Men’s experiences of weight cycling, weight management practices and living with obesity
Much like the relatively higher proportion of women who attend weight management services in comparison to men, the majority of qualitive research investigating overweight, obesity and fatness is also dominated by women’s perspectives.
The dearth of qualitative research which has focused on men’s experiences reports that while men living with obesity are anxious about the potential health consequences of the medicalised size of their bodies, they delay seeking support and can be inclined to dismiss the social stigma of fatness as an entirely feminine problem.
Whether practicing weight loss strategies independently or by accessing services, a common aspect of such experience is the phenomena of weight cycling, whereby the continuous recurrence of weight loss and regain is an obstacle to sustained weight loss and a desired transformation of self.
As an experience which occurs over time and to varying degrees, weight cycling is a slippery concept to delineate and has yet to be firmly connected with adverse health outcomes. However, for those living with obesity who want to lose weight, weight cycling carries the threat of destabilising desired yet unfinished bodily transformations and further unsettling an already precarious sense of self-identity.
Drawing on data from interviews with 29 men who possessed varied experiences of practicing individual and service-led weight management strategies, this presentation focuses on encounters with weight cycling which interviewees frequently connected with individual weight loss strategies and the regimes and environments of commercial weight management programmes (CWMPs).
The analysis also revealed a similar pattern to the sequencing of men’s journeys through and eventual disenchantment with trying to lose weight, whereby experiencing repeated weight cycling while engaging exclusively with individual weight loss practices served as the principal motivating factor for attending CWMPs. As most men with relevant experience found attending CWMPs to be a harrowing experience and regained most if not all the weight they had previously lost, the current provision of weight management services is also critically discussed.