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Advocating pluralistic practice in trauma sensitive obesity care

Norton, V. (2021). Advocating pluralistic practice in trauma sensitive obesity care. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Many people occasionally emotionally eat in response to positive and negative affect independent of weight status. For individuals living with obesity, frequent emotional eating to regulate negative affect can impede sustained weight loss. Whilst research in the area has increased in recent years, further knowledge of the lived experiential process of emotional eating is needed. Similarly, understanding of how people conceptualise their emotional eating is sparse, particularly for those seeking specialist support from UK weight management and obesity services. This study aimed to illuminate lived experience and situated understanding of the phenomenon as described by people accessing support from a tier-three NHS weight management service. Six participants, two men and four women, shared their idiographic experiences through an in-depth semi-structured interview. Following, Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis an overarching theme of “a ‘deep-rooted’ and ‘powerful’ response to intense emotions” emerged encapsulating four interlinked superordinate themes: (1) a spectrum of awareness of dynamic emotions, (2) the ‘stuck’ self is experienced within shame fuelled cycles (3) a compelling coping mechanism and (4) an entrenched and frequently misunderstood phenomenon. Together with their associated subordinate themes, these findings are contextualised within key theory relating to conscious awareness, trauma, attachment, self-psychology, and addiction. Clinical implications are discussed and advocate using a pluralistic framework for offering person-centred holistic intervention for emotional eating with emotional underpinnings considered ahead of behavioural. Suggestions for further research are also made. The study has particularly emphasised the ongoing and cumulative impact of shame on the emotional eating cycle and recognises that previous trauma and emotional abuse are sometimes contributory factors that need sensitive acknowledgement.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of VN Final DPsych Thesis for Deposit_Redacted_EWDP.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
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