If You Have an Open Floor Plan, It May Be Working against Your Workout
One of the hottest features in today’s home is an open floor plan, where the living room, dining room, and kitchen are all centralized into a single space thanks to the removal of dividing walls. This layout is great for people who like entertaining, want to keep an eye on children while at home, or simply like the feeling of more space.
However, a study published in August 2016 from the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture has found that open kitchens and floor plans can actually increase the amount of eating you do in a day. Though the research is still in the early stages, results show that open floor plans can lead you to eat around 170 extra calories each day, which translates into about 2 to 4 extra pounds per year.
The good news is that you can still reap all the amazing benefits of an open floor plan and fight off the temptation to snack with these simple and effective design hacks. All it takes is a little clever thinking and a few design tricks, and you’ll have your open kitchen design snack-proofed in no time.
Ditch the Clear Containers
The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is definitely true when it comes to snacking, so this hack is all about making the foods in your kitchen less obvious. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by using opaque jars or storage containers to hold all of the foods that would otherwise be sitting right on your counter in prime snacking view.
Whether it’s a box of cereal, a bag of chips, or even energy bars, you don’t want to be able to actually see any of the food when you look into the kitchen. If you only see solid gray plastic bins, then you’ll be less likely to think about getting a snack, even though you know what’s inside them. Some containers allow you to pour the food out of the packaging, which can actually help you keep it fresher for longer.
Though they look decorative and add interest, clear food containers like these cake/pastry holders on the countertop of this open kitchen should not be in the line of sight of residents. The kitchen, which is in a 4-bedroom luxury home, is open to other living areas on three sides (Plan #161-1021).
Cover the Cupboards
The issue here, the study finds, is that the added visibility into your kitchen tends to draw your attention to the idea of eating, even if there isn’t any food out in the open. If you have open shelving or cabinets with glass doors, consider covering them to break the line of sight to food-related items. When you’re constantly looking at your plates, then your mind is going to start thinking about putting food on them.
This can open you up to a lot of fun design choices, including painting your cabinets or installing more-functional doors that slide or raise up. Think of it as another reason to finally get started on that kitchen renovation you’ve been dreaming of.
The cabinets in this open-design kitchen all have solid doors. This prevents being able to see through to stored food, as you would with glass doors, curbing the urge to snack. The kitchen is part of a 4-bedroom, 2.5-bath Craftsman Ranch style home (Plan #141-1038).
Minimize Island Seating
Most open kitchens feature a center island to help aid in food prep, and those islands can often double as a secondary eating location. Convenient seating in the center of the kitchen makes it all too easy to whip up a snack and start eating, so the trick here is to make the seating less accessible. Avoid permanent seats at your island, even if they’re backless stools, so that you aren’t tempted to sit and eat between meals.
Another option is to store the stools or seats in another area so you can still eat at the island or sit with friends and family when necessary but you don’t have that option all the time. All it takes is a little bit of extra effort to help you fight the temptation to snack.
With most of the available stools for this inviting island stored elsewhere in the home, the temptation to sit at the eating bar and snack is greatly reduced. The stools are brought out only when needed. The open-plan kitchen is in a beautiful 4-bedroom, 2-bath European style home (Plan #101-1126).
No TVs Allowed
There’s just something about watching TV that makes you want to eat snacks, which is why you need to keep the TV as far away from the kitchen area as possible. This means no small TVs in the kitchen, especially if you use the kitchen as your primary dining area. While it might be convenient for watching the morning news while you have breakfast, it’s only going to lead to way more eating the rest of the day.
You should also make sure that the TV in the family room section of the open floor plan doesn’t face into the kitchen, and that it’s not set right next to the kitchen, either. Essentially, you want to keep the TV and all of its relaxing entertainment as far from the fridge as you can.
Close the Pantry
One of life’s greatest kitchen luxuries is a walk-in pantry, as it allows you easy access to all of your dry foods, canned goods, and more. However, that kind of easy access to chips, cookies, and other snacks can be extremely dangerous for your waistline, so you want to make sure that you have the entry to the pantry completely covered.
If you don’t like the flow of a traditional single door, think about folding French doors, a sliding door or even a decorative curtain. As long as you can’t see all of your food just by glancing towards the pantry, you’ll be able to curb your snack cravings.
This kitchen in a 5-bedroom, 3.5-bath Contemporary European style home has a walk-in pantry (next to the refrigerator on the far wall) with a traditional single door (Plan #106-1138). The door provides a physical barrier to all of the goodies inside the pantry, recommended to prevent easy snacking by family members in the open-plan kitchen.
Use Bright Lighting
There’s a reason that most high-end restaurants use soft “mood” lighting instead of harsh fluorescent lights – because it makes you more relaxed and more inclined to eat. When you have bright lighting in your kitchen, you’ll be less inclined to eat in between meals.
Recessed lighting is great for setting atmosphere and giving your ceiling a low profile, but it can hinder visibility and affect your mood just like those restaurants. Instead of going to one extreme or the other for your kitchen, install a dimmer switch so you have the option to crank up – or down – the brightness when necessary.
The combination of pendant lights, recessed lights, and under-cabinet lighting in this kitchen in a 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath Country style home provides a brightly lit atmosphere no matter what time of day (Plan #109-1056). Well-lighted areas discourage grazing, or eating between meals.
Use that Open Space to Your Fitness Advantage
With an open floor plan, there are plenty of activities you can do that wouldn’t be possible in a more traditional home design. Dr. David Kern, health expert and founder of Healthy Turtle For Life, offered this advice for preventing weight gain with an open floor plan, "Utilize the space! With winter just around the corner, the urge to exercise outside will slowly diminish. Take advantage of the open air space in your home and workout within that area. How? High intensity interval training. Mix it up with jumping jacks, squat thrusts, push-ups, quick sprints, tuck jumps, and ab routines. With the colder weather just around the corner, youll value the opportunity to be able to do living room workouts easily without feeling cramped!" Of course, if all else fails …
Consider Temporary Partition Walls
The researchers who conducted the study actually used folding screens to change the configuration of rooms to test participants’ reactions, so why not put them into use in your own home? A few well-placed partitions can help you create your own defined spaces on the fly, so you always have the option of blocking out the kitchen during day-to-day activities, and then opening it up when you’re ready to entertain.
And those extra few pounds you put on since living with – and enjoying – the open floor plan in your home? If you follow a few of our design tips and make a conscious effort to curb any grazing behavior, you might be surprised to find that you’ll drop them before you know it! Share your experience in the comments section below.
Rollings, Kimberly A, Wells, Nancy M. “Effects of Floor Plan Openness on Eating Behaviors,” Environment and Behavior. August 19, 2006.
Footnote: upper left photo in the lead image is of a kitchen in the open floor plan in a 5-bedroom, 5-5-bath rustic Country style home. For more information, see Plan #202-1016.