A study to describe weight preoccupation among women

by Heath, Stephanie A.

Abstract (Summary)
Weight preoccupation is a common problem for women in Western society and studies confi that few women are satisfied with how they look. Grounded in feminist theory and based on population health principles, the present study explored weight preoccupation among women in a heaithy weight range. In the fit phase of the study. suwey data was analysed to examine correlates of weight preoccupation in order to describe the characteristics of this phenomenon among women in or below a healthy weight in the general population. In the second phase of the investigation, interviews were conducted with healthy weight women who are trying to lose weight to Mer explore the phenomenon by providing a critical analysis of the social forces surrounding weight preoccupation and how these social forces translate into women's lived daily experiences. The quantitative findings revealed that throughout the lifespan women are unnecessarily attempting to lose weight. and the foremost reason cited for attempting to lose weight was " to become more attractive " . The quantitative findings did not indicate vast differences between the weight concemed and weight satisfied women. and in fact. on the surface the weight concemed women appeared to engage in healthier behaviours. The interviews confUmed that attractiveness is indeed a critical factor in women's concems with weight and body shape issues, and illustrate how the femaie body is objectified. and how women are subjugated based on a thin ideal. Objectification is inter-related to anxieties about fat and the messages women receive about their bodies. This objectification can negatively affect women's physical and mental health leading to decreased self worth. unhealthy eating behaviour and a splitting of body from self. The women's stories about female embodiment over the life course reveal the significance of life experiences with weight in iduencing how women feel about their bodies. A life of turmoil and struggle with their weight lead some women to question the culturai ideal of thinness and resist the negative discourses surrounding the femaie body. For these women in particular. there was growing love and appreciation for their bodies. Thanks to the many individuals who helped me to succeed in this process: Most importantly and special thanks go to the women who shared their stories and insights about weight and body shape issues with me. Special thanks to my Supervisor Dr. George Kephart for his constant advice and encouragement during the completion of this thesis and throughout graduate school. Many thanks to my Cornmittee members, Dr. Colleen Hood Dr. Erica VanRoosmalen and Dr. Mary Delaney. 1 am grateful to have midied with Colleen who provided insightful and practical advice, and who served as a mentor and a friend. Erica opened my mind and eyes to feminist thinking and her guidance helped me to critically examine this topic. It is because of Mary that I pursued this topic, and her wisdom and thoughtful insights were invaluable for my work. I thank my work colleagues - Jane Farquharson. Anne Cogdon. Rob Hood. blichael Dickinson, Lisa Salley, Tina Bakari and David MacLean who offered friendship and support as well as advice and feedback on rny work throughout graduate school. I also thank my sister Michele Heath who inspired me to pursue graduate school and who has always been a source of encouragement and support. Finally, 1 thank my fnend Claudine Szpilfogel for her support, advice and encouragement throughout graduate school - 1 am glad we made this joumey together.
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Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/1998

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