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Fat outside: an arts-based and narrative inquiry approach to building fat-positive community and connection in nature

Messing, Mackenzie (2022) Fat outside: an arts-based and narrative inquiry approach to building fat-positive community and connection in nature. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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Studies have shown that there are direct correlations between exposure to nature and improved self-perception of body image, as well as reduced stress levels (Kondo, Jacoby and Smith, 2018; Stieger, Archinger, and Swami, 2020). Those who face fat discrimination or anti-fat bias are often barred from enjoying the benefits of nature and outdoor spaces, whether because of others’ comments on their body size, accessibility to gear/space, or lack of safety, etc. This research explored the question: “How might intentional fat-positive spaces outdoors encourage fat people to build community in ways that connect them to themselves, others, and natural spaces?” Using narrative inquiry and arts-based research methodologies, I collected data from four participants through individual interviews, a set of two art pieces, and a group hike event with a focus group discussion and follow-up survey. I analyzed the data based on emergent themes and compared results for connection to self, others, and nature in the context of two theoretical frameworks: intersectional, feminist fat liberation and political ecology of the body. The goal of the study was to increase inclusivity, access, and belonging for fat people in the outdoors, while contributing narratives to the growing field of fat studies. Key findings showed that throughout the fat-positive group hike event, participants experienced reduced anxiety and increased comfortability compared to when they were outdoors alone. The art pieces illustrated an overall reduced focus on negative body image and an increase in mindfulness outdoors. These findings suggested that Fat Outside participants developed a beneficial fat-positive community, resulting in deeper and more positive connections to themselves, others, and nature. Future research may further explore how fat outdoor groups impact community long-term and shift or maintain fat people’s views of themselves, society, and the outdoors.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: body image; fat; narrative inquiry; nature; outdoors
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
MeSH Subjects: F Psychiatry and Psychology > F01 Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Social and Behavioral Science > Sustainable Communities
Date Deposited: 25 May 2023 22:04
Last Modified: 25 May 2023 22:04
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5905

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