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!

Jolene’s Experience at the American Psychosomatic Society’s 74th Annual Scientific Meeting!

This past weekend, Dr. T. & DiSH Lab Manager Jolene headed off to Denver, CO to attend the American Psychosomatic Society’s 74th Annual Scientific Meeting. The American Psychosomatic Society (APS) aims to “to advance and integrate the scientific study of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors in health and disease”, which makes it a perfect fit with DiSH research.

Here’s what Jolene had to say:

“This past weekend, I flew to Denver for APS’s 74th Annual Scientific Meeting. This was my first time attending APS’s conference, but I can definitely understand why so many people rave about it being their favorite.

First off, this conference brought together hundreds of researchers and clinicians to present their latest research in multiple scientific disciplines. It took place over the course of 3 days, and each day, the schedule was filled with plenary addresses, multiple symposiums, and a one and a half hour poster session. The topics were all so interesting and diverse that I often found myself having a hard time deciding which talks to attend. By the end, I was able to broaden my knowledge of such a wide variety of topics, including — but definitely not limited to — sleep, diabetes, dieting, stress, oncology, and even cannabis!
In addition, at this conference, I had the opportunity to present the abstract, Second-Hand Stress: Psychological and Psychosocial Consequences Associated with Dieting in Pairs, and to say that it was rewarding is an understatement. This was the very first study that I worked on in the DiSH Lab, and after two and a half years of working intimately on this project, I was thrilled and grateful to help disseminate our findings. It was also great to see how much interest our study garnered.
Overall, I had an amazing time at the APS conference and I would highly recommend this conference to everyone!”


 Here’s Jolene, presenting her poster!


 Jolene even got to discuss her poster with Lorenzo Cohen (on the right), chair of the entire conference!

Overall, it sounds like a was a great weekend!

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!

DiSH Lab at SPSP 2016!

This past weekend, the DiSH lab attended the 17th Annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Convention in San Diego, CA. We’re extremely proud of how well we were represented at this conference – we had undergraduates, lab managers, graduate students, DiSH Collaborators, and of course, Dr. T. all in attendance!

On Thursday, Jan. 28th, we attended the Social Personality Health Network (SPHN) Preconference, where we learned about weight stigma, mobile health tracking, personality traits tied to health behaviors, and big data. DiSH Grad Student Laura Finch also presented a poster at SPHN!

Laura presenting her poster at SPHN!

Check out what some of our undergraduate research assistants and lab manager Jolene had to say:

“Attending SPHN opened my eyes to just how intimate health and social psychologists are getting with their participants to attain the most salient data for their research, and how our very own DiSH lab is following suit. Psychologists from all over the nation explained how they are utilizing participants’ personal mobile devices to collect self-report and physiological data in response to weight stigmatizing events – something that the DiSH lab has already started utilizing in its Texting and Hashtag studies. Yesterday’s conference revealed to me just how much technology is allowing current research to delve into the depths of the human experience at levels that past instrumentation could not dare reach, and it excites me to know that the DiSH lab is contributing to the forefront of what seems to be the most promising findings health and social research have ever uncovered.” – Megan White

“SPHN was a great experience because we had the opportunity to interact with so many individuals who are professionals in the field of Health Psychology. In addition, the experience provided us insight on new upcoming research conducted by graduate students and faculty from various universities across the United States.” – Grace Nguyen

“SPHN is always a great opportunity to hear about the latest studies on social psychology and health, make connections with some of the field’s leading researchers, and support fellow DiSH Labbers. This year, I particularly loved Brenda Major’s talk on weight stigma, and I was fascinated by how gratitude and mindfulness can have such a significant impact on one’s physiology. I also really enjoyed seeing Traci and her students again and was very proud that we were the one of the only labs–if not the only lab–that had our undergraduate RAs attend. Laura’s poster was great too!” – Jolene Nguyen-Cuu

Towards the middle of the afternoon, Dr. T even led all the SPHN attendees in an energizing group-stretch:

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Dr. T. leading an energizing mid-conference stretch!

The following day, Dr. T. chaired a symposium on “Diet and Exercise in a Social World”. At the symposium, DiSH Graduate Student Angela Incollingo Rodriguez and DiSH Collaborator Dr. Andrew Ward both gave great talks, covered in more detail here. DiSH Collaborator Jeff Hunger also gave a talk over the weekend!

Jeff Hunger giving a talk at SPSP!


Dr. Andrew Ward giving his SPSP talk!


Angela Incollingo Rodriguez giving a talk at SPSP!

At the end of the weekend, the DiSH Lab shared a meal with Dr. Andrew Ward’s students from Swarthmore College. What a nice way to end a weekend of great research and great collaborators!

The DiSH Lab & Dr. Andrew Ward and his students from Swarthmore College.

Gut Feelings: Erin’s Experience at #SSEW2015

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Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the COAST/SSEW (Sugar, Stress, Environment, and Weight) Annual Symposium at UCSF with Dr. T. The theme of the symposium was “Gut Feelings: The microbiome, the mind, and metabolic health”, so all of the speakers were leading researchers and policymakers in the field of microbiome research. Before attending the symposium, all that I knew about the microbiome (basically, the array of bacteria that live in your intestines) was that certain profiles of microbiota have been linked to obesity.

The speakers at the symposium touched on the microbiome-obesity connection, but they also spoke about aspects of the microbiome that I had never thought about, such as the connection between the microbiome, the brain, and the immune system, as well as the relationship between nutrition and the microbiome. Before hearing the talks, I didn’t fully appreciate how influential to our health the microbiome can be. However, I quickly learned that the human body contains approximately 10 trillion human cells, and about 100 trillion microbial cells – meaning that technically, we are only 10% human. Pretty shocking. I also learned about some fascinating new techniques for evaluating the microbiome, as well as about strategies to cultivate the healthiest microbiome possible (hint, hint: eat lots of fish and vegetables). I was even surprised to learn that seemingly small aspects of early childhood development – such as being born vaginally vs. via C-section, or having a dog in your home as a child – can have major implications for one’s microbiome health and allergen sensitivity later in life! All in all, the symposium left me in awe of the power that our gut microbiome can have on our health, as well as on our emotional responses and brain development.

At the end of the day, Dr. T moderated a panel of all of the speakers, which allowed attendees to ask any burning questions and to get a few final take-home messages. Essentially, we learned that small changes to our environments in early childhood and in our diets throughout life can have large implications for the makeup of our microbiome, and that our microbiome can affect a wide range of human functions, such as immune responses, brain development, pain sensitivity, emotional responses, and weight regulation.


Dr. T. moderating the panel of speakers at the end of the day.

After the panel, the symposium allowed time for a poster session, during which time I presented a poster called “Debunking the Buddy System: Evidence that dieting with a friend may exacerbate negative consequences”. The poster was based on the findings from DiSH Lab grad student Angela Incollingo Rodriguez’s “Roommate Dieting Study”, which I worked as an RA on for over a year. It was really exciting to get to share our findings with graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members at the symposium, especially because lots of people expressed interest in the study. Though I was nervous at first to discuss the poster (as one of the only undergraduates at the symposium), it ended up going quite well!


Here’s a photo of me presenting my poster after the symposium.

I’m so grateful that I was able to attend the COAST/SSEW Symposium with Dr. T., and that I was able to present at the poster session – getting to speak with so many successful researchers in the field of health psychology and the microbiome made me even more driven to continue working to answer my own research questions!

DiSH Lab Featured in the APS Summer Newsletter!

Exciting news from the lab today – we’re featured in the American Psychosomatic Society’s “Meet the Lab” section of their Summer 2015 newsletter! “Meet the Lab” is a new addition to the APS newsletter, and it’s meant to recognize the APS members, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and lab managers from new labs that “push the science along”.

Check out the feature here!

Dr. T’s Talk at APA 2015!

This past Thursday, Dr. T traveled to Toronto to give a talk about the psychological, behavioral, and health consequences of weight stigma at the annual American Psychological Association Convention. Dr. T’s talk covered her “vicious-cycle” model of weight stigma, known as the cyclic obesity/weight-based stigma (COBWEBS) model, as well as results from two recently-published papers about the prevalence of weight stigma among clinicians and about participants’ perceptions of the smell of thin vs. heavy people. Not surprisingly, Dr. T gave a dynamic and engaging talk, not to mention one full of fascinating research!

Read more about Dr. T’s APA talk here.

Meet the Interns

Did you know that the DiSH Lab family got a little bigger? This summer, we were happy to welcome 3 wonderful interns from YULA High School. Currently enrolled in a two-year STEM program, the students were required to have volunteer experience working in a lab, and the DiSH Lab is honored that they chose us! Every Monday, the interns join us to get a glimpse of working in a lab. From running statistics to discussing articles to doing prep work for our studies, the interns are doing it all. So who exactly are these interns? Let’s meet them!



Aliza Amsellem

Aliza is going into her junior year at YULA High School and found Dr. Tomiyama’s DiSH Lab through her school STEM club. Since she was very young, the sciences intrigued her, but she has always felt a deep interest in human psychobiology. Because the DiSH Lab deals mainly with the effects of dieting on the brain, it was the perfect opportunity for her to truly experience the field in a college environment. She has already learned so much through exploring DiSH Lab articles and statistical data and has come to appreciate this subject on a completely different level. In her free time, she enjoys singing, drawing and painting, and, of course, eating all kinds of foods.


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Ariel Amsellem

Ariel is going into his final year at YULA High School where he participates in the STEM program, which put him in touch with the DiSH Lab.  As someone who loves to eat almost anything, the chance to intensely analyze food has kindled a new interest in the subject.  Ariel cherishes this opportunity to learn more about the lab environment while providing as much help to the senior lab members as possible.  Aside from his unquenchable zeal for scientific inquiry, Ariel enjoys to kick back by playing his saxophone and tennis.


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Michael Shadpour

Going into his senior year of high school, Michael is both Student Council President and a dedicated member of the newly created STEM program at his high school, YULA. During his time at the DiSH Lab, Michael has reviewed several interesting papers about the psychology of eating and has learned a great about the use and value of statistical analysis in research. Michael has also made full use of valuable time appropriated to discussing college-life with several u ndergraduates working in the DiSH Lab. 

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

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!