Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Adolescent Female's Lived-Experience of Obesity

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Adolescent Female's Lived-Experience of Obesity

Article excerpt

Obesity is one of the most commonly discussed and hotly debated health issues for adults and children alike. Adolescent obesity has been identified as a significant and growing health problem leading to Type II Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other health problems (Thomas & Walker, 2012). Obesity is associated with an increased incidence of depression, eating disorders, and social isolation, resulting in significant psychosocial risk in adolescents (Cornette, 2008). Despite well-publicized nationwide attention to obesity, and well-intended institutionalized efforts to deal with physical aspects of obesity, insufficient effort has been made to truly comprehend the lived-experience of the obese adolescent female (Sullivan, 2010). In this age of mass media and technological communication, television, video-phones, Internet, and on-line social networking sites provide continual images and messages about body weight and appearance. Thinness is the ideal depicted in American culture and according to Cornette (2008), individuals who struggle with obesity are frequently subject to social isolation and societal marginalization. Adolescent females who are dealing with changes in body image, establishing a sense of identity, and gaining peer acceptance, are especially vulnerable to negative messages about appearance and body weight (Alapack, 2009).

Understanding the adolescent's lived-experience of obesity can help shape more comprehensive, holistic approaches to obesity management and facilitate therapeutic communication and health counseling. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the lived-experience of the obese adolescent female by recognizing the messages she receives from peers, media, family and society; and seeking to understand how those messages impact her psychosocial health.

Problem Statement

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in an initiative to assess obesity trends, provide sobering data. In 1980, only 5% of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 were obese. Just thirty years later, that number had risen to 18% (CDC, 2013). Research links the rise in obesity in this age group to the concomitant rise in hypercholesterolemia, prediabetes and Type II Diabetes, hypertension, and bone and joint problems (CDC, 2013). The current approach to the management of adolescent obesity focuses on prevention of obesity-related diseases in later life by preemptively striking against obesity early in life. However, this preemptive model of prevention implies that the leading cause of obesity is simply a matter of lifestyle, which may not always be the case (Uwaifo & Arioglu, 2009). By simplifying the concept of obesity to one in which morbidity is tied to self-agency, the negative potential consequences of obesity maybe converted to negative judgments of the obese individuals themselves. Among obese adolescents such judgments can be particularly harmful, inasmuch as personality and self-image are strongly affected by experience. However, few studies have specifically addressed the psychosocial impact of obesity on adolescents.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study was to explore and explicate the lived-experience of the obese adolescent female with regard to messages she hears from the world about her weight. Understanding the messages she receives and how these messages affect her psychosocial well-being may help health care providers understand the issue from the adolescent's perspective. This study will provide an awareness of the adolescent's perspective that may enhance therapeutic communication, health counseling, and may facilitate the development of a holistic plan of care that will positively impact physical and psychosocial health.

Research Questions

To that end, the research questions were simply, what is the lived-experience of the obese adolescent female? What messages do obese adolescent girls report receiving from peers, family, media, and society regarding body image, appearance, and moral responsibility? …

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