Dr. T on RWJF Website!

Dr. T is on a roll with the press!

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) website features our very own DiSH Lab Director, Dr. T, and acknowledged her recent Society of Behavioral Medicine’s 2013 Early Career Investigator Award (Congratulations too, Dr. T!). The award recognizes Dr. T’s paper on racial disparities in chronic psychological stress and body mass index (BMI) among girls between the ages of 10 and 19. The study looked into the disparities of 2,400 Black and White girls, and found that stress correlates with higher BMI levels. Furthermore, this correlation is more prevalent in Black girls than it is in White girls.

To read more about Dr. T’s interview with the Human Capital Blog, visit the original website.

Newest DiSH Paper Picked Up By Salon.com

Three cheers for Dr. T, her grad school advisor Traci Mann, and DiSH Lab grad student Britt Ahlstrom on their latest research spotlight in Salon.com, the award-winning online news website!

Salon.com 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!


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.

Dr. Abigail Saguy on her new book, What’s Wrong With Fat?

Try to imagine someone who is obese AND healthy. It doesn’t make sense because how can someone be healthy if they are overweight, right? The terms obese, obesity, and overweight, already implies medical pathology which begets a lot of stigma and discrimination against people who are heavy.

In Dr. Abigail C. Saguy’s new book, What’s Wrong With Fat?, she discusses the difficulty of talking about fat because it is usually framed as being a medical problem or public health crisis. Obesity under the medical and public health frame influences the government and public to find solutions on how to make fat people thin, instead of how to make thin people healthy and less prejudiced. On the other hand, if fatness is more commonly framed as a civil rights issue, in which the problem is not that societies or individuals are too fat and unhealthy, but societies or individuals discriminate on body size, people would learn to be more tolerant and celebrate body size and diversity. It is important to note that language and words matter, and therefore, the goal of Dr. Saguy’s book is to reclaim the terms fat and fatness as a neutral or even a positive word.

To learn more about Dr. Abigail Saguy’s new book, listen to her podcast on Office Hours, where she discusses the three problematic frames of obesity and the potential outcomes of eliminating the stigma against fat.


Let’s Brag on UCLA’s Healthy Dining Hall

The DiSH Lab is thrilled that UCLA is opening Bruin Plate, one of the nation’s first health-themed dining facilities. At Bruin Plate, students can find a variety of ultra nutritious “super foods” like kale, mizuna, and (MY FAVORITE) quinoa! This dining hall is not only health-focused… the menu looks amazing. On top of all that, Bruin Plate will endeavor to educate about what they are eating and why they should eat it. Overall, we give this initiative a resounding thumbs up. Check it out here!

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:


A Rising Star Among Us!

The Association for Psychological Science Observer just published its 2013 Rising Stars, and guess who’s on it! Dr. T discusses her research interests, her biggest influences, and even talks about her favorite publication. Check it out here.

The DiSH Lab on UCLA Today

In the recent article “Psychology lab ponders why diets don’t work“, UCLA Today covers the DiSH Lab’s main research topics, what we are interested in studying, and where our research is headed right now.

Is Dieting Worth the Trouble?

Just posted today, Dr. T collaborated with Britt Ahlstrom and Traci Mann on this article in the Huffington Post,Is Dieting Worth the Trouble?” Their op-ed piece talks about the failure of the recent large dieting study, and what it exactly means for a diet to “succeed” or “fail.”

Hot off the press!

Dr. T’s recent paper “Chronic psychological stress and racial disparities in Body Mass Index change between black and white girls aged 10-19.” has been getting a lot of press lately! Check out these articles in the Chicago Tribune and at BET.com.