Being large: An investigation into the lived world of problematic weight in women


  • Sandra Westland UKCP


obesity, being large, weight loss, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, women, bodies


Whilst there is a significant amount of research in the field of obesity and weight loss, there is still a limited amount of United Kingdom based phenomenological research undertaken with large women about their experiences. This research aimed to explore the lived experience of problematic weight in women from an existential phenomenological perspective. It seeks to provide insights into what it is like for women who consider themselves problematically large, and who are unsuccessful at losing weight. Qualitative research was conducted using semi-structured interviews with a sample of six female participants aged between 26 and 48 years, all self-disclosing as having a BMI greater than 30. The accounts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis methodology. Two main themes encompassing several subthemes were identified: The first explores how participants experience themselves as a monstrously huge body which is mis-fitting, despicable, disappointing and inescapable, and a thing they try to disown. The second theme illuminates the constant feeling of being observed through the eyes of others inducing intense shame, and the desire to be invisible. The findings suggest the highly ambiguous lived experience of being large and an intensely all-consuming bodily managing practice, with the continual strive to experience themselves as more than their body. There is a lifelessness, a deadening of existence and a ‘stuckness’ in existential growth through the disownment of the body and the creation of a mode of existing which manages the demanding physical body and the experience of being seen. Thus, there is a calling for an existential phenomenological therapeutic approach with a specific focus on enhancing greater ownership of the body. The clinical significance lies in increasing understanding from an existential perspective of the women’s physical, social, psychological (or personal) and spiritual worlds, the understanding and impact of general moods, the ambiguity of the body, and the enhancement of personal agency.




How to Cite

Westland, S. . (2020). Being large: An investigation into the lived world of problematic weight in women. European Journal for Qualitative Research in Psychotherapy, 10, 1–15. Retrieved from