Aside from work, you spend most of your hours at home. And it should function as a respite from the lure of the fast food joint on every corner, or the ease of buying a candy bar from the vending machine. But if your home isn't set up right, it may be encouraging bad habits. One way to win the battle? "You can restructure your home environment to protect yourself from unhealthy food and a sedentary lifestyle,"says Sherry Pagoto, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the division of preventative and behavioral medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. From organizing your kitchen to your thermostat setting, read on to discover 10 ways your home may slyly cause you to pack on pounds.
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Your cabinets are overflowing
If your cabinets are so stuffed that you need to put food on your counters, fridge, or exposed shelving, you're setting yourself up to trigger a craving. "A bag of potato chips or candy out in the open will put the food on your radar when you walk by. The minute you see that visual cue, you want it," says Pagoto.
The fix: Clean out your pantry on a regular basis. Get rid of expired food and stuff you bought that you don't like and won't eat (but keep around anyway)even if it's healthy. Or, come up with alternate storage plans, like a cabinet in your basement.
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Your apples are in the fridge
On the other hand, if healthy food is hidden, you're less likely to eat it. That's especially true if you keep fruits that don't need to be refrigerated (like apples or pears) or whole veggies tucked away in the crisper drawers. When you're busy, it's faster to rip open a bag of chips than cut cruditès.
The fix: Buy a pretty fruit bowl or basket so you're more inclined to fill it; display in plain sight so you're more likely to grab a piece. Pre-slice veggies and put them in clear containers front-and-center in the fridge for easy snacking.
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Your thermostat is set too high
The fact that you can go anywhereyour home, the office, a storeand the temperature is set at somewhere-in-the-70s comfortable is a surprising contributor to obesity, say experts. Your body simply doesn't have to work to expend energy to warm itself up, suggests a 2014 study in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. The result: your metabolism sputters.
The fix: Turn down your thermostat a few degrees. Being cold activates your brown fat, which actually spurs your metabolism and improves glucose sensitivity. If the change is too abrupt, start with one degree and gradually decrease the temperature. You'll quickly adapt to the chillier temp, note researchers.
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Your exercise equipment is undercover
"Everyone wants to hide exercise equipment in case of unexpected guests. But how often does that really happen?" says Dr. Pagoto. Or, we hide it in rooms we don't want to go in, like the basement. "When your option is to go on a treadmill covered in spider webs or sit on a big comfy couch in front of the TV, it's not surprising you choose TV," she says.
The fix: Keep your dumbbells next to your couch so you're reminded to use them while you watch TV. Set up equipment like a yoga mat or exercise bike in a space in your home you want to be inlike by a window.
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You're inviting the wrong people over
"Look at who your friends are," says James O. Hill, PhD, director of the Colorado Nutrition Obesity Research Center. "You're going to behave similarly to the people you spend time with." If your friends are more the type to sit around and drink beer and eat chips, then you will be, too.
The fix: Okay, no one's saying to lose your friendsno matter how bad their health habits. "Look for friends who are doing the right thing, and have them over, too," says Dr. Hill. If they're more active and like to eat nutritious foods, you're more likely to adopt their habits. Conversely, their attitude can rub off on your less-than-virtuous pals.
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Your lights are too dim
When you don't get enough sleep, your body scrambles hormone levels that control hunger, making you crave junk food. In one International Journal of Endocrinology study, sleep-deprived adults who were exposed to dim light in the morning had lower concentrations of the fullness hormone leptin, while those in blue light (the kind from energy-efficient bulbs) had higher leptin levels.
The fix: When you wake up, open your shades to allow natural sunlight in and turn on lamps and overhead lights. Bonus: It'll also help you wake up faster.
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You serve food at the dinner table
It's easy to take an extra scoop of mashed potatoes or pasta when all you have to do is reach across the table to get iteven when you're not really hungry.
The fix: Nix family-style serving and dish out food straight from your pots and pans instead. This strategy decreased food intake by 10% for women in a Cornell University study. Another trick, recommends Dr. Pagoto: dish out dinner, then put the rest away. If you want seconds, you have to go through the trouble of reheating, which most people won't do. At the very least, it gives your body time to feel full, so you'll take a smaller second portion.
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Your home is too cozy in the evening
You come home, put on sweats, eat dinner, and cozy up on your couch for the night with reality TV. Getting into that sleepy, sedentary, restful mode means you're starting nighttime before its nighttime, says Dr. Pagoto.
The fix: Change into active clothes, turn on lights, and play energizing music after dinner. One study in PLOS One found that people walk at a faster pace to upbeat tunes compared to slower, more relaxing music. With higher energy, you're also more likely to go outside for a post-dinner walk.
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You've got too many screens
More TV watching is associated with a greater risk of being overweight or obese. "Screen time is sedentary time," says Dr. Hill. Besides, most of us watch things we don't really like simply to fill up time.
The fix: You don't have to get rid of TV completely. However, consider removing the one from your bedroom (experts say to keep this area for sex and sleep only) and kitchen (TV encourages lingering and snacking). Then, be choosier with your shows, giving up those you feel ho-hum about and enjoying the ones you really love. Cut down on your TV time and you're more likely to be more active without even trying.
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Your plates and bowls are huge
Plates that are as big as platters, wine glasses that are goblets, and bowls that may as well be troughsthese large serving dishes play a trick on you: you subconsciously want to fill the space, so you wind up dishing out more. Case in point: additional Cornell research found that adults and kids poured more cereal into large bowls and consumed 44% more calories.