African American Adolescent Males Living With Obesity


Correspondence to:

Pamela F. Ashcraft, University of Central Arkansas, 201 Donaghey, DHSC 136, Conway, AR 72035. E-mail:



The objective was to explore, through the concepts of self-perception and meaning, the lived experience of obesity in African American males between the ages of 13–17 years.

Design and Sample

Hermeneutic phenomenological design was used to guide the study. Thirteen inner-city African American males were enrolled. All participants had a documented body mass index of >95th percentile and were actively receiving treatment at a medical obesity clinic.


Qualitative data were collected using in-depth semi-structured interviews.


Self-perception and meaning are interrelated and important factors in understanding obesity uniquely from the adolescents view. If individuals do not understand that they are obese then they are unable to assign meaning to obesity within their life. Four main themes were discovered. The main themes were as follows: (1) It Don't Mean Nuthin'; (2) It's Just Me, Who I Am; (3) Something Bad Might Happen; and (4) I'm Confused and I Feel Bad.


Patterns emerged that will allow health care workers to engage adolescents on a personal level, thereby increasing the potential for treatment outcomes consistent with weight management clinic goals. To realize successful outcomes for these adolescents, health care providers must incorporate the adolescents' understanding, knowledge, and values related to obesity in treatment planning.