Haycock, Lynne (2011) Men (aged 18-24): The Perceptions of Food, Health and Identity. In: Understanding the Social World Conference 2011, 13th - 15th July 2011, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)

A dominant discourse in western societies is that a ‘healthy’ diet with lots of fruit, vegetables and fibre and low in fat is one of the main contributors to good bodily health. However, according to the Health Survey for England (2007) only 18% of men in 16-24 age group meets recommended nutritional guidelines. The meanings associated with food are contextually and culturally located and influenced by ethnicity, religion, region, class and gender. For example men and women ‘do gender’ by consuming gender appropriate foods. Foods which are considered to be ‘healthy’ are regarded as light and delicate, descriptions which infer femininity as opposed to ‘unhealthy’ foods which are constructed as heavy, substantial and ‘masculine’ (Lupton, 1999). Within contemporary society more scrutiny is placed upon the weight issues of women. Often less emphasis is put upon men’s bodies and men tend to become the surveyors rather than the surveyed within society (Petersen and Lupton, 1996). A person’s health status can be judged by their appearance, and in western society this is especially important due to the influence of the mass media. Within the media, discourses purporting to healthy eating are frequently linked to bodily representations of dieting and weight control and are nearly always associated with women. This presentation will discuss ‘healthy’ eating discourses. It will explore the discursive practices associated with these such as the risk of developing certain diseases including obesity and the impact this has upon the perceptions, beliefs and identities of young men.

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