Clutter and Obesity - There IS a Connection

There is scientific evidence that clutter and obesity have a relationship.  Jonathan Bailor, author of The Setpoint Diet, explains it pretty succinctly.

Stress hormones are involved in weight and hunger signals.  One of the most influential on weight is cortisol.

Among cortisol's many functions is to trigger the release of insulin, which then delivers glucose to cells for the energy to deal with short-term stress.  This is part of your body's survival response to stress.  If a predator starts chasing you (the typical type of short-term stress faced by humans for the majority of our history), you need fuel fast.  Then the crisis ends, the glucose is burned off, and a relaxation response gradually returns the body's systems to normal.

The trouble is that your body responds to all stresses in the same way.  If you experience marital problems, financial difficulties, job stress, an argument, worry, or guilt and shame over your weight or your clutter, it's all "a saber-toothed tiger is chasing you right now" as far as your body is concerned.  

Then your body keeps churning out cortisol as if you were always in mortal danger.  Because cortisol prompts the release of insulin, that hormone also stays elevated.  When insulin is elevated 24/7, insulin receptors in your cells get so used to it they stop responding to it.  This condition, known as insulin resistance, means that cells don't accept the glucose insulin is trying to deliver to them.  So the cells are starved for energy, and the glucose is still in the bloodstream.  Glucose has to go somewhere, so it winds up in your fat cells, because fat cells will always accept more energy for storage.

So in response to elevated cortisol, you have high insulin, high blood glucose levels, and increased fat storage.  In other words, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, the insulin resistance caused by elevated cortisol sends a message to the brain that your body's cells aren't getting the glucose they need.  So not only do you lack energy and stamina, but you also crave glucose.  Guess where you can find the most?  That's right, in sugars and starches.  And what makes weight loss nearly impossible?  Intense cravings for sugar and starches.

What does this have to do with clutter?

In 2012, researchers at UCLA found that women who live in cluttered homes have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  That is, living with and managing a large volume of possessions can make you fat and sick.  And the families in this study were identified as typical two-income families, not people with a hoarding disorder.  So this situation isn't rare; in fact, it's pretty mainstream.

And since Mama ain't happy, no one else is either.  That means family relationships are more stressful, which is bad for everyone's health and really detrimental to happiness.  Imagine what these typical cluttered homes are doing to the kids who grow up in them.  At the very least, the study reported that:

  • the children rarely go outside
  • the families relied heavily on convenience foods (i.e. highly processed salt, fat, and sugar-laden crud)
  • family members typically ate at different times and in different rooms
  • stockpiling of food and toilet paper was common
  • entire walls would be devoted to displays of Barbie dolls, Beanie Babies, Legos, superhero action figures, and other toys.

This sounds like a recipe for the next generation of bad health, weight problems, disconnection from other people, mindless collecting, and hoarding.

So do you feel like doing some decluttering right now?

Photo by Mattea Steeke on Unsplash


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