9 ways to lose weight by rearranging your kitchen

A kitchen makeover may be the first step to losing weight.

If you declutter your kitchen, you’re likely to snack about half as much, and if you don’t keep breakfast cereal on the kitchen counters, you may weigh about 20 pounds less than your neighbor who has it in plain view, says one of the nation’s top researchers on eating behavior.

“It’s easier to become slim by design than slim by willpower,” says Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab and author of a new book, Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life (slimbydesign.org). He also wrote Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.

For years, Wansink been on a mission: to ferret out environmental factors that push Americans, sometimes unconsciously, to eat too much.

“We’re all mindless eaters,” he says. He has found that people make more than 200 decisions about food every day, including what and when to eat, how many bites to take of different foods and whether to get seconds. And he has shown that people typically eat most of the food, about 92%, that they put on their own plate.

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Wansink has been studying eating behavior for 25 years, and he and colleagues have conducted hundreds of studies on how and why people eat. When it comes to doing a kitchen makeover, he recommends:

Move healthier foods to visible spots. Rearrange your cupboards, pantry and refrigerator so the first foods you see are the healthy ones, Wansink says.

In one study, he and colleagues asked people to move their fruits and vegetables from the crisper bins to the top shelves of their refrigerators and move the less healthy foods to the crisper. After one week, people reported consuming nearly three times more fruits and vegetables as they did the week before. “We might think we are keeping fruits and vegetables fresher longer in the crisper, but our goal is to eat them, not compost them.”

He suggests having a bowl with two or more types of fruit in plain view in the kitchen and at work. He started doing that, and now, “I eat more fruit than Tarzan.”

Make tempting foods invisible and inconvenient. Don’t have any foods other than fruit visible in the kitchen. That means no cereal, baked goods, chips or muffins out on the counters or table, he says.

He and fellow researchers visited more than 200 kitchens in homes and photographed them extensively, including taking pictures of the dishes, refrigerator shelves, counters and snacks. They also measured the height and weight of the person who purchased the food for the house.

Among their many findings: Women who had even one box of breakfast cereal visible anywhere in the kitchen weighed an average of 21 pounds more than those who didn’t have any cereal in plain view.

Declutter your kitchen. His research shows that cluttered kitchens prompted people to eat 44% more of their snack food than a kitchen that was organized and decluttered. This means putting away things such as the toaster, cutting board and knives. “Where a more organized kitchen may prompt self-control, a disorganized one does the opposite.”

Make your kitchen less friendly for lounging. The more you hang out in your kitchen, the more you’ll eat, so don’t have comfy chairs, TVs, computers or tablets in the kitchen, Wansink says.

Think twice about buying big packages of food. His research shows that people eat more from bigger packages than smaller ones. His advice: Repackage the bigger boxes into single-serving portions.

Use smaller serving bowls and spoons. In one study, Wansink had nutrition professors serve themselves ice cream using different-sized spoons and bowls. They ate 54% more ice cream when they used bigger bowls and spoons, “and these are people who should know better,” he says.

In another study of elementary-age campers, the children ate 42% more cereal from a 24-ounce cereal bowl than they did from a 12-ounce bowl.

Use smaller, narrower drinking glasses. His research shows that people pour themselves more in a 16-ounce glass — the typical size of many kitchen glasses — than a 12-ounce glass. Even more surprisingly, they pour more in a 12-ounce wide glass than a 12-ounce narrow glass. To consume less of high-calorie drinks, such as soda and sugary tea, use the smaller, narrower glasses, but for things such as water, use the bigger glasses, he says.

Serve food from the counter or the stove. In another study, he found that people ate 19% less food when they served their food from bowls on the counter or stove vs. bowls on the table. “People, especially guys, tend to serve themselves again and again when the food is right in front of them.”

Avoid doing other activities while eating. His research shows that the more people reported watching TV during dinnertime, the higher their body mass index (a number that takes into account height and weight) of both the parent and the child.

When Wansink gave moviegoers free 5-day-old stale popcorn, they ate an average of 173 calories more from a big bucket than a medium one. Complaining that the popcorn tasted horrible, they continued to eat while watching the movie, he says. “We tend to mindlessly eat while we’re doing other activities. The cue that we are finished eating is that our food is gone.”

Rethinking your kitchen can help you reach a healthy weight, Wansink says. “Slim by design is forever; slim by willpower can be wimpy and has to last a lifetime.”

How to rearrange your environment to lose weight

The design of a food label, the size of a package, the name of a restaurant item: for more than two decades, Cornell professor Brian Wansink has been studying how these little things add up to shape the decisions we make about our food — and reshape our bodies. You may remember Wansink from such classic research as “the bottomless bowls” study, which showed that people will mindlessly guzzle down soup as long as their bowls are automatically refilled, or the “bad popcorn” study, which demonstrated that we’ll gobble up stale and unpalatable food when it’s presented to us in huge quantities.

Brian Wansink. (Photo: Jason Koski.)

Over the years, Wansink has become increasingly convinced that, perhaps more than anything, we need to redesign our environments to nudge people toward healthy eating. “It’s easier to become slim by design than slim by will power,” he told Vox. “Design you change once; will power you have to do every day for the rest your life.”

With a new book out, Slim by Design, Vox spoke to him about the small changes he thinks people should make to live healthier lives and how consumers can be empowered to alter their surroundings — from restaurants to grocery stores and schools — in a way that could help us all lose weight.

Julia Belluz: What made you start looking at the impact of our surroundings on our bodies?

Brian Wansink: I have been researching in this area of how you can influence healthy eating for 25 years. We had been doing research on packaging, and found that smaller packages mean people end up eating dramatically less food. I found people would pay a premium for smaller packages. I told MM, Mars and Nibisco to make 100 calorie packs. They didn’t believe it at first, but they eventually made them, and that ended up being a huge success. Since then, I’ve been looking at what are the things in our environments that trip us up. With Slim by Design, I’m looking more broadly across society: what we can do ourselves, in our homes, our restaurants, where we shop, to be healthier.

JB: In the book, you note that most Americans eat more than 80 percent of their food within five miles of where they live, and you call for a consumer-led movement to re-engineer these spaces. Can you tell me about what this looks like?

BW: For example, we have this 100 point scorecard for lunch rooms in schools. Instead of banning chocolate milk, it gives schools points if they make white milk more convenient and attractive to drink. If there is fruit that’s provided within two feet of a cash register, they’d get another point. If they name the healthy vegetables cool names, another point. Most school lunchrooms initially only score between 20 to 30 points. These changes can be made in a weekend and cost almost nothing to do.

“The reason I’m not very sanguine about policy is that it tremendously backfires. I can guess in 1920 that they thought prohibition was going to be a great Idea.”
So consumers hold the answer to the obesity crisis?

BW: Up until now, consumers haven’t really known that they could ask a restaurant to change, or ask their workplace or school to make changes. They didn’t know what to ask. That’s been my mission for the last seven years: trying to figure out what can be done that works. If we get a restaurant to offer half-size portions, it’s not just us who benefit, it’s all the people who didn’t realize to ask for half-size portions. Then a sea change happens. To cause a transformation, we can’t do it by shaking a finger at restaurants or grocery stores. You have to do it by hitting it where it counts the most: having consumers say ‘here’s what I want.’

JB: Handing the responsibility to the individual somewhat takes this problem out of the realm of policy. You aren’t a fan of policy solutions, are you?

BW: The reason I’m not very sanguine about policy is that it tremendously backfires. I can guess in 1920 that they thought prohibition was going to be a great idea. There’s a lot of things I don’t think it would be a good idea to ask restaurants to do, that won’t make them more money, but there are a lot of things they can do that would help us eat better and they’d make more money: offering half size portions, not offering bread baskets.

What we’ve tried to do in the past is to fight the obesity crisis by asking the individual to do it: saying it’s will power and education. We  tried to become slim by willpower and then slim by policy, and that didn’t work well. What we haven’t done is engage the consumer.

JB: What are the health hazards people can change immediately?

BW: People need to make sure they have a fruit bowl within two feet of where they regularly walk in their kitchen. The second change I’d make is don’t eat lunch at your desk. Go out to lunch. Get away from the desk. You’ll not only feel happier but you’ll be less likely to overeat snacks and you’re going to enjoy things more. The third thing I’d do would be to go this website and print out the scorecard for your child’s school and give it to the food services director and principal to work on.

JB: If it’s our surroundings that count when it comes to obesity, how do you explain the individual-level differences among people in the same places: the fact that some members of a household for example have vastly different weights.

BW: It’s a good question. To understand that, we’re going to have a Slim by Design registry. We want to know what healthy weight people, who have never had a weight fluctuation, know that the rest of us don’t know. If we knew what they did differently we would have some idea of how we might want to change. So this registry invites people to come there and if they can qualify, we ask them about 100 different questions: describe your typical breakfast, what do you do when you’re hungry in the afternoon. We ask them questions and the goal is to come up with a series of answers about what slim people do that makes them thin or able to avoid food and not have these food cravings most of us have.

JB: We know obesity is a disease that disproportionately affects lower income, less educated, and minority populations. How do you reach these consumers?

BW: If only twenty percent of us are getting empowered, those people are going to benefit natively. All of a sudden, fast food restaurants put healthy stuff at the top of menu boards, or have little table tins that advertise water or milk instead of soda. It’s all the people who didn’t even know they had a problem that will benefit by being in an environment that we’ve changed.

The best way to lose weight may already be in your kitchen

 (Adam Evans)

Raise your hand if you’ve sworn off sugar, cut out alcohol, and committed to a punishing gym ritual—yet those last five pounds are sticking around like an unwanted guest.

A new study in Science suggests that even ardent self-deniers can’t shed extra padding if the bacteria in their system is unbalanced. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis studied sets of twins—one fat, one lithe—and found that the thinner siblings had gut bacteria that spike the metabolism and suppress appetite, while the heavier ones were shackled with species that do the opposite. 

“If you have the wrong makeup of your microbiome, it’s virtually impossible to drop pounds,” says Raphael Kellman, M.D., author of The Microbiome Diet. 

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Unless, that is, you hack your body with probiotics. Yes, the stuff in yogurt that Jamie Lee Curtis hawks for digestive issues could burn calories and curb cravings when Draconian diet and exercise plans aren’t enough.

Which is why probiotics are transcending the dairy aisle. Swank health-food stores and juice bars have caught on to the microbes’ fat-torching potential and are incorporating them into what you already consume or making bacteria-laden fermented foods more available. 

Moon Juice in Venice, California, sells custom probiotic shots to add to your cold-press, New York City’s Juice Press blends them into smoothies (like the drinkable faux yogurt Vital Force), and ready-to-eat chain Organic Avenue stocks shelves with probiotic chia-berry cups and kimchi bowls. Walk into Whole Foods or the like and you’ll find tempeh, miso, kefir, and fermented beverages like Body Ecology’s CocoBiotic coconut juice, kombucha, even ginger beer—all of which boost waist-trimming bacteria in your stomach.

RELATED: 5 Foods That Make You Look Younger

Skeptics warn that more research is needed to find out which strains do what. Plus, probiotics aren’t regulated by the FDA, meaning manufacturers can make vague claims without backup. Still, the anecdotal evidence is persuasive. Stella Metsovas, a certified nutritionist and author of The 21-Day Digestive Health Detox, prescribed a half-cup of probiotic-rich foods daily to a group of clients, who lost an average of 21 pounds over six months without cutting calories.

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“The right types of probiotics can absolutely improve metabolism and help with weight loss,” Kellman says. The trick is getting an ideal mix of good and bad bacteria: The wrong microbes cause chronic inflammation, which leads to fat-inducing insulin resistance (exercise can’t counteract that). An excess of certain strains can also trigger cravings for sugar and fat. To help strike that balance, down probiotics at least twice a week and let the bugs do the work for you.

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• • •
Term to Know: Psychobiotics

Scientists at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine found that people who regularly take probiotics exhibit brain activity associated with greater emotional stability. They believe that particular strains of gut bacteria can reduce stress, boost mood, and lessen pain by influencing certain hormone levels, including cortisol, serotonin, and oxytocin. Different microbe families affect different neurotransmitters, so to reap as many benefits as possible, try a supplement with a variety, like Healthy Origins 30 Billion Probiotic ($38 for 150 capsules; amazon.com).

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‘Too many people have weight-loss surgery on the NHS’: Woman who shed 10st …

  •  Catherine Powell was a secret eater who hid chocolate in vegetable drawer 
  • The mother-of-four from Cheshire lost weight after a heart attack scare 
  • She slimmed down from a size 28 to a size eight in just 16 months 

Caroline Mcguire for MailOnline



A mother-of-four who lost an impressive ten stone and slimmed from a size 28 to a size 8 wants to help others lose the weight- without NHS help.

Catherine Powell, 37, who weighed 20 stone, lost half of her body weight in just 16 months thanks to hard work and determination. 

She is now trying to convince others that they shouldn’t resort to NHS gastric bands to lose weight.

Catherine, from Alsager, Cheshire, piled on the pounds thanks to years of ‘secret eating’- snacking in between meals and even hiding chocolate in the back of the vegetable tray in the fridge.

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Catherine Powell from Alsager, Cheshire lost ten stone after buying a £20 exercise bike and working out in front of her favourite television soaps. She is now encouraging other overweight people to lose pounds the healthy way instead of resorting to gastric bands 

But she lost the weight thanks to hard work- instead of tax-payer funded gastric bands or weight loss surgery, and she wants to help others realise they can lose the pounds this way too.

Catherine said: ‘I have completely changed my lifestyle and it really is the only way to do it.

‘Losing this weight has completely and utterly changed my life.

‘Too many people resort to fad diets, which they see celebrities following or having weight loss surgery on the NHS.

‘But a whole lifestyle change is the only way to do it- and keep the weight off.

‘I want people to know it is do-able- no matter what size you are. But it takes hard work- there is no denying that.

At her heaviest, Catherine Powell weighed 20 stone and hated being photographed 

‘There needs to be more support to help people lose weight the natural way..’

Catherine decided to lose weight after she thought she was having a heart attack in bed one night.

She said: ‘I ate some chocolate and went to bed and my heart started racing- I was convinced I was having a heart attack and I knew things had to change. It scared me to death.

‘I had so many health problems as a result of my weight- I was on the waiting list for a knee replacement, but I needed to lose weight before they would operate on me.

‘I can’t believe I let myself get so big. I was always tired and it wasn’t good for my children to see their mum so big.’

Catherine joined her local Slimming World group in January 2012 and determined, she set about cooking her own meals and following a healthy eating plan with lots of fruit and vegetables.

She bought a £20 exercise bike and would work out while watching her favourite soaps on television, in a year she had shed eight stone, losing another two stone in just four months after that.

Since dropping from a size 28 to a size eight, Catherine has discovered a love for fashion After losing ten stone, Catherine has treated her self to a whole new wardrobe

Since dropping from a size 28 to a size eight, Catherine has discovered a love for fashion

And as a result of her amazing transformation from a size 28 and 20 stone, to a slim size 8 and 10 stone, Catherine’s health problems vanished. 

Now she doesn’t need her knee replaced and she is even a keen runner. 

The self- confessed ‘gym bunny’, will wake up at 6.30 am five days a week and do a work out before her four children Matthew, 21, Jacob, 16, Tiffany, 13, and ten-year-old Caitlin wake up.

Catherine said: ‘I have managed to tone up and have completed changed my body shape.

‘A lot of overweight people end up with lots of excess skin, but I’ve been lucky I haven’t and I’m sure it’s down to all the exercise I do.

‘I have never had a personal training session, or counted a calorie- I just do what feels good and it has worked so far.

‘Anyone can exercise- even if it is getting on the exercise bike in front of the soaps, as I used to do.’

When she was a size 28, Catherine used to try and hide her figure in dark, loose clothes  Catherine's friends are gobsmacked when they see pictures of her as a larger woman

When she was a size 28, Catherine used to try and hide her figure in dark, loose clothes 

Two years on Catherine has maintained an enviable size 8 figure, which is an incredible 10 dresses smaller than she was.

‘One of the great things about losing weight is that I now have the wardrobe I’ve always wanted, full of beautiful size 8 dresses.

‘When I was bigger I hated having my picture taken and would hide in dark clothes, but now I love glamming up and taking time over my appearance.

‘Everyone who is big should have the opportunity to feel this good and I say if a fat person could feel what it’s like to be thin for just one day, they would commit to losing the weight.

‘It is a fantastic feeling.’

Self-confessed 'gym bunny' Catherine now exercises will wake up at 6.30 am five days a week and do a work out before her four children  wake up  Catherine first started to lose weight by using an exercise bike while watching her favourite tv soaps 

Self-confessed ‘gym bunny’ Catherine now exercises will wake up at 6.30 am five days a week and do a work out before her four children  wake up 

Catherine now runs her own Slimming World group in Alsager because she wants to help others who are in the position she was- without them resorting to weight loss surgery.

Her slimmers are always gobsmacked to look at the ‘before’ pictures of Catherine.

She said: ‘I now just want to help others to get to where they want to be, and I have a lot of empathy for people who have weight to lose, because I was there and I know how it feels.’

‘People are always shocked to look at my old pictures but I assure them it is me.

‘It hasn’t been easy but I can show it is do-able without resulting to surgery.

Catherine now helps other people to lose weight after setting up her own branch of Slimming World 

‘There is so much money spent on bariatric patients and I think people need more help- without having to resort to tax-payer funded surgery.’

‘I am busy single parent and not only have I lost the weight- I’ve kept it off, but that’s why is has to be a whole lifestyle change- there is no quick fix which lasts in the long term.

‘It sound silly but it’s true- you are what you eat.

‘Before I was eating fatty foods but now I have whole new lease of life-and a new body- thanks to eating healthily.

‘I don’t deny myself- but I advocate everything in moderation.

‘People make excuses not to exercise- and I’ve been there. But if it is important enough anyone can make time.’

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Healthy Decisions: Do men lose weight easier than women?

I recently had a debate with a friend of mine over who loses weight more easily, men or women. The answer may be found in both physiology and psychology, and it may surprise you to learn the truth.

When it comes to our bodies and how they function with regard to weight loss, I often hear my women clients complain. “It’s not fair! How come I go on a diet with my husband and he loses 20 pounds in the first two weeks and I lose 3?”

The answer at least in part can be found in the body’s resting metabolic rate or RMR. When it comes to RMR, several factors come into play: genetics, body size, age, race, thyroid function, nutritional status and muscularity. Body size is usually considered to be the most important determinant of metabolic rate. The higher RMRs of larger people — whether obese or extremely muscular — are explained by greater muscle mass, larger heart, greater volume of blood and in obesity enlarged fat mass. However, lean tissue (muscle) is particularly metabolically active, which simply means they lose fat more easily because they burn more calories at rest. This explains at least partly the higher RMRs of men, and the reduced RMRs seen in nonstrength-training women and in aging individuals.

Men’s bodies tend to be naturally more muscular than women’s, and the more muscular the body is, typically the easier time you will have losing weight. The obese individual may have a higher metabolism, but will continue to add fat if no changes are made in the diet and exercise routine.

Ladies, if you are not strength training, you will find it harder and harder to keep the weight off as you age.

However, gentlemen, having a muscular body is not an antidote for over eating, nothing is. You can be very consistent with your strength routine and have great muscle tone, but if you’re not eating right no one will know how cut you are because it will be hidden under layers of fat.

Strength training will also help both sexes as we get older with balance, overall fitness, bone density and a general feeling of being able to do the things we’ve always done.

Behavioral perspective

Now, let’s look from the psychological or behavioral perspective. In my experience I believe that men and women typically hold the same attitudes towards food in terms of general enjoyment and desire. However, who is more apt to apply the discipline necessary to change their eating behaviors, men or women? The answer, as far as I can tell, is neither one. I have seen extremely disciplined women who follow instructions to the letter; I’ve seen men who are all over the map with habits and behaviors. And of course the other way around as well. When it comes to food preferences the same applies so how can you make sense of this or find where you fit in?

I believe a practical approach may be found in the “left brain” “right brain” idea. Are you a left brain thinker? Logical, linear, analytical, precise, cerebral? Do you go for structure “just tell me what to eat!” Whether man or woman, you may do better with a program for weight loss and fitness that is laid out in structured fashion and follows a prescribed path.

Are you a right brain thinker — ideas, concepts, feelings, flow, heart.

Do you go for creative and changeable choices and programs? One day you may want to try Yoga the next day Zumba.

Maybe you want to experiment with Thai cuisine or you hate vegetables, most of all you don’t want to be told what to eat every day, where is the fun in that? Of course most of us are a little of both, depending on the day, the situation and the topic.

With that said, I think it is important to seek to discover which one of these you’re closest too when it comes to your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors around food, exercise and overall health.

Once you have an idea of which way you lean, then find a coach or weight loss center that is willing to work with you in your comfort zone, and with the way you want to receive coaching and information.

Anyone can hand out instructions, but it takes more to understand the individual and invite that person to discover their own path in their own way.

Right- or left-brained, neither is inherently good or bad, neither is right or wrong, and neither is tied to one sex or the other.

When it comes to changing behaviors around food and fitness, it’s all about what works best for you.

Seek this out, and when you discover it, you will be on your way to realizing your goals.

And don’t forget to add strength training into your weekly workouts. Your body will thank you in innumerable ways.

Contact Joy Allison, a nutritionist and owner of FOODFIT Ultimate Weight Management, at 855-693-6633 or at www.myfoodfit.com.