Invisible women: Exploring weight identity in morbidly obese women
Pausé, Caitlin Jeffrey
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Within western culture, most women largely identify themselves, and are substantially identified by the greater society, via their bodies. Body identity has been established as a core component of identity, especially for Caucasian, middle class women living within the United States. Many studies have examined body identity, but few have focused on weight identity. Therefore, an exploration of weight identity is integral to understanding how women subjectively define themselves. This dissertation examines role-related weight identity in morbidly obese women. Working from a psychosocial perspective, this study places role-related weight identity within the late modern context to understand how morbidly obese women, that is, women who have a body mass index rating of 40 or higher, conceptualize their sense of themselves. This study defines weight identity as a role in which an individual constructs a sense of self-addressing their body mass and physical representation to the world. Using interview data, this study examined the construction and maintenance of role-related weight identity in morbidly obese women. This dissertation found that for all but one of the women in this sample, weight identity was constructed in a negative way. The unique findings of this dissertation came in the way the women integrated their negative weight identity into their positive holistic sense of self. For some, developmental acceptance of their negative weight identity came through time or familiarity. For others, re-visioning their weight identity, or experiencing themselves as separate from their bodies (disembodiment), allowed them to disregard the fat stereotype and live full lives.