FOOD AND HEALTH RESEARCH IN THE INSTAGRAM AGE
That decadent meal may in fact taste even better after you snap a picture of it — for sharing on social media or elsewhere — but can the same be said for a simple apple or other healthy staple?
That’s the crux of some recent research coauthored by Morgan Poor, assistant professor of marketing at USD. For Poor, who calls herself a health nut, tapping into current trends was her modus operandi to inspire others to make more nutritious choices.
“We see these images of food everywhere, but there’s not a lot of research on how it affects us,” Poor says. “I certainly have an embarrassing number of food images on my phone. I exercise some willpower in how many I post.”
It turns out that, at least for indulgent foods, taking a picture first does tend to increase one’s perception of how it tastes. “When you take a picture of it, you’re focusing on the food, and this increases your anticipation.”
The same wasn’t found to be true for healthier fare, so Poor wanted to find out if there was a way to turn the effect on. For nutritious food, the study’s subjects needed to both read an article about people eating healthfully and take a picture to increase the pleasure they got from the food.
“We have a camera in our hand at all times. It’s kind of changed what we see as photo worthy.” With social media, “We are also brands that need to produce content.”
While in some ways we’re savvier than ever before, thanks to all that technology, it turns out there’s much information that’s not getting through when it comes to women’s health.
That’s where Associate Professor of Nursing Kathy James DNSc, FNP, FAAN, steps in. Her research, done with USD Nursing Professor Cynthia Connelly PhD, FAAN, has shown that many women aren’t aware of the reproductive implications of their food and activity choices. Heart disease, yes. But breast cancer? Endometrial cancer? Pregnancy complications? That those and other health issues can also stem from being overweight may not be so widely known, James says.
“I think it’s very important to educate the public. They seem to be well aware of the cardiovascular benefits of weight control.”
James, who owns three weight clinics, helps her patients see that the basics we’ve known about for years — taking a 30-minute walk, eating a rainbow of foods — are the key to getting back in shape. And, most of all, that it’s doable.
“What I’m doing in my practice is surveying patients, then reviewing these risks so they’re better educated. I’m looking at ways to motivate my patients. I’m screening them so they can be aware and ask themselves, ‘Could I be at risk? Can I do something about this?’”
Among her recent studies are those on reducing diabetes risk by making lifestyle changes, helping women find their role as family leaders when it comes to healthy living and gaining understanding of how obesity can effect women’s fertility.
“I think family health is very important. I always want to see what is going on in the home and encourage healthy living. I think the role the mother plays as role model is extremely important,” she says.
James likes to share some “really achievable” goals that can help prevent diabetes without medication.
“I don’t think people realize what control they have. If you make it too complicated, they throw their hands up and say, ‘I can’t do this.’”
So she makes it simple: lots of colorful produce with some lean protein and some healthy fats. “If we make things too difficult, we tend to get confused,” she says. “A colorful diet is never going to hurt you.”
As for practical advice, James says that her patients who have successfully lost weight have discovered that planning ahead — deciding what to eat and how to manage a busy day — coupled with stress management is key.
And a 30-minute walk does more than burn calories. “Walking is like your vitamin pill and an antidepressant; it’s about making time for yourself.” — Kelly Knufken
See a video of Morgan Poor talking about her work at www.sandiego.edu/watch/food-pic