Being 'fat' in today's world : a qualitative study of the lived experiences of people with obesity in Australia

Thomas, Samantha L., Hyde, Jim, Karunaratne, Asuntha, Herbert, Dilinie and Komesaroff, Paul A. 2008, Being 'fat' in today's world : a qualitative study of the lived experiences of people with obesity in Australia, Health expectations, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 321-330, doi: 10.1111/j.1369-7625.2008.00490.x.

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Title Being 'fat' in today's world : a qualitative study of the lived experiences of people with obesity in Australia
Author(s) Thomas, Samantha L.ORCID iD for Thomas, Samantha L.
Hyde, Jim
Karunaratne, Asuntha
Herbert, Dilinie
Komesaroff, Paul A.
Journal name Health expectations
Volume number 11
Issue number 4
Start page 321
End page 330
Total pages 10
Publisher Wiley - Blackwell Publishing
Place of publication Oxford, England
Publication date 2008-12
ISSN 1369-6513
Keyword(s) lived experiences
public health
qualitative research
social and cultural factors
stigma and discrimination
Summary Objective  To develop an in-depth picture of both lived experience of obesity and the impact of socio-cultural factors on people living with obesity.

Design  Qualitative methodology, utilizing in-depth semi-structured interviews with a community sample of obese adults (body mass index ≥30). Community sampling methods were supplemented with purposive sampling techniques to ensure a diverse range of individuals were included.

Results  Seventy-six individuals (aged 16–72) were interviewed. Most had struggled with their weight for most of their lives (n = 45). Almost all had experienced stigma and discrimination in childhood (n = 36), as adolescents (n = 41) or as adults (n = 72). About half stated that they had been humiliated by health professionals because of their weight. Participants felt an individual responsibility to lose weight, and many tried extreme forms of dieting to do so. Participants described an increasing culture of ‘blame’ against people living with obesity perpetuated by media and public health messages. Eighty percent said that they hated or disliked the word obesity and would rather be called fat or overweight.

Discussion and Conclusion  There are four key conclusions: (i) the experiences of obesity are diverse, but there are common themes, (ii) people living with obesity have heard the messages but find it difficult to act upon them, (iii) interventions should be tailored to address both individual and community needs and (iv) we need to rethink how to approach obesity interventions to ensure that avoid recapitulating damaging social stereotypes and exacerbating social inequalities.
Language eng
DOI 10.1111/j.1369-7625.2008.00490.x
Field of Research 119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 970111 Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2008, Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
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Document type: Journal Article
Collections: Faculty of Health
Population Health
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