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Being connected: an exploration of women’s weight loss experience and the implications for health education

Burdett, Teresa Marion (2010) Being connected: an exploration of women’s weight loss experience and the implications for health education University of Southampton, School of Education, Doctoral Thesis , 347pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)


The focus of this thesis is the experience of intentional weight loss. There is a
growing recognition that the rising levels of obesity are contributing to a global health
problem. Although the costs and consequences of obesity for both individuals and
societies are many; research in the field of obesity has so far failed to offer successful
solutions to these problems. This thesis argues that the reason for this failure is that
research has focused primarily on finding the causes of obesity and has ignored to a
large extent the experiences of obesity and intentional weight loss. Furthermore, what
little qualitative research that has been conducted into obesity and intentional weight
loss tends to be short term and fails to follow participants for extended periods of

In order to address the perceived gaps in knowledge, this thesis adopts a qualitative
approach, informed by phenomenology, to explore the experience of intentional
weight loss. This thesis intends to explore the following research questions:

• What feelings or beliefs motivate individuals to start trying to lose weight and to
continue trying to lose weight?
• What strategies do individuals employ to try to lose weight and what decisions,
feelings or beliefs underpin or influence these strategies?
• What factors help or hinder individuals in their attempts to lose weight?

Ten overweight or obese women in the South of England were interviewed four
times over the period of a year about their experiences of trying to lose weight. Semi
structured interviews were used to explore weight loss goals and strategies; feelings
and beliefs about losing weight and factors that help and hinder weight loss. The
interview transcripts were analysed using Hycner’s (1985) framework and an
overarching theme of connectedness was identified linked to four key themes of self sabotage,
internal conflict, control and choice.

The results reveal wide variations across the ten participants in their motivations for
losing weight, many of which are different to the reasons that health educators give
for losing weight. The strategies that participants used to lose weight seemed to have
less influence on weight loss than participants’ beliefs regarding their chosen strategy
and in their own ability. The majority of participants experienced a weight loss
relapse. Explanations for these results are sought using two theories of mindfulness
and intuitive eating. Implications for weight loss focused health education are
considered and recommendations are made both for future health education practice
and future research.

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Published date: February 2010
Organisations: University of Southampton


Local EPrints ID: 169087
PURE UUID: 4bea485f-0db3-4635-9390-eeb41c79aede

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Date deposited: 10 Dec 2010 16:47
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 12:19

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Author: Teresa Marion Burdett
Thesis advisor: Jane Seale

University divisions

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