Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Clear Your Countertops for Weight Loss, New Study Says

A new study shows that your eating environment directly affects your BMI

Shutterstock/ Frantisek Czanner

By keeping a bowl of fresh fruit out on your counter, you can ensure a healthy option is available when cravings hit.

When trying to lose weight, there are a variety of tactics you can use to curb overeating and make healthier choices. From choosing one vegetarian meal a day to packing your own lunch, many of these strategies are easy lifestyle changes that take little time or effort. Identifying diet “don’ts,” however, can be a little more challenging. While some are obvious, such as choosing a salad over a greasy hamburger, others are not. In a recent study, a group of researchers at Cornell University identified one of the sneakiest barriers to losing weight. Their findings reveal that the environment in which you eat can determine how much you weigh.

Click here for the 10 Mind Tricks to Fool Yourself Into Eating Less slideshow.

In their study, researchers sought to find a correlation between food environment and weight. Specifically, they looked at the food environment within the home, in terms of whether or not there was food sitting out on the kitchen counter. They photographed and catalogued 210 households in Syracuse, New York, and measured the occupants’ height and weight. The researchers then determined which participants kept a bowl of fresh fruit on their kitchen counter, as well as crackers or chips, dry cereal, soft drinks, candy, or baked goods. After examining their data, they found that those who left fruit on their countertops weighed on average 13 pounds less than those who didn’t. This suggests that having a healthy snacking option, such as fruit, within arm’s reach can help you maintain an ideal weight.

Those who had easy access to junk food, unsurprisingly, weighed more. For example, study participants who left cereal on their counters weighed about 20 pounds more than those who did not, while those who left soda out weighed 25 pounds more. Interestingly, participants who kept candy on the counter only weighed two to three pounds more. Brian Wansink, the study’s lead researcher, attributed this to the negative connotation around candy. “If I see candy sitting out in my kitchen, it flashes a warning because I know it’s bad. Cereal doesn’t send that same signal. It has a halo.” This “health halo,” Wansink explains, often hovers over foods like cereal, which appear to be healthy but are often packed with sugar and other ingredients that can contribute to weight gain.

For those looking to lose weight, this study offers an effortless way to eat less and healthier foods. By making fruits and vegetables the focal point of your kitchen, you can make ensure that healthy options are easily accessible when cravings strike. This study is the most recent in a growing accumulation of evidence suggesting other ways to sneakily promote healthy eating. Other tactics include eating off of smaller plates and bowls and using colorful dishware to control portion sizes.


The accompanying slideshow is provided by fellow Daily Meal special contributor HellaWella.