'Just bloody fat!': a qualitative study of body image, self-esteem and coping in obese adults



Publication Details

Thomas, S., Karunaratne, A., Lewis, S., Castle, D., Knoesen, N., Honigman, R., Hyde, J., Kausman, R. & Komesaroff, P. (2010). 'Just bloody fat!': a qualitative study of body image, self-esteem and coping in obese adults. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 12 (1), 39-49.


The rise of the 'obesity epidemic' in Western societies has led to an increased public gaze on obese individuals. Yet there is limited research that explores through qualitative methods the increased impact it has had on obese individuals' perceptions of self, body image and coping strategies, using their own words. This paper presents the findings of interviews with a community sample of 142 obese adults in Australia. We examined how obese individuals felt about themselves and their bodies, what influenced these feelings, and the subsequent coping strategies employed. While participants were able to identify many positive characteristics about their inner self, the vast majority used negative language to describe their physical appearance. Many participants described feelings of 'guilt', 'shame' and 'blame' associated with their weight. Coping strategies included striving for perfection in other areas of their life, social isolation, maximising aspects of their appearance and 'fat' acceptance. This study shows that, while different groups of obese adults experience, cope with and compensate for the influence of weight-based stereotyping in many different ways, they still feel an unrelenting otherness and difference associated with their weight.

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