A qualitative investigation of body weight and weight loss-related attitudes of mothers and fathers in the context of food insecurity



To examine attitudes about body weight and weight loss among low-income parents of young children experiencing household food insecurity.


One-on-one interviews were conducted with 25 dyads of cohabitating low-income mothers and fathers who lived with their child aged 2.5–10 years old. Basic inductive analysis was conducted using NVivo to identify emerging themes related to body weight.


Three main themes emerged including (1) weight loss as a “Blessing in Disguise,” (2) trouble with losing weight, and (3) the impact of compromised diet quality. Some differences existed in themes between mothers and fathers, but both placed value on weight loss resulting from food insecurity.


This research underscores the importance of sufficient nutrition assistance for limited resource families. A lack of money for food was a barrier towards maintaining a healthy weight but the value our culture places on weight loss even in times of despair was undeniably present.

Level of evidence

Level V, cross-sectional descriptive study.

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The authors would like to thank FoodShare, Inc. for allowing us to recruit participants from the mobile pantry sites in Connecticut.


Funding was provided by the University of Connecticut Scholarship Facilitation Fund and the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund.

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Correspondence to Amy R. Mobley.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee University of Connecticut Institutional-Storrs Review Board with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Taylor, E.A., Foster, J.S. & Mobley, A.R. A qualitative investigation of body weight and weight loss-related attitudes of mothers and fathers in the context of food insecurity. Eat Weight Disord 25, 1663–1669 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-019-00804-7

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  • Food insecurity
  • Parents
  • Food supply
  • Poverty
  • Social stigma
  • Weight perception