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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A phenomenological analysis of mid-life women’s challenges in their relationships with food Palandra, Ashley Lauren


To date, the vast majority of research exploring disordered eating (DE) and eating disorders (EDs) among women has been conducted with younger populations. However, a small but growing body of literature has demonstrated the increasing prevalence of eating problems among mid-life women. Despite recent scholarly interest in this area, very little is known about mid-life women’s experiences of living with eating challenges, and the meanings they attribute to this phenomenon. The current study was designed to address this gap in the literature, using a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology (van Manen, 1990). The research question that guided this inquiry was: “What is the meaning and experience of having a problematic relationship with food for women in mid-life?” In-depth, audio-recorded qualitative research interviews were conducted with nine women between the ages of 41 and 65. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, and a thematic analysis consistent with van Manen’s (1990) hermeneutic phenomenological approach was conducted. Six common themes emerged from the participants’ experiences of having a problematic relationship with food in mid-life: (1) Sense of Food as Comfort and a Means of Coping, (2) Sense of Guilt and Shame, (3) Sense of Needing Control, (4) Sense of Food and Eating as Addiction, (5) Sense of Pressure to Conform, and (6) Sense of Loss of Social Power and Visibility. The study findings are discussed within the context of the extant literature exploring EDs among younger and mid-life women, and similarities and differences between these demographic groups are explored. Finally, implications of the study findings for theory, research, and clinical practice are discussed.

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