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October 2008 - Is Your House Making You Fat?

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Often it is the little things or simple changes you make that add up to weight loss success. Who could ever guess that the color and design of your kitchen could be making you fat? Here are 7 great tips to revamp your kitchen to help you release the weight.

Is Your House Making You Fat?
By Carol Krucoff for Prevention

Everyone knows that ordering 64-ounce sodas and always driving instead of walking contribute to tightening waistbands. But your house can harbor other, less obvious diet enemies: the wrong size juice glasses pack on an extra 8 pounds a year; lined curtains in your bedroom may contribute to that "I'm too tired to exercise" feeling. And the type of TV stand you have could affect both your eating and exercising habits. In short, your house may be making you fat.

Kitchen/family room combinations make food continuously present, gadgets do much of our work, and elaborate entertainment centers entice us to sit motionless for hours. "Even the trend to having more bathrooms means people walk shorter distances," says Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders. "We've created a toxic environment that encourages excess eating and inactivity."

We're not suggesting you move into a three-story colonial with only one toilet. Simple changes can have a dramatic effect. An emerging body of research from top institutions reveals that your decorating style -- from the color of your walls to the scent of your candles -- can affect your eating and exercise habits and, ultimately, your weight.

Here are 7 ways to create a kitchen environment to help you -- and your family -- stay slim.

Kitchen

1. Color your appetite blue. "Most people are unaware of the profound effect color has on their behavior," says Kenneth R. Fehrman, EdD, a professor of interior design and co-author of 'Color, The Secret Influence.' For instance, blue is an appetite suppressant. "In tests, many people could not bring themselves to eat foods colored blue. We have deep-seated instincts to avoid blue and purple foods, because they tend to be poisonous." To take advantage of this natural instinct, use blue plates, napkins, or place mats. You might even consider painting a wall blue or placing a blue light in the refrigerator to help curb late-night raids.

Avoid red, yellow, and orange in the kitchen and dining areas. "They exert a measurable effect on the autonomic nervous system, stimulating appetite," says Fehrman. Food manufacturers exploit this physiologic reaction by using food coloring, and it's no coincidence that many fast-food logos and restaurant decors use the red end of the color spectrum. "It makes us salivate and gets our stomach juices flowing," explains Fehrman.

2. Downsize dinnerware. Extensive research shows that "people eat what's put on their plates -- even if it's more than they need to satisfy their hunger," says Judith S. Stern, ScD, RD, professor of nutrition at the University of California, Davis. To avoid portion distortion, Stern recommends buying smaller dishes. "We need to bring back eight-ounce beverage glasses, six-ounce coffee cups, and those little six-ounce juice glasses -- that are what serving sizes should be." Many popular brands such as Libbey and Pfaltzgraff sell five- and six-ounce juice glasses and eight-ounce beverage glasses. Save the 12-ounce glasses for water.

Orlando dietitian Roniece Weaver, RD, advises clients to purchase a set of inexpensive salad plates, seven to nine inches in diameter. "People like to fill their plates, so when they eat spaghetti off a regular 10 to 12-inch dinner plate," she says, "they may eat enough for four people." (The widely available Corelle brand sells luncheon plates that are eight 1/2 to nine inches and salad/dessert plates that are about seven inches in many of their patterns.)

3. Use your spoodle. Weaver also recommends serving foods with a four-ounce spoodle -- a cross between a spoon and a ladle. "It's an easy way to portion out a half-cup serving of any food -- meat, vegetable, or starch -- which is generally enough to leave people feeling satisfied." Spoodles are available at restaurant supply stores or online.

4. Turn up the lights. The kitchen may be closed, but keep the lights on. In two studies that tracked more than 400 people, researchers found that dieters are more likely to binge when there's less light. "Dimmer light makes you less self-aware, which loosens your inhibitions," says study author Joseph Kasof, PhD, of the University of California, Irvine. Conversely, bright lights make you more aware. "And if you're conscious of what you're doing, you're less apt to succumb to temptation." 

5. Reflect. A mirror by the refrigerator or near your table may be all it takes to eat healthier. When more than 1,300 people were offered full-fat, reduced-fat, or fat-free spreads, those who dined in front of mirrors ate 22 to 32 percent less of the full-fat versions than those without mirrors. "If you make food choices in front of a mirror, you may think twice about what you eat," says study author Brad Bushman, PhD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "When you confront your image, you become aware of your internal standards, goals, and values, such as health and thinness." A mirror near your TV, desk, or anywhere you tend to nibble may also help you eat less.

6. Dine with Vivaldi. "Music is nutrition for the soul," says Suzanne B. Hanser, EdD, a professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and president of the World Federation of Music Therapy. Studies show that music has the power to boost mood, reduce pain, and relieve depression. "Music may help curb stress-related emotional eating," she says, "and it can fill an inner need that might otherwise lead to overeating."

You can also take a page from restaurants. When they want you fed and out in 40 minutes, they play music that pounds to 125 to 130 beats per minute--the faster the music, the faster you eat, says Wyatt Magnum, president of Magnum Music Group in Houston, a firm specializing in creating customized music environments for the restaurant industry. For fine dining establishments, where they want you to eat slower and have a relaxed four or five course meal, Magnum recommends classical and New Age music (so slow that they don't count beats per minute). His suggestions for music to eat slowly by: Enya's Shepherd Moons, anything Yanni, or, if New Age is not your style, moderate-tempo classical music such as Vivaldi's Four Seasons or Concerto in G Minor.

7. Keep out of the kitchen. Some new homes are equipped with an office nook in the kitchen. Two words: Get out! Set up a workstation in the family room or guest bedroom to avoid hanging out in the kitchen, says Daniel Stettner, PhD, a clinical psychologist specializing in weight control in Berkley, MI. "Many people talk on the kitchen phone and work at the kitchen table. They're always around food, which increases their likelihood of eating," he says.

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If you’d like to accelerate your weight loss success, also consider revamping and releasing your unconscious habits and negative emotions through hypnosis. One of the most common problems I hear from my clients is: “I’m an emotional eater”. Do you eat because of stress, boredom, sadness, loneliness, as a reward, to escape, or other reasons besides hunger? The good news is, you can permanently stop this emotional/eating cycle and release the weight for good!

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