Do you find yourself tempted by that vending machine that’s in plain sight from your desk at work? Is a bag of chips left out on the counter too difficult to pass up? Research has shown that people eat more food not only when it’s convenient, but also when it’s visible and nearby. Fitting with this finding, a new study examined whether food storage and accessibility in the home is linked with body weight, specifically obesity.
Ohio State University researchers compared 50 individuals with a BMI of 30 or greater (indicating obesity) with 50 individuals with a BMI below 30. They found that the participants with higher BMI kept more food visible throughout the house and generally ate less-healthy foods than the non-obese participants. They also spent more money on fast food, though their overall spending on food was similar.
“The amount of food in the homes was similar, but in the homes of obese individuals, food was distributed in more locations outside the kitchen,” said Charles Emery, professor of psychology at Ohio State and lead author of the study. “That speaks to the environment being arranged in a way that may make it harder to avoid eating food.” Changing eating habits is unlike many other behavior changes, such as quitting smoking or drinking, because you can’t just stop eating. But ideally you can change the way you eat and, to some degree, change the way you’re thinking about eating.
The study provides more support to the idea that if you want to lose weight, it’s best to keep those tempting foods stored out of sight and tucked away in the kitchen–or better yet, out of the house altogether. While changing the way we keep food in our houses isn’t going to solve the obesity epidemic alone, it is an easy step that anyone can take to shift the focus within the house from less healthy foods to those you’d want your family eating. Small changes can add up fast.