The ‘good mother’ discourse in ‘success stories’ of Australian weight loss centres: a critical discourses analysis

Brittany Johnson, Kate Russell, Louisa Peralta

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Abstract

The ‘good mother’ discourse is concerned with the sociocultural construction of motherhood and is visible in many social contexts, such as the workplace, sport, family, and in particular, health-related contexts such as weight loss. This paper explores the ‘good mother’ discourse within constructs of weight created in and through engagement in Australian weight loss centres. Of the 108 success stories collected, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) was applied to eighty-six (n = 86) success stories across three Australian weight loss centres (Weight Watchers, Lite n’ Easy, and Michelle Bridges’ 12 Week Body Transformation). These success stories were published on each of their weight loss centres’ websites and were accessed on Thursday 20 August 2015 for the purpose of analysis. Findings show that there was a dynamic and complex relationship between women losing weight and wanting to maintain the ‘good mother’ status. Mothers felt a strong need to justify losing weight, through benefits for their family rather than for themselves, and were ‘allowed’ (and therefore given ‘permission’) to join and participate in the weight loss centres. The process supporting the development of becoming a ‘better’ mother. Insight into these processes helps us to examine the role weight loss centres play in constructing ideals surrounding gender, motherhood, the body, and in particular for the discursive messages that shape understandings of ‘success’ and being a ‘good mother’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Early online date20 Oct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Australian weight loss centres
  • Discourse
  • bodies
  • dieting
  • the ‘good mother’

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