Abstract

In recent years obesity has emerged as a potential public health crisis. This article examines how being overweight is framed as a social problem in two public Danish organizations. Using recorded interactions between health consultants and overweight people, this article explores how overweight people develop a sense of self in weight loss programmes.

This article uses an interactionist approach in exploring the dual nature of identities involving both the self and social structure. Drawing on sociological literature concerning the relationship between the body, health, risk and society, this paper shows how overweight people in western society are currently perceived as being morally inferior. This societal context frames the participating organizations that offer weight loss programmes to overweight people, and hence results in organizational identities that equate being overweight with having psychological problems.

The analysis in this article shows the importance of situating identity processes in the organizational framework in which they occur and situating organizations in a broader societal framework that casts some people as morally inferior and others as ‘normal’.

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