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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Strawberry Sickness.

Do You Remember That Time Strawberry Ice Cream Made You Sick is a summary of a research study in which it was found that when psychologists implant memories of having been sick after strawberry ice-cream as a child made people less likely to want to eat strawberry ice cream. This is presented as a potentially great dieting tool.

I commented and said the following:
I'm really, really wary of this idea. As a child I developed emetophobia severe enough that I eventually stopped eating at all, as that seemed the most effective way to never be sick. This led to secondary anorexia, which then became the primary problem.

Nowadays I still utterly fear being sick, but unlike then it doesn't rule my life. I generally eat what I want to, go where I want to, see who I want to, without having to plan it all around likeliness of sickness.

But for several years, terror at the thought of being sick meant that I was petrified of a lot of food, especially any which had any association with sickness (something I'd eaten before being sick, something I'd read about causing food poisoning, something I ate before seeing someone who looked pale or ill, something I'd eaten without being close enough to a toilet in case I was going to be sick, you see the theme...). So for a long time I ate virtually nothing.

This was a totally miserable period of my life, and I don't think weight loss is important enough to try and deliberately induce these feelings and fears in people. It seems an irresponsible way of practicing.

I really feel this strongly. It brought me so, so much misery when I was younger - and still does in fact, but generally in a more manageable way. But if I ever, god forbid, am sick, I get totally terrified. I can't help but think inducing this in someone to help them lose weight, could be really damaging.


Garry Nixon said...

Everyone's hit by ads for food which is full of sugar, fat and chemicals. A lot of people are sad and eat for comfort. WE feel we should look like Hollywood actors, so we don't want to be fat, though all that eating shite food makes us so... And THEN they come up with barmy ideas like this...! Don't get me started!

Unknown said...

Lol it's so, so true.


TP said...

This sounds like a really bad application for what could be a useful and productive finding.

Studies around conditioning of humans to react in a certain way to a stimulus have been shown to go badly in the past, such as a study commonly referred to as Little Albert, in which a child was conditioned to fear a white pet rat (by scaring him everytime he saw it).

This fear then spread and became a generalised fear of white fluffy things, including things as harmless as cotton wool and his mother's fur collar.

It would be, and is, impossible to predict the potential outcomes of conditioning like this. There are so many extraneous variables in society that could affect the outcome, and people are often so messed up without others getting involved in their cognitions.

To even propose such a ham-fisted idea is very irresponsible of the writer. As you say from your own experiences, aversion to food can be very damaging.

Glad to hear you are coping with it much better now.

Taarna said...

That's so ridiculous. I remember studying about Little Albert in my very first Psychology class and I thought the study that was done on him was so cruel. If any psychiatrist or psychologist actually did a study like the strawberry ice cream thing they would lose their licenses to practice and most likely be sued. Anyone who did that to their children would be arrested for abuse.
I agree with you about losing weight not being worth the potential mental damage of that irresponible idea. It's amazing to me how some people have no regard at all for the welfare of others.