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., 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

Puhl R.M., Suh Y, Li X. (2016). Improving anti-bullying laws and policies to protect youth from weight-based victimization: Parental support for action. Pediatric Obesity, 12, e14- e19.

Puhl, R.M., Suh, Y., Li, X. (2016). Legislating for weight-based equality: National trends in public support for laws to prohibit weight discrimination. International Journal of Obesity, 40, 1320-1324.

Puhl, R.M., Phelan, S., Nadglowski J., Kyle, T. (2016). Overcoming weight bias in the management of patients with diabetes and obesity. Clinical Diabetes, 34, 44-50.

Selected Recent Invited Presentations:

(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.

(2015) Keynote speaker: Weight-based Victimization in Youth: A Pervasive Problem with Concerning Health Consequences. Rutgers University, School of Public Health, Annual Conference on Childhood Obesity, Piscataway, NJ.

(2015) Plenary Speaker: Childhood Obesity and Bullying: Nature, Extent, and Strategies to Support Vulnerable Youth. Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Annual Meeting, Little Rock, Arkansas.

(2014) Invited speaker: Effects of Obesity Bias and Stigma on Health. American Society of Nutrition, Annual Conference, National Harbor, MD.

(2014) Invited Symposium: Promoting Obesity-Related Health Awareness While Reducing Weight Stigma. Obesity Week, The Obesity Society Annual National Conference, Boston, MA.

(2014) Keynote speaker: Addressing Obesity Stigma in Health Care: Challenges, Remedies, and Implications for Bariatric Care. American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, Annual National Conference, Boston, MA.

(2014) Invited panel speaker: The Nature and Health Consequences of Obesity Stigma: Implications for Obesity Prevention and Treatment. Institute of Medicine, Roundtable on Obesity Solutions, Washington, DC.

(2014) Invited seminar: The Nature and Impact of Obesity Stigma: Research and Public Health Implications National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD.

(2014) Invited Keynote Address: The Nature and Consequences of Obesity Stigma: Implications for Health Professionals, Educators, and Policy Efforts. University of Hartford, College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions, Hartford, CT

(2014) Invited seminar: The Nature, Consequences, and Public Health Implications of Weight Stigma. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, MA.

(2013). Invited seminar: Weight Bias and Stigmatization: Implications for Research and Public Health Efforts Addressing Obesity. Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.

(2013) Invited Plenary speaker: The Pervasive Nature of Weight Stigmatization: Implications for Treatment, Public Health, and Policy. National Eating Disorders Association Conference, Washington, DC.

(2013). Invited panelist: Health Consequences of Weight Stigmatization and the Contribution to Obesity and Eating Disorders. Eating Disorders Coalition Congressional Briefing, Washington, DC.

Selected examples of national media coverage:

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

NPR “Here and Now” (December 11, 2015)

Stigma And ‘Fat Shaming’ Can Fuel Depression and Increase Obesity


Selected Professional Activities/Awards:

  • 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