The state of one's kitchen is usually a pretty reliable barometer of their mental health.
A clean kitchen usually reflects psychological balance, while piling plates and the stench of stagnant soap water is usually a terrifying glimpse into the psyche of someone who "can't deal" with encrusted pots and pans.
But it would appear that a filthy kitchen can also be indicative of one's physical well-being. More specifically, a recent study has found what appears to be a direct link between caloric intake and how cluttered a kitchen is.
The study, which was published in the journal Environment and Behavior, was undertaken by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, the same lab which found, in an earlier study, that plate size can have a significant impact on weight loss. Like that study, this one confirms that overeating is tied into much more subtle mechanisms than just an appetite for sugar and fats.
The design of the experiment was pretty straight forward. Ninety-eight female participants were split into two groups and asked to sit in either a clean kitchen or one "scattered piles of papers and dirty dishes." Both kitchens had bowls of cookies, crackers, and carrots.
In order to control for the stress levels experienced in each group, participants were then asked to write about a time when their life was either "out of control" or "in control." Ultimately, researchers found that the latter group ate 100 fewer calories than those who wrote about being out of control, suggesting that the cleanliness of kitchens interacts with stress to produce certain eating behaviours.
"When stressed out females were asked to wait for another person in a messy kitchen—with newspapers on the table, dishes in the sink, and the phone ringing—they ate twice as many cookies compared to women in the same kitchen when it was organized and quiet," researchers confirmed in a press release.
"Being in a chaotic environment and feeling out of control is bad for diets," lead author Dr. Lenny Vartanian added. "It seems to lead people to think, 'Everything else is out of control, so why shouldn't I be?'"
According to Brian Wansink, co-author and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, "Although meditation, as a way of feeling in control, might be one way to resist kitchen snacking for some, it's probably easier just to keep our kitchens picked up and cleaned up."
So, while activities like meditation and exercise can reduce stress, they won't make that pile of dishes go away.