Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Roberta Baer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rita DeBate, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Himmelgreen, Ph.D.


obesity, diet, physical activity, medical anthropology, public health


This study investigated the effects of Get Into Fitness Today (GIFT), a health program for adults that promotes balanced nutrition, physical activity, and weight loss through weekly meetings that provide education and social support. In addition to investigating the effects of GIFT, this evaluation sought to better understand explanatory models used by participants and program staff, and the roles of education and empowerment in weight loss and health education. This mixed methods, case study evaluation consisted of quantitative analysis of existing program records for 664 participants, 40 hours of participant observation of class sessions with ten GIFT groups, and follow-up interviews with 17 participants of three case study groups. Supplementary sources of information included a community health focus group and nearly 1000 goal forms completed by participants. Through analysis and triangulation of the multiple data sources, it was found that participants who complete the program are highly satisfied and have positive outcomes, but only about one-third of participants finish the program. The data suggests that at least some participants stop attending because they do not find the educational material to be novel or the classes to be especially engaging. While both staff and participants share the dominant, individualistic explanatory model of obesity, a new model that is strengths-based, focused on health rather than weight, and aims to empower individuals within structural constraints may be more appropriate.