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Is my kitchen making me look fat? Believe it or not, it could be one of the reasons you can’t seem to lose weight no matter how hard you try. I know that when I was trying to lose weight, making a few small changes made a big difference in how quickly the weight came – and more importantly, stayed off!
There is so much advice out there on how you can lose weight but most of it is hard to include in a daily routine. I don’t know about you but I have two little kids so spending all the time necessary to do shakes and juicing is unsustainable. I also need to be able to make foods that my kids and my husband will eat. Doing a special diet just for me and then cooking for the rest of the family is simply too much work.
The most important thing about the tips below is that they do not rely on your willpower. When it comes to food, especially food that is bad for me, I tend to lack willpower. That’s one of the reasons I avoid dieting. I prefer to spend my willpower in other places rather than resisting a cookie or a piece of cake.
I read several great books recently that made a big difference in my relationship with my food environment. I know that may sound weird but the environment around you greatly affects what you eat and how much of it you put in your mouth, and ultimately – on your hips.
The tips below will help you design your environment so that you make more healthy choices by default – no willpower required, and in turn lose weight. They take into account human nature and help you design your kitchen in such a way that you start eating healthier without trying. If you set up your kitchen for weight loss success, you will be able to lose weight without dieting or exercise.
Let’s get started on implementing some tips that will help you eat healthier and lose weight without dieting.
Clear the kitchen clutter
Having a cluttered environment can really change how much and what you eat without you even realizing what is going on. When the counters are cluttered, the sink is overflowing and you feel stressed out, your environment can play a big role in how much unhealthy food you eat. There is something about a messy kitchen that makes us feel out of control and leads us to the chips and cookies.
A study conducted at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that people who were placed in a messy environment along with healthy and unhealthy foods such as carrots, chips and cookies ended up eating more of the unhealthy foods. In addition, people who were stressed and were in a messy environment ended up eating more of the unhealthy foods.
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On the other hand, people who were placed in a clean and organized kitchen during the study eat more of the healthy foods, even if they were stressed. It’s amazing how your environment can have such an effect on how much and what kinds of foods we eat so that’s definitely something to keep in mind.
If your kitchen is anything like mine, the counters are full of mail and all kinds of items that do not belong there. Some tips to keep your counters more organized is to create landing zones for certain items and keep those corralled just to that area. Also, it’s a great idea to remove all non-essential and decorative items from your countertops. For example, if you don’t use your coffee machine daily, put it away. Do you have any canisters with pasta or coffee or decorative bowls full of fake fruit? Remove those and enjoy the added visual calm that the clear counter brings to the room.
Put tempting food out of sight
Another important trick I learned is to put any tempting foods out of sight and off the counter. Do you keep any bags of chips or cookie jars on the counter? Do you have boxes of cereal on top of the fridge? Stash those away in the pantry for an easy and painless way to lose weight and limit your snacking.
When you have unhealthy foods visible in your kitchen, it’s more likely that you will take the opportunity to have an after-work snack or a late-night bowl of cereal as you are aimlessly wandering around the kitchen. When you have tempting food sitting out within reach, it takes willpower to say no to eating it – willpower that is often depleted as the day goes on.
Removing those items from your counters takes away the temptation and preservers your willpower so you don’t have to make deals with yourself on what you will and will not eat later to compensate for the handful of chips you end up munching on as you make dinner.
Change the size of the plates, bowls and glasses you use every day
Studies have shown that we have terrible judgement when asked how much food we have eaten. Many people under-estimate and under-report the number of calories they have eaten. That is why studies that are done using self-reporting as a measurement of the food that study participants have eaten have to control for this known lack of accuracy.
One of the fascinating things about humans is that we use visual cues to determine if we are full rather than relying on our stomach to tell our brain that we are stuffed. You will continue to eat until you finish most of the food on your plate, regardless of the size of your plate. As you may have heard, there is a 20 minute lag between when you get full and when your stomach communicates to your brain that you are full.
That means that you often eat hundreds of calories more than necessary to feel full and satisfied with our food. On easy way to trick our brains into fullness is to use smaller plates and bowls. Since you use visual cues to tell you that you should be getting filled up on food, using a smaller plate means that you will feel fuller after eating a smaller amount of food.
Portion sizes have drastically increased over the years to the point that what you now use as salad plates used to actually be the size of dinner plates only 60 or 70 years ago. If you switch to using your salad plate as your dinner plate, you will eat less food and feel just as satisfied – all while losing weight effortlessly.
The same trick applies to using tall skinny glass rather than short wide ones. Studies have shown that if you give two people the same amount of juice – one in a tall skinny glass and one in a short wide one, the person with the short wide glass will drink more than the one with the tall skinny one. Since the tall skinny glass makes it visually appear that you are drinking more, it causes you to actually drink less. That’s why now I drink all of my red wine out of white wine glasses. 😉
Make unhealthy food inconvenient
Do you have a particular snack that you just love? For me that’s anything chocolate – especially Nutella. I’ve noticed that some people just love sweets and desserts and some love chips. Whatever your weakness is, I’d suggest making it inconvenient to get to the snack that you want most if you are trying to lose weight.
Pick a cabinet or a place in the pantry that is very high up and difficult to get to so that you will have to get a stepstool to get to it. Or place some kind of a lock or other clever deterrent just to make it more difficult to get to the item in question. Then when you want a snack, climb up and get that bag of chips, serve yourself a portion into a small bowl, close the bag, put it back in the cabinet, put away the stepstool and then sit down to eat your snack.
The great thing about this trick is that you don’t have to make deals with yourself about how you are going to eat a salad later on to compensate for the (family sized) bag of Cheetos you just ate while binge-watching Netflix (or maybe that’s just me?). This takes willpower out of the equation for me. If I get a serving of snacks in a bowl and sit down to watch my favorite show, I’m too lazy to get up and go through the whole process of getting more snacks from the top of the pantry. So I end up limiting myself to just the original amount and continue watching my show.
Add a fruit bowl to your kitchen counter
On the flip side of this, making something visible and easily accessible makes it more likely that you will eat it. Studies show that if you would like to eat more weight-loss-friendly foods such as fruits and vegetables, your best bet is to make them highly visible.
An easy way to eat more fruits is to add a fruit bowl to your counter in the path of a highly trafficked area. Then fill it up with washed and easy to grab and go fruits such as bananas and apples, mandarin oranges and pears. This means that anyone walking by the bowl has quick access to a healthy snack they can just grab and eat.
Make healthy foods easy to grab from the fridge
Another great way to make fruits and vegetables more likely to be eaten by you and everyone else in your household is to wash, cut and store them away in clear containers when you get them home from the store.
Stack clear containers of chopped up cucumbers, peppers, baby carrots, baby tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower florets, snap peas, celery, etc. front and center on eye level in your fridge. That way they are the first thing that you see when you open the fridge to rummage for a snack. Keeping containers of healthy dips such as hummus makes it more likely that you will reach for the veggies next time you need a snack.
You can also do this trick with fruits that need to be cut up and refrigerated. Cut up watermelon, cantaloupe, melon and pineapple, wash and prep berries and grapes and stack them in clear containers next to the veggies for another easy snack option. You can also keep containers of cottage cheese and Greek yogurt for a great protein addition to your fruit and veggies snacks.
Hide unhealthy foods in opaque containers
If you have any unhealthy leftovers or foods that you would like to limit eating in the fridge, employ the opposite trick. If you made a pan of brownies or rice crispy treats, don’t put them in clear containers. Put them in a dark container at the back of the fridge so they are out of sight and out of mind.
If you open the fridge and you see the unhealthy food in a clear container every time, you have to employ willpower not to eat it. You actually have to tell yourself that you cannot eat this food right now and that you need to make a better food choice. When you put the food in a dark container with a dark lid, you don’t have to employ willpower every time to avoid eating it. If it’s already out of sight, it’s a lot less likely you will think about it and therefore end up eating it.
Rearrange your fridge to make it easy to eat healthier
If you are trying to lose weight, one of easiest tricks you can try is putting healthy food such as fruits and vegetables front and center. On the flip side, you should put unhealthy items in dark containers to the side and back of your fridge.
I can’t be the only one that regularly opens the fridge when I’m hungry and starts looking for items to snack on – the unhealthier, the better. By putting already prepped and ready foods such as veggies, fruits, hummus and yogurt, front and center, I’m giving myself options that are healthy, tasty and ready-to-eat without much effort on my part. This makes it a lot more likely that I will grab some veggies and hummus for a snack rather than that leftover garlic bread from last night’s dinner.
If you are trying to eat healthier and lose weight, it really comes down to working smarter not harder. You should set up your environments to help you achieve your goal rather than to work against it. By rearranging your kitchen counters, refrigerator and pantry, you can make the healthier choice the default. It all comes down to the road of least resistance so if you design an environment where making the healthy choice is easy, then it will be a lot more likely that you will go that route, and ultimately, lose weight.
What are some of the tips and tricks you have used to lose weight without a diet? What works best for you? What are some of your weight loss struggles? Let me know in the comments.