Women's stories of their experiences as overweight patients
Overweight and obesity, increasingly significant issues for women's health, are chronic health conditions associated with societal bias and stigma. Negative attitudes toward overweight people are persistent. Overweight or obese women may delay or avoid health care if care providers previously reacted negatively to them based on weight. Previous studies explored attitudes of nurses and other health care professionals toward overweight patients. However, studies focusing on the meaning of women's experiences as overweight patients and as recipients of health care services are lacking. Hermeneutic phenomenology based on van Manen's approach was used. Face-to face interviews were conducted in the United States in 2007 with eight women who self-identified as being overweight patients. Tape-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim. The lifeworld existentials of lived space, lived body, lived time, and lived relation (van Manen) guided reflection for data analysis. The essence of women's experiences with health care providers focused on the phenomenon of battling to fit into the world of health care. Four major themes emerged: being dismissed, feeling not quite human, struggling to fit in, and refusing to give up. Women reported feeling discounted in communication with health care professionals and by lack of proper-sized equipment, including exam gowns. However, women revealed their desire for additional support and resources for health care related to their weight. Awareness of these findings could reform understanding of women's experiences as overweight patients and raise the consciousness of health care professionals worldwide to develop sensitive communication strategies and health care environments that support holistic care for overweight women.