Laura’s Psychology Blog

One Professor’s Observations of the World of Psychology….   

February 28, 2009

It’s All About Diet Maintenance

Filed under: Dieting,Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 1:01 pm

The media reported with great fanfare this week that it really doesn’t matter what type of diet you go on–low fat, low carbs, grapefruit, whatever–the key factor is calories in, calories out. The most recent iteration of this finding is a study by Sacks et al. in the New England Journal of Medicine.

What these studies don’t address is what do we do once we’ve lost the weight? As a world-class yo-yo dieter, I can attest to the fact that losing weight is easy, keeping it off is something altogether different. So I am very pleased to report that I have passed the 18-month mark in my maintenance plan after losing nearly 80 lbs on Jenny Craig. This means that over the last 18 months, I haven’t been more than 3 lbs. over my goal weight.

What has been really helpful to me is participation in the National Weight Control Registry. Part of this is purely psychological. After all, how bad would it be to have to let the NWCR know that they had to take me off their books because I had become chubby once more! Catastrophe! But even better, the NWCR provides lots of clues for maintaining weight loss. Here’s what successful maintainers do:

  1. Eat breakfast every day (78%)
  2. Modify food intake (98%)
  3. Exercise, at least one hour per day (90%)
  4. Weigh at least once per week (75%)
  5. Watch less than 10 hours of TV per week (62%)

Actually, I do all of these things and then some. I weigh myself every morning, and I have strategies in place depending on the outcome. If I’m one pound over my goal, I drop the cheese from my lunch sandwich. Two pounds over, and I drop my afternoon and evening snacks. Usually, this takes care of things in one day. One day is better than looking at weeks or months to get back to where I’m supposed to be.

I’m not a huge exerciser. I love exercise, but my job and writing do not allow much time for this. Mr. F and I walk at least 2 miles per day, and usually more.

The key seems to be to find something you can live with long term. We’re not stoics here. I just enjoyed a marvelous lunch (we do this once a week) of Mr. F’s macaroni and cheese, followed by a dessert of bread pudding with ice cream. Tomorrow? Okay, if I’m over, I know how to deal with that.

February 26, 2009

See You in San Francisco!

Filed under: Conventions,Internet,Psychology,Technology — Laura Freberg @ 5:42 pm

I’m working with a group of students, Ben Ainley, Karen Freberg, Rebecca Adams, and Cristina Enrique, on some interesting questions about loneliness and social networking. The students have a poster presentation accepted at the annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science, May 22-25, and we’re all very excited about it. Our poster will be presented in the Sunday 10 am session, so be sure to stop by and say hello!

Using iClicker in the Classroom

Okay, I’ve completed my training with the friendly people at iClicker, and I’m ready to start using this fun technology starting next quarter. I’m jumping in with both feet–using iClickers for both my introductory psychology and biological psychology classes. There is method to my madness–not only have I been impressed with research results suggesting that students perform better in classes using audience response systems, but I’m hoping to develop a set of clicker questions to accompany my biopsych textbook. I figured that the best way to develop a good set of clicker content was to try it out myself.

iClickers are Fun!

iClickers are Fun!

The iClicker website has many helpful tips for good clicker practices, including case studies submitted by professors experienced with the technology. In addition, I have found an article by Jane Caldwell (“Clickers in the Large Classroom: Current Research and Best-Practice Tips”) to be very enlightening.

Some of the things I like about iClicker is its ease of use (you just make a powerpoint slide with your multiple choice or true-false question, and the technology automatically makes a screen capture of it), its compatibility with Blackboard, which we use at Cal Poly, and its many sensible features (you can make questions anonymous or scored).

One of my reservations about using iClicker was asking students to spend even more money for my classes.  In an informal poll of my students, some of whom have used the technology previously, the surprisingly unanimous response was that the technology was worth the money. Once again, iClicker makes this easy. You can use the clicker for multiple classes and share one with friends, as long as you’re not all enrolled in the same class.

My eventual hope is to compile a set of at least two really good clicker questions for each hour of class, or 80 total. Stay tuned, and wish me luck!

February 24, 2009

More on Pro-Ana Websites

Filed under: Biological Psychology,Dieting,General Psychology,Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 9:55 am

One of the things I like to do, but rarely have time to do, is to look at my most popular posts. This is a good way of making sure that the content of the blog doesn’t focus just on what I find personally interesting, but that we also address the interests of our readers. Very consistently, people find my previous posts on anorexia and pro-ana sites to be very interesting, so I thought it would make sense to update this issue while my long-suffering biopsych students complete their second midterm (it’s not nearly as awful as the first midterm).

While searching for pro-ana sites for this post, I came across one that I hadn’t seen before, prothinspo. Now some pro-ana sites actually serve as communities designed to help people with eating disorders, but prothinspo is unabashedly in favor of promoting thinness at any cost. In the about us page, the author, who describes herself as a former model, says that the purpose of the site is to “help us meet our goals,” which of course is “perfection,” and that  “thinspiration is not a negative part of today’s society.” The site features links on “Fasting Help and Answers,” “purging tips,” and “pro-ana tips.” Actually, this site is so blatant that I hesitate to give it further publicity by talking about it, but I doubt that will make too much of a difference, given its already high status on Google, and its obviously lucrative (and amazingly intrusive and annoying) advertising.

So do we have to worry about the impact of these sites? According to a study of adolescents and pro-ana sites conducted by researchers at Stanford, I think the answer continues to be yes. Among teens already diagnosed with eating disorders, many frequented pro-ana sites, and few parents were aware either of the existence of these sites and/or their teens’ use of the site. Nearly 13% of Belgian girls in grades 7, 9, and 11 have visited pro-ana sites. However, it is likely that self-selection plays a role here, too, as additional research indicates that individuals with eating disorders who frequent pro-ana sites are already more disturbed in their body dissatisfaction and eating habits than individuals who view medical information sites on their disorder.

What is apparent is that we need more information about how to effectively prevent and treat eating disorders. A review of university initiatives points out that we have little long-term data about the effectiveness of prevention and treatment programs. My personal, anecdotal view as a university instructor is that we see a lot fewer obvious cases of anorexia on campus than we did during the 90’s, and California is definitely an image-conscious place to live, but my observations are contradicted by work in Australia that shows increases in eating disorders over the last decade. I found it difficult to find additional work looking at changes in prevalence over time, and hopefully, people are looking at this.

Finally….all blogs are back online

Filed under: Internet,Psychology,Technology — Laura Freberg @ 9:18 am

I’m very happy to report that our family blog issues are at least temporarily resolved. Thanks to the good folks at WordPress and our ISP, we are now all up and running. I’m really pleased that the most recent version of WordPress has an automatic update feature, so that you don’t have to go through and delete all of your old files (some of which you had to keep) before uploading the new ones. I found that process stressful somehow. So we’ll see if we can stay ahead of the hackers for a little while, but it’s a bit of an arms race, isn’t it?

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It is not a lack of love,
but a lack of friendship
that makes unhappy marriages
-------- Nietzsche

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