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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Contradictions in Food Choice and Body Image: Implications for Obesity Prevention

  • Author(s): Antin, Tamar M.J.
  • Advisor(s): Constantine, Norman
  • et al.

Obesity as a social and health problem is well recognized in the public's consciousness, and as a result, numerous food-related policies and programs have been conceived to encourage healthful dietary changes in individuals. In response to the high caloric content of fast food, menu labeling laws, which strive to reduce consumers' consumption of unhealthful foods, have become a popular approach to address obesity. These laws and other policies aimed at changing individual's consumption practices exist within a context where many factors may shape food choices. By considering the literature on food choice, which has remained largely independent of public health research on obesity and food policy, questions are raised about the extent to which individuals can and will prioritize their health when making food choice decisions. This qualitative interview study examined the food choices of 20 working class African American women - those considered among the highest at risk for obesity - to consider to what extent food-related policies may be effective in changing their consumption practices.

The following compendium presents three papers resulting from analyses of in-depth interviews with women. The first paper, "Conflicting discourses in qualitative research: The search for divergent data within cases," is a methodological piece that considers the important role of examining conflicting discourses within women's narratives to uncover more meaningful and holistic accounts of respondent's lives. The second paper, "A transdisciplinary perspective of food choice for working class African American women," presents a transdisciplinary model of food choice that shaped the study design and helped to reveal the multi-dimensional nature of food choice for women. Finally, the third paper, "Embodying both stigma and satisfaction: Messages for obesity prevention targeting young African American women," introduces an important emergent theme about body image that was uncovered with this project. Each of these three papers is unified not only by the simple fact that they resulted from the same research project but also by demonstrating the meaning and importance of contradictions - or inherent thematic conflicts - that are revealed through qualitative data analyses.

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