Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Z. Anderson

Second Advisor

Dr. Glinda Rawls

Third Advisor

Dr. James Croteau


Body image, Identity development, African American, Social media, Gay and MSM, Overweight and obesity


This phenomenological study explored the meanings attributed to internalized messages about body image within the context of identity development from the perspectives of overweight/obese men of African descent (OMAD) among a group of 6 men who have sex with men (MSM). I was interested in those messages that have been incorporated, adopted, or integrated into OMAD-MSM’s sense of self. Informants shared body image-related experiences from interactions with family, friends, dating/sex partners, and the media/social media.

Academic literature has explained identity development processes among African Americans through various lenses but research has not adequately explored the convergence of multiply oppressed social identities (gender, race, sexual orientation/behavior) in a manner that includes the potential impact of sizeism, intra-group fragmentation, and stigma on identity development. This study focused on men who have had voluntary sexual experiences and the sample was drawn from a metropolitan area in the South.

Data was collected via qualitative interviewing. Using phenomenological data analysis, 10 essences of experience were identified. The essences/themes give insight into informants’ perspectives regarding: 1) obesity; 2) body image; 3) identity development; 4) how sense of self is shaped by the regional Black gay culture of the South; 5) social media in their lives; 6) emotional health; 7) rejected bodies; 8) the impact of not having the types of intimate partner relationships that they desire; 9) body acceptance experiences; and 10) resilience. Collectively, the informants provide both concrete and implied understandings about meanings attributed to their lived experiences. Counseling/research implications applied to OMAD-MSM related to holistic interventions; objectification; relational intimacy, black gay masculinity cultural expectations; resilience; and eating disorder assessment; are also identified.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access