Experiencing obesity, seeking support in general practice

Jodi Gray, Elizabeth Hoon
Publication type: 
Conference presentation
Stream 3 Implementation of obesity guidelines in PHC

Paper presented at the 9th Health Services and Policy Research Conference, Melbourne

PDF of the presentation is available here



The Counterweight Program is an evidence based weight management program delivered by practices nurses within general practice. Originally implemented in the UK, Counterweight has been piloted in South Australia. While evaluations often focus on weight change alone, patient experience may be much broader and include experiences related to wellbeing, empowerment, self-esteem, knowledge or lifestyle change. We sought to understand the experiences of patients participating in the pilot study.


Across three general practices, 61 patients participated in the pilot study of the Counterweight Program. Following program delivery, the experiences and insights of participating patients were collected using in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis was used to identify key  themes around the history of their weight and weight management, the experience of living with obesity and their experience of the Counterweight Program.

Lessons Learned

Prominent concepts in the literature on the lived experiences of obesity include critiques of biomedical discourses on weight and resistance to stigmatised identities. While useful, these tend to oversimplify the complexity of the lived experience of obesity, where people struggle to negotiate internalised understandings of weight, health and appearance. In this study, the Counterweight Program acted as a tool, providing guidance towards health promoting behaviours and realistic weight management in a context where patients were comfortable.


Obesity is a chronic, relapsing condition, and weight management is complex. The ongoing contact and established relationship with general practice provides an opportunity to intervene and provide weight management support to obese patients.