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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010, 7(2), 443-459; doi:10.3390/ijerph7020443

Do Health Beliefs and Behaviors Differ According to Severity of Obesity? A Qualitative Study of Australian Adults

1
Consumer Health Research Group (CHaRGe), Primary Care Research Unit, School of Primary Health Care, Monash University, Building 1, 270 Ferntree Gully Rd, Notting Hill, Victoria 3168, Australia
2
News Research Group, Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
3
Victorian Department of Health, GPO Box 4047, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia
4
Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences, Deakin University, Victoria 3217, Australia
5
Department of Psychiatry, St Vincent’s Hospital and University of Melbourne, PO Box 2900, Fitzroy, Victoria 3065, Australia
6
Department of Medicine, Monash University, Alfred Hospital, Prahran, Victoria 3181, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 11 December 2009 / Accepted: 1 February 2010 / Published: 3 February 2010
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Behavior and Public Health)
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Abstract

Public responses to obesity have focused on providing standardized messages and supports to all obese individuals, but there is limited understanding of the impact of these messages on obese adults. This descriptive qualitative study using in-depth interviews and a thematic method of analysis, compares the health beliefs and behaviors of 141 Australian adults with mild to moderate (BMI 30−39.9) and severe (BMI ≥ 40) obesity. Mildly obese individuals felt little need to change their health behaviors or to lose weight for health reasons. Most believed they could “lose weight” if they needed to, distanced themselves from the word obesity, and stigmatized those “fatter” than themselves. Severely obese individuals felt an urgent need to change their health behaviors, but felt powerless to do so. They blamed themselves for their weight, used stereotypical language to describe their health behaviors, and described being “at war” with their bodies. Further research, particularly about the role of stigma and stereotyping, is needed to fully understand the impact of obesity messaging on the health beliefs, behaviors, and wellbeing of obese and severely obese adults.
Keywords: obesity; health beliefs; health behaviors; stigma; public health; qualitative research; consumer perspectives obesity; health beliefs; health behaviors; stigma; public health; qualitative research; consumer perspectives
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Lewis, S.; Thomas, S.L.; Blood, R.W.; Hyde, J.; Castle, D.J.; Komesaroff, P.A. Do Health Beliefs and Behaviors Differ According to Severity of Obesity? A Qualitative Study of Australian Adults. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010, 7, 443-459.

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