You might think the key to losing weight is to stay out of the kitchen — but maybe you just need to clean it. According to a new study, the amount of clutter and chaos in your kitchen — and your life — may directly influence the amount of food you eat.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and published in the Environment and Behavior journal, evaluated 98 female participants as they sat in a kitchen with bowls of carrots, crackers and cookies to snack on. Half of the subjects sat in a cluttered kitchen with dishes in the sink, newspapers on the table, and a nearby phone ringing off the hook. The other half sat in a quiet, tidy kitchen.

The women who sat in the cluttered kitchen ate twice as many cookies as the women in the clean kitchen, amounting to 53 more calories consumed over a 10-minute period. There was no effect on the amount of carrots and crackers that the women ate. What's more, the researchers found that when the women felt chaotic, the effect was magnified.

Before they stepped into the messy kitchen, some of the women were asked to write about a time in their lives when they felt totally in-control; others were asked to write about a time that they felt completely out-of-control. The women who wrote about feeling chaotic ate 100 more calories than those who wrote about feeling cool and collected.

“Being in a chaotic environment and feeling out of control is bad for diets,” explained lead author Lenny Vartanian, PhD, in a press release. “It seems to lead people to think, ‘Everything else is out of control, so why shouldn’t I be?’”

Bottom line: If you want to lose weight, you need to get control of your kitchen or your mind. You could try meditating, yoga and exercise to help ease stress and give yourself a better mindset when you walk into the kitchen. Or you could just do those dishes in the sink.

Is the state of your kitchen sabotaging your weight?
New research finds that clean kitchens cut calories.