Aaron RA blogs: It’s the Little Things that Matter

We are often told that in life it is the little things that matter, and this saying applies readily to health psychology. In two studies, one conducted right here in the DiSH Lab and another one in Sweden, it was found that using negative language and stigmatizing overweight individuals was directly correlated with weight gain.

Here in the DiSH Lab, a study was conducted recently which found that being labeled as “too fat” in childhood was a significant predictor of obesity in early adulthood (almost a decade later). In a related study in Sweden, researchers found that a significant increase in BMI was associated with individuals with severe obesity who were also stigmatized for their weight in the health care setting.

These studies underscore the idea that these “little things” like labeling and the language we use to describe others are not so little after all. Just being told you are overweight, or having your weight spoken about in a negative light, is correlated with weight gain in the future, and that doesn’t help anyone. In order to curb this problem, maybe it is time to start using more positive language and thinking about how what we say and how we act towards others really can affect them in the long run. In addition, more research being conducted on stigmas, body image, and the effects on weight could bring about very helpful information about how these issues relate to one another.


Blog by Aaron Lapidus

Marian RA blogs: You are not alone

I volunteer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in a program called Transforming Care at Bed Side (TCAB). This last Friday I got to see some very sick patients and, although conversation wise we did not exchange too many words, I got to do little favors for them and could see in their eyes that that made them happy. However, one of them thanked me for caring, which was very nice, but I felt that there was more to it than that.

I was looking her right in the eyes when she said that and I had this strong sensation that she had said it because she thought that people usually do not care that much about what happens to other people. This belief mediated her response to pain. She had decided to suffer in silence because she thought that people did not care. This reminded me of another patient that I had visited some weeks back. She was an elderly woman. I asked her if she was in pain and she said yes. We talked about what was the cause of her pain. At some point I had to leave in order to visit other patients. She made me promise I would come back. I went back after a while and we picked up where we left off and we had a nice, long conversation. She was smiling when I left. She was not in pain anymore.

Do not hesitate to ask for help when in need. People do care and it can help your health.

Blog by Marian Popescu

Bernice RA Blogs: Weight stigma does not reduce obesity

As one of the top public concerns in United States, obesity draws huge attention from social media, and unfortunately, most portraits of obese people are linked with negative characteristics, such as lazy, weak willed and self-indulgent. However, some public health campaigns claim that stigmatizing obesity may encourage people to lose weight and such belief contributes to the prevalence of weight stigma. On the other hand, there are experimental evidence that shows that weight stigma may lead to both psychological and physiological consequences. A recent study by Dr. Major supports the latter proposition.

Major’s study shows that women who perceived themselves as overweight, and were randomly assign to read a news article about the stigma faced by obese people feel less capable of controlling their eating, and consume more calories during a fixed waiting time, compared to women who perceived themselves as normal weight. Moreover, exposing one to weight stigma by reading news causes both women who self-perceived themselves as overweight and those who self-perceived themselves as normal weight to be concerned more about being a target of stigma.

Such result implies that weight stigma is not a possible solution to reduce obesity. Rather, it leads to weight-based identity threat among self-perceived overweight people, and consequently, the threat and concerns cause those folks to become more prone to unhealthy eating or weight control behavior. The only way to break such vicious circle is to reduce public weight stigma and alter the self-perceived body image.

Blog by Bernice Cheung 

Ilana RA Blogs: Freshman 15?

As we are just beginning our third week of the quarter, a relevant topic to address with all the new bruins around is the dreaded “Freshman 15”. Is this weight gain something to be concerned about or is it just a myth?

According to an article by Hovell and colleagues entitled, “Risk of Excess Weight Gain in University Women: A Three-Year Community Controlled Analysis”, researchers compared a group of freshmen women living on campus to a group of freshmen women living in the community. Results of the study found that the freshmen living on campus were almost three times as likely as the women living in the community to gain weight; however, by their junior year, the women who initially lived on campus were almost back to their baseline weight. This return to their original weight was attributed to moving away from the buffet-style food and going back to a more regulated eating pattern.

In another instance, a researcher named Cecelia Brown found through examining peer-reviewed journals, magazines, and newspapers that half of the popular press state that freshmen gain 15 pounds. In actuality, the 14 studies in the peer-reviewed journals revealed that the average weight gain in freshmen was less than 5 pounds. The press seemed to make out that the weight gain was much higher than in reality and constantly reinforced the fear of the “Freshman 15”.

All in all, it is definitely easy to be tempted with all of the dining hall food and the new freedom that comes with living away from home. However, the fear of gaining weight itself and the term “Freshman 15” can cause a lot of harm through the self-fulfilling prophecy. The bottom line is to make smart choices and not get too preoccupied with gaining weight. Get out there…enjoy the sights of Los Angeles and stay active. The “Freshman 15” will soon be a thing of the past!



Blog Post by Ilana Greenberg