Monday, June 18, 2012

As we go on, we remember, all the times we had together...

      The time has come to post my last blog article about learning and eating behaviors for my Psych 110 class.  The quarter has been interesting and educational, both with the work I have done in class and the weekly blogs.  I believe the two have complemented each other very well and have given me an expansive realm of knowledge on the subject, which I can now apply to my every day life.  I will skim through and recap some of my favorite findings from the experiments in primary literature, online websites and testimonials.  Finally, I will aim to connect everything I have learned into a plan for me and my dad to start losing weight over the summer.
      I started the quarter off talking about a Pavlovian approach to conditioning in my first two blog posts.  In the first one, I talked about the experiment where foods that are sweet, but low in calories tend to confuse our system into dissociating the sweetness-calorie assocation and causing us to overindulge in sweet foods like cakes and cookies (because we may somehow think that not all sweet foods are calorie-dense).  For example, when we drink something with a sweet taste, like diet-coke, and end up getting no calories, we develop a disconnect between two things.  Sweetness and calories have been closely associated through time to tell us that we are consuming a lot of calories and that we will be getting full soon.  This is a good example to bring to the table in order to discourage diet coke and encourage drinking more water.  Not only are you ingesting fewer chemicals, you are drinking something with less taste and definitely less sweetness, so you are slowly restoring the connection that things which are less sweet carry less calories, and those that are more sweet carry more calories (this is a rather general rule, not hard and steadfast). 
From here, I moved on to the point of environmental cues triggering our desire to eat.  If we (or rats) are very well conditioned to certain environmental cues or signals, then we may eat, even while satiated. To counteract this point, I would recommend disturbing the patterns that we have all developed, by eating based on hunger, and not based on time.  If you, let's say, eat your meals at 8 AM, 12PM, and 5PM every day and stick with that routine, you will tend to get hungry around those times as well.  As soon as, one day, your routine changes, your mind will be so set on eating at those times that you may eat even while satiated.  If you disrupt any type of routine, by eating only when hungry, then you will be more in control of your weight.
        Next, I moved on to the idea of aversive images and evaluative conditioning in food choices.  The idea behind this study was really interesting as it showed that people who were exposed to aversive images of different diseases, obesity, etc., which were linked to unhealthy food items, would prefer to choose the healthier food than those who were not exposed to the link between images and the aversive conditions.  Although this has some implications in billboards and advertisement exposure, I am having a hard time connecting it to a practical application in my daily life.  I don't normally lose my appetite when I see something disgusting (as some people do), but I could try conditioning myself over time to associate a link between these aversive images and unhealthy snack items.  Perhaps, over time, I will want to avoid them, seeing a direct link between the foods I eat and the potential negative consequences.
       I wanted to skip over to my blog on the Shangri-La diet and express how interested I have become in this.  From reading the real experiences of people online and doing some research on the diet itself, I strongly believe that it will work out for me and my dad.  It is the first book I want to jump into this summer, because it could potentially change my eating habits as I hope to avoid the snacking and overeating during my two months of studying for the MCAT (normally I eat and overeat during times of stress, especially studying).  Ever since I published the blog article, I have been telling my parents about the tactics Seth Roberts uses, and how breaking the taste-calorie associations is going to be our solution to a lower weight and healthier lifestyle.  As they say, the devil is in the details, so in order to really tackle this, I am going to create an eating schedule and follow Seth Roberts' techniques and advice closely. Of all the topics I learned this quarter, this is the one I am most eager to dive further into, and I want to thank Psychology 110 and professor Blaisdell for introducing me to the concept.
     A final blog topic I wanted to discuss about was a look into the future and the possibile benefits of a high-fat diet in renewal and extinction.  The results of the study where rats were fed a high-fat diet and were conditioned to a cue showed that this type of exposure may reduce the context-specificity of extinction. Of course, the reason behind this is not immediately apparent, and more research will need to be conducted, but it is an interesting finding to look at.  Therapy has always fascinated me and, now, a possible solution to a problem like extinction has captured my attention.  Just make sure that you don't use this technique of feeding someone a high-fat diet, if you are trying to extinguish their behavior of overeating!
        And that brings me to the end of my weekly blog.  I hope that my readers enjoyed reading what I had to say every week and learned a thing or two.  I know I did.  So much research has been published on the topic of learning and eating, and I feel that only with a combination of different techniques will I begin to see any results of controlling appetite and overeating.  I have already begun this process by switching the location that I eat all of my main meals.  This is meant to break the associations I have developed with the cues of a location and the desire to eat desserts or to overeat.  In addition, as Seth Roberts suggests in his book, I have begun adding more spice to my foods to "confuse my senses" in some ways and to break the taste-calorie association.  My next step is to try the olive oils and the nose-pinch techniques.  Once I figure everything out, I am going to share my knowledge with my dad and see if he is open to the idea of trying it as well. 
        I want to, once again, make a shoutout to my professor and the class he has taught so brilliantly, which has definitely changed the way I see things when it comes to learning.  So far Psych 120A (Cognition) and Psych 110 have been my favorite psychology classes at UCLA because they have both been analytical in their approach of the world and focused on thinking, connecting dots in life and looking into the reasons behind interesting phenomena that we take for granted on a daily basis.

Thank you for reading!  Have a great, relaxing summer!

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