The purpose of this study was to qualitatively assess overweight and obese adolescents’ perceptions of: the meaning of “healthy bodyweight”; barriers and facilitators to healthy bodyweight attainment; and what they believe would help to effectively enhance and support their healthy bodyweight behaviours. This information, including factors that promote obesity and those that set up barriers for achieving healthy weight, will inform the development of an efficacious health promotion program targeting healthy bodyweight for adolescents.
This qualitative study targeted a sample of overweight and obese youth (defined as equal to or above the 85th percentile for age and sex) between the ages of 14-17 years. An experienced interviewer, using a semi-structured interview guide, conducted 11 in-depth interviews. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Inductive content analysis was conducted independently and simultaneously by three qualitative researchers. Additional measures were incorporated throughout the study to ensure data trustworthiness.
The majority of participants characterized healthy bodyweight as a combination of consuming nutritious foods and engaging in regular physical activity. Some included a psychological dimension to the definition, expanding it to embrace positive self-esteem and body image. Four central themes reflected participants’ perceptions of the facilitators to achieving a healthy bodyweight: family support; access to nutritious food at home; physical activity encouragement; and school physical activity environment. Six key themes identify what participants perceived as barriers to achieving a healthy bodyweight: lack of family support; poor nutrition environment; unsupportive school environment; lack of time; low self-esteem; and bullying. Three dominant themes exemplified participants’ preferences for a healthy bodyweight intervention: opportunities for unstructured co-ed recreational activities; co-ed nutrition education sessions; and a gender-specific discussion forum to explore the experience of being overweight/obese and ways to address challenges. Finally, four themes, pertaining to location, hours of operation, advertising, and healthy bodyweight program facilitators, reflected youths’ perceptions of effective marketing for a healthy bodyweight program.
The participants provided a wealth of information to form the foundation of future obesity-related interventions tailored specifically to this target population. The current study creates the foundation for the next phase of this research, a pilot program of the proposed healthy bodyweight intervention. A youth-focused program informed by the insights and preferences of its target population is essential for the implementation of an efficacious healthy bodyweight intervention.