Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D has been studying weight bias for over a decade and has published extensively on this topic. She is an editor of the book Weight Bias: Nature, Extent, and Remedies(Guilford Press, 2005), and served as guest editor for a supplement issue in the journal Obesity,“Weight Bias: New Science on a Significant Social Problem.” Dr. Puhl is deputy director as well as a senior research scientist at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University.
Q: Where are school educators and psychologists now in their awareness of the effects of weight stigma and fat shaming on students?
A: Recent research suggests that many educators are becoming increasingly aware that weight-based bullying and teasing is a problem in the school setting. The National Education Association issued a report in 2011, in which thousands of educators across the country were surveyed and asked what type of bullying they perceived to be most problematic. Weight-based bullying came out on top.
Having said that, there is very little training or education about the harmful effects of weight bias on children, which is badly needed.
Q: What measures have you seen being taken at schools (elementary through college) to address the issue of weight stigma?
A: So far, there has been little systematic effort taken in the school environment to address this problem. There are some school-based body image and/or obesity interventions that include limited content on stigma, but overall, this is not being addressed. And although most schools have anti-bullying policies in place, many don’t mention body weight as a characteristic that is vulnerable to bullying.