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Talking food : everyday dieting practices in a weight management group

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posted on 29.06.2007, 15:21 authored by Hazel Mycroft
This thesis used fifty hours of naturally occurring video and audio taped data from the ‘weigh-in’ section of four commercial weight management groups in the East Midlands of England. This thesis is a discursive psychological and conversation analytic investigation of the turn-taking organization of the talk, examining what the group leaders and members make relevant in their talk about food and dieting. The data was transcribed using the Jeffersonian method. Group members attend the group weekly, and are weighed - their weight gain, loss or maintenance is recorded on a membership card. The analytic chapters follow the format of the ‘weigh-in’ section of the meeting exploring firstly how the group leaders and members manage the practices of getting ready to be weighed; then how the ‘news’ of weight gain, loss or maintenance is told and receipted; before exploring how ‘advice-giving’ is constructed and the final analytic chapter deals with the issues of morality and accountability in the leaders’ and members’ talk. Analysis shows that the ‘pre-weigh in practices’ involved before the group members are weighed consists of two robust patterns, 1) the practice of getting undressed is not oriented to by either the group members or group leaders and the group leaders avoided direct eye contact and concerned themselves with other business or 2) when no undressing practices took place, the group leaders were much more comfortable with direct eye contact. These sequences show how the body and its practices are constructed in particular ways within, and as part of the practices of getting ready to be weighed. Analysis showed the telling and receipting of weight news gets done differently depending on whether the group members have gained, lost or maintained weight. When the news concerned weight gain, the sequence included a ‘pre-announcement’ and the news TCU was punctuated with marked trouble. When the news concerned weight loss, only the group members produced a pre-account and the news TCU contained no marked trouble. Finally, when the group members had maintained weight, the news TCU was delivered bluntly, and there was no evidence of trouble. In relation to advice-giving, analysis showed that group members repeatedly worked to assert their epistemic priority to avoid having to acknowledge the advice and the advice was receipted minimally. Finally, analysis showed that group members produced accounts with reference to a moral evaluation, such as blame or culpability. Sometimes an account was produced to circumvent being held publicly accountable for the event or action. It became apparent that both the group leaders and group members could not orient to themselves, their behaviour or food without it being constructed within a moral or accountable framework. Therefore, the thesis is an exploration of how group leaders and members manage the ‘dieting-practices’ involved in getting weighed in a commercial weight management group and how using DP and CA can show the intricate turn by turn organization of such practices.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

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Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Loughborough University

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