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The ‘lived experiences’ and psychosocial implications of obesity in Aotearoa New Zealand

The implications of increased weight can be found across all dimensions of health and have the potential to lead to serious mental health issues. Our lifestyles are influenced by many factors, however little is known about how weight influences psychosocial wellbeing from a qualitative perspective. The primary goal of this research was therefore to explore the lived experiences of people with obesity in Aotearoa New Zealand. Specific focus was placed on understanding individual dietary and exercise regimes along with motivators for change. Photo-elicitation exercises followed by semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 participants. Data was then analysed using the approaches of thematic analysis and narrative inquiry. Findings showed that the majority of participants had early life experiences that contributed towards their current weight. Almost all participants experienced prejudice, stereotyping, stigmatisation, or discrimination at some point throughout their lives and this was shown to have impacted their personal sense of self-worth, confidence, and self-esteem. All participants had attempted to lose weight numerous times throughout their lives using a variety of different methods and all resulted in weight re-gain after successful losses. The availability and accessibility of cheap, fast food and the high costs associated with purchasing healthy food were noted as barriers to healthy eating. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, and guilt were viewed as barriers to engaging in physical activity, along with the lack of green spaces in urban areas and the high costs associated with gyms and sports clubs. Overall, my findings highlighted that health practitioners seem to place emphasis on creating and applying ‘quick fix’ solutions to the issue of obesity with the majority of responsibility placed on the individual. However, it is clear that if health providers are to be successful in combatting New Zealand’s obesity epidemic, they need to resonate with the lived experiences of people affected by it. This means tailoring interventions to individuals, their families, communities, and wider social contexts.
Type of thesis
Runga, S. C. (2019). The ‘lived experiences’ and psychosocial implications of obesity in Aotearoa New Zealand (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13349
The University of Waikato
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