Obesity and exclusion: a qualitative study

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Sigmund Høynes Lekve
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
In my thesis I have argued that there are specific aspects of our current society, particularly related to health, that contribute to the stigmatization of obese individuals. I have further argued that stigmatization leads to psychological and social challenges for individuals with obesity, and that treatment of obesity in Denmark does not consider stigmatization, as it adopts a medical approach focusing primarily on physical challenges rather than psychological and social ones. Based on this, I have aimed to understand the exclusion of obese individuals driven by a societal stigma and the consequences this understanding has for treatment in Denmark.
I have linked my research questions to my theoretical standpoint, which fundamentally seeks to understand the societal demands that contribute to exclusion. I have analyzed how obesity becomes an embodied opposite to the societal requirements of the achievement society, as described by Anders Petersen I further attach this analysis to Svend Brinkmanns notion of modern psychology, and biology as explanatory tools for human search for meaning and self-realization. Lastly I conceptualize stigma on the basis of public-stigma and self-stigma.
To analyze my research questions I have performed five semi-structured interviews of people who have been (or still are) obese in their childhood. I have further used thematic analysis as a tool to discern themes on the basis of my collected data.
Based on this analysis, I argue that exclusion can be understood in terms of social exclusion, differentiation, and devaluation, which are internalized in relation to self-worth and lead to an experience of exclusion. The exclusion further positions itself as an opposite to societal demand for embodied achievements through one’s physical body and compensatory achievements. Furthermore, I argue that this experience is not a static experience, but a constant negotiation based on the participants individual ability to demonstrate resilience. One’s ability to demonstrate resilience becomes a chronic burden, where meaning, self-realization and increased self-worth only can be attained through embodied, or compensatory achievements.
A consequence of individual resilience is that the experience of exclusion can become an invisible challenge, as it is constantly negotiated individually, compared to the visual disposition of obesity. This can potentially lead to relevant treatment operators such as teachers, doctors or psychologists leaving social and psychological challenges unnoticed.
Publication date31 May 2023
Number of pages69
ID: 532453959