Do health beliefs and behaviors differ according to severity of obesity? A qualitative study of Australian adults

Sophie Lewis, Samantha Thomas, Warwick Blood, Jim Hyde, David Castle, Paul Komesaroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)
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Public responses to obesity have focused on providing standardized messages and supports to all obese individuals, but there is a limited understanding of the impact of these messages on obese adults. This descriptive qualitative study using in-depth interviews and a thematic analysis, compares the health beliefs and behaviors of 141 Australian adults with mild to moderate (BMI 30-39.9) and severe (BMI > 40) obesity. Mildy obese individuals felt little need to change their health behaviors or to lose weight for health reasons. Most believed they could 'lose weighht' if they needed to, distanced themselves from the word obesity, and stigmatized those 'fatter' than themselves. Severely obese individuals felt an urgent need to change their health behaviors, but felt powerless to do so. They blamed themselves for their weight, used stereotypical language to describe their health behaviors, and described being 'at war' with their bodies. Further reseach, particularly about the role of stigma and sterotyping, is needed to fully understand the impact of obesity messaging on health beliefs, behaviors, and wellbeing of obese and severly obese adults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-459
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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