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What is willpower? A qualitative exploration of how people struggling to lose weight understand the term

Crofton, Oliver R (2021) What is willpower? A qualitative exploration of how people struggling to lose weight understand the term. Other thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

Obesity is associated with serious physical health problems. People often attribute being overweight to low willpower. However, the meaning of the term ‘willpower’ has gradually changed and is contested amongst academics. Research using qualitative approaches to explore how people understand willpower is limited, but unquestioned understandings about willpower might obstruct efforts to effect change. Using a purposive sampling approach, 16 customers from Slimming World (a UK-based weight loss organisation) were recruited to participate in semi-structured interviews. Questions were asked about their understandings of willpower and how it influences their wellbeing. Thematic analysis was applied to the data. Five main themes with accompanying subthemes were identified. Participants conceptualised willpower in various ways (e.g. as matter of habit or routine or as a mindset/mentality) and viewed it as influenced by external and internal factors (e.g interpersonal context, the presence of tempting cues, deprioitising one’s goals). They saw willpower as a desirable trait, but their responses were in some ways contradictory (e.g. they drew upon various conceptualisations of willpower and thought it central in causing unhealthy weight despite recognizing many other causal factors). With its strong emphasis on personal experience, this project provides an alternative narrative about what willpower is and how it operates to those provided by academic models. The project particularly emphasises the need for doubt and uncertainty about the concept of willpower and the findings call for more precise definition of willpower and how it differs from self-control. Implications for further research are also discussed as are the ways in which the findings might facilitate clinical work in various ways. Their relevance to assessment, engagement, formulation, treatment planning and intervention are described in detail.

Item Type: Thesis (Other)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Health and Social Care, School of
Depositing User: Oliver Crofton
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2021 10:16
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2021 10:16
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/30722

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