Traci Mann featured in StarTribune!

Traci Mann’s intriguing work was recently covered in StarTribune! As you may know, Traci Mann was Dr. T’s graduate advisor and her research focuses on many of the same topics as we study here in the DiSH lab.

By revealing the powerful effects of our eating habits on wellness, Traci Mann is known to bust many of the common myths about our eating behaviors, and her research suggests that, due to the limits of our willpower,  dieting is not the way to go if you’re trying to lose weight.

“People yell at me about this, but the data are so strongly on my side it’s crazy,” she said. “When I say diets don’t work, I say they don’t do what people want them to do.” That is, lose weight and keep it off.

“She speaks the truth and she finds the truth,” said Dr.T  “When you can approach science nondefensively and with curiosity, you can reach some interesting findings.”

Her book “Secrets From The Eating Lab” is just around the corner, in the meantime check out what she has to say in the StarTribune article here!

What does weight stigma smell like? DiSH paper released on UCLA’s website!

One of our grad students, Angela Incollingo Rodriguez’s, paper: What does weight stigma smell like? Cross-modal influences of visual weight cues on olfaction, written in collaboration with Dr. T and Dr. Andrew Ward, just got released on UCLA’s website!

The findings suggest that the effects of weight stigma are broader than previously recognized, as visual cues associated with overweight or obese people was found to influence one’s sense of smell!

Read more about the intriguing study here!

An insider’s peek into the ultra elite IOM meeting on “Solving Obesity”

On January 7th the Institute of Medicine (IOM) held a roundtable discussion workshop with the topic “The current state of obesity solutions in the United States”. Among the high-level speakers was James Hamblin, the senior editor of The Atlantic, who gave a speech about the role of media in obesity. He reports back an intriguing discussion regarding the pressing issue of obesity interventions, and how the general public’s perception of the root causes of obesity makes this particularly hard.

Three years ago the IOM agreed that the obesity crisis has been pushed by complex environmental circumstances, and called on public awareness to catalyze change. There is plenty of coverage about obesity in the media, but is it the right one? Ultimately, it is the general public’s view of what obesity is that will determine how we go about solving the obesity crisis. In sum, the media might be more inclined to depict obesity as a personal affliction, and a moral and biological failing, rather than a social disease. In fact, recent research from Yale University found that more than two thirds of news stories about overweight people portray them in a “negative and stigmatizing manner”.

Although most people agree that obesity is a serious national problem, only 27% of Republicans (and 87% of Democrats) believe the federal government should intervene to address this issue. Why? Because only 18% of Americans identify external factors such as food deserts, lack of opportunity to play outside and so on, as the primary cause of childhood obesity. Most people blame “overeating” and “watching too much television” and thus think that the best and most effective solutions can only be made by the person himself.

But what if these factors are only symptoms – not causes – of what the real problem is, Hamblin asks? Can you really separate personal choices from structural factors such as community planning, food packaging and marketing, and media stigmatization? Hamblin says that his role as opinion former in the news industry is one of public health as well. In sum, messages from the media are critical for the way people see obesity, and ultimately how they feel about government policies. Read the rest of his argument, as well as some of what other IOM speakers said in his article here.

Congratulations Jenna!!

Jenna, one of our amazing grad students, is a winner of the 2014 Student Grant Competition (SGC)! On top of that, the Association for Psychological Science Student Caucus eNews gave her a special shoutout congratulating her! Here’s the post that they wrote:

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Once again, congratulations Jenna! We are so proud of you!!

Dr. T on Comfort Eating

We are all guilty of using food for comfort at one time or another. But does comfort eating actually work? Amazingly, it really does!

In the words of Dr. T:

“Comfort-eating rats showed dampened biological stress reactivity in a stress system called the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. Sustained over-activity of the HPA axis is associated with poor health, and these studies suggest that comfort eating is playing an important role in managing an organism’s stress levels.

The implications of this are enormous. If comfort eating functions in the same way in humans (the human literature is in its infancy, but my research and that of others offers preliminary evidence that comfort eating is associated with dampened HPA activity), then we need to substantially shift the way we think about stress eating.

Stress eating is currently treated like a villain, a negative health behavior that we should intervene to eradicate at all costs. The science of comfort eating, however, indicates that we may be engaging in this behavior for very good reasons, and that eating that brownie might mitigate the negative health effects of stress hormones—which may be even more harmful in the long-term than a few extra calories.”

Click here to check out what else Dr. T has to say on comfort eating! It’s highly relatable and also at the top of the RWJF Human Capital Blog today! Go Dr. T!!

Angela at #APS14SF

What is DiSH lab doing this weekend? Some of our team traveled north to San Francisco, CA to attend the Association for Psychological Sciences 26th Annual Convention. As part of a fun foodie symposium focused on challenging lay theories about eating, Angela C. Incollingo Belsky gave a talk titled Profiling personalities of long-term calorie restrictions: Why dieting may not be the cure for the “obesity epidemic,” where she discussed the individual differences potentially underlying successful dieting in a unique group of long-term calorie restrictors. Her results show that the CR participants are more likely to have psychosocial profiles demonstrating high future time orientation and low hostility and neuroticism. These results suggest that dieting may be a viable weight loss option for only individuals with certain personality traits, thus dieting might not be the most effective way to cure the obesity crisis.

Taking Angela’s talk into consideration, it is important to realize that dieting isn’t for everyone and we shouldn’t blame the failed diet on the dieter but rather question for what type of person dieting is even a recommendable option. You can read more about this study and the results here.



National News Coverage on DiSH Research!

What’s all the buzz about? Our fabulous DiSH lab team: Dr. T and Grad student Jeff Hunger! The recent publication of their article “Weight Labeling and Obesity: A Longitudinal Study of Girls Aged 10 to 19 Years” captured the attention of major news outlets from all around the world.  Huffington PostHealthfinder, Yahoo News India, LA Times, Reuters Health, Canada News and Science Daily are just a few that covered their study.

We’re going national! And it’s a good thing that we’re reaching people who are not only from the United States. Many people do not understand the long-term effects of weight labeling and it’s correlation with obesity. Often times, parents and such, engage in negative feedback such as calling their children “fat” and hoped that it might act as a motivator to help them lose weight. However, results from  Dr. T’s and Jeffery Hunger’s study indicates that young girls who are called or labeled “too fat” are more likely to be obese ten years later.

The study looked at 2,000 young girls at age 10 and followed them over nine years. Over half of the girls were labeled “fat” and reported that of those remarks, 60 percent came from family members and 40 percent came from friends and teachers. It seems that weight labeling is an independent predictor of weight ten years later.

So stigmatizing weight isn’t going to help people lose weight. What then should parents, family, and friends say instead of labeling their loved ones as “too fat?”

In the words of Dr. T:

“I think the focus of the conversation needs to change. Right now, we have a laser focus on weight instead of health, but many studies show that weight is a really imprecise indicator of actual health. Parents can talk to their child about adopting healthy behaviors without once mentioning weight.”

For more information, watch Jeffery Hunger’s live interview with Huff Post!

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.


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)

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.