First Advisor

Scott Selberg

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Communication Studies and University Honors






Overweight persons -- Social conditions, Overweight persons -- Recreation, Online social networks, Stigma (Social psychology), Psychic trauma, Outdoor recreation




This paper examines online virtual communities for fat people within outdoor recreation, and how they provide connection, complex agency, and representation for fat bodies in spaces where their bodies are seen as taboo. Furthermore, it will explore the way fat bodies have been historically viewed, the lack of representation of fat bodies in the outdoors and related communities, and the gate-keeping that occurs to those who do not conform to traditional stereotypes of an outdoorsy person. Close examination of two different Instagram accounts that highlight the fat body in the outdoors will reveal three main representational elements that are an integral part of the act of community building: the body, the location, and the caption. Each element works together to create community for fat bodies in the outdoors. The importance of these communities is discussed along with the future of these virtual spaces. These communities matter because they carve room for needed representation for fat bodies in the outdoors and they allow support for community members who seek to take up space in the outdoors. This thesis will explore how these virtual communities are built, what they look like, and the existing circumstances within society that led to their creation.


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