Morbidly obese patients and lifestyle change: constructing ethical selves

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KNUTSEN IR, TERRAGNI L and FOSS C. Nursing Inquiry 2011; 18: 348–358 Morbidly obese patients and lifestyle change: constructing ethical selvesIn contemporary societies, bodily size is an important part of individuals' self-representation. As the number of persons clinically diagnosed as morbidly obese increases, programmes are developed to make people reduce weight by changing their lifestyle, and for some, by bariatric surgery. This article presents findings from interviews with 12 participants undergoing a prerequisite course prior to bariatric surgery that is intended both as a preparation for further (surgical) treatment and as a tool to empower individuals regarding lifestyle changes. In this study, we investigate how power operates by looking at how the participants position themselves throughout the course. Findings reveal how participants construct their ability to act in line with norms of lifestyle change. They do this by positioning themselves as both included group members and as ‘morally’ acceptable individuals. Despite some resistance, the participants tend to glide into the role of ‘good patients’ acting in compliance with the aims of the course in their hope and striving for new positions as ‘normal-sized’. The intention in the course is to empower individuals towards lifestyle changes. The findings provide a basis to question whether these kinds of courses create new forms of compliance and dependency.

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