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Research Abstract

rebecca's research May 30, 2000

Women, Weight, and Embodiment:

An Intuitive Inquiry into Women’s Psycho-spiritual Process of Healing Obesity


Rebecca Ocean

This exploratory study employed intuitive inquiry to address obesity, not as the physical or emotional health “problem” it is culturally defined to be, but rather as an invitation and avenue for psycho-spiritual growth for an exemplar group of 6 middle-class Euro- American women. The study aimed to add (a) a deeper understanding of the process of psycho-spiritual growth as it relates to obesity and (b) women’s lived experience and knowledge o f the healing process to the obesity literature, which is currently dominated by pathologizing perspectives from physical and mental health disciplines. Five obese women who viewed their issues with food and weight as part of their psycho-spiritual growth process completed a survey and joined the researcher for an 8-day retreat and day-long 1-year follow-up. The personal stories of the 5 co-researchers and the researcher, group discussion, and focused group analysis of the stories comprised the retreat and follow-up formats. The group developed 25 content statements, 12 proposed group processes, and 6 interactive teaching sessions on women’s experiences of healing relationship with body. This in-depth collaborative approach with co-researchers was essential to accomplishing the study’s goals. Intuitive inquiry delineates a structured hermeneutic, including at least 3 cycles of interpretation, for qualitative data analysis. Six researcher-defined interpretive lenses were developed to engage with the data: (a) Motivation to Change, (b) Wisdom of Space, (c) Learning and Knowing, (d) Power as Love, (e) Call to Differentiate, and (f) Meaning Making. A fourth interpretive cycle was added to assess for validity o f the findings by employing sympathetic resonance— a research tool used to assess the visceral recognition o f familiarity in one’s own experience with that of another—in an additional panel of 5 women. Theoretical and potentially ground-breaking, practical implications are discussed, including suggestions for health care professionals and recommendations for social change.

© 2000 Rebecca Ocean.

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