Caribbean Journal of Psychology: Vol. 6, Issue 1, 2014

Article 3
Body Weight Perceptions, Obesity and Health Behaviours in Jamaica

Venecia Pearce
Bridget Dibb
Stanley O. Gaines, Jr.
Brunel University London



Abstract

Obesity is a global concern with medical comorbidities and psychosocial consequences. Literature has however recorded socio-cultural factors that may mediate psychological effects of obesity and its associated stigma. Previous studies have investigated differences in body weight perceptions among ethnic groups. The main argument in the current study is that cultural perceptions of body weight could influence performance of certain health behaviours. The objective therefore was to explore body weight perceptions and associated health behaviours in Jamaica. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with thirty participants. Thematic analysis yielded four emerging themes. The study unearthed various beliefs about body weight and its health consequences. The investigation also uncovered social attitudes which Jamaicans held towards certain body types, highlighting the importance of the socio-cultural context in body weight perceptions. The findings introduced ‘fluffy’ as an important concept about women with larger bodies. The findings showed that ‘fluffy’ was a local euphemism used to describe a female with body mass index (BMI) equal to overweight or obesity, but one who was however confident, exuded sexiness and was often secure. While weight control methods were identified, participants highlighted hindrances for weight control which have implications for levels of physical activity and eating behaviour in Jamaica.