MA Research Paper


Master of Arts




Kim Shuey


Researchers warn that sizeism and weight stigma can prevent individuals from seeking health care, increase feelings of depression, and even contribute to weight gain and the worsening of negative health behaviours (Chrisler and Barney 2017; O’Hara and Gregg 2006; Puhl and Heuer 2009; 2010; Tomiyama 2014). The motivation for this study relates to a broader social problem of weight stigma and is premised upon evidence that suggests that stigmatizing content precipitates poor perceptions of obese individuals (Frederick et al. 2020; Puhl and Heuer 2010). Drawing upon the concept of biopedagogy, this case study qualitatively analyzes the online messages produced by two prominent obesity organizations in Canada (Harwood 2009; Rail 2012). Specifically, this study asks, how do obesity organizations frame and define obesity? How does the organizational context contribute to the framing of obesity-related messages? How do these organizations reproduce or challenge weight stigma?

Multiple and competing message frames were observed, reflecting different paradigms of obesity discourse. In light of Obesity Canada’s goal to end weight bias, the framing of obesity as a disease is interpreted as an attempt to resolve the individual blame attached to obesity (Ata et al. 2018; Puhl and Heuer 2010). In contrast, the Childhood Obesity Foundation emphasizes parental responsibility and lifestyle change, upholding individualistic and oversimplistic explanations of obesity (O’Hara and Gregg 2006; Salas 2015). While this study draws upon past research about obesity discourse and weight stigma, it is the first of its kind to explore the online messaging of two Canadian obesity organizations.

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Sociology Commons