When you think about what causes pounds to creep on, an immediate list of usual suspects comes to mind: junk food, skipped workouts, supersize portions. But you might want to add your house to that fat list.
“Everything from the lighting in your dining room to the size of your dinnerware could be making you gain weight,” says food psychologist Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. You can think of it this way, though: If your home can make you gain, it can help you lose, too.
Tip: Use the main entrance, not a side or back door that leads you through the kitchen. People who pass through that room tend to graze, eating 15% more than those who don’t, according to a study from Wansink’s Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.
“My top skinny gadget is a microplane grater,” celebrity diet chef Bethenny Frankel says. “This very inexpensive, invaluable kitchen tool allows you to finely grate Parmesan like baby hair, so you can get the flavor without the fat.”
You’ll consistently cook light with the right gear, Frankel says. Here, her must-haves.
1. An immersion hand blender. “Pureed foods are high-volume, filling, and an amazing diet trick,” she says. “You can puree without making a big mess -- blend right in the pot.” Her favorite pureed foods: asparagus, zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower.
2. A microplane grater to add slivers of flavor and very few calories.
3. An ice-cream scoop. “I use a scoop to make portion-controlled muffins, cookies, and turkey burgers,” Frankel says.
Having fresh herbs in plain sight -- and smelling their irresistible aromas -- tempts you to eat healthy: You’ll add amazing flavor and almost no calories, says food psychologist Marci Pelchat, Ph.D. Also, keeping your favorite healthy cookbooks close at hand ensures that you’ll whip up the good stuff.
Spot a bag of deep-fried tortilla chips or other tempting food your husband or kids snuck in? Deep-six it.
Trade forks for chopsticks, because “you are forced to eat more slowly and deliberately, which makes you consume less and feel fuller,” food psychologist Brian Wansink says. “Plus, you eat less per bite than you would with a fork.”
Wansink studied normal-weight and obese diners at Chinese buffets in three states and found that chopstick-users are much more likely to be slim than obese.
Another tip: Pull out the charming plates and stemware you inherited from your grandmother. They were about 33% smaller in her day, which means petite portions for you. “Big dishes and big spoons are big trouble,” Wansink says. “They cause us to serve ourselves more because they make the food look so small.”
Tip: Rethink that red dining room. Restaurants often use shades of yellow, orange, and red because these hues have been proven to stimulate appetite, restaurant consultant Arlene Spiegel says. Think about the red-and-yellow McDonald’s logo … no mistake there.
Set this rule: Designate certain TV shows “cardio-only shows,” or pump weights during commercials, personal trainer Jennifer Nicole Lee says. Even knitting can burn calories (102 per hour, based on a 150-pound person). It’s also wise to stick to watching just one show per night. “We’ve found that people who watch TV for an hour eat 28% more than if they watch for a half-hour,” food psychologist Brian Wansink says.
Pull workout gear out of the closet or other tucked-away places, and keep it in a basket by your couch or TV. If it’s visible and within reach, you’re way more likely to work out with it, Lee says.
Some secret weapons:
• Resistance bands
• A yoga mat
• A jump rope
• A get-you-moving video game like Wii Fit for the Nintendo Wii. Testers of Nintendo Wii sports games had higher heart rates while playing and burned 51% more calories than testers using conventional video games, according to a study by researchers at the Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom.
When you change into after-work clothes, think snug -- not baggy. Wearing fitted clothes will make you more aware of your body and less likely to overindulge, Frankel says. That doesn’t mean a comfort sacrifice, though: “Invest in some fitted yoga pants that feel good but still allow you to see what you actually look like,” she says.
Adding cucumbers to water isn’t just a spalike touch, says Shelly Riehl David, luxury spa designer and owner of Riehl Designs. The vegetable is a natural diuretic, so it can help eliminate bloat overnight.
Lavender can help you sleep sounder, research says, so mist your pillow with lavender water before bed.
Tip: Sleep deprivation can make you put on pounds by increasing the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and decreasing leptin, which lets you know when you’re full, according to the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study. Get better sleep by investing in high-thread-count sheets and top-quality pillows.
Still hungry after dinner? Have a soak. It can distract you, Frankel says. Make your bath a spa zone with bath salts and a ridiculously plush robe. And light a green apple or peppermint candle: These scents suppress appetite, making you less likely to reach for a snack, says Alan Hirsch, M.D., neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.
Turn up the lights.
Dimming them makes you more apt to eat more, according to researchers at the University of California, Irvine. If you do decide to lower the lights, just preplate your food instead of eating family-style. This will help you limit your calories, he says.
Serve ice cream in a teacup.
You’ll save yourself hundreds of calories. In one of Wansink’s experiments, people given 34-ounce bowls versus 17-ounce bowls served themselves 31% more ice cream without realizing it.
Reflect on this.
Do hang a full-length mirror in the bedroom or bathroom. It lets you honestly assess your naked body when you’re about to hop into the shower, says Peter Walsh, author of Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? And you can gauge weight-loss progress by seeing how your clothes fit, celebrity diet chef Bethenny Frankel adds.
Hang the right artwork.
Try a fruit or vegetable still life. Here’s why: Posters of healthy food in a dining room result in diners eating more fruit and vegetables and less meat, according to research from the Behavioral Sciences Division of the U.S. Army.
Don’t hang a full-length mirror near fitness equipment.
Women who exercise in front of a mirror feel less energized and less positive than women who exercise without a mirror, according to a study at Canada’s McMaster University.
Julie Taylor, Health