To gain a greater understanding of how people understand obesity and healthy living, I asked a classmate who is in her 20s some open ended questions about the issues.
I was aware that she had great knowledge of obesity and healthy living as she has been conducting research and studying the issue. I chose her because she is a student with in depth knowledge of the issue to observe and compare to see if she had similar or conflicting views to mine.
I asked her a range of questions which were as described below:
1.How would you define ‘obesity’?
2. What are all the possible consequences / risks of obesity?
3. What do you define as a healthy body?
4. How does obesity affect daily life?
5. How would you know if you were overweight or obese and how can you prevent it?
She answered the first question by defining obesity as wearing XL/XXL clothing, having a very high BMI and suffering from obesity related diseases such as high blood pressure and Diabetes.
Her answers proved she had excellent knowledge of obesity as she responded to most of the questions in depth without hesitation. She also gave a great definition and a good example of a healthy body referring to the “BMI levels” and showed she had similar understandings as I did.
One interesting finding was when she answered the question, “how does obesity affect daily life?”
She gave many examples such as struggling to walk up stairs and needing extra space in public transport. She then talked about a self esteem related issue which was not being able to wear beautiful clothes saying that beautiful clothes don’t come in larger sizes so choices are limited. She then added that they “do not look as good”.
I found this response interesting because it was an answer she thought would affect everyone in general. She thought everyone would care about fashion and image in the same way that she did. She said it affected daily life however other people may not think that limited fashion choices is an issue. After answering this question I was able to analyse the interviewee’s thoughts about the issue which revealed how she personally felt about body image.
I was then drawn to ask her about the health risks of obesity to which she named, “high blood pressure, Diabetes and Cancer.” Her answer here was not as in depth as with the other questions. This demonstrated that she had a weak understanding of the health risks caused by obesity, therefore I decided to probe further to understand why her knowledge of the health risks was much weaker than other areas.
It was interesting in gain insights from a student who has studied a fair depth of the issue and comparing her opinions and understandings with mine. However, next time I would be interested in gaining insights from someone who has not studied the issue and analyse their opinions and knowledge of the issue.
During the interview I found out that although she knew the general risks of obesity such as high blood pressure, Diabetes and Cancer, she lacked in depth knowledge.
To determine if I could get any further insight into her knowledge on the risks, I designed a small task that would give me more answers to her understanding on obesity that wasn’t reflected in her initial answers.
I compiled a list of physical health and mental health risks and asked the interviewee to place the ones she thought were caused by obesity inside the “tick” circle and the risks that were not caused by obesity in the circle marked “X”. The list of risk factors I gave her were all a risk caused by obesity and therefore as they were all correct they should have been placed on the “tick” circle.
Despite this, she only placed 7 of the 15 risks on the “tick” circle and 8 on the “X” circle. The risks that the interviewee believed were cause by obesity were ‘high blood pressure, diabetes, abnormal blood fat, heart disease, cancer, blood clot and “maybe” depression.’ This task showed me that she was actually aware of other risks that she hadn’t mentioned before, however she didn’t realise that other factors such as sleep Apnea, eating disorder, stroke, anxiety, reproductive problems, osteoarthritis (joint problem of the knees, hips and lower back), heart attack and heart failure were caused by obesity.
On completion of the task, I revealed the answer to the probe which gave her a surprise. Then I asked her opinion on the following question:
Do you think people become obese because they are not educated/have no great knowledge of the risks that will be caused by obesity?
She responded by saying “yes because we are ignorant about things like that. People simply don’t care and don’t think about the risks before eating.”
She then said how she would feel if she was obese, she would lose weight for the body appearance but not because of the fear that she will be diagnosed with a disease. She was surprised when she heard all of the risk factors from the list were related to obesity. She has “memories of being educated about the risks in primary school and high school but does not remember the types of risks”. She adds that “children do not care about learning things like that”.
Five point summary:
1. People are ignorant about the risks caused by obesity
2. People have concerns and are conscious about their body image.
3. Children and students are educated at a young age but don’t remember them because it wasn’t important to them.
4. People are well aware of how to prevent obesity
5. It is more likely that people get motivated to lose weight for their body image than their health.