Healthy Life Centre participants' perceptions of living with overweight or obesity and seeking help for a perceived "wrong" lifestyle - a qualitative interview study

BMC Obes. 2018 Dec 6;5:42. doi: 10.1186/s40608-018-0218-0. eCollection 2018.


Background: Overweight and obesity are complex conditions, associated with a wide range of serious health issues. In contemporary society, body size is an important part of a person's self-representation. Lifestyle changes are difficult and long-term weight management is associated with a high risk of failure. In primary health care in Norway, lifestyle interventions are offered by Healthy Life Centres (HLCs) to those seeking help with weight management. The aim of this study was to explore HLC participants' experiences of living with overweight or obesity and perceptions of seeking help to change dietary and activity habits.

Method: This exploratory study employed a qualitative design. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 13 participants. Data were transcribed verbatim and analysed using qualitative content analysis.

Results: The analysis resulted in one main theme: Searching for dignity, based on two themes: 1) Needing to justify avoidance of personal responsibility and 2) A desire to change.

Conclusion: Changing dietary and activity habits is difficult as the emotional alternation between shame, guilt and pride influences the ability to assume personal responsibility. A deeper understanding of each participant's perceptions and experiences is important for the ability to tailor and provide a high quality health service. Addressing participants' emotional distress and search for dignity is necessary for enabling dietary and activity change. This should be considered in the future development of HLCs and health promotion interventions in order to educate service users about emotions and the role they play in food consumption and inactivity. Weight stigma at individual and system level as well as responsibility related to dilemmas about "right" or "wrong" lifestyle should be addressed.

Keywords: Healthy life Centres; Help-seeking; Obesity; Overweight; Personal responsibility; Qualitative research; Shame and pride.