Women's experience of obesity : an interpretative phenomenological analysis
Although obesity is known to pose significant health risks, the prevalence has recently increased rapidly, with almost one fifth of women obese in 1996. Although research suggests that most people understand the behaviour changes necessary for weight control, few people appear to be engaging in the required behaviour to improve their health. With reference to the literature this thesis considered how an understanding of psychological factors can contribute to understanding and treating the condition. The research was found to be at a relatively early stage in terms of understanding the experience of obesity. In such situations qualitative research methods can explore experience in detail, providing information about phenomena such as thought processes and emotions, and may be of heuristic value. To address these issues a community sample of obese women (n 7) were interviewed about their weight and related issues. Participants' accounts were subjected to an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to elucidate their views of their situation through an interpretative process. They presented their understanding of how they had come to be and remain in their situation (a collection of themes entitled Explanatory Models'). Although participants expressed the view that weight is under individuals' control, they indicated that weight-control was not currently possible or desirable for themselves (Beliefs about the Controllability of Weight'). Being big had negative personal meanings and was associated with Abstract & Declarations 1.2 emotional distress ('Persona! Meaning of Being Big'). Interestingly participants described processes that appeared to mediate between being big and the personal impact of this, including not thinking of themselves as big, viewing size as unimportant in their lives, and making favourable comparisons between themselves and others or previous selves (Mediating Processes'). These findings were discussed with reference to the literature and their implications for future clinical and research approaches. Issues related to the research process were also discussed.