The psychological effects of being overweight

19 August 2017

Sara Runga (3)

Sara Runga is exploring the personal narratives of overweight people.

New Zealand has an obesity crisis, but little is known about what influence society has on individual’s weight and their psychological well-being.

University of Waikato masters student Sara Runga wants to gain insight into the experiences of people who are overweight by exploring their personal narratives, and from that gain a better understanding about the reasons why.

“I know body image is a sensitive topic, and it can be emotional for people to discuss their weight, but hopefully the way I’ve designed my research will mean people will be willing to talk to me,” Sara says.

Sara says participants will need access to a camera or smart phone to first complete a photo-voice exercise, with a one-on-one interview to follow.  “Throughout the interview participants will be given the chance to caption photos they’ve taken, explain while they are meaningful and to discuss what they find most important about body shape, stigma or barriers to weight loss,” Sara says.

She would like a minimum of 15 study participants; men and women any age over 18.

Her masters research will be supervised by Senior Lecturer Dr Rebecca Sargisson. “If we can learn more about the everyday experiences and challenges of people who struggle to maintain a healthy weight, we will be better able to design effective interventions to prevent weight gain and help people lose weight,” Dr Sargisson says.

If you would like to participate in Sara’s research you can contact her at