Does dieting work better in pairs? Angela’s novel study discussed in SHAPE magazine!

Angela Incollingo Rodriguez, one of our grad students, recently published a study that was featured in SHAPE magazine. Her team examined whether dieting might be easier and less stressful when using the diet “buddy system.” Interestingly, she found that it may be most helpful if one person is dieting and the other isn’t. Click here to read the full article.

DiSH Grad Student Jenna receives APA Dissertation Award!

Congratulations to one of our graduate students, Jenna Cummings, for receiving a 2017 American Psychological Association Dissertation Research Award! This award provides funding for doctoral students who have excellent dissertations that will contribute to psychological research. We’re so proud of Jenna and are excited to see her results!

Congratulations, Jenna!

One of our incredible DiSH graduate students, Jenna Cummings, just passed her dissertation preliminary orals! We’re excited to announce that she is now officially a Doctoral Candidate in the department of Psychology, and will embark on her dissertation.

We are so proud of you, Jenna! We know that you’re destined for greatness, and we can’t wait to see how you move forward with your research!



DiSH Lab at SPSP 2017!

This past weekend, the DiSH lab attended the 18th Annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Convention in San Antonio, TX. We also attended the Social, Personality and Health (SPH) Preconference, and we were one of the best-represented labs in attendance – our undergraduate research assistants, graduate students, lab manager, post-doc, and DiSH alums all came out to enjoy a weekend full of social psychological research and networking!

At the SPH Preconference, we learned about neural mechanisms linking social threat and inflammation, emotion and health-related decision making, potential unintended consequences of genetic testing, and much more!

DiSH Grad Student Laura Finch and Lab Manager Erin Standen also presented posters at the SPH preconference!


Laura Finch presenting her poster at the SPH Preconference.

Laura Finch presenting her poster at the SPH Preconference.

Erin Standen presenting her poster at the SPH Preconference.

Erin Standen presenting her poster at the SPH Preconference.

Also on Thursday, DiSH Graduate student Jenna Cummings presented a poster as a part of the SPSP Graduate Student Poster Competition, and was named a Runner-up for the Award! We are so proud, especially because there were over two hundred posters in the competition! Congratulations, Jenna!

Jenna Cummings presenting her poster at SPSP for the Graduate Student Poster Competition.

On Friday and Saturday, DiSH Research Assistants Gracie Nguyen and Melissa Walman each presented a poster at the main SPSP Convention!

Gracie Nguyen and Laura Finch presenting a poster at the SPSP Convention.

Melissa Walman presenting research at the SPSP Convention.

Overall, it was a great weekend in San Antonio, full of fascinating research, delicious food, and lots of DiSH Lab bonding! We can’t wait to head to Atlanta, GA for next year’s SPSP Convention!

From left to right: Gracie Nguyen, Erin Standen, Dr. Mary Himmelstein, Jenna Cummings, Laura Finch, and Bernice Cheung at SPSP 2017.


Big Congratulations to Jeff Hunger, who just successfully defended his dissertation!

We are incredibly proud to congratulate Jeff Hunger on successfully defending his dissertation! Jeff did his graduate studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara under the mentorship of Dr. Brenda Major, and he will be joining us starting this winter as a DiSH Lab Postdoctoral Scholar!

This is a huge milestone in Jeff’s career, and we could not be more excited for him to join us at UCLA!

Congratulations again, Dr. Hunger!

Congratulations to Dr. Britt Ahlstrom, who just successfully defended her dissertation!

This afternoon, Britt Ahlstrom, incredible DiSH graduate student, officially became Dr. Britt Ahlstrom! She successfully defended her dissertation to her committee members (Dr. T, Dr. Ted Robles, Dr. Martie Haselton, and Dr. Traci Mann), and has earned her Ph.D!



This is a huge milestone in Dr. Ahlstrom’s career, and we are all incredibly proud to call her one of our own!

Congratulations again, Dr. Ahlstrom!



Congratulations to Laura, for passing her dissertation preliminary orals!

Laura Finch, one of our talented DiSH graduate students – just passed her dissertation preliminary orals! We’re excited to announce that she is now officially a Doctoral Candidate in the department of Health Psychology, and will be able to move forward with completing her dissertation!

We can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish, Laura!

Big Congratulations to Britt, for passing her dissertation preliminary orals!

One of our brilliant graduate students, Britt Ahlstrom, just passed her dissertation preliminary orals with flying colors! She is now officially a Doctoral Candidate in the Health Psychology department and will embark on her dissertation. Britt’s committee will consist of Dr. T., of course, Dr. Ted Robles, Dr. Martie Haselton, and Dr. Traci Mann.

We couldn’t be any more proud, Britt!

What you didn’t know you learned in college -The order effect of marriage and education

Ample research has indicated a positive relationship between weight gain and marriage, as well as a negative relationship between obesity and the earning of a college degree. However, findings from a recent study add a puzzling contribution to the proposed effect of these factors; it indicates that the order in which people go about college and marriage matters.

The researchers investigated data from 1400 participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health that collected data between 1995 and 2008. Participant’s BMI, marriage records, and education level were examined at various time points. The findings suggest that getting married before earning a college degree may increase the risk of obesity by 50%, compared to those who completed a degree and later got married.

In order to be able to argue that the marriage timing had an effect on weight gain, the participants’ parents’ socioeconomic status was controlled for, as well as their BMI before reaching college age. Thus, the observed differences between the groups cannot be attributed to these pre existing factors.

How can the order a person go about marriage and college have an effect on the risk of obesity, you might wonder? The researchers hypothesize that it may be the critical thinking skills that people usually acquire when attending college that may make it easier for them to manage weight under changing circumstances, as well as the probable differences in salaries between the groups that make those with college degrees more likely to be able to afford buying healthy food.

“People who earn a college degree before getting married are more likely to have developed problem-solving skills that allow them to overcome obstacles that may prevent them from exercising and eating healthy as they adjust to married life,” said Richard Allen Miech, one of the main researchers of the study. “On the other hand, our research suggests that people who earn a college degree after marrying may have established exercise and diet habits that are more difficult to change later.”

As stated in the article, these findings emphasize the difficulty of staying healthy in today’s society, as the findings suggest that you may even need to use critical thinking skills in order to avoid the various food temptations and other external cues that may probe you into the direction of eating unhealthy.

Read more about this interesting relationship here!

Exercisers have the upper hand, regardless of body size

One of the many things we look at here in the DiSH lab is how health can come in many different sizes and several of our studies emphasize the importance of understanding that weight is not a good indicator of health.

Results from a recent study conducted at the University of Cambridge mirror this paradigm. The researchers found that twice as many early deaths may be attributable to lack of physical activity as to obesity. The researchers measured the link between physical activity and premature death, and its interaction with obesity. They found that the association between early death and exercise was independent of a person’s BMI, and that the greatest risk group for premature death was being inactive.

The study was conducted by analyzing data from 334,161 European men and women participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Study. Over the course of 12 years, participants’ height, weight, and waist circumference were measured, and levels of physical activity was recorded through participants’ self-reports.

Results from the study indicated that even just engaging in a 20 minute walk per day would take an individual from the inactive to the moderately inactive group, and that this would reduce the risk for premature death by between 16% and 30%.

“This is a simple message: just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive”, says Dr. Ulf Ekelund from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge.

Professor Nick Wareham, Director of the MRC Unit, adds: “Helping people to lose weight can be a real challenge, and while we should continue to aim at reducing population levels of obesity, public health interventions that encourage people to make small but achievable changes in physical activity can have significant health benefits and may be easier to achieve and maintain.”

Read more about the study here!