Bissell, Paul (2013) Using narrative interviews to understand aspects of the social gradient in obesity. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 12 (1). p. 748. ISSN 1609-4069

In developed countries, there is a well-documented, inverse relationship between obesity and socio-economic position, amongst adults and children. Whilst one perspective views this in socio-structuralist terms as an outcome from living in an obesogenic environment, much of the health policy literature in England considers the rise in obesity as a product of individual responsibility and personal failure. Within this context, there is a dearth of qualitative work exploring the experiences of living with obesity, particularly in the context of social disadvantage. Whilst some qualitative work (Throsby 2008) has eloquently described how individuals undertake narrative work to re-position themselves in opposition to accounts of individual culpability and stigma, we argue that that there are other themes within the lived experience of obesity in the context of social disadvantage that we refer to here as the muted, desiring body.

To demonstrate this, we draw on data from narrative/biographical interviews with obese adults (15) living in northern England, in areas of high social deprivation. Participants positioned themselves as responsible moral agents when accounting for their weight status and there were moving stories of sadness, despair and isolation regarding the impact of weight on health and social life. However, we also identified more muted, but discernible accounts focusing on the visceral enjoyment and desire associated with consuming food, not just as a source of comfort, but as a way of giving meaning to lives which were constrained by both disadvantage and obesity

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