Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Your face gives away your lifestyle and hides your real age


Ladies who lunch

If you’re married, have fewer than four children, and come from a higher social class – you probably look younger than you actually are.

If you have lost a significant amount of weight, fallen down the social ladder, or are living as a lonely singleton – then you probably look older.

The combination of lifestyle, medical history and diet has a measurable impact on how your looks age.

Generally speaking a youthful face is an accurate indicator of good health (as is how energetically you walk).

Marriage is more beneficial for a woman knocking almost two years off her age (and if she moves up the social ladder she can look four years younger – and the same applies to men).

For men marriage generally only knocks off one year but having one to three children makes a man look a year younger while it makes no difference to a woman.

These benefits disappear in families with four children.

Looking chubbier as you get older helps men look younger as it smooths out the wrinkles. Adding 2 points to your body mass index (bmi) will take off a year whereas a woman would have to add 7 points to her bmi to get the same effect.

An affluent married man with no more than three children will look ten years younger than someone who is homeless, single and has lost weight (2 points off his bmi).

All the factors combined can lead to people in their 40s looking up to seven years younger than their contemporaries.

Public Health scientists at the Danish twin registry led the study published in the journal Age and Ageing.

They asked nurses to guess the ages of almost 2,000 identical and non-identical twins in their seventies. They then looked at environmental factors including marriage, parenthood and social class. Previous studies have shown that non-genetic factors account for 40% of the variation in perceived age.

The effects of heavy smoking are relatively  modest. You would have to smoke 20 a day for 20 years to gain extra wrinkles and tobacco smoke only causes half that damage to women’s skin.

However heavy drinking can add a year to both sexes as can diabetes, chronic asthma or the regular use of painkillers.

Excessive exposure to sunlight had no effect on the perception of men’s ages but added over a year to women’s faces by the time they reached seventy.

Depression makes women look a lot older than men. Almost 4 extra years compared with 2.4 for men.

One of the researchers, Dr Kaare Christensen, said “It is a lot more dangerous looking one year older than one year younger”. If you are not depressed, not lonely, not a smoker, and not too skinny, you are basically doing well”.

Dr Chris Philipson, professor of social gerontology at Keele University says “diet and exercise are crucial factors. You can do an awful lot over the age of 40 to 50 to change the way you experience growing old“.

Originally posted by me on ULearn2BU in 2014

Experts slam clean eating & celebrity diet fads

Christian Jessen (of Embarrassing Bodies and Supersize v Superskinny fame) has criticised “fitspiration” websites backed by celebrities as being as guilty as pro-anorexia web-sites for encouraging eating disorders.

He says the language on these sites focuses on guilt about weight and body shape. Speaking at a mental health conference, reported in The Times, he also said food bloggers who promote “clean eating” were having a harmful effect on boys.

He specifically accused that certified fruitcake Gwyneth Paltrow and Sainsbury family member Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella blogger) of influencing young people to become fixated with dieting.

Restrictive diets which mean giving up wheat or dairy are often featured by fitness and wellbeing websites which he said create unrealistic body stereotypes for men.

He said he sees many people in his private practice “convinced that their healthy lifestyle and their clean eating was really helping them when actually all it was doing was helping them hide their increasingly disordered eating and to cover up an underlying eating disorder”

Boys are much more likely to shrug off these issues than deal with them, he said. Doctors often fail to recognise in boys the presence of eating disorders or muscle dysmorphia – the continual desire to bulk up.

He thought the fitspiration websites had little to do with health but were all about looks and if you analyse them they are almost indistinguishable fro pro-anorexia websites.

Ella Mills has backtracked somewhat this year after a challenge during a TV programme on diets and now claims she is not aligned to clean eating just a plant-based diet which she shares online. She “advocate(s) people should choose what works for them and adapt my recipes accordingly

And now Prue Leith (taking over on some baking programme) has also condemned faddish diets. She said in the Sun newspaper “There is no magical diet – the only way to lose weight is to simply eat less.

The truth is any diet will work if you stick to it, but our only hope of staying slim is by training our bodies to be happy with fewer calories, every day, for ever”  Some truth in that as diets only work for 10% of people prepared to stick to them.

She pointed out that ALL diets restrict calories, however dressed up. Whether it’s the Blood Sugar diet, Dopamine diet, Paleo diet, Juice diet, Gut diet, Body and Soul diet, 5:2 diet, Lean in 15 diet, Raw Food diet, Cambridge diet, the New Atkins diet — all restrict one food group or another and so limit calories. (And probably cost you a lot if you fall for the snake-oil selling pitch)

She said if you want to be healthy as well as thin, you need a balanced diet — which means a lot of fresh veg and fruit, some carbs (preferably unrefined), not much protein and very little fat.

And you have to stay off sweet and salty junk and cheap processed food. This is all common sense of course. If you spend your 2,000 calories on chips and ice cream, they’ll be gone by lunchtime and you’ll be hungry again. Just a single maxi milkshake can be 1,000 calories.

Let’s hope that people get sick of these social media celebrity bloggers who are not qualified to advise on diets.

And if you do want to try a fancy diet how about the Breatharian Diet  which is based on the inedia principle, which claims that food and water are not necessary to sustain life and that the human body can very well subsist on air, sunlight and Prana (life force) alone.

Try it if you want. It’s obviously cheap. And you’ll lose weight.Terminally I would have thought.

Mirror, mirror on the wall..

Reblogged with your New Year resolutions in mind…


looking_in_mirror_1600_wht_5647Who is eating most of all?

Scientists are interested in factors that influence how much people eat.

Previous research has shown that the size of plates, even their colour can have an effect. As can background sounds e.g. the sounds of the sea makes fish tastier.

Eating with a fork rather than a spoon (which makes people underestimate their meals), using paper plates or even giving people toys with their meals can make them accept smaller portions.

On of the latest ideas is putting up a mirror in the dining room so you can see a reflection of what you are eating. Given a choice of chocolate cake or a fruit salad those eating in front of a mirror enjoyed the chocolate cake less (those eating fruit salad were unaffected).

Researchers at the University of Florida where the experiment took place said that having a mirror in the room makes diners…

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Some weight loss myths


apple_measure_tape_1600_wht_131291   Giving up carbs

Processed carbs can contribute to weight gain but you shouldn’t give up on complex carbs or wholegrain such as brown rice which have a lot of fibre and make you feel fuller longer.

Complex carbs can also have a lower glycaemic index (GI) – which is a measure of the rate at which sugar is digested – so you won’t get highs and lows in blood sugar.

Dietician Dr Sarah Schenker says it’s more about portion control and suggests limiting the calorie-dense healthy carbs such as rice, oats , or pasta, and alternate with lighter ones like butternut squash or corn on the cob which are just as filling.

2   Extreme exercise 

We think that if we expend more energy than we consume we should lose weight. And exercise does increase our metabolism (the rate at which we burn calories) but when we…

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Crash diets make you even fatter


stick_figure_overweight_scale_1600_wht_3853There is a risk that crash diets will damage a person’s capacity to burn calories.

A study of people on a reality TV show, The Biggest Loser,  which challenges obese people to lose weight, found that they are now condemned to a lifetime battle with food as their bodies strive to get back to their original weight.

And to make matters worse they are no longer able to burn calories at the rate they once did.

The show had been criticised previously for irresponsibility in promoting drastic weight loss through dieting and fitness. Almost all the original contestants from 2009 have now returned to their original weight with many now heavier than before.

The study was carried out by Dr Kevin Hall at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Maryland, USA. Analysis of their metabolic rates shows that they are physically unable to process a…

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Clean Eating is bad for you

Originally posted in June this year


carrying_text_12640Trendy, faddy, beloved by social media – but rubbish.

The Sunday Times had just published an expose of the Clean Eating movement and it makes shocking reading. They put it like this: Clean eating can seriously damage your health.

The clean-eating favourites with their girly socio-media friendly names are guilty of spreading an obsessive desire for healthy eating called orthorexia. This recently labelled eating disorder has serious ramifications.

Removing whole food groups or advocating low protein or no animal protein diets doesn’t make nutritional sense according to nutritionist Miguel Toribio-Mateas. It also makes you prone to getting infections.

Another nutritionist Jo Travers says cutting out dairy means “you have to concentrate a lot harder on getting enough calcium to achieve and maintain good bone density“. She also notes that vegan diets can led to deficiencies in protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and omega 3.

In Britain…

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We like underdogs – especially in football

stick_figure_soccer_practice_500_wht_6086As a supporter of a team trying to make its way in the Premier League for the third time of asking I know what it’s like.

Burnley FC is the only English-owned club in the division and the great majority of its team is English. It’s also one of the founder members of the Football League and from one of the smallest towns to support a club at this level.

We lost our first game at home after the inept referee missed shirt tugging in the box and didn’t give us a penalty – a fate we suffered in previous outings at this level.

In our second game last week we played the once mighty Liverpool. (Which is possibly about to become the richest club in the division as a Chinese company is interested in buying them from their current American owners).

On Friday in the Times sports section there was a lengthy article eulogising Jurgen Klopp’s approach.  Headed “Flooding the box and the right fuel to get Liverpool firing” it described Liverpool as the highest goal scorers in the Premier League in 2016 (45 in 16 matches after only managing 22 in their previous 20 games).

The writer put it down to Klopp’s strategy of getting players into the opposition box. Adam Lallana said “The manager says a sign of a good game is having a lot of men in the box. That’s how he wants us to play. It’s attacking football but as long as we get our protection right behind that, then why not? You’ve got more chance of scoring goals”.

Isn’t that too obvious?

Klopp also likes to work his players using drills to get all the outfield players involved e.g. Couthino scoring against Arsenal after 19 passes. (I think I saw Chelsea do that a couple of seasons ago too). So the players have to practise outmanoeuvring opponents and breaking down defences so that strikers can get onto the final ball in the box..

Sounds like common sense to me.

Their tactical coach Pep Ljinders says it’s all about tactical patterns “which give the individuals stability in an unpredictable game

That sounds like football managementspeak (the worst kind)!

Also Klopp is not relying on Sturridge all the time either. (After his pathetic Euro16 performance why would he you might ask?) But Klopp welcomed him back into the team after another injury and said “Of course he is an option when he is fit” – exactly.

And of course you are what you eat in sport these days. Arsene Wenger often gets the credit for revolutionising players’ diets but every professional club now takes notice of nutritionists and sport scientists.

Liverpool have the nutritionist from Bayern Munich who with the fitness coach helped Liverpool to outrun Arsenal with a Premier League record for distance covered (117.6km). As Lindjers said “if we win the fitness we win everything

Well not quite!

You might have expected Burnley to turn up expecting a thrashing. After all they haven’t beaten Liverpool for 42 years and have lost all their previous premiership games against them.

Sean Dyche and the team had different ideas however. Two first half goals by their striking partnership of Andre Grey and Sam Voakes put the cat among the pigeons.

Liverpool huffed and puffed; their star players tried to score from distance because they couldn’t outmanoeuvre the Burnley defence. They had 26 shots on goal and a dozen corners but couldn’t score. Burnley had 1 corner and 3 shots on goal and two hit the back of the net. End result Burnley 2, Liverpool 0.

Statistically Burnley only had 19% possession, the lowest ever for a winning team in the Premier League. But they outran Liverpool (115.3 km to 113 km) and George Boyd ran more than anyone else and made more completed tackles.

And for all the international players that Liverpool paraded – and credit to Burnley’s new signing from Anderlecht Steven Defour for the assist on the second goal – they couldn’t score.

And all the England players reminded us of how rubbish they were in the Euro16 competition.

It won’t be like this every week but doesn’t it feel good when the unsung underdog puts one over on supposedly superior opposition.

And as for the Times sports writer I don’t expect a glowing piece about a small team in Lancashire anytime soon.

And if you’re into stats here are some you might find interesting:

  • Burnley won their first league game against Liverpool since September 1974, having gone seven without a win since then.
  • Sam Vokes became the first Burnley player to score a league goal against Liverpool at Turf Moor since Ray Hankin in March 1975 – they had failed in six games since then.
  • Burnley scored more in this game than they managed in seven previous home Premier League games.
  • Vokes scored his first Premier League goal in his 28th appearance in it.
  • Liverpool have only kept one clean sheet in their past 11 away Premier League games (6-0 v Aston Villa).
  • Since Jurgen Klopp took over, only Aston Villa (12) and West Ham (10) have had more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than Liverpool (nine).