Weight stigma and narrative resistance evident in online discussions of obesity

Type Article

Journal Article


A. De Brún; M. McCarthy; K. McKenzie; A. McGloin

Year of publication










This study sampled 2872 obesity-relevant comments from three years of interest from a multi-topic online message board. An inductive thematic analysis was conducted and three themes were evident: reactions and responses to obesity and obese bodies, diminished status of overweight/obese persons, and narrative resistance to an overweight/obese identity. Obesity stigma was pervasive and the discussion of the issue revealed it to be highly acceptable. Consistent with previous research, dominant representations of obese persons as lazy and unintelligent with poor self-control were evident. The analysis provided valuable insight into experiences of explicit stigma, the social and psychological repercussions of overt stigma and norms regarding the perception of obese bodies. There was a prevailing notion that the opinions and insights of overweight and obese persons on the issue of weight were not credible and were perceived as biased. Furthermore, individuals sought to distance themselves from the undesirable labels of 'overweight' and 'obese' by enacting narrative resistance to negotiate the social meaning of excess weight and endeavouring to place themselves on the 'safe' side of this boundary. These results highlight the pervasive nature of weight stigma and the social acceptability of such attitudes and beliefs. Furthermore, it highlights the richness of data that may be obtained by examining social media interactions as a window into the naturally-occurring discourse on obesity and stigma.