Obese people's perceptions of the thin ideal

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Abstract

The media play a key role in promoting the thin ideal. A qualitative study, in which we used in depth interviews and thematic analysis, was undertaken to explore the attitudes of 142 obese individuals toward media portrayals of the thin ideal. Participants discussed the thin ideal as a social norm that is also supported through the exclusion of positive media portrayals of obese people. They perceived the thin ideal as an 'unhealthy' mode of social control, reflecting on their personal experiences and their concerns for others. Participants' perceptions highlighted the intersections between the thin ideal and gender, grooming and consumerism. Participants' personal responses to the thin ideal were nuanced - some were in support of the thin ideal and some were able to critically reflect and reject the thin ideal. We consider how the thin ideal may act as a form of synoptical social control, working in tandem with wider public health panoptical surveillance of body weight.

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Couch, D., Thomas, S. L., Lewis, S., Blood, R. W., Holland, K., & Komesaroff, P. (2016). Obese people’s perceptions of the thin ideal. Social Science and Medicine, 148, 60–70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.11.034

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