Fatness as Identity: Deconstructing the Origins of Anti-Fatness

Fatness as Identity: Deconstructing the Origins of Anti-Fatness and Fat Discrimination in the Context of Social Work Practice and Policy

Friday, November 3, 2023


In-Person Only

6 CEUs

This 6 hour training will meet the social work CEU requirements for Implicit Bias (1 hour), Cultural Competence (2 hours) and Ethical Practice in Social Work (3 hours).

Utilizing an intersectional and fat justice perspective, this training will utilize the ecological “person in environment” framework to explore fatness as identity from macro, mezzo, and micro perspectives.

Participants will be encouraged to engage in this interactive training through the critical examination of academic and medical studies, pop culture, and diverse media sources. We will explore the origins of anti-fatness and fat discrimination through consideration of implicit bias fueled by diet culture and the medical field, the impact of fat phobia and fat discrimination on individual identity development, the medical ideal of health, and the contributing macro factors of individualism and capitalism.

Fatness and the intersection of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, mental health, physical health, ability, and access to affirming health care that will be explored as contributing factors to the individual and collective impact of anti-bias and discrimination.

Specific attention will be given to the origins of the fat justice movement that began in the 1960s and the current lack of legal protections for individuals of size against discrimination.

Participants will be encouraged to utilize reflective practice and empathy models to consider the impact fat phobia and fat discrimination has on the implementation and provision of social work practice and policy in diverse settings so they can begin to deconstruct oppressive social work interventions that cause irreparable harm to individuals of size.

Workshop Objectives:

• Critically analyze and provide concrete examples of how fatness has been socially constructed on a macro level in healthcare, medicine, beauty, and media, and how the meanings of fatness have changed over time and across identities (gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, etc.)

• Enhance participant ability to clinically assess and conceptualize fatness as identity utilizing ecological, trauma informed, and intersectionality theories

• Enhance participant ability to assess need, engage with, and collaborate with appropriate outside systems (mental and physical health, education, work place, employment laws, etc) when working with individuals who identify as fat

• Utilize socio-culturally attuned approaches to understand the impact of the DSM-V and eating disorder treatment for fat bodies, medical positioning on “obesity”, the BMI measure and the harm it causes, and critical use of Health at Every Size (HAES) framework

• Learn how to apply specific therapeutic interventions, techniques, and activist models to social work practice


Melinda Gronen, MA, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who received her Master of Arts degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

Melinda has over 22 years of experience working with individuals, children, and families. She specializes in supporting individuals and families who are coping with loss, have experienced a traumatic event, chronic illness, relationship conflict, divorce and co-parenting, job stress and many other life challenges.


This workshop will take place in-person at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice:

969 E 60th Street; Chicago, IL 60637

Mask optional. This convening is open to all invitees who are compliant with UChicago vaccination requirements and, because of ongoing health risks, particularly to the unvaccinated, participants are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures (masking and social distancing, etc.) appropriate to their vaccination status as advised by public health officials or to their individual vulnerabilities as advised by a medical professional. Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

If you have any questions about access or to request a reasonable accommodation that will facilitate your full participation in this event such as ASL interpreting, captioned videos, Braille or electronic text, food options for individuals with dietary restrictions, etc. please contact the event organizer.