Embodiment and the Meaning of the “Healthy Body”:An Exploration of First Nations Women’s Perspectives of Healthy Body Weight and Body Image

// // Posted in Vol 4 Issue 1

Jennifer Poudrier, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of

Saskatchewan

Janice Kennedy, Director, Mīwayawin Health Services Inc., North Battleford,

Saskatchewan

Abstract

Obesity and its associated health risks have been identified as areas of concern for First

Nations women, however, very little is known about the cultural, gendered and historical

meanings or experiences of healthy body weight and healthy body image from the

perspectives of First Nations women. This article describes the first phase of a project

that explores these issues from the perspective of First Nations women living in rural

communities of the Battleford Tribal Council (BTC) region of Saskatchewan. We describe

the start up phase of our community-based research program. We detail the processes

involved in the development of our research team and the research project, including

a community consultation (a sharing circle and focus group) that was held with six BTC

women. We also describe the outcomes of the consultation, which was intended to provide

an appropriate direction for our research program and to gain an understanding of BTC

women’s perspectives on healthy body weight and body image. Through our analysis, we

identify three interconnected themes related to perceptions of the “healthy body” in the

context of BTC communities. These themes are: 1) the importance of Elder knowledge and

traditional values in promoting community wellness; 2) the importance of understanding

family history and the role of women; and 3) the need to better understand the practical

aspects of purchasing and preparing healthy food. As such, we suggest that in order to

enhance community programming related to healthy body weight and body image, it is

essential to understand the ways in which First Nations women experience and give meaning

to their bodies and the “healthy body” in the socio-cultural and historical context of the BTC

communities. We also suggest that further exploration of these meanings with BTC women,

analyzed with the concept of “embodiment”—which addresses the complex intersections

between the physical body and the socio-cultural experiences of the body—will constitute

an important second phase of our work.

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