Date of Conferral







Rachel Piferi


Obesity and overweight issues are nationally recognized crises for African American women. A noteworthy gap remains in the literature regarding this population's experiences with excessive weight, specifically, the role of culture and social support networks on their experience with being overweight. Without an understanding of the experience and meaning of being overweight for African American women, physicians and clinicians will not be able to fully support African American women in their weight loss journeys. Using the social learning theory as a framework, the purpose of this phenomenological research study was to explore experiences of obese or overweight middle-aged African American women while discovering the roles of culture and social support network in those experiences. Twelve women participated in individual, semi-structured interviews with the researcher. All interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and thematically analyzed. Findings showed that emotional eating and over-indulgence contributed to their obesity; social support networks supported their behaviors in attempts to be supportive and non-judgmental and eating was a primary feature of social interactions and cultural events. Their stories showed how important eating was to African American women's relationships and social interactions and how the social environment may be contributing to the crisis of obesity in this population. This study's results could be used to help promote positive social change in this population by helping African American women develop weight management programs that also support their lifestyle and cultural focus on food. Furthermore, examining how to engage socially and balance the social elements with proper eating should be the focus of future research.