Date of Conferral





Public Health


Kimberly G. Dixon-Lawson


Low-income immigrants in the United States experience declining health with increasing length of stay in the country. Their declining health over time has been associated with increased smoking, obesity prevalence, and higher risk for developing diabetes and heart disease. How immigrants perceive their body weight and size, influenced by social interaction, culture, gender, and acculturation is also significant to healthy weight maintenance. Not knowing one's healthy weight could result in body weight misperception and resistance to attaining a healthy weight. The aim of this qualitative study, based on the social constructivist framework, was to understand Nigerian women immigrants' (NWI's) body weight self-perceptions (BWSPs), their experiences with weight changes after immigration, and what it meant to them within their historical, immigration, and cultural contexts. Data were collected from audio recorded interviews of 8 purposefully selected NWIs living in Middle Tennessee. After a process of content analysis of transcribed interviews using NVivo, participants' BWSPs were described and interpreted using hermeneutic phenomenology. The key findings of this research were that participants perceived themselves overweight compared to when they had just immigrated to the United States; believed that age, marriage, change in environment and food contributed to their weight gain; and were not accepting of their weight gain, which led them to eating healthier and moving more in order to lose weight. Findings from this research have social change implications for reducing health disparities by disseminating timely health information accessible to immigrants to educate them about nutrition and physical activity behaviors for healthy weight maintenance.