Blog Posts for: Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
09/08/2009 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
The Media’s Complicit Role in Fueling Weight Stigma
Time Magazine recently highlighted a new study by Salvy and colleagues, which suggested that obesity can be contagious in children. The study examined 130 children (ages 9-15) who were provided with foods to snack on while they hung out with a friend or an unfamiliar peer. All of the children, regardless of their weight, ate more food when they were with their friends, than with the child they did not know. However, overweight children ate the most when paired with overweight friends, leading the authors to theorize that obesity can be contagious.
08/13/2009 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Weight Bias is Bad for Business
The Wall Street Journal’s ‘Health Blog’ featured a discussion this week with Toby Cosgrove, the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. Mr. Cosgrove made some concerning comments about hiring obese employees.
07/22/2009 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Why does Dr. Benjamin’s size matter?
There has been a surge of discussion this week about Obama’s pick for Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin. The focus has not been on Dr. Benjamin’s many accomplishments or qualifications as a health care champion (e.g., working with the poor, providing health care in an underserved community, establishing a medical clinic for victims of Katrina), nor on her esteemed awards (e.g., she was named a MacArthur Fellow – awarded to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction”; recipients of this award must demonstrate “exceptional creativity and promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments”).
06/30/2009 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Youth Weight Stigma, In Print
Last month, a story appeared in the headlines about a 15-year-old student who was a target of weight-based victimization by her peers at school. The student, Marie Gray, who is a freshman honor roll student (and also happens to be obese) opened her high school year book to find that derogatory remarks (e.g., “fat-ass”) had been printed under her name, a prank that had not been caught by teachers prior to the yearbooks being printed and distributed.
05/20/2009 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Target Their Confidence
A few weeks ago, several companies, including Target and Forever 21, announced their decision to launch plus-size clothing lines for teen girls. When so many girls struggle with negative body image, it’s nice to know that those who are also struggling with their weight will now have some additional options of finding clothes that feel good and look good for diverse body types.
04/17/2009 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
One Seat for the Price of Two
It was hard to miss the headlines this week announcing United Airlines’ new seating policy, which will charge obese passengers for a second extra seat (at the full cost) if they don’t meet the airline’s new criteria, such as being unable to put the seat’s armrests down when seated.
03/08/2009 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Stigma Goes All the Way to the Grave
I was dismayed to read a recent news story from Britain, where a decision has been made to charge higher fees to bury obese persons after they die because they take up more space in a cemetery. Families of deceased obese individuals will be charged £194 compared to the £129 fee for non-overweight individuals.
01/30/2009 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Celebrity Weight Matters
I typically don’t blog about specific celebrities or pop culture gossip, but I’ve been dismayed with the recent media attention criticizing Jessica Simpson’s body weight. Countless websites and blogs are posting negative, derogatory comments about Ms. Simpson due to an apparent modest weight gain. It is appalling that this is making headlines and is actually news-worthy, and that Ms. Simpson is now being described as “fat” and “porky” among other derogatory comparisons. Even mainstream news sources are printing this story. Are there not more important things to be talking about?
01/29/2009 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Rudd Center Releases Videos on Weight Bias
At the Rudd Center we often get contacted by people (like teachers, parents, health professionals, researchers) across North America who want to learn more about weight bias and what steps they can take to inform and educate others about this problem. Frequently, we’re asked if there are any educational videos that exist on weight bias that can be used to increase public awareness. While a few videos have surfaced over the past decade, most are outdated and difficult to obtain.
01/14/2009 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Changing Health Care Standards
Examples of weight bias are frequently surfacing in the media these days. There are stories of overweight employees being fired from their jobs because of their weight, cases of obese parents being denied the right to adopt a child because of their size, and emerging policies where employers are charging obese employees higher insurance premiums because of their weight.
12/17/2008 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
A Small but Significant Victory
The city council of Binghamton, New York passed a law this week that will prohibit discrimination on the basis of weight or height. The Binghamton Human Rights Law specifically makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, housing, education or public accommodations. This is a significant victory, and sends the important message that all people, regardless of size, deserve these fundamental human rights.
11/24/2008 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Canada Leads by Example
Over the past few years, there have been ongoing debates in the news and among various airlines in the United States about whether to charge obese passengers higher fees for seats in airplanes. I’ve argued in past blogs that this is a form of weight stigma and one of the many forms of discrimination that obese individuals face in public accommodations and modes of transportation.
10/15/2008 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
“Frisked for Chocolate and Fizzy Drinks”
Efforts to reduce weight stigma appear to be needed in the UK as much as they are here in North America. Last week, health expert and Chairman of the Child Growth Foundation Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum in the UK announced his idea that obese children should be removed from their families and placed into care, and that “those whose health is at risk should then undergo stomach-stapling operations.” Mr. Fry’s proposal that obesity should be treated as a form of abuse was presented at the National Obesity Forum’s annual conference last week. The National Obesity Forum is an independent charity, working to improve the prevention and management of obesity.
09/23/2008 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Respect for (Almost) All
Mayor Bloomberg recently announced a new policy to reduce bias-based bullying in NYC public schools. The new regulation, which builds on the City's "Respect for All" initiative, will target bullying based on ethnicity, gender, national origin, sexual orientation and disability. Under the new policy, schools will be required to designate staff to help track incidents of bullying, and file complaints to the Department of Education within 24 hours.
08/11/2008 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Sony Feeds Princess and Weight Bias
At a time when obesity rates are their highest in our nation, attitudes toward obese people couldn’t be worse. Overweight and obese individuals are frequently stigmatized and vulnerable targets of prejudice in employment settings, health care facilities, and educational institutions. This year alone there have been reports that obese persons are partly responsible for global warming, increasing fuel prices, and promoting weight gain among their friends.
07/30/2008 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Weight Bias and the White House
In the ongoing discussions about the presidential race, it appears that weight bias has entered the conversation. Last month I noticed a posting on The Huffington Post that asked the question, would you vote for Obama if he was obese?
04/16/2008 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Stigma-busting Beauty Pageant
The beauty pageant world is paying attention to Chloe Marshall, a 17-year-old in England, who has been making headlines this past month for being the first plus-size model to be selected as a finalist for the Miss England competition. Chloe, who is a size 16, was crowned Miss Surrey over seven thinner contestants, and is now a contender for the national Miss England pageant.
02/08/2008 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Fat Acceptance Blogs Raise Good Questions
An interesting article appeared in the NY Times recently by Roni Rabin, describing an increasingly popular venue for fat acceptance movements: the “Fatosphere” of blogs. New fat acceptance blogs like “Big Fat Deal” and “Fatgirl” are receiving more and more attention from viewers and bloggers.
09/14/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Role Model on a Bike
I came across an interesting blog the other day called “Fat Girl on a Bike”. It’s about a young woman named Sarah Watson, who is obese and has completed 6 triathlons. Her website and blog focus on her athletic training experiences, and various triathlon accomplishments. She details her experiences of the rigorous physical training and mental effort it takes to prepare for the competitions, but also talks about her motivation for participating in triathlons, which is to have fun, to complete the races, to improve over time, and to discover her physical capabilities.
08/20/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Bullied, Teased, and Absent
Could weight bias lead to school absenteeism among obese students? A study published in the journal Obesity shows that obese kids (in elementary school) miss more days of school then their non-obese peers. The study found that body weight predicts student absenteeism, over and above factors like academic performance, race, socioeconomic status, age and gender. Children who were underweight were the least likely to be absent.
08/05/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Weight Discrimination on Campus
Will obese women be absent among future college-graduates in America? A recent study found that obese adolescent girls are less likely to attend college compared to non-obese girls. Data for this study (published in the July issue of the journal Sociology of Education) were collected from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which tracked over 10,000 girls.
What’s happening here?
07/26/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Obesity’s Contagious? Not Exactly…
This week, news headlines have focused on a new article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reporting that people are more likely to become obese when they have a friend who is obese. The study followed over 12,000 people for 32 years, and found that having a friend who is obese increased one’s chances of becoming obese by 57%.
07/03/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Weight Bias Hits the Library
What was your favorite book as a child? As a mother, I’m always on the look-out for good books to read with my son. But I’ve been startled by how frequently I come across kids’ books that portray overweight characters as the targets of jokes, the kids who is unpopular or mean, or the children who don’t succeed.
06/19/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
This Month in Weight Bias
Lately there has been a flood of stories in the news pertaining to weight bias. I recently read an article about a group of female flight attendants in India who were grounded from the national airline for being overweight. A year ago, Indian Airlines introduced strict weight guidelines for its flight crew, and the Indian Court has ruled in favor of the airline.
06/04/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
American Idol "Sparks" Health Debate
If you are one of the millions of people who watched American Idol this season, you’ll know that Jordan Sparks won the 2007 competition. She is a 17-year old teenager with an amazing voice, and her singing performances were consistently stellar throughout the season, with one of the judges stating that she was the best 17-year-old singer he’s ever seen.
05/31/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Ordering Good Looks with a Side of Good Health
I recently saw a TV commercial for Subway, in which a couple drives up to the drive-thru window of a fast-food chain and places an order. But instead of ordering food they order some “blubber,” “thunder thighs,” and “badonkadonk butt.” This commercial is essentially saying that ordering fast food leads to obesity, but consumers could avoid weight gain by choosing Subway over less healthy alternative food chains.
05/18/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
I wanted to spread the word about a new educational resource addressing weight bias for teachers and students, which is being disseminated nationally through a program called "Teaching Tolerance". Rarely is weight bias included in educational curriculum, even when diversity issues are the focus. The materials in this resource provide a unique opportunity to raise awareness about bias among educators and youth nationwide. Teaching Tolerance (a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center) is the largest and most influential publication in the anti-bias education field.
05/18/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
What's Weight Got to Do With It?
I recently read that breast cancer patients who are obese tend to receive lower doses of chemotherapy than thinner patients. This finding came from a study (published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology) that examined health records of over 700 women treated for breast cancer at 115 oncology practices randomly selected across the country.
04/24/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
The Biggest Loser of Reality TV
I suppose nothing about reality TV should be surprising anymore, but I was shocked to learn of a new reality TV show that will be filmed in Australia, called “Fat Kids Can’t Hunt.” The premise of the show focuses on “10 fat children” who must “hunt for food or go hungry”. Specifically, these children must live with Aboriginal tribesmen in Australia for a month, following their rules of eating plants and grasses, and trapping and cooking animals and insects to eat. The creators of the show state that the “program is designed to help obese kids tackle overeating.”
04/16/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Larger Ambulances for Larger Patients
Should public accommodations (e.g., seating in airplanes) be made larger to assist obese individuals? This is a common debate that has emerged in discussions about obesity and weight bias, with some recent cases receiving national media attention (link to previous blog, "The Not So Friendly Sky"). While Americans continue to debate both sides of this issue, other countries are instead taking proactive measures to ensure equal treatment of their citizens, regardless of their body weight.
03/22/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Obesity prevention that weighs stigma
In an effort to reduce obesity among youth, schools in Singapore implemented a rigid program into schools that required overweight and obese students to participate in rigorous exercises between classes, and before and after school, until they had lost a specified amount of weight. Not surprisingly, this program received criticism, and many parents became upset because their overweight children were singled out and were targets of teasing and victimization. As a result, the program is being removed, and replaced with a program that instead promotes health among all children, regardless of their body size.
03/02/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Childhood Obesity Enters Custody Court
I’ve often heard the opinion that parents are to blame if their child is obese. This is a troubling and concerning argument that does nothing to support or empower parents to improve the health of their family, and ignores broader environmental and societal interventions that could make significant public health improvements by changing the food environment (which would help parents even more). Unfortunately, perceptions of parental blame have become so widespread, that some child protection agencies have gone as far to suggest removing obese children from their families. A story emerged on this issue last week on CNN where an eight-year old obese boy was under consideration for removal from his family by social workers because of his weight. His family faced a hearing under the Children Act in Britain, which aims to safeguard and promote children’s welfare. This is not the first story like this to appear in the media, and like previous cases, it was decided that the boy could remain with his family, despite his obesity.
02/23/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
If you’ve been to the movies lately, you may have seen a preview for Eddie Murphy’s new movie, "Norbit" – you might have even seen the film. In this movie, Murphy wears yet another fat suit, posing as an obese woman whose character depicts practically every stereotype imaginable associated with obesity. The movie is riddled with weight bias. The reviews so far have been critical, with a recent review in The New York Post stating "the script is mostly excuse for an endless parade of jokes about fat people."
02/01/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
The Next Generation of Bias
Over 500 middle school and high school students in Texas responded to a recent nutrition survey that asked teens about their views on obesity. (click here for survey). While some students articulated the complexities surrounding the causes of obesity, the majority of youth expressed views that obesity is caused by laziness and lack of self-control. The teens frequently used words like “disgusting,” “gross,” and “sickening” to describe obese individuals.
01/25/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
IQ Tests Required for Weight Loss Surgery
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee has begun requiring an IQ test for obese patients seeking weight-loss surgery. (See story here).
01/09/2007 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Weight bias and the workplace
Weight bias in the workplace was in the news again recently. Overweight and obese employees are starting to speak out against the unfair treatment they face, like lower rates of hiring, fewer promotions, and lower wages for the same work performed by thinner co-workers. In the past year, the media have also highlighted a number of weight-based discrimination cases involving obese employees who were wrongly terminated because of their weight. (Click here and here for two examples).
12/20/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Too heavy to parent?
China announced yesterday that it will enforce new international adoption selection criteria beginning in May, 2007. Among the new restrictions, are the criteria that adoptive parents will not be considered if they are taking medications for mental health conditions like depression or anxiety, or if they have a body mass index of 40 or above. The message seems to be that obese individuals are unfit to parent.
12/03/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Memo to Jelly Bellies
In the past several months I’ve highlighted some cases of weight discrimination in employment settings where obese employees were unjustly fired because of their weight. Several weeks ago another article caught my attention, but this time the tables were turned – a Florida police chief was fired for making anti-fat remarks toward officers in his department.
11/15/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Seeking Legal Remedies for Weight Discrimination
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with physical and mental disabilities, and offers protection against disability discrimination in employment, public services, and privately owned public accommodations. There has been an ongoing debate about the applicability of obesity to the ADA, and many weight discrimination lawsuits have been filed under the ADA (especially pertaining to employment). Click here to view a recent example - this article describes a recent case of an obese male employee who was fired and who lost a lawsuit filed under the ADA. As this article highlights, the primary question in this debate is whether obesity constitutes a disability.
11/01/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Fat Suit Frenzy
Fat suits seem to be everywhere in the media these days. Actors are wearing them in some of the most popular TV shows and in many films. The idea of wearing a fat-suit could be useful in cases when it’s used for educational purposes to increase awareness about weight stigma and prejudice, but the current trend is to dress up slim actors in fat-suits for the specific purpose of being a target of humor, embarrassment, and ridicule. Two new films coming out in the next few months appear to be continuing this trend. Check out an interview with Tim Allen who talks about wearing a fat suit for his third movie playing Santa Claus, as well as the trailer for Eddie Murphy’s new movie “Norbit” where he wears a fat suit to play a “monstrous woman.”
10/15/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
The Not-So-Friendly Sky
The New York Times published an article today discussing the “burden” of obese passengers on airplanes, and the debate about whether obese passengers should be required to pay for an extra seat. This issue has surfaced several times in the media, often initiated by slim, non-overweight passengers who report that their flight experience is compromised by sitting next to “customers of size”. (As one person interviewed in the NY Times article remarked, “The people who really get hurt are the people sitting next to these folks”).
10/04/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Weight bias and bullying
Overweight and obese kids are very vulnerable to weight bias, and one of the most harmful expressions of bias is peer victimization, such as teasing and bullying. This issue has started to receive more attention in the press because of how many children and adolescents are reporting this problem. As an example, studies show that among children who are overweight, about 1/3 of girls and ¼ of boys report being teased and victimized by peers at school. And, among those who have the highest level of obesity, this jumps to about 60% of girls and boys who report peer victimization.
09/18/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Your health is at stake, yet doctors are skirting the issue
I recently read an artilce from a study in the UK that reported some concerning findings about medical practices by general practitioners. Almost half of the GPs in the study avoided discussing obesity with their obese patients, even though they knew that obesity was harming their patients’ health. In addition, 20% of GP’s said that they had withheld treatment from a patient because of their unhealthy lifestyle, and 50% agreed that they should not refer patients with a BMI of 30 or greater for operations like hip and knee replacements. Are these examples of bias?
09/02/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Stigma on the runway
The new reality television series “Project Runway” has been receiving increasing attention and positive ratings. The show, hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum, involves a competition among individuals aspiring to be fashion designers. On a recent episode, however, several disparaging comments were made on the show pertaining to plus-size women.
08/29/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Overweight and let go
A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog about a teacher who was fired for being overweight. A similar story of weight-based discrimination was recently brought to my attention. This time, it is a female fighter pilot for the Indian Air Force who was fired for being overweight.
08/21/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Telling children, it's not your fault
A new children’s book just came out on obesity that has been long overdue – this is a book, geared to 8-13 year olds, called "It's Not Your Fault That You're Overweight - A Story of Enlightenment, Empowerment and Accomplishment for Overweight and Obese Kids" by Merilee A. Kern.
08/01/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Obesity and gender differences
I just read an article about a new study from Columbia University demonstrating that obesity negatively affects quality of life for adults in the United States. While that is by no means “news,” what was more surprising is that the burden of disease associated with obesity was much worse for obese women than men. The authors concluded that one explanation for this gender difference is that societal weight stigma may be worse for obese women than men – specifically, that weight stigma may cause more stress in females than males, which may in turn increase problems with health.
07/13/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Fired for being obese
Last week I read a story about a NY teacher who was fired because he was obese. At 6’4” and 325 pounds, the teacher had a body mass index of 39.6 (a BMI over 30 classifies as obese). This man received very positive reviews for his teaching from his supervisors, including lesson plans that were described as “well planned” and “well executed” by the superintendent for curriculum. However, when he was being evaluated for tenure, the superintendent also reported that he was “so big and sloppy” that his “obesity was not conducive to learning”, and he was subsequently fired...
06/29/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Weight stigma at the mall
A recent series of studies published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that obese shoppers face more interpersonal discrimination than average weight shoppers in the customer service sector.
06/21/2006 | Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD
Junk Food at their fingertips
On my commute to and from work each day, I drive by a local high school, often at the same time of day when students are arriving in the morning, and leaving to go home at the end of the afternoon. Directly beside the entrance to the school is a small convenience store. On my daily commute, I started to notice an early-morning crowd of approximately 20 students waiting in line to get into the store at 7:45 am. My initial thought was that perhaps students were purchasing breakfast before their first classes of the morning. But as I looked closer, I was dismayed to see that what they were eating was junk food – chips, soda, candy, and chocolate bars – and lots of it, early in the morning. By the end of the school day there were even more students at the store – so many, in fact, that the owner appeared to be putting a limit on how many students could enter the store at one time. I also noticed that the store was so close to the school property that virtually every window in the front of the school at a direct view of the store.