Total Wellness: “In The Pursuit of Bodily Perfection”

We strive for perfection, especially with regards to our body for many reasons: to be flawless, to be loved, and to be socially included. But what happens when the strive to be perfect has a negative cost on our physical and mental health? Allison Newell, one of our fabulous DiSH RAs, wrote the cover story for the newest issue of UCLA’s Total Wellness magazine titled “In The Pursuit of Bodily Perfection.” Her article covers issues regarding body image and risks associated with the drive to pursue “bodily perfection,” such as restrictive dieting, extreme exercise, eating disorders, and more. She also references Dr. T’s paper on cortisol and dieting as one example of the negative long-term effects of low calorie dieting.

Allison also explains how striving for the “ideal body” takes a toll on mental health, as these individuals tend to have body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and body image disturbances that leads to negative changes in health behaviors. Therefore, it is important for individuals to realize that the current image of an ideal body are both unrealistic and biological unattainable, and that it is time to take a new perspective on how we view ourselves and our body.

Click here to read Allison’s article on page 30.





SF, Get Ready for DiSH Lab!

The DiSH lab team traveled up to San Francisco this Wednesday to attend the American Psychosomatic Society (APS) 72nd annual scientific meeting! DiSH lab grad student, Laura Finch, presented a poster on “Emotional Eating Behaviors Buffers Psychological Stress in Black and White Girls” on Thursday. And our DiSH lab’s manager and incoming student, Angela Incollingo Belsky, will be presenting her poster on “Clues To Maintaining Calorie Restriction? Psychosocial Profiles of Successful Long-Term Restrictors” on Saturday. Also, before we forget to mention, Angela’s poster received a Newsworthy Abstract distinction! So congrats to our grad student and lab manager for representing and disseminating our lab’s research! Go DiSH lab!

Click the link here to see the PDF of the APS program and abstracts.


To Juice or Not To Juice?

The juice cleanse craze is crazier than ever! Celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Beyoncé (just to name a few), college students, and health advocators are all promoting it. Nonetheless, juicing is a controversial topic, with many pros and cons. But DiSH lab is ready to dig through literatures to find out all we can about juice cleanses.

First, we need to address what is the juice cleanse and why does it attract the public? A juice cleanse is a detox diet that consist of consuming only the juice of raw vegetables and fruits for a limited amount of time. Juice cleansing is supposed to detoxify the digestive system. Doing so, involves several benefits such as weight loss, increase energy, increase mental clarity, better sleep, and improve complexion.  If juice cleanses do exactly what they are set out to do, then it is no wonder that the market for juicing companies skyrocketed within the past few years. However, in a small study done by Dr. Roman Huber, one week of juicing did show an immediate decrease in LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), but the levels returned to normal just one week later. So, is juicing really as effective as they are claimed to be? (see: Huber Juice Fasting)

Glenn Braunstein, MD, professor and chairman of the department of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and other experts explained that our bodies are natural detoxifiers and do not need other methods of “cleansing.” Registered dietitian, Jennifer Nelson, also argues that juicing eliminates important nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants from in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables. Because fiber is eliminated in the juicing process, the body is more likely to absorb fructose, which may affect blood sugar levels, according to Food Republic. But, others like Cathy Wong, a naturopathic doctor, certified nutrition specialist, and author of The Inside Out Diet, suggests that detoxes may help you get rid of unhealthy eating habits and aid in establishing healthier habits after the cleanse. However, most professionals agree that juicing does not produce any lasting results in weight loss.

The question ultimately comes down to whether to juice or not to juice. Remember that even though a product contains only natural or organic ingredients, it does not necessarily means that it is safe for your body. It is important to do your research before you dive into anything that might have potential harm to your body. Each of us and our bodies are unique. Some may benefit from juicing, while others do not. Juicing may be especially dangers to those with diabetes, cancer, anemia, intestinal obstruction, gallstones, or people who are underweight or with a history of eating disorders and should consult with their doctor before going on any kind of diet.

And last but not least, we have to ask ourselves, is there really any difference between a juice cleanse and a low calorie diet? If not, it might not be worth your time since, as the DiSH Lab knows, low calorie dieting just doesn’t work in the long term.

DiSH Lab Taking Over the SPSP Preconference!

The DiSH lab is extremely excited to be attending the Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) this February 13th-15th, 2014 in Austin, Texas!

The Social, Personality, and Health Network Preconference today will cover various topics regarding physiological and health effects on emotions, stress, attitudes and behaviors, as well as a discussion of the current genetic factors and its role in social, personality, and health research. The SPHN preconference is a big deal for DiSH lab this year because not only is Dr. T co-chairing the preconference, but also all of DiSH lab’s students will be presenting their own research at the Data Blitz (See below for DiSH student’s research topics)!

What is the Data Blitz, you ask? Well, the Student Data Blitz gives students the opportunity to present their research findings for 2 minutes on 2 slides. The program also offer a $500 travel award to students with the most outstanding Blitz submission. Who could that be, you ask? None other than DiSH Lab collaborating student, Jeff Hunger of UCSB! As if that’s not enough good news, Traci Mann (Dr. T’s advisor from grad school) is now the Social Personality & Health Network (SPHN) president, and Dr. T will continue her position as Co-Chair next year!


DiSH Students’ Research Topics:

Britt– Life History Theory and Weight
Laura– Comfort Eating and Stress
Angela– Weight Salience and Food Choice
Jenna– Stress Tolerance and Health in College Students Versus Drug Addicts
Jeff– Weight Labeling and Adult Obesity
Mary– Masculinity and Perceptions of Doctor Competence and Patient Honesty



(Visit SPHN website for schedule and more info)

Food Explorations: Bruin Plate

A couple months back, we posted a blog about Bruin Plate, the newest and largest dining hall at UCLA. The DiSH Lab is in full support of a health-themed dining hall, especially one that promotes and educates students about the importance of incorporating nutrient-packed superfoods into their daily diets. But is the food being served actually up to par? Healthier food choices definitely benefit the body, but they don’t always satisfy the taste buds. To answer this question, Dr. T recently made a trip to Bruin Plate and took the liberty of taking some photos (see below) of her meal and shared her overall dining experience with us.

“ It was amazing – huge floor to ceiling windows that overlooked greenery made things peaceful; so many foods that I wanted to try and couldn’t, including a luscious-looking vegan brownie, yummy soups, and many things with avocado in them!”

“I got to meet the Executive Chef Kevin Aiello, who recently visited Alice Water’s kitchen at Chez Panisse to learn about sourcing and cooking fresh materials in a delicious way”

-Dr. T



Bison slider with pickled onions, blackberries, and gorgonzola cheese

Salad with their most popular dressing: Kale vinaigrette
Swiss chard, quinoa, and green beans

Is Eating More Psychological Than Biological?

A recent article in UCLA’s Total Wellness Magazine titled “Mind Over Stomach: The Psychology of Eating,” discusses various ways that our environment influences how much we earn and drink. As it turns out, our physiological drive is not the only powerhouse controlling our stomach. Environmental, social, and perceptual factors such as music, family, and plate sizes all influence the amount and type of food we consume. This fun and “digestible” article guides the reader through several fascinating food studies about size-contrast illusion, the variety effect, and the salience principle (just to name a few) and other phenomena that affect how and what we eat. Whether you are trying to eat more or eat less, being aware of these sneaky influencers is important for maintaining a healthy and mindful diet.

Of course, I saved the best part last. This fabulous piece is written by our very own DiSH Lab RA, Allison Newell, and reviewed by Dr. T!

You can find this article in the Total Wellness issue “Building Blocks of Health” on Page 21.

Total Wellness

iVillage Joins the DiSH Lab Press Coverage

The third time is the charm! Both Dr. T’s papers on long-term effects of dieting and relationships between weight loss and health outcomes are cited in iVillage’s recent article titled “BTW, That Recent Study About How Fat People Die Sooner Is Totally Bogus.” A recent media spread around research claiming that fat people die earlier than thin people caught the article’s author Ragen Chastain’s, attention, in which she referred to Dr. T’s research to question the credibility of this claim. Dr. T’s research found that there is insignificant support that dieting will result in lasting weight loss and that weight loss correlates with better health. There are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people; therefore, it is better to say that behavior, not weight, is a greater indicator of health outcomes.

The passage below is from the original article:

“Mann and Tomiyama’s study, though better designed, has received only a fraction of the attention.  I call this a Galileo issue…like the idea that the sun revolved around the Earth, the idea that anyone who tries hard enough can lose weight and that weight loss will lead to better health is widely believed, fervently supported, and heresy to question.”

To read the full text, click here.

Newest DiSH Paper Picked Up By

Three cheers for Dr. T, her grad school advisor Traci Mann, and DiSH Lab grad student Britt Ahlstrom on their latest research spotlight in, the award-winning online news website! debunks the relationship between weight loss and health outcomes with the help of Dish Lab’s research on the long-term effects of dieting. Many people associate weight loss with better health, but this DiSH Lab research shows that there are actually minimal health benefits. Weight change has no correlation with improved cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose. In all, if you’re looking to improve your health, it’s better to stick to healthy habits such as exercising and eating fresh fruits and veggies! To read more, see the original Salon Website!


Dr. T Speaks at Manhattan Beach Rotary Club

Just a week ago, Dr. T presented at the Manhattan Beach Rotary club! Dr. T gave her presentation,  “Can You Starve Yourself to Immortality…Or Will That Stress You Out?” and discussed the issues and facts regarding dieting and its association with stress.

Below is a picture of President Kathleen Terry presenting a 100 Polio Vaccinations certificate to Dr. T with the help of Ed Kushins taken from the original website.


Let’s give a big hand for Dr. T and her active involvement in community service!



Research that Changed Research: Is Food is the New Drug?

Since Halloween just past, I’m sure many of us are now struggling with an over-active (or re-instated) sweet tooth. But why is it that even not close to Halloween, when we have cravings, we usually prefer foods that are sugary, high in fat, and salty?

Davis and colleagues were wondering the same thing! But, they were more interested in why eating behaviors, namely overeating, produces addictive-like qualities in obese individuals. Coincidentally, sugary foods with high levels of fructose enhance physiological properties that are similar to those of addictive drugs. When large amounts of fructose are consumed, possible biological changes may actually promote overconsumption of food and cause problematic health issues.

In their study, Davis and colleagues recruited seventy-two obese participants between the ages of twenty-five and forty-six years old. Participants were measured in three areas: (1) clinical, (2) personality, and (3) eating behavior. Clinical measures include assessments on food addiction, binge eating disorder, depression severity, and ADHD symptoms. Personality measures include assessments on impulsivity, and addictive personality traits. Eating behavior measures include assessments on binge eating, hedonic eating, emotional eating and externally driven eating, food cravings, and snacking on sweets.  Participants were allowed to take the questionnaires home and return the package when completed.

The original passage below shows the results of the study:

“The powerful urges and cravings that compel drug seeking behaviours – often against the individual’s better judgement – are cardinal features of all addiction disorders (Garavan, 2010). As expected, the food addicts reported stronger food cravings than the non-FA group…we also expected, and found, that food addicts were more sensitive and responsive to the pleasurable properties of palatable foods as indicated by higher scores on a measure of the hedonic impact of food, and by more frequent snacking on sweets. Similar to the preliminary validation research by Gearhardt et al. (2009), we found that food addicts reported more overeating in response to emotional triggers like depression and anxiety, and were more likely to self-soothe with food compared to control participants…”

The results demonstrated a strong association between food and substance abuse within the group of participants involved in the study. This is strong evidence that maybe food addiction and drug addiction are two sides of these same coin. The study also suggests that there are different subtypes of obesity and that each may be vulnerable to distinctive threat factors in the environment, and a more personalized treatment approach might have better outcome for those who are struggling with obesity. The DiSH Lab couldn’t agree more with this last point! As our research has shown that diets fail more than they work, we are in full support of an approach to obesity that doesn’t blame a failed diet on the individual.