On being 'fat': obese and overweight Australians respond to news depictions of obesity and overweight

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Blood, Richard Warwick; Holland, Kate; Thomas, Samantha; Karunaratne, Asuntha; Lewis, Sophie
obesity; fat; overweight; obese; being; australians; respond; news; depictions; Education; Social and Behavioral Sciences
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There is scarce research into the ways in which overweight and obese people interpret news media coverage of obesity and the so called obesity epidemic. This paper reports on a qualitative study using a purposive sample of 152 overweight, obese and morbidly obese people living in Melbourne, Australia. Most participants felt the news tended to portray them in negative and stereotypical ways. Characteristic portrayals identified by participants included obese and overweight people as: morally irresponsible and a burden on society; objects of ridicule and derision; and the subject of dehumanising images. Participants were highly reflexive and their personal experience as an overweight or obese person was an important mediator of their views about particular versions of reality constructed in the news media, and the significance of obesity for society. The research will inform future health communication strategies which will be played out against the backdrop of continuing news coverage.