Perception of being Overweight in Iranian Women: A Qualitative Study

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

2 Behavioral Sciences Research Center, Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences

3 Nursing Department, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran


Introduction: Overweight is a major public health concern that results in a decreased quality of life. While most of the studies conducted on weight loss strategies have concentrated on issues related to why people gain weight, still little is known about the meaning and the perception of overweight. This study aimed to clarify the perception and experience of women with overweight.
Methods: This qualitative content analysis study was carried out in 2017-2018 in Tehran, Iran. A total of 18 women with overweight and obesity were purposefully chosen. To collect the data, unstructured and semi-structured interviews were conducted. An inductive content analysis approach was used for the data analysis.
Results: The data analysis led to the formation of three categories: obesity concerns, undesirable self-image perception, and psychological pressure and also seven subcategories: inactivity, disorders caused by overweight, body image dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, social stigma, being socially rejected and stressfulness, and sadness. The results showed that overweight and obesity are perceived as a negative experience.
Conclusion: As the present study showed, Iranian women have unpleasant and upsetting experiences of their overweight. The findings reveal the needs to develop strategies for helping women with the problem of overweight to have a better feeling of themselves and society.


1. World health Organization [Internet]. Geneva: World Health
Organization (2016). Available from:
2. Organization WH. Global Status Report on Noncommunicable
Diseases 2014: internet; 2014. Available from:
3. Nguyen DME-S, Hashem B. The Epidemiology of Obesity.
Gastroenterology Clinics. 2010;39(1):1-7.
4. Haslam DWaJ, W.P. Obesity. Lancet (London, England).
5. Aryeetey RNO. Perceptions and Experiences of Overweight
among Women in the Ga East District, Ghana. Frontiers in
Nutrition. 2016;3(13).
6. Ogden J, Clementi C. The Experience of Being Obese and the
Many Consequences of Stigma. Journal of Obesity. 2010;2010.
7. Lazzeretti L, Rotella, F., Pala, L., & Rotella, C. M. . Assessment
of psychological predictors of weight loss: How and what for?
World journal of psychiatry. 2015;5(1):56-67.
8. Hammarström A, Wiklund AF, Lindahl B, Larsson C, Ahlgren
C. Experiences of barriers and facilitators to weight-loss in a diet
intervention - a qualitative study of women in Northern Sweden.
BMC Women's Health. 2014;14(1):59.
9. George DR, Kraschnewski JL, Rovniak LS. Public Health
Potential of Farmers’ Markets on Medical Center Campuses: A
Case Study From Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
American Journal of Public Health. 2011;101(12):2226-32.
10. Kristina Elfhag SR. Initial weight loss is the best predictor for
success in obesity treatment and sociodemographic liabilities
increase risk for drop-out. Patient Education and Counseling,.
11. Collins CE MP, Jones P, Fletcher K, Martin J, Aguiar EJ, et al.
Evaluation of a commercial web-based weight loss and weight
loss maintenance program in overweight and obese adults: A
randomized controlled trial. BMC Public Health 2010;10:669.
12. Thomas SL, Hyde J, Karunaratne A, Kausman R, Komesaroff
PA. "They all work...when you stick to them": A qualitative
investigation of dieting, weight loss, and physical exercise, in
obese individuals. Nutrition Journal. 2008;7(1):34.
13. Naomi R. Reyes TLO, Alicia A. Klotz, Caitlin A. LaGrotte,
Stephanie S. Vander Veur, Amy Virus, Brooke A. Bailer, Gary
D. Foster,. Similarities and Differences between Weight Loss
Maintainers and Regainers: A Qualitative Analysis. Journal of
the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;112(4):499-505.
14. Elfhag K, Rossner S. Initial weight loss is the best predictor for
success in obesity treatment and sociodemographic liabilities
increase risk for drop-out. Patient education and counseling.
15. AK Sadati FR, N Ebrahimzadeh, A Rezaei. . Obesity, Lived
Experience, and the Self: A Qualitative Study of Overweight
People in Iran. Women's Health Bulletin. 2016.
16. Ogden JC, Cecelia. The Experience of Being Obese and the
Many Consequences of Stigma. Journal of Obesity 2010;
17. Sabin JA, Marini M, Nosek BA. Implicit and explicit anti-fat bias
among a large sample of medical doctors by BMI, race/ethnicity
and gender. PloS one. 2012;7(11):e48448.
18. Davis C LR, Carter J, Kaplan AS, Reid C, Curtis C, et al.
Personality and eating behaviors: A case-control study of binge
eating disorder. Int J Eat Disord 2008;41(3):243-50.
19. Bleich SN. Public perception of overweight. BMJ.
20. Okonkwo O, While A. University students’ views of obesity and
weight management strategies. Health Education Journal.
21. Oliver JE, Lee T. Public opinion and the politics of obesity in
America. Journal of health politics, policy and law.
22. Heber D. An integrative view of obesity. The American journal
of clinical nutrition. 2010;91(1):280s-3s.
23. Elo S, Kyngäs H. The qualitative content analysis process.
Journal of advanced nursing. 2008;62(1):107-15.
24. Elo S, Kääriäinen M, Kanste O, Pölkki T, Utriainen K, Kyngäs
H. Qualitative Content Analysis:A Focus on Trustworthiness.
SAGE Open. 2014;4(1):2158244014522633.
25. Weber RP. Basic Content Analysis. Newbury Park: CA: Sage
Publications; 1990.
26. Burnard P. A method of analysing interview transcripts in
qualitative research. Nurse Educ Today 199.1(11):461–6.
27. Elo S, Kyngas H. The qualitative content analysis process.
Journal of advanced nursing. 2008;62(1):107-15.
28. Yang Y, Herting JR, Choi J. Obesity, metabolic abnormality, and
health-related quality of life by gender: a cross-sectional study in
Korean adults. Quality of life research : an international journal
of quality of life aspects of treatment, care and rehabilitation.
29. Ul-Haq Z, Mackay DF, Fenwick E, Pell JP. Meta-analysis of the
association between body mass index and health-related quality
of life among adults, assessed by the SF-36. Obesity (Silver
Spring, Md). 2013;21(3):E322-7.
30. Busutil R, Espallardo O, Torres A, Martinez-Galdeano L,
Zozaya N, Hidalgo-Vega A. The impact of obesity on healthrelated
quality of life in Spain. Health and quality of life
outcomes. 2017;15(1):197.
31. Siegel JM YA, Aneshensel CS, and Schuler R. Body image,
perceived pubertal timing, and adolescent mental health. J
Adolesc Health. 1999;25(1):55-65.
32. Visscher TL, Seidell JC. The public health impact of obesity.
Annual review of public health. 2001;22:355-75.
33. Lewis S, Thomas SL, Blood RW, Castle DJ, Hyde J, Komesaroff
PA. How do obese individuals perceive and respond to the
different types of obesity stigma that they encounter in their daily
lives? A qualitative study. Social science & medicine (1982).
34. De Brun A, McCarthy M, McKenzie K, McGloin A. Weight
stigma and narrative resistance evident in online discussions of
obesity. Appetite. 2014;72:73-81.
35. Forsberg A, Engstrom A, Soderberg S. From reaching the end of
the road to a new lighter life - people's experiences of undergoing
gastric bypass surgery. Intensive & critical care nursing.
36. McInnes RJ GC. Obesity: A Ticking Time Bomb For
reproductive health. ObeseWomen and Quality of Life. In:
Mahmood TA AS, editors, editor: Elsevier; 2013. 585–95. p.
37. Wilson RE, Latner JD, Hayashi K. More than just body weight:
the role of body image in psychological and physical
functioning. Body image. 2013;10(4):644-7.
38. Jolanda S Van Vliet LR, Per A Gustafsson and Nina Nelson.
Overweight perception among adolescent girls in relation to
appearance of female characteristics. Paediatrics and Health
39. Avila C HA, Hahn MK, Morrison KM, Restivo M, Anglin R,
Taylor VH. An overview of links between obesity and mental
health. Curr Obes Rep 2015;4:303-10.
40. Obesity. EAftSoOMDACtAo. A Statement of the Members of
the European Association for the Study of Obesity to EXPO
2015. London, UK, 2015. 2015.
41. Macedo TTSd, Portela PP, Palamira CS, Mussi FC. Percepção
de pessoas obesas sobre seu corpo. Escola Anna Nery.