who were given red plates. The goal, say scientists, is to create a greater degree of contrast between the food you’re eating and the plate it’s sitting on.
5. Your fruit is hiding in the fridge
If healthy food is placed out of sight, you're less likely to eat it. But why is it out of view in the first place? Most fruits don’t need to be refrigerated, and it’s aesthetically appealing to keep it out. Get yourself a fruit bowl and fill it with colorful, healthful items like apples, oranges and pears. Another great way to be tempted by healthful fruit while livening up the look of your kitchen is to get yourself a banana hook. You can also pre-slice vegetables and put them in clear containers front-and-center in the fridge for easy snacking.
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6. Your thermostat is set too high
A recent study published in the journal Diabetes suggests that simply blasting the air conditioner or turning down the heat in winter may help us attack belly fat while we sleep. Colder temperatures subtly enhance the effectiveness of our stores of brown fat—the fat that keeps you warm by helping you burn through the fat stored in your belly. Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: A neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the subjects had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat. (And yes, that means they were able to lose belly fat.)
7. Your lights are too dim in the morning
After a bad night’s sleep, the hormones that control hunger can go haywire and make us crave junk food. That’s bad, but it can get worse if you don’t get some light into your life first thing when you wake up. Sleep-deprived adults who experience dim light in the morning have lower concentrations of leptin (a hormone that makes us feel full), showed a study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology. The study showed that those in blue light (the kind from energy-efficient bulbs) had higher leptin levels. So once you're vertical, throw open blackout curtains, or if it’s still dark out, turn on energy efficient lights.
8. You have too many TV screens
The science is in: The more TV you consume, the greater your risk of becoming obese. Lose the TV set in your kitchen; having one in there will cause you to linger around tempting food. Once you’ve cut down on the amount of physical televisions in your life, reduce the amount of television programs in your life by watching only the shows you love.
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9. Your living room is too cozy
After a long day at work, it’s tempting to flop on your cozy couch and not move until it's bedtime. It doesn't make a difference whether you're reading, online shopping or even continuing to do work from the office— you’re still on your butt, and that’s bad. Scientists are still figuring out exactly why sitting is so detrimental to health, but one obvious and partial explanation is that the less we move, the less fuel we require; the surplus blood sugar floods the bloodstream and contributes to diabetes and other weight-related risks.
10. Your exercise gear is tucked away
When dumbbells, stationary bikes, and treadmills are out of sight, they are out of mind—which can leave you out of shape. Rather than keeping your workout necessities in the basement, relocate them to places in your house where you like to hang out. Perhaps the treadmill finds a home next to a south-facing window.