Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Lynne Cohen

Second Supervisor

Dr Howard Sercombe

Third Supervisor

Dr John Duff


“I am on time. It’s the afternoon of my medical for life-insurance suitability. The AMP building in Sydney is my destination. I arrive with about twenty minutes to spare. I don’t remember the receptionist. I don’t remember the faces of the doctors who attended me that day. All I can remember is that I could see the clouds passing over the glass ceiling as my blood pressure was taken several times. The first doctor took my blood pressure three times before seeking another opinion. The second doctor confirmed his fears. I was in the “too high” risk category. At the time I was 22 years of age, and weighing, on average, one-hundred and fifty kilograms. Over the next nine months I reach an extreme level of weight loss. At my lightest I weighed eighty-two kilograms.” I am a male researcher, researching masculine bodyweight and masculine embodiment. In the qualitative tradition, seven men (primary participants) who underwent significant weight gain. and loss were interviewed with the purpose of understanding how they experienced their sense of self as socially reflected. In addition to this, seven significant others (secondary participants) were interviewed in relation to their observations of primary participants during these periods. This is an interdisciplinary study which utilises symbolic interactionist concepts of self, and social identity, in conjunction with sociological and philosophical concerns about body-image, bodyweight, and the expression of subjective and social masculine identities in a gendered socio-cultural context, where tension exists between individual freedom and social control (See Bordo, !999a: Cooley, 1964; Drummond, 2002; Foucault, 1980; Goffman 1963b, 1967; Mead, 1934; Sparkes, 1999). It was found that different levels of male body fat influences subjective conceptions of self, subjective expressions of masculine identities, and social projections of what it means to be a fat and thin man. This study reveals that men went to extremes to lose weight, in most cases by restricting their food intake. In addition to this, it was also found that thinner men consume more fashion than fatter men, and that happy fat men in sexual relationships were least likely to regulate their bodyweight until these relationships ended. Self-regulation was found to be more prominent in those men competing for intimacy in the sexual market. In brief, this study establishes here is a softer reflective side of men than had been previously documented.

Included in

Psychology Commons