According to researchers, when stressed out females were asked to wait 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 an organised kitchen.
"Being in a chaotic environment and feeling out of control is bad for diet. It seems to lead people to think, 'Everything else is out of control, so why shouldn't I be'," said lead author Lenny Vartanian from the University of New South Wales in Australia.
"I suspect the same would hold with males," Vartanian adds.
For the study, conducted at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and published in Environment and Behaviour, 101 females participated with half of them waiting in a cluttered kitchen with scattered piles of papers and dirty dishes, while the other half waited in an organised kitchen.
The latter group later entered the cluttered room feeling in control and ate about 100 fewer calories than those who felt out of control before entering, the study found.
"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," said co-author Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.