Clean More, Weigh Less!

housewifeIf you’ve been struggling with weight management, better get back into the kitchen and make your man a sandwich or at least clean the bathroom floor—because, according to a new study, obesity is caused by a lack of housework.

Sponsored by Coca-Cola, the Public Library of Science study was designed to examine the increased prevalence of obesity among women, and particularly how it correlates to the decrease in household management over the past five decades. Their findings in lay terms: You’re fat because you don’t spend enough time cooking, cleaning or doing laundry.

But wait, it gets better.

The researchers at PLOS imply that this increase in sedentary lifestyles is primarily due to watching too many Real Housewives marathons (or some other guilty-pleasure television show) and couldn’t possibly be related to working at a computer all day, despite the fact that the last few decades have seen more than a 30 percent decrease in physical activity at work (a drop from 50 percent in 1960 to less than 20 percent in 2011).

The study continues to insult women (specifically targeting “stay-at-home” moms) by reporting that they rely too heavily on modern conveniences such as pre-packaged microwaved meals, restaurant food, dishwashers and disposable meal containers. Apparently the luxury of foregoing dish-scrubbing, bread-kneading, cow-milking and land-plowing has made us all overweight and spoiled.

It’s a shame PLOS couldn’t find a better way to spend Coca Cola’s unrestricted grant—like, say, researching the ever-present wage gap, dwindling options for reproductive health care or maybe even the adverse health effects of drinking soda!

Maybe I should get off the computer and clean something? I can feel the fat depositing with every stroke of the keyboard.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user harryleemartin via Creative Commons 2.0.


  1. The Public Library of Science is an peer-reviewed, online, open-source journal, not a research institute. It published the article, just as Science, Nature, and Ms. Magazine publish articles. Most of the researchers responsible for the article to which you object give their addresses as “Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina.”

    I read the article, rather than the media coverage of the article, and noticed this caveat, which starts off the discussion: “there are no models that allow valid extrapolations from decreases in HMEE [Household Management Energy Expenditure] to increments in population-level weight-gain. ”

    I think there are valid criticisms of this article (including sponsorship issues, the disclosure of which PLOS requires), but these must begin with actually reading the article, which you clearly did not.

    Also, as someone who has engaged in “dish-scrubbing, bread-kneading, cow-milking and land-plowing” as well as difficult (but sedentary) scientific research, I found your blog post offensive as well as lazy.

    • Seconding Ms. Clayton in pointing out that PLOS had nothing to do with this article except to publish it.

      The study only concerned women, but I expect that if men or children had been studied, similar decreases in their activity levels outside work or school hours would have been found.

      What I think is most telling about the article is this: The authors state that a larger amount of food/calories is not enough to explain the current increase in obesity, since in some countries food availability has increased similarly but the population hasn’t gained weight to the degree that Americans have. Therefore, they are saying, lack of exercise must be the main culprit. I read this as meaning simply, “Don’t blame Coca Cola or other sellers of junk food for the obesity epidemic.” It’s become quite well-established that the HFCS Americans suck down in sodas, which is also stuffed into all sorts of fast foods, is a major driver of obesity. Coca Cola has gotten a lot of bad press for that, and this is probably one small part of their effort to rehabilitate their image. It’s not a terribly useful or meaningful study, but it’s not actually insulting toward women.

      But people of both sexes would be well served by more activity around the house and yard (give up those riding mowers, perhaps, guys?), and it sure would help if jobs were structured to make more movement possible during the work day.

  2. As in right now women don’t have three jobs. Married women with kids that is. Take care of the kids, work at home, work outside, and take care of their husband too. Husbands count as kids too. Not that some husbands don’t help out, but more women have triple jobs. The study is invalid. In that case women should lose more weight, since there are more demands from kids, husband, and job.

  3. As if right now women don’t have three jobs and are more multi-task than ever. I don’t understand the study. Women weren’t “over weight” before? What does ‘over weight’ mean according to the study? Women today are juggling more now than ever before. They should be sticks according to the study.

  4. There are so many more important topics to discuss! Some of which, admittedly, are also given space in this recent blog “round up.” While I appreciate a range of topics presented through a feminist “lens,” it somehow seems ridiculous to complain about the unfairness of an article like this when there are so many other topics that, I would argue, deserve more attention. People’s lives in general have become more sedentary (a lot of work that was traditional “men’s work” has been replaced by more efficient machines) but it’s hard for some people to take feminism seriously when it seems like whining. I almost cringed when I saw the Wizard of Oz post. Come on! Let’s not waste our time looking for insults and focus on issues like human trafficking, violence against women, unfair wages, poverty, and the list goes on…

  5. Frances in California says:

    Peer Reviewed, huh? Who is considered a “Peer” in this case?

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