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Psychology’s McHugh Presents on Fat Shaming as Harmful

Posted on 8/8/2017 1:04:19 PM

Maureen McHugh, professor of Psychology, co-presented research on fat shaming and sizeism at a symposium presented at the 125th annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C. (August 2, 2017).  

The symposium was part of an ongoing effort among educators to call attention to weight bias in general and especially among health care professionals and psychologists.

McHugh and her colleague, Joan Chrisler, stressed that medical fat shaming—in an attempt to motivate patients to change obesogenic behaviors—is clinically proven to be mentally and physically harmful. McHugh contended that a strictly medicalized view of someone’s weight emphasizes “fatness as a disease” and “weight loss as a cure.” A weight-centric model of health incorrectly assumes that weight is within an individual’s control; empirical research demonstrates that dieting is not effective, with over 90 percent of individuals not losing weight or regaining the lost weight within five years. 

Chrisler and McHugh said weight stigma should be addressed in medicine and psychology through training and research and in working with patients who are obese. “Treatments should focus on mental and physical health as the desired outcomes for therapy rather than weight,” McHugh said.

The APA created a press release about this presentation, resulting in its publication in many media outlets, both domestic and international. 

Department of Psychology