Though it might be tempting to delay doing the dishes, new research may have you scrubbing sooner rather than later. According to a study conducted at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, spending time in a cluttered and chaotic kitchen may cause us to double the amount of calories we consume. The results are published in Environment and Behavior.
The researchers started by splitting 98 female participants into two groups. One group was questioned to write about a time when their lives felt in control, and the other group wrote about a time when their lives felt out of control. Half of the participants then waited in a messy, hectic kitchen—filled with newspapers, dirty dishes, and a ringing phone. The other half waited in a clean and silent kitchen. Bowls of cookies, crackers, and carrots were available in both environments.
In just 10 minutes, the participants who wrote about a time when they felt out of control ate 53 more calories from cookies than the stressed-out women who entered the clean kitchen.
“Being in a chaotic environment and feeling out of control is terrible for diets,” Lenny Vartanian, PhD., lead author of the study, said in a statement. “It seems to lead people to reckon, ‘Everything else is out of control, so why shouldn’t I be?’”
The group that wrote about feeling in control ate about 100 fewer total calories in the cluttered kitchen than those who went in feeling stressed—suggesting meditation might be a helpful technique (though the researchers suggest cleaning is likely the simplest solution).
Still feeling bone idle? Washing the dishes is excellent for more than just our waistline. A previous study found that the household chore encourages a state of mindfulness, which can lead to reduced stress and improved well-being.