I don’t want them to think that what they said matters”: How treatment – seeking adolescents with severe obesity cope with weight-based victimization”

Type Article

Journal Article


Ó. Walsh; E. Dettmer; A. Regina; L. Ye; J. Christian; J. Hamilton; A. Toulany

Year of publication



Clin Obes








Adolescents with severe obesity are subject to a high prevalence of weight-based victimization that may lead to pervasive mental health symptoms. However, different coping strategies could potentially modulate these psychological consequences. This study aims to explore how treatment-seeking adolescents with severe obesity cope with weight-based victimization. This was a qualitative research study using an interpretive phenomenological analytic approach. One-on-one semi structured interviews were completed with 19 adolescents (63% female) enrolled in a weight management program. The interviews were transcribed and sequentially analysed until data saturation was attained. The majority of participants (89.5%) described being a victim of weight-based victimization and highlighted a significant emotional toll. Two key themes were identified that captured the various coping strategies used by participants. Over half (52.9%) described approach coping strategies where they acted on the source to invoke change by standing up for themselves, helping others in similar situations or becoming a bully themselves. Whilst the majority (94.1%) used avoidant coping strategies such as feigning a strong exterior façade, denial, isolation and self-harm. Nearly half (47.1%) used both strategies. Treatment-seeking adolescents with severe obesity commonly use avoidant coping strategies to deal with weight-based victimization. These strategies are associated with negative mental health outcomes and should be evaluated when counselling adolescents with obesity who have experienced weight-based victimization.