"Being fat is more a social problem than a health problem." Giving voice to children with overweight

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


This essay attempts to explore what being fat means in relation to health and illness for overweight and non-overweight children aged 8-12 years. It illustrates that overweight children experience being fat as a social problem and not merely as a medical or Health problem. Their concept of overweight is influenced by the beliefs that are present in the World around them and the problems they face in their social interactions with parents, friends, other children, teachers and other actors in their daily lives. The overweight children
internalised the health beliefs that overweight is due to eating too much and therefore, predominantly blame themselves for being fat. In this way, they see overweight as a controllable condition. This notion may be influenced by their experiences in the Health system, although the dominant belief that being fat is controllable was also present in the focus group discussions with ‘normal weight’ children. All overweight children saw themselves as fat and were dissatisfied with their body size. They shared the desire to become thin and be like other children around them. They attributed positive notions to their
ideal body size, which in all the participating children was slim. In this way, they were also influenced by the present culture of slenderness.


External organisations
  • Region Skåne
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Medical and Health Sciences
  • Other Health Sciences


  • overweight children, health, bodu size, medicalisation, Obesity
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMedical anthropology: essays and reflections from an Amsterdam graduate programme
EditorsSjaak van der Geest, Trudy Gerrits, Julia Challinor
PublisherDiemen: AMB
ISBN (Print)9789079700653
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes