Giving In, Giving Up, Going Back, or Going On: Experiences of Unwanted Obesity

Thursday, 15 July 2010: 9:10 AM

Cheri Ann Hernandez, PhD, RN, CDE
Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Christine M. Wellington, RD, BSc, MSc
Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor, and Windsor Family Health Team, Windsor, ON, Canada
David A. Hernandez, CMA, ITCP, PhD, EdD, MA, MBA, BComm, BEd, BA
Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, Walden University, Newport Beach, CA

Learning Objective 1: Describe the main problem that is characteristic of the experience of weight management.

Learning Objective 2: Identify at least two strategies that may be useful in future nursing interventions for weight management.

Purpose: Obesity is a global problem. Current weight management strategies, focused on caloric reduction and increased activity, have minimal (about 5%) long-term success. The purpose of this study was to explore the experience of weight management in obese adults. According to the theory of integration (Hernandez, 1991), the study theoretical framework, in chronic illness there are two competing selves which must be ‘reconciled’ for healthy living. In weight management, these are the obese (actual) self versus the normal weight (desired) self.

Methods: Participants were adults (4 males, 6 females) classified as obese, according to body mass index (BMI ≥30), and stable at this BMI for at least five years. They were recruited through media and community health centers/events, and engaged in a 2-hour focus group discussion, using open-ended questions. Focus group audiotapes were transcribed verbatim and validated, prior to analysis using the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).

Results: Participants identified a complex set of interacting influences that predisposed them to ongoing obesity. Managing weight was an ongoing process of constant thinking about food and weight management, constant struggle to strike a nutritional balance, and interaction with and reaction to self, others, food, circumstances, and technology. Participants either acknowledged defeat (giving in to demands or giving up trying to succeed), retreat (going back to previous habits) or struggling to compete with weight-promoting influences and engaging in new weight-reduction strategies (going on).

Conclusion: The results of this study show that weight management is a complicated process of dealing with multiple influences. The insights provided may be helpful for other obese individuals contemplating or struggling with weight loss. The study results can also be used to develop new weight management strategies or to strengthen existing interventions.