Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Overweight women-Psychology, Body image in women, Positive psychology, Discrimination against overweight persons, Stigma (Social psychology), Anti-fat bias, Weight discrimination, Weight stigma, Body image, Positive body image, Anti-oppression, Obesity, Fat, Fat studies, Fat acceptance, Fat oppression, Qualitative, Exploratory


This qualitative exploratory study investigated how women who self identify as a person of size and who have a positive body image developed their positive body identity. Through the process of a semi-structured interview, the study explored the personal experience of the participants from their youth into adulthood regarding the messages they received about their bodies and how they responded and resisted the impact of those messages. The theoretical underpinnings of this study were based on body objectification theory, stigma theory and feminist theory. Sixteen female participants participated in the study and shared what they believed contributed to their body positive identity. Major findings were that all of the participants had significant memories of receiving and internalizing negative messages about their bodies and most of the participants responded to these messages with shame, dieting, anger, and overachievement. Additionally, all of the participants reported utilizing multiple factors of support as a strategy to resist the external and internal messages and to develop a positive body identity. This study revealed the deep impact of familial and societal messages about body size on a woman's mental well-being. It also identified the incredible resilience and strength of character the participants embodied in order to arrive at and maintain a body positive image.




iii, 81 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 68-73)