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. You can see more about my work at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health.

Selected Recent Publications:

Puhl, R.M., Lessard, L.M., Foster, G.D., Cardel, M.I. (2023). Parent-child communication about weight: Priorities for parental education and support. Pediatric Obesity. e13027. DOI: 10.1111/ijpo.13027

Hooper, L., Puhl, R.M., Eisenberg, M.E., Berge, J.M., Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2023). Can family and parenting factors modify the impact of weight stigma on disordered eating in young people? A population-based longitudinal study. Journal of Adolescent Health.

Lawrence, S.E., Lessard, L.M., Puhl, R.M., Foster, G.D., Cardel, M.I. (2023). “Look beyond the weight and accept me”: Adolescent perspectives on parental weight communication. Body Image, 31,45:11-19.

Panza, G., Puhl, R.M., Taylor, B.A., Cilhoroz, B., Himmelstein, M.S., Fernandez, A.B., Pescatello, L.S. (2022). The effects of an acute weight stigma exposure on    cardiovascular     reactivity among women with obesity and hypertension: A randomized trial. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 165:111124. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2022.111124.

Pudney, E.V., Puhl, R.M., Halgunseth, L.C., Schwartz, M.B. (2022). Parental reasons for engaging in or avoiding weight talk with children. Childhood Obesity. Doi: 10.1089/chi.2022/0173

Puhl, R.M., Lessard, L.M., Foster, G.D., Cardel, M.I. (2022). Patient and family perspectives on terms for obesity. Pediatrics, 150 (6): e2022058204.

Puhl, R.M., Lessard, L.M., Pudney, E.V., Foster, G.D., Cardel, M.I. (2022). Motivations for engaging in or avoiding conversations about weight: Adolescent and parent perspectives. Pediatric Obesity, 17; e12962. Doi:10.1111/ijpo.12962.

Braun, T.D., Puhl, R.M., Quinn, D.M., Gorin, A., Tishler, D., Papasavas P. (2022). Weight stigma and post traumatic stress disorder symptoms in individals seeking bariatric surgery. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, 18(8):1066-1073.

Hooper, L., Puhl, R., Eisenberg, M.E., Reicks, M., Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2022). How is weight teasing cross-sectionally and longitudinally associated with health behaviors and weight status among ethnically/racially and socioeconomically diverse young people? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity,19(1):71. doi: 10.1186/s12966-022-01307-y.

Roberts, S., Maheux, A., Watson, R.J., Puhl, R.M., Choukas-Bradley, S. (2022). Sexual and gender minority (SGM) adolescents’ disordered eating: Exploring general and SGM-specific factors. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 55(7):933-946.

Puhl, R.M., Lessard, L.M., Foster, G.D., Cardel, M.I. (2022). A comprehensive examination fo the nature, frequency, and context of parental weight communication: Perspectives of parents and adolescents. Nutrients,14,1562.

Lawrence, S.E., Puhl, R.M., Schwartz, M.B., Watson, R.J, Foster, G.D. (2022). “The most hurtful thing I’ve ever experienced”: A qualitative examination of the nature of experiences of weight stigma by family members. Social Science & Medicine –   Qualitative Research in Health, 2, 100073.

Puhl, R.M. (2022). Weight stigma, policy initiatives, and harnessing social media to elevate activism. Body Image, 40,131-137.

Verhaak, A., Ferrand, J., Puhl, R.M., Tisher D.S., Papasavas, P.K., Umashanker, D. (2022). Experienced weight stigma, internalized weight bias, and clinical attrition in a medical weight loss patient sample. International Journal of Obesity.

Lessard, L.M., Puhl, R.M. (2022). Weight-based cybervictimization: Implications for adolescent health. Pediatric Obesity, e12888. doi:10.1111/ijpo.12888

Lessard, L.M., Watson, R.J., Schacter H.L., Wheldon C.W., Puhl, R.M. (2022). Weight enumeration in state anti-bullying laws: Associations with rates and risks of weight-based bullying among sexual and gender minority adolescents. Journal of Public Health Policy, 43, 27-39.

Wakefield, E.O., Belamkar, V., Litt, M.D., Puhl, R.M., Zempksy, W. There’s nothing wrong with you: Pain-related stigma in adolescents with chronic pain. (2022). Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 47, 456-458.

Puhl, R.M., Himmelstein, M.S., Speight, J. (2022). Weight stigma and diabetes stigma: Implications for weight-related health behaviors in adults with type 2 diabetes. Clinical Diabetes, 40, 51–61.

Lessard, L. M., & Puhl, R. M. (2021). Adolescent academic worries amid COVID-19 and perspectives on pandemic-related changes in teacher and peer relations. School Psychology36(5), 285-292.

Lessard, L.M., & Puhl, R.M. (2021). Adolescents’ exposure to and experiences of weight stigma during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 46, 950-959.

Puhl, R.M., Lessard, L., Pearl, R.L., Grupski, A., & Foster, G.D. (2021). Policies to address weight discrimination and bullying: Perspectives of adults engaged in weight management from six nations. Obesity, 29,1787–1798.

Wakefield, E., Puhl, R., Litt, M.D., Zempsky, W.T. (2021). “If it ever really hurts, I try not to let them know”: The use of concealment as a coping strategy among   adolescents with chronic pain. Frontiers in Psychology12, 666275.

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 Obesity45, 1976–1985.

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. Obesity29, 966-970.

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, 31, 3177-3187.

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, 54, 1449- 1462.

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, 164: 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.

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.

Lessard, L.M., Puhl, R.M. (2021). Reducing Educators’ Weight Bias: The Role of School-Based Anti-Bullying Policies. Journal of School Health.

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, 104, 1962-1969.

Lessard, L.M., Puhl, R.M., Larson, N., Simone, M., Eisenberg, M.E., Neumark- Sztainer, D. (2021). Parental contributors to the prevalence and long-term health risks of family weight teasing in adolescence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 69, 74-81.

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,

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.

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.

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.

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.

Puhl, R.M.What words should we use to talk about weight? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies examining preferences for weight-related terminology. (2020). Obesity Reviews, 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  0803x.

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(1), 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 Obesity14(1), doi:10.1111/ijpo.12453

Selected Recent Invited Presentations:

(2022) Opening Speaker: Efforts to Address Weight Stigma.Danish National Center for Obesity, Annual National Conference. Aarhus, Denmark.

(2022) Keynote speaker: Weight Stigma in Youth: Health Consequences and Implications for     Clinical Practice. University of Louisville, School of Medicine, 11th Annual Pediatric Behavioral and Mental Health Symposium. Louisville, KY.

(2022) Weight Stigma: Harmful Health Consequences and Implications for Patient Care.  Obesity Medicine Association.

(2022) Opening Speaker and Expert Panelist: A Brief Overview of Weight Stigma. Media Empathy Foundation Spotlight on Weight Stigma. New York City, NY.

(2021) Grand Rounds Speaker: Weight Bias and its Impact on the Health of Children and Adolescents with ObesityNationwide Children’s Hospital. Columbus, OH.

(2021) Grand Rounds Speaker: Health consequences of weight stigma in youth: Implications for patients, providers, and clinical practice. Medical College of Wisconsin. Milwaukee, WI.

(2021) Health consequences of weight stigma: Implications for clinical practice and patient care. British Dietetic Association. UK.

(2021) Plenary Talk: The nature and health consequences of weight stigma. Swiss Association for the Study of Obesity National Conference. Berne, Switzerland.

(2021) The damaging impact of weight stigma on health: Implications for obesity prevention and treatment. University of Cambridge, Institute of Metabolic Science. Cambridge, UK.

(2021) Plenary Talk: Weight stigma and bias: What can we do to improve care? 10th Annual Let’s Go National Obesity Conference, Portland, Maine.

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

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

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

(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.

Selected examples of national media coverage:

NBC TODAY (February 21st, 2023)

Weight loss isn’t always a sign of health

 NBC (February 8th, 2023)

Ozempic and Wegovy add new layers to the understanding of obesity as a chronic health condition

The New York Times (January 20th, 2023)

New Guidelines Underscore How Complicated Childhood Obesity is for Patients and Providers

USA Today (July 27th, 2022)

Extra weight increases health risk in the long run. Fat shaming hurts now.

 BBC (April 12th, 2022)

The unspoken weight discrimination problem at work

The New York Times (February 27th, 2022)

Brazil, land of the thong, embraces its heavier self

 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

Selected Professional Activities/Awards:

  • UConn’s AAUP Excellence in Research and Creativity Career Award (2023)
  • Named to World’s Highly Cited Research List (2021)
  • 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)
  • Fellow, The Obesity Society (2010- present)
  • 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 and Health, One Constitution Plaza, Suite 600 Hartford, CT 06103