“Mirrorless Monday” at CSUN for Eating Disorders Awareness Week!

This past Monday, California State University at Northridge (CSUN) held a “Mirrorless Monday” for Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The Northridge Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating (JADE) organized the event, to kick off a week of programming for Eating Disorder Awareness at CSUN. 

To help their fellow CSUN students go mirrorless for the day, JADE members covered up mirrors all over the campus with positive affirmations written on butcher paper. Going mirrorless has been gaining traction in the media as a way to promote positive body image, and it’s exciting to see this trend taking place in a university setting! The idea is that by covering up mirrors temporarily, people will be reminded that they are more than their appearance and will be encouraged to look in mirrors a bit more mindfully in the future. Importantly, JADE covered up mirrors in both men’s and women’s rooms and were careful to create programming that is inclusive of all genders. Although eating disorder awareness efforts are frequently targeted at women, JADE has been careful to advocate and educate about men who have eating disorders as well. 

This sounds like a great way to spread eating disorder awareness and promote positive body image, and we’d love to see UCLA do something like this in the future!

Check out coverage on “Mirrorless Monday” from CSUN Today!

Michelle Obama’s Advice on Childhood Obesity & Body Image

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and recently First Lady Michelle Obama spoke with AOL.com about nutrition, exercise, and her own family’s experience with adopting a healthy lifestyle.

She makes a lot of interesting points in the interview, and, most notably, touches on how parents can encourage their children to maintain a healthy weight while maintaining a healthy body image: “Being healthy isn’t about inches, pounds, or how kids look – it’s about how they feel and making sure they feel good about themselves”. She goes on to explain that “rather than focusing on appearance, it’s important to emphasize to kids that when we eat healthy food and stay active, we feel better”. In the interview, she also stresses the importance of helping children find a physical activity that they enjoy doing, as well as involving children in the preparation of healthy meals.

Read the full interview here! 


NYC Campaign to Increase Girls’ Self-Esteem: The Jury is Out

NYC campaignNew York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has been involved in numerous efforts to make New Yorkers healthier, some of which have been criticized as disgusting (including an ad showing a man gulping fat ) and invasive (attempting – but failing – to put limits on the size of sugary drinks).

However, Bloomberg’s new initiative has a more positive slogan: “I’m a Girl: I’m Beautiful the Way I Am.” The New York City Girls Project will display girls laughing and playing around, with captions emphasizing ways that girls can be beautiful, such as by being curious, smart, and hardworking. The campaign also adds a girls’ self-esteem curriculum to 200 after-school programs.

As Amelia Thomson-Deveaux noted, It’s not a perfect campaign – some people have criticized the campaign for continuing to put too much emphasis on “beauty,” (Katy Waldman, Slate). The campaign also doesn’t incorporate the use of Facebook, where many girls receive messages about body image and the “thin ideal.” Social media is where campaigns could truly make an impact. Even psychologists understand the importance of Facebook – this blog post will be going up on Facebook today.

So, the Girls Project isn’t a perfect campaign, but it’s a start. A badly needed one.

-This post comes from Britt Ahlstrom, a first-year DiSH Lab grad student.

Virginia Guest Blogs: Top 10 Benefits of Meditation!

By Virginia Cunningham

When we get sick, we know doctors can offer us medicine to cure us physically. But Health Psychology tells us we need to consider the mind as well. A depressed person is much more likely to develop a cold. Extra stress at work can lead to high blood pressure. If your mind can influence your illness then it stands to reason that improving your health should start with something that targets the mind AND the body. Meditation is one such vehicle with proven benefits for both body and mind.

Here are the top 10 ways that meditation benefits the mind and the body:



1. Boosted Immunity

A poor immune systems leaves you at risk to get sick from the bacteria and viruses that your body is exposed to everyday. According to research, meditation has shown great results in boosting immunity.

2. Increased Fertility

For those who are having trouble getting pregnant, or simply want to boost their chances, meditation can be just the thing. Just 30 minutes of calming meditation a day can alter the chemistry in your brain resulting in higher fertility.

3. Lowers Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is connected to many different health issues, including strokes, and it is even affected by stress. Meditation can make its mark on your body by lowering your blood pressure. If you’re in the danger zone for blood pressure, consider adding a few minutes of mediation to your daily schedule –  even just ten minutes can make a big difference.

4. Helps Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is one of the most common causes of death, and is also worsened by high levels of stress. In order to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, or stroke, the American Heart Association recommends 20-30 minutes of meditation to relieve yourself of the stress that can egg on these health issues.

5. Pain Management

Whether you have a sport’s related knee injury or chronic back pain, regular pain can affect your life negatively. Relying solely on medication to deal with the pain can become addictive and is dangerous for your health. Try meditating a few times a week, and you will likely find a large reduction in your daily pain.




6. Endorphins

Endorphins are basically the brain’s natural high. The pituitary gland sends neurotransmitters to the body which are like happiness signals. Usually, endorphins are produced during exercise like running, but meditation has also been proven to increase the production of endorphins in the body, which reduces stress and controls cravings,

7. Enhances Memory

As you get older, you become more forgetful.  The results of meditation are high in memory improvement and a longer attention span. It only takes 20 minutes a few times a week to get a stronger memory.

8. Fights Depression

If you’re fighting depression and don’t want to become reliant on medication, meditation might be for you. Not only does it release endorphins, it can also reduce the stress and positively affect your brain chemistry.

9. Better Brain Function

Don’t we all wish that our brains were always at the top of our game? Meditation has the potential to increase your quick thinking abilities, which assists you when taking tests, facing a crisis at work, or even just completing a puzzle.

10. De-Stressor

When not dealt with, stress can rule your life and cause a plethora of health issues. The calming atmosphere of meditation and the few minutes you take to rid your mind of negative thoughts can make a world of difference.

Want to get the most out of meditation?

A great way to enhance your meditation experience is by creating a room solely devoted to that. By adding some greenery, a water wall, or even just calming music, you can greatly change the way that stress affects your health. Your room does not have to be fancy–just make sure that it’s only purpose is for meditation.

While meditation is not a replacement for a doctor’s care, it can do a lot to prevent further health problems. It only takes a few minutes a day to see results in your overall health. When you start meditating before your health problems take control of your life, you are better able to actively fight for better health.


Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer and yoga enthusiast based out of Los Angeles. With the stresses of life that can so easily build up, she enjoys practicing yoga and meditation daily to combat these problems. 

Turning virtual weight loss into reality

This post is from DiSH Lab intern Nick:

We often associate technology, especially video games, with unhealthy behavior and laziness, essentially leading to obesity. However, researchers at Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education have found a way to use technology  to instill healthy eating behaviors and habits. In this recent study, the team of researchers used virtual reality simulators and avatars to replicate weight loss behaviors, such as portioning food and exercising daily. The study surveyed 128 overweight women based on usage of virtual reality simulations and weight loss activity in the past year. Eight overweight female participants then watched a DVD in which an avatar resembling them enacts weight loss habits. The trial lasted for four weeks. In the end, without any instructions to exercise or mimic the avatar, the women had lost an average of 3.5 pounds, which is about normal for typical weight loss plans. So, although society may pool video games and unhealthy and lazy behavior together, this new technology may be the answer to translate virtual weight loss to reality!

Does anyone like a “Fat Talker?”

The answer: not really.

So who is a “fat talker?” According to Alexandra Corning, the director of Notre Dame’s Body Image and Eating Disorder Lab, a “fat talker” is a girl or woman who engages in self-disparaging remarks about her body, regardless of whether or not she is overweight. Corning’s study found that peers rated women who made “fat talk” statements about their bodies less likeable and rated women who made positive  statements about their bodies more likeable. What is shocking is that “fat talk” is commonly thought of as a strategy for women to strengthen social bonds. Corning’s research finding reveals the truth about how women are perceived when they engage in negative talks about themselves; “fat talk” has the opposite effect of building friendship. In the near future, researchers hope that this valuable information could be used to help educate women and reduce “fat talkers” on college campuses. So the next time someone gives you a compliment, accept it with a smile and love yourself.

Dr T says: “If shaming reduced obesity, there would be no fat people”

Back in December, Daniel Callahan published his piece “Obesity: Chasing an Elusive Epidemic” where he made the controversial suggestion that stigmatization of the overweight/obesity will ease the “obesity epidemic”. As you may know, the DiSH Lab strongly promotes weight acceptance, and much of our current research investigates the detrimental physical and psychological effects of exposure to weight stigma. So Dr. T and Traci Mann (from the University of Minnesota) put together a strong rebuttal to Callahan’s claims in their piece “If shaming reduced obesity, there would be no fat people.” You can read each piece on our publications page, but here are some highlights:

Callahan Says:

“Those who are overweight hardly notice anymore:

it is just the way ordinary people look. We need them to notice.”

Dr. T replies:

“The same survey [that Callahan uses to make this claim] found that

67 percent of the sample described themselves as weighing over

their ideal weight… they are aware of their weight.” Maybe this discrepancy

arises from “people being reluctant to describe themselves as overweight…

consistent with the view that obesity is stigmatized.”

Callahan identifies his solution:

“The most promising strategies, I believe, fall into three categories:

strong and somewhat coercive public health measures, childhood

prevention programs, and social pressure on the overweight.”

Dr. T says:

“If stigmatizing fat people worked, it would have done so by now.

Obese people are already the most openly stigmatized individuals in

our society, with published data showing that weight stigma

is more pervasive and intense than racism, sexism, and other forms of bias.

Weight-based discrimination is one of the few legal forms of

discrimination that remain in America.”

Callahan suggests:

“I would couch the social pressure in the following terms, finding ways

to induce people who are overweight or obese to put some uncomfortable

questions to themselves.” These include questions like: “If you are overweight

or obese, are you pleased with the way you look?” and “Fair or not, do you know

that many people look down upon those excessively overweight or obese,

often in fact discriminating against them and making fun of them…”

Dr. T refutes this suggestion:

DiSH Lab research asked Callahan’s questions to a sample of

overweight and obese individuals and found that 91% said yes to

whether they knew that “many people look down upon those

excessively overweight or obese…” and 88% said they were not

pleased with the way they looked.

Callahan’s justifies these questions:

These questions aim “to make people acutely aware of pervasive

stigmatization, but then to invoke it as a danger to be avoided:

don’t let this happen to you! If you don’t do something about yourself,

that’s what you are in for.”

Dr. T’s Response:

DiSH Lab research asked a randomized sample of 372 individuals

either Callahan’s six questions or a set of neutral questions.

They then saw an array of food and chose any and all foods they

would like to eat in that moment. “Those who answered Callahan’s

questions selected items amounting to a statistically significantly

higher amount of sugar foods… as well as more calories.

This does not bode well for his strategy.”

Callahan claims:

“It will be necessary to make just about everyone strongly

want to avoid being overweight and obese.”

Dr. T cites:

“People already want to avoid being obese more than they want

practically any other thing. In a survey of patients who had lost

one hundred pounds after having gastric bypass surgery,

nearly every patient agreed that he or she would rather be

deaf, blind, have heart disease,or lose a leg than gain

back the weight… They all said they would give up being a

multimillionaire to be normal weight.”

Callahan says:

People who are overweight or obese are “beyond help”.

Dr. T concludes:

“It would be unconscionable for the medical community

to give up on over 200 millions Americans including

2.4 million children. Using the word ‘edgy’ does not disguise

what his cynical and unscientific strategy truly is:


TOMORROW! Instant Recess!

To memorialize the untimely passing of one of the DiSH Lab’s heroes Toni Yancey, tomorrow May 7th at 1pm PDT (4 m EDT) we will join in a nationwide 10-minute instant recess. At UCLA, you can meet up with us at the CHS courtyard, but wherever you are, this is a wonderful way to honor Toni Yancey’s important work in promoting physical activity. This event could even break a world record, which was a long-term goal of Toni’s. What is an instant recess? Read about it here!

Haley Guest Blogs: Rub it in!

This Guest Blog Post is from Haley McNamara, one of Dr. T’s Health Psychology students:

With temperatures rising and summer approaching in southern California, sunscreen is an important, yet widely misunderstood topic. What exactly is SPF? According to this article from The New York Times, solar rays come in two equally dangerous forms: UVA and UVB. SPF, or sun protection factor, only describes the amount of protection from UVB rays. Sunscreen labels can be even more misleading; because the amount of sunscreen applied in product testing can be up to twice as much as a typical consumer would apply. Any product, “above an SPF of 30, which can block 97 percent of UVB (if used in testing amounts), effectiveness increases by only 1 or 2 percent. In the way that sunscreens are used in the real world, then, a product with an SPF of 30 actually provides the protection of SPF 2.3 to 5.5.” Despite the belief that sunscreen can actually cause skin cancer, there is no evidence to support this claim, so sunscreen should be an integral part of any skin care routine. Medical professionals suggest applying a broad spectrum SPF of 30 – 50 every two hours during sun exposure. Staying clear of the afternoon sun is generally the best course of action, but if it is unavoidable, bring with you hats, umbrellas, and protective clothing. And while you might love your bronzed skin, you won’t feel so sexy with sun damage or skin cancer.

Krishna Guest Blogs: Dance for Health

This Guest Blog Post is from Krishna Mehta, one of Dr. T’s Health Psychology students:

Cardiovascular Disease is unfortunately the leading cause of death, especially among Hispanics and African Americans. So researcher Rosemary Flores decided to explore a new way to help young Hispanic and African American students improve attitudes towards physical activity and fitness in general. She designed a program known as Dance for Health, which provides students with an enjoyable school based aerobic exercise program. Her research demonstrated that students who participated in this study, as opposed to students who participated in regular physical education, had a significantly greater increase in aerobic fitness, had reduced body weight, and, as mentioned earlier, had a more positive attitude towards physical activity. However, the Dance for Health program was more effective on girls than boys. In the end though, the program was able to improve the health of the majority of students, and these findings offer strong support for implementing Dance for Health in more school districts. Read more about it here.