Occupational Therapy Program Student Theses, Dissertations and Capstones

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Occupational Therapy

Copyright Statement

All rights reserved. This publication is intended for use solely by faculty, students, and staff of Nova Southeastern University. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, now known or later developed, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher.


College of Health Care Sciences – Occupational Therapy Department

First Advisor

Barbara Kornblau

Publication Date / Copyright Date



Nova Southeastern University


"Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Occupational Therapy, Occupational Therapy Department, College of Allied Health and Nursing, Nova Southeastern University."

Obesity is a global public health issue, yet interventions to create change have been largely ineffective. Few researchers have considered obesity from the perspective of the person experiencing it, and even fewer have explored the effects obesity has on the Mexican-American population. This dissertation explored the lived experiences of Mexican-American women with obesity living along the El Paso/Mexico border. The study used occupational therapy's Lifestyle Performance Model as the orienting framework. Theoretical concepts from psychology and sociology also clarified contexts of social construction and outcomes of negative stereotyping. Using a phenomenological, qualitative design, this study answered the following research question: What are the lived experiences of Mexican-American women with obesity living along the El Paso/Mexico border? Eight women participated in the study, ranging in age from 25-45 years. The women were recruited though posted flyers and snowball sampling methods. Individual, in-depth interviewing resulted in emergent themes and subthemes that articulated the core essence of their lived experiences. The dominant themes of the study portrayed obesity as a: (a) pervasive entity, (b) disruption to a harmonious self, (c) social negotiation, (d) disconnection from self and others, and (e) product of cultural patterning. Through the voices of the participants, results showed that obesity affects physical and emotional health, which alters lifestyle performance and overall quality of life. Cultural and environmental factors also significantly influence active engagement in meaningful occupation. The data suggest a need for clinician training, student education, and advocacy skills for individuals who live with obesity. Further topics for future research and detailed recommendations regarding treatment interventions are also discussed.


Occupational Therapy


Social sciences, Health and environmental sciences, Lifestyle performance, Obesity, Occupational therapy, Phenomenology, Qualitative research study

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