It seems your diet isn’t the only thing in your life you should consider cleaning if your goal is to drop a few pounds. Research suggests tidying up around the house can have a big impact on your success. “Often your environment determines whether or not you will make a healthy choice,” says Steven Ledbetter, an expert on behavior change and co-founder of Habitry. “My most successful clients are the ones who take the steps to make their surroundings support positive habits.”
So not only do you need to set a health goal, you need to set up your physical space for success, too. Ready to clear the clutter and nail your weight loss goal? Here are the key places around the house (and in your life) to focus.
Make Room in Your Closet
Getting rid of your loose jeans and starting-to-look-droopy sweaters sends a major message to your brain that there’s no going back. “Keeping the ‘fat’ clothes means that one day you will wear them again and they will fit you perfectly,” writes Marylin Stompler in Fat No More, Release the Subconscious Blocks that Prevent Your Weight Loss. She continues, “Throwing away your ‘fat’ clothes helps you let go of the fat energy that was tied to you for years.” A former yo-yo dieter herself, Stompler admits saving her clothes was a trap for her, and she wasn’t able to fully think of herself as a healthy person until she cleared out her drawers. “When you release the old, you make space for the new,” she writes.
Sweep Out the Pantry
Having a healthy relationship with food doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a treat every so often, but reducing your access to easy-to-grab items can set you up to stay on track. Give your refrigerator, pantry, and cupboard shelves a once over, tossing out anything (snack cakes, ice cream, chips, and so on) that might be too tempting to pass up in a moment of weakness. “You can’t eat it, if you don’t have it hanging around,” says Fitbit nutrition expert Tracy Morris. Then, stock up on nutritious snacks, like fresh fruit, cut-up veggies, plain popcorn, and dill pickles, to satisfy cravings for sweet, savory, and crunch.
Tackle the Dishes in the Sink
You’d think stacks of dirty pans and piles of sticky plates would turn someone off food, but it seems kitchen chaos actually encourages extra snacking. In a study published in the Environmental & Behavior Journal, researchers put snackers who had been thinking about being out of control in a clean kitchen and noticed they consumed fewer cookies than those with a similar mindset who were placed in a messy environment. “Having a clean kitchen or home makes you feel more in control and primes you to stay in control,” says Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and coauthor of the study.
To prevent the cluttered counters from wrecking your weight loss efforts, clean up as you go when prepping dinner, be mindful at mealtime—focussing on everything that’s going well in your life, and load the dishwasher ASAP when you’re done.
Toss Your Old Pillows
There’s a lot of research linking lack of sleep to weight gain. And one study in particular shows sleep-deprived people are not only more likely to give in to junk food cravings, but to justify poor food choices as well. For optimal health, experts recommend adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night—but time in bed doesn’t always lead to quality Zzz’s.
If you have a hard time getting comfortable, or tend to toss and turn, unsupportive bedding could be coming between you and restorative sleep. In fact, 98% percent of respondents polled by the National Sleep Foundation agree a comfortable pillow is necessary for a restful night. Think yours might be past its prime? A general replacement guideline for pillows is every three years, and every 10 years for mattresses.
Clean Up Your Calendar
You’ve probably heard the tip: “put your workouts on your calendar.” It’s an oldie, but goodie because it works for those who need a dedicated time to sweat. (You don’t want to miss that spin class!) Still, Outlook pop-ups aren’t a cure all. If squeezing fitness into an already cluttered calendar isn’t helping you reach your goals, it’s time to try something different. Instead, slip fitness breaks in throughout the day, especially during your most sedentary periods, and consider blocking off one day each week to make movement (not work, not errands, not a DVR marathon) the main event. Go for a hike, walk to the farmers’ market, take your bike on a neighborhood tour, or meet friends in the park for frisbee golf—all calorie-burning activities count!
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.