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Hotel Maids Challenge the Placebo Effect

Natalie
Stein
June 3, 2022
How Changing Your Mindset Can Help You Lose More Weight
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In this article: 

  • The way you think about your physical activity may affect its effects on your body.
  • Research among hotel maids found that maids who thought they were physically active lost more weight and improved their health more than maids who didn't know that their job-related activity counted as exercise.
  • Lark can track your physical activity levels so you get credit for everything you do. Lark can also support you in making healthier choices for weight loss and health.

Are you getting as much as you can from your physical activity or exercise? What if there were a way to get more benefits out of your activities without changing anything about them? Research says you can! You don't have to exercise harder or longer. All you need to change is your attitude!

Hotel Maid Activity Conundrum

Several years ago, two Harvard researchers saw that most hotel maids reported that they didn't exercise much. They knew that wasn't correct, since hotel maids spend hours daily walking, moving equipment, scrubbing, and vacuuming. In fact, most of the maids they interviewed actually met or exceeded national guidelines for exercise.

Perceptions Predicted Weight

The researchers checked for links between maids' own perceptions of their activity levels and certain health indicators. They found that maids who felt that they were physically active were more likely to have lower body weights and lower waist-to-hip ratios (less unhealthy abdominal body fat) than maids who did not think they were physically active. In other words, what maids thought about their physical activity affected their actual weight and health! The study is published in Psychological Science.

Mindful Maid Study on Weight Loss

The researchers continued asking questions. They recruited 84 maids from 6 different hotels and divided them into 2 groups. Maids in the first group were told that their on-the-job activity counted as exercise, and that they were close to meeting exercise recommendations. Maids in the second group were not given this information.

The results were astonishing. In 4 weeks, these were the results in the first group.

  • Average weight loss was nearly 2 pounds.
  • Body fat percentage decreased.
  • Waist-to-hip ratio decreased. 
  • Blood pressure dropped by 10 points systolic and 5 points diastolic.

Remember: maids weren't asked to change anything about their job or activity. They were simply told that what they did on the job counted as exercise!

Use Your Mind to Lose More Weight

More studies have found similar results. It turns out that the placebo effect can be real! There are a few possible explanations for why. 

  1. Your mind is powerful. In the study, for example, the maids could have lost more weight or improved health just because they believed it would happen.
  2. You may change your behaviors subconsciously. For example, the maids in the study could have started to work more vigorously after learning that their work was healthy.
  3. You may feel better supported, which can make it easier to change behaviors. For example, the maids in the study may have felt that the researchers who told them the good news about their physical activity were "on their side." They may have then felt empowered to make healthier choices in the rest of their lives, such as eating healthier. 

You can apply this lesson in your own weight loss and health journey. For example, you can be aware of, and celebrate, your physical activity and healthy eating choices. And you can know that everyday chores, such as gardening, sweeping, and washing windows and floors, can help you reach your weight loss and health goals!

Lark can help by helping you track and reminding you to get active and to log it all. You deserve all possible rewards for your activity, so change your mindset and chase those rewards!

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