Rebecca Puhl



Educational Background:
Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, Yale University, 2004
M.S., Psychology, Yale University, 2001
B.A.H., Psychology, Queen’s University, 1999

Research Interests:

My research broadly addresses weight-based bullying, bias, and discrimination experienced by children and adults. My work has documented the prevalence and origins of weight bias and discrimination, assessed the pervasiveness and impact of weight stigma in the media, examined the effects of weight bias on emotional and physical health, assessed experiences and health consequences of weight-bullying in youth, tested intervention strategies to reduce weight bias, and studied potential policy and legal remedies to reduce weight discrimination and bullying.

In an effort to address weight bias as both a social justice issue and a public health problem, my research has been harnessed for important translational work that has had both national and international reach on efforts to reduce weight bias in different societal settings. These efforts include the creation of evidence-based educational films to educate health care providers about weight bias, which have been tested and implemented as required training for medical staff in health care facilities and bariatric surgery centers across the country. My research team has also created a media repository resource for use by the popular press to help combat stereotypical and stigmatizing depictions of people with obesity in the media. The repository contains hundreds of images and videos depicting non-stigmatizing portrayals of children and adults with obesity, which have appeared in national and international news outlets, such as TIME magazine, CBS News, and Canada’s National Post. Whenever possible, we also use our research to inform public policy, and evidence from our studies has served as a foundation for expert testimony in state legislative hearings for proposed laws to prohibit weight discrimination.

View more about Dr. Puhl’s work at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

Selected Recent Publications:

Puhl, R.M., Lessard, L.M., Pearl, R.L., Himmelstein, M.S., Foster, G.D. (2021). International comparisons of weight stigma: Addressing a void in the field. International Journal of Obesity

Puhl, R.M., Lessard, L.M., Himmelstein, M.S., Foster, G.D. (2021). The roles of experienced and internalized weight stigma in healthcare experiences: Perspectives of adults engaged in weight management across six countries. PLOS ONE 16(6): e0251566

Lessard, L.M., Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S., Pearl, R.L., Foster, G.D. (2021). Eating and Exercise-Related Correlates of Weight Stigma: A Multinational Investigation. Obesity. DOI: 10.1002/oby.23168

Braun, T.D., Gorin, A.A., Puhl, R.M., Stone, A., Quinn, D.M., Ferrand, J., Abrantes, A.M., Unick, J., Tishler, D., Papasavas, P. (2021). Shame and self-compassion as risk   and protective mechanisms of the internalized weight bias and emotional eating link in individuals seeking bariatric surgery. Obesity Surgery. doi: 10.1007/s11695-021-05392-z

Hooper, L., Puhl, R.M., Eisenberg, M.E., Crow, S., Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2021). Weight teasing experienced during adolescence and young adulthood: cross-sectional and longitudinal associations with disordered eating behaviors in an ethnically/racially and socioeconomically diverse sample. International Journal of Eating Disorders. doi: 10.1002/eat.23534

Reinka, M.A., Quinn, D.M., Puhl, R.M. (2021). Examining the relationship between weight controllability beliefs and eating behaviors: The role of internalized weight stigma and BMI. Appetite. 105257

Pearl, R.L., Puhl, R.M., Lessard, L.M., Himmelstein, M.S., Foster, G.D. (2021). Prevalence and correlates of weight bias internalization in weight management: A multinational study. Social Science & Medicine – Population Health, 13, 100755.

Watson, R.J., Fish, J.N., Poteat, V.P., Wheldon, C.W., Cunningham, C.A., Puhl, R.M., Eaton, L.A. (2021). Teacher support, victimization, and alcohol use among sexual and gender minority youth: Considering ethnoracial identity. Prevention Science.

Lessard, L.M., Lawrence, S.L., Puhl, R.M. (2021). Weight-based victimization and school performance in adolescence: Can teachers help reduce academic risks? School Psychology, 36, 69-74. 

Phelan, S.M., Puhl, R.M., Burgess, D.J., Natt, N., Mundi, M., Miller, N.E., Saha, S., et al. (2021). The Role of Weight Bias and Perceived Norms in Medical Students’ Patient-Centered Communication with Higher Weight Standardized Patients. Patient Education and Counseling.  

Lessard, L.M., Puhl, R.M., Larson, N., Simone, M., Eisenberg, M.E., Neumark- Sztainer, D. (2020). Parental contributors to the prevalence and long-term health risks of family weight teasing in adolescence. Journal of Adolescent Health.

Puhl, R.M., Lessard, L.M. (2020). Weight stigma in youth: Prevalence, consequences, and considerations for clinical practice. Current Obesity Reports. doi: 10.1007/s13679-020-00408-8.

Quinn, D.M., Puhl, R.M., Reinka, M.A. (2020). Trying again (and again): Weight cycling and depressive symptoms in U.S. adults. PLoS ONE,

Olson, K.L., Lillis, J., Panza, E., Wing, R.R., Quinn, D., Puhl R. (2020). Body shape concerns across racial and ethnic groups among adults in the United States: More similarities than differences. Body Image, 35, 108-113.

Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S., Hateley-Browne, J.L., Speight, J. (2020). Weight stigma and diabetes stigma in U.S. adults with type 2 diabetes: Associations with diabetes self-care behaviors and perceptions of health care. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 168, 108387.

Puhl, R.M., Lessard, L.M., Larson, N., Eisenberg, M.E., Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2020). Weight stigma as a predictor of distress and maladaptive eating behaviors during COVID-19: Longitudinal findings from the EAT study. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 54(10), 738-746.

Himmelstein, M.S., Puhl, R.M. (2020). At multiple fronts: Diabetes stigma and weight stigma in adults with Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetic Medicine. doi: 10.1111/dme.14387

    Puhl, R.M., Telke, S., Larson, N., Eisenberg, M., Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2020). Experiences of weight stigma and links with self-compassion among a population-based sample of young adults from diverse ethnic/racial and socio-economic backgrounds. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 134, 110134.

    Himmelstein, M.S., Puhl, R.M., Pearl, R.L., Pinto, A.M., Foster, G.D. (2020). Coping with Weight Stigma among Adults in a Commercial Weight Management Sample.   International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 27, 576-590.

    Pearl. R.L., Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S., Pinto, A.M., Foster, G.D. (2020). Weight stigma and weight-related health: Associations of self-report measures among adults in weight management. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 54, 904-914.

    Lessard, L.M., Puhl, R.M., Watson, R.J. (2020). Gay-straight alliances: A mechanism of health risk reduction among LGBTQ adolescents. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 59, 196-203. (IF=4.44

     Lessard, L.M., Watson, R.J., Puhl, R.M. (2020). Bias-based bullying and school adjustment among sexual and gender minority adolescents: The role of gay-straight alliances. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 49, 1094-1109.

    Puhl, R.M. (2020). What words should we use to talk about weight? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies examining preferences for weight-related terminology. Obesity Reviews, 21, e13008. DOI: 10.1111/obr.13008

    Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S., & Pearl, R.L. (2020). Weight stigma as a psychosocial contributor to obesity. American Psychologist, 75, 274-289.

    Rubino, F., Puhl, R.M., Cummings, D.E., et al. (2020). Joint international consensus statement for ending stigma of obesity. Nature Medicine, 26, 485-497.

    Pudney, E.V., Himmelstein, M.S., Puhl, R.M., Foster, G.D. (2020). Distressed or not distressed? A mixed methods examination of reactions to weight stigma and implications for emotional wellbeing and internalized weight bias. Social Science & Medicine, 249, 112854.

    O’Brien, K.S., Puhl, R.M., Latner, J.D., Lynott, D., Reid, J.D., Vakhitova, Z., Hunter, J.A., Scarf, D., Jeans, R., Bouguettaya, A., Carter, A. (2020). The effect of a food addiction explanation model for weight control and obesity on weight stigma. Nutrients, 12, 294; doi:10.3390/nu12020294

     Watson, R.J., Fish, J.N., McKay, T., Allen, S., Eaton, L., & Puhl, R.M. (2020). Substance use among a national sample of sexual and gender minority adolescents: Intersections of sex assigned at birth and gender identity.  LGBTQ Health, 7, 37-46.

     Eisenberg, M., Puhl, R.M., Watson, R.J. (2020). Family weight teasing, LGBTQ attitudes, and well-being among LGBTQ adolescents. Family & Community Health, 43, 17-25.

    Panza, G.A., Puhl, R.M., Taylor, B.A., Zaleski, A.L., Livingston, J., Pescatello, L.S. (2019). Links between discrimination and cardiovascular health among socially stigmatized groups: A systematic review. PlosONE, 14(6), e0217623.

     Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S., Pearl, R.L., Wojtanowski, A.C., & Foster, G.D. (2019). Weight stigma among sexual minority adults: Findings from a matched sample of adults engaged in weight management. Obesity, 27(11), 1906-1915.

     Pearl, R.L., Himmelstein, M.S., Puhl, R.M., Wadden, T.A., Wojtanowski, A.C., & Foster, G.D. (2019). Weight bias internalization in a commercial weight management sample: Prevalence and correlates.  Obesity Science & Practice. Advanced online publication. doi 10.1002/osp4.354.

    Himmelstein, M.S., Puhl, R.M., Quinn, D. (2019). Overlooked and Understudied: Health Consequences of Weight Stigma in Men. Obesity. 

    Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S., Watson, R.J. (2019). Weight-based victimization among sexual and gender minority adolescents: Findings from a diverse national sample. Pediatric Obesity, 14(7): e12514. doi.10/1111/ijpo.12514

    Pearl, R.L., Himmelstein, M.S., Puhl, R.M.,Wadden, T.A., Wojtanowski, A.C., & Foster, G.D. (2019). Weight bias internalization in a commercial weight management sample: Prevalence and correlates.  Obesity Science & Practice. doi.10.1002/osp4.354.

    Himmelstein, M.S., Puhl, R.M.,Watson, R.J. (2019). Weight-Based Victimization, Eating Behaviors, and Weight-Related Health in Sexual and Gender Minority Adolescents. Appetite, 141:10432. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2019

    Pearl, R.L., Himmelstein, M.S., Puhl, R.M., Wadden, T.A., Wojtanowski, A.C., & Foster, G.D.  (2019). Weight Bias Internalization in a Commercial Weight Management Sample: Prevalence and Correlates. Obesity Science & Practice.

    Pudney, E.V., Himmelstein, M.S., Puhl, R.M. (2019). The role of weight stigma in parental weight talk. Pediatric Obesity, e12534. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12534

    Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S., Watson, R.J. (2019). Weight stigma in sexual and gender minority adolescents: Implications for mental health and substance use. Health Psychology.

    Eisenberg, M., Puhl, R.M., Areba, E., & Neumark-Sztainer, D.M. (2019). Family weight teasing, ethnicity and acculturation: Associations with well-being among Latinx, Hmong, and Somali Adolescents. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 122, 88-93.

    Watson, R.J., Wheldon, C.W., Puhl, R.M. (2019). Evidence of diverse identities in a large national sample of sexual and gender minority youth. Journal of Research on Adolescence.

    Himmelstein, M.S., Puhl, R.M. (2019). Weight-based victimization from friends and family: Implications for how adolescents cope with weight stigma. Pediatric Obesity, 14(1), doi:10.1111/ijpo.12453

    Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S. (2018). Weight bias internalization among adolescents seeking weight loss: Implications for eating behaviors and parental communication. Frontiers in Psychology, 9,doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02271

    Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S. (2018). A word to the wise: Adolescent reactions to parental communication about weight. Childhood Obesity, 14(5), 291-301

    Pearl, R.L., Puhl, R.M. (2018). Weight bias internalization and health: A systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 19(8), 1141-1163.

    Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S. (2018). Adolescent Preferences for Weight Terminology Used by Health Care Providers. Pediatric Obesity ,13(9), 533-540. 

    Himmelstein, M.S., Puhl, R.M., Quinn, D.M. (2018). Weight stigma in men: What, where, and by whom? Obesity, 26(6), 968-976.

    Himmelstein, M. S., Puhl, R. M.,& Quinn, D. M. (2018). Weight stigma and health: The mediating role of coping responses.  Health Psychology, 37(2),139-147.

    Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S., Quinn, D.M. (2018). Internalizing weight stigma: Prevalence and sociodemographic considerations in US adults. Obesity, 26, 167-175.

    Pont, S.J., Puhl, R.M., Cook, S.R., Slusser W. (2017). Stigma experienced by children and adolescents with obesity. Pediatrics. 140(6): e20173034

    Puhl, R.M., Wall, M.B., Chen, C., Austin, S.B., Eisenberg, M.E., Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2017).   Early experiences of weight teasing and weight-related outcomes in adulthood: A 15-year longitudinal study. Preventive Medicine, 100, 173-179.

    Puhl, R.M., Quinn, D.M., Weisz, B.M., Suh, Y.J. (2017). The role of stigma in weight loss maintenance among U.S. adults. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 51, 754-763.

    Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S., Armstrong, S., Kingsfield, E. (2017). Weighing words: Adolescent preferences and reactions to language about body weight. International Journal of Obesity. DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2017.55


    Selected Recent Invited Presentations:

    (2021): Invited Keynote Address: The need for multinational and collective action to address weight stigma. Canadian Obesity Summit, Annual Meeting.

    (2021) Invited speaker: Obesity stigma, mental health, and dietary behaviors. European Congress on Obesity, Annual Meeting.

    (2021) Invited plenary speaker: Weight Stigma in Youth: Nature, Consequences, and Implications for Clinical Practice. Society of Pediatric Psychology Annual National Conference.

    (2020) Invited speaker: The Damaging Impact of Weight Stigma: Psychosocial Stress and Harmful Health Consequences. University of Oxford, School of Anthropology, Oxford, UK.

    (2020) Featured speaker: The Harmful Impact of Disease Stigma: Lessons from Obesity Research. The diaTribe Foundation, d20 National Forum.

    (2020) Invited presenter: Health Consequences of Weight Stigma: Implications for Obesity Prevention and Treatment. United Kingdom Association for the Study of Obesity, Bristol, UK.

    (2020)  Keynote speaker: Weight stigma in American society: Public health consequences and structural solutions. Framingham State University, Framingham, MA.

    (2019) Invited plenary speaker: Weight Bias: Recent Guidelines and How You Can Make a Difference. American Academy of Pediatrics National Annual Conference. New Orleans, LA.

    (2019). Invited expert panelist: Roundtable on Advancing Effective Obesity Communications.  Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, DC.

    (2019) Keynote Speaker: Increasing the Focus of Weight Stigma as Harmful to Health. U.S. Office of Health & Human Services, Washington, DC.

    (2019) Opening Speaker and Expert Panelist: Stigma and Discrimination: Definitions, Prevalence, and Consequences. World Congress on Interventional Therapies for Type 2 Diabetes, New York, NY.

    (2019) Invited Symposium: Adverse Health Consequences of Weight Stigma Among Youth. Pediatric Academic Societies National Meeting, Baltimore, MD.

    (2018) Award Lecture: Using a Social-Ecological Approach for Addressing Weight Stigma. The Obesity Society Annual Meeting, Mid-Career Scientific Achievement Award Lecture, Nashville, TN.

    (2018) Keynote Speaker: An Ecological Framework for Tackling Weight Stigma. Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy Annual Meeting, Storrs, CT.

    (2018) Keynote Speaker: Weight Bias and Appearance-based Prejudice Policy and Research. Appearance Matters International Conference, Bath, UK.

    (2018) Invited Seminar: Policy Strategies for Addressing Weight-based Discrimination and Bullying. University of Minnesota, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, Minneapolis, MN.

    (2017) Invited Symposia: Internalized Weight Bias: Links with Health and Priorities for Research. Obesity Week, The Obesity Society Annual National Conference, Washington, DC.

    (2017) Invited Plenary Speaker: Weight Stigma: Impact on Health and Strategies for Improving Health Care Practices. Society of Nutrition, Education, and Behavior, National Annual Conference. Washington, DC.

    (2016) Invited Panelist: Weight-based bullying and Policy Considerations. Harvard University Symposium on LGBT Bullying: Translating Research to Action to Improve Health of All Children, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

    (2016) Invited Symposia: Weight-based Victimization: Relationship to Obesity and Eating Disorders. Pediatric Academic Societies, National Conference, Baltimore, MD.

    (2016) Invited Symposia: Weight Bias: Implications for Clinical Practice. The Endocrine Society Annual Conference, Boston, MA.


    Selected recent examples of national media coverage:

    CNN (June 7th, 2021)

    The pandemic changed the way we ate and shopped – and not always for the better

    CNN (June 1st, 2021)

    Fat-shaming by doctors, family members, classmates is a global health problem, studies show

    The Conversation (June 1st, 2021)

    Weight stigma is a burden around the world – and has negative consequences everywhere

    USA Today (October 14th, 2020)

    The kids aren’t all right: COVID-19-fueled stress eating, inequities, lack of fitness expected to boost obesity, experts say.

    US News and World Report (September 10th, 2020)

    Who’s Most Likely to Binge Eat Amid Pandemic?

    CBS Original Documentary (August 20th, 2020)

    Speaking Frankly / Fat Shaming

    The Huffington Post (February 12, 2020)

    Being Overweight Benefits Some Men in the Workplace, But Not Women

    US News and World Report (February 3, 2020)

    The Great Body Acceptance Debate

    HealthDay (October 8, 2019)

    Pressuring Kids to Diet Can Backfire, Damaging Long-Term Health

    The Washington Post (June 21st, 2019)

    Weight Discrimination is Rampant. Yet in Most Places it’s Still Legal.

    The Huffington Post (March 25th, 2019)

    10 Everyday Ways To Foster A Healthy Body Image In Your Child

    NPR: Where We Live (February 11th, 2019)

    Interview on Weight Stigma in Sexual Minority Youth

    The Washington Post (August 23, 2018)

    Food deserts don’t cause obesity. But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.

    Reuters (August 10, 2018)

    Girls with obesity have increased risk of depression

    The New York Times (August 21, 2017)

    Fat Bias Starts Early and Takes a Serious Toll

    U.S. News & World Report (August 17, 2017)

    6 Strategies for Helping a Teen Who’s Being Bullied about His or Her Weight

    U.S. News & World Report (May 25, 2017)

    Teasing Teens about Weight May Do Lasting Harm

    BBC news (December 1, 2016)

    Fat people earn less and have a harder time finding work

    The New York Times (October 1, 2016)

    The Shame of Fat Shaming

    CNN (September 29, 2016)

    Weight Bias is a Bigger Problem than You May Think, Experts Say

    The New York Times (September 29, 2016)

    400-Pound Hacker? Trump Comments Fuel Dialogue on Fat-Shaming

    The New York Times (September 25, 2016)

    What Obese Patients Should Say to Doctors

    The New York Times (June 16, 2016)

    Parents Should Avoid Comments on a Child’s Weight


    Selected Professional Activities/Awards:

    • Obesity Canada’s Distinguished Lecturer Award (2021)
    • HDFS Faculty Research Award (2020)
    • UConn CLAS Excellence in Research Award in Public Scholarship (2019)
    • Distinguished Faculty Research Award, Rainbow Center, UConn (2019)
    • The Obesity Society Scientific Achievement Award for Excellence in an Established Research Career (2018)
    • Associate Editor, Stigma & Health (APA) (2015 – present)
    • Editorial Board, Obesity: Science and Practice (Wiley) (2015-present)
    • Recipient of Excellence in Policy Research Award, Eating Disorders Coalition,Washington DC (2013)
    • Recipient of Bias Buster Award, Obesity Action Coalition (2012)
    • Elected Advocacy Councilor, The Obesity Society Council (2009-2012)
    • Chair, Weight Bias Task Force, The Obesity Society, (2005-2013)
    • Board of Directors, Obesity Action Coalition (2010-2014)
    • Fellow, The Obesity Society (2010- present)
    • Guest editor, Supplement Issue in Obesity. “Weight Bias: New Science on a Significant Social Problem” (Volume 16, Supplement 2, November 2008)
    • Recipient of William Kessen Teaching Award, Yale University, Dept. of Psychology (2002)
    Rebecca Puhl
    Contact Information
    Phone860 380 1209
    Mailing AddressDepartment of Human Development &
    Family Sciences University of Connecticut 348 Mansfield Road, Unit 1058 Storrs, Connecticut 06269-1058 USA
    Office LocationRudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity One Constitution Plaza, Suite 600 Hartford, CT 06103