Foods We See Daily Factor in Our Weight

The Halloween candy bowl…the leftover Thanksgiving pie…the office holiday cookie basket…if it seems the annual ubiquity of holiday treats contributes directly to the frequency at which you catch yourself snacking on them, you are not wrong. It’s not surprising that the easy reach of sugary treats toward the end of the year can lead to vanquished diet plans or unwise eating choices.

But a new study of American countertops has even more interesting news about the effect food-availability can make: the types of food you leave out for yourself or your family to easily consume are very predictive of weight gain, or loss, depending on your choices.

It’s well known that the mere existence of dessert foods and other treats around us contributes to our consuming them. What’s news is how dramatically weight gain or loss fluctuated in the new study with food-availability and -placement habits.

Food Types With Their Correlated
Differences in Body Weight


Compared with your neighbor, here is how much more you are likely to weigh if these foods are sitting on your kitchen counter:

Food Weight Change
Cookies +8 lbs
Cereal +20 lbs
Soda  +26 lbs
Fruit  -13 lbs

The study, conducted by Cornell University and partially funded by the National Institute of Health, examined photographs from over 200 kitchens in Syracuse, New York. The researchers wanted to analyze the food environment in each household in relation to the body mass indices of the adults living there. It turns out that the right choice about which ready-to-eat foods are left out on the countertop may be a simple strategy to promote weight loss and improved health.

Women, in particular, seemed to be influenced a great deal by what was left out in plain view. For example, the women in the study who kept fresh fruit out in the open tended to be a normal weight compared with their peers. But when snacks like cereals and sodas were readily accessible, those subjects were heavier than their neighbors—by an average of more than 20 pounds.

When unhealthy foods are the most visible options in the kitchen, falling into habits that lead to weight gain becomes easier. Keeping those foods out of sight by sequestering them in pantries and cupboards reduces their convenience, making it less likely that they will be grabbed in a moment of hunger.

Indeed, the study found that normal-weight women were more likely to have a designated cupboard for snack items and less likely to buy food in large-sized packages than those who are obese. Women who had a fruit bowl visible weighed about 13 pounds less than neighbors who didn’t.

Although the findings are strictly correlational, the study does suggest that consciously replacing unhealthy cues with healthy ones in the home could have a real impact on a person’s BMI.

Health, Educ. & Behav., Oct. 2015, http://heb.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/10/15/1090198115610571.full

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