Date of Conferral







Susan Marcus


Medical and economic costs for obesity are estimated at $147 billion per year, yet less than 1/3 of overweight individuals successfully maintain weight loss. The literature is replete with descriptions of the problem and research on treatments, yet demonstrations of effective loss and maintenance are lacking. Missing is an understanding of the experiences of individuals who successfully maintained healthy weight loss, which could provide insights regarding effective psycho-social interventions. The purpose of this qualitative narrative study was to explore key events and experiences in the lives of former weight cyclers. The primary phenomena of interest included weight cycling and sustained weight loss. Self-determination theory (SDT) and social cognitive theory (SCT) provided the theoretical frameworks to explore concepts like autonomy, mastery, and vicarious learning, which are known to be associated with recovery from other addictions (e.g., smoking cessation, weight loss). Using the tradition of narrative analysis, the stories of 6 formerly obese weight cyclers revealed 5 major themes: structure, strategies, relationship/support, autonomy, and identity as a fat person. Findings support SDT and SCT as meaningful frameworks for understanding how severely obese individuals can attain successful weight maintenance. Findings from this study revealed elements not fully addressed by these theories, such as resilience, the diverse orientations to the problem, and overarching themes common to all participants. Findings can be used to place greater emphasis on psychological components such as autonomy, mastery, and relatedness, which are necessary for successful remission. Findings may contribute to reducing direct and related costs of obesity and improving quality of life for individuals and their families.