Haycock, Lynne (2014) "The measure of the man...?! Men aged 18-24: health, food, lifestyle practices and constructions of masculinity. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis aims to critically explore how young men aged 18-24 construct ‘health’ in terms of their knowledge, beliefs and behaviours and to examine what influence these factors may have on their own lifestyle practices, particularly, but not exclusively, in relation to food and how this informs their masculine identity. Statistics suggest that as a group young men are the worst at ‘following’ health promotion guidelines and as such are ‘positioning’ themselves as being at risk of developing certain illnesses and diseases such as cancer and diabetes as a result of this non-conformance. Men’s diets are often portrayed as being unhealthy; high in meat content and low in consumption of fruit and vegetables.

Furthermore men’s health is often viewed in opposition to women’s and inequalities in health between men and women are often put down to man’s pursuit of hegemonic masculinity.

This thesis will argue that statistics alone do not tell the whole picture as men are not a homogenous group, with differences in sexual orientation, class and age, to name but a few. Therefore to help understand the health behaviours of young men better their voices need to be listen to. This thesis will seek to understand the impact health promotion messages as well as other ‘educational’ sources such as the media, have upon the knowledge, health beliefs and behaviours of young men and if these ‘messages’ help or hinder their participation in such. This thesis draws upon qualitative data to investigate how food and health are understood and negotiated by young men as part of their lived experiences and will take a thematic approach to data analysis.

The key findings suggest that the young men involved in this research had a good knowledge of what are considered healthy behaviours however these were not necessarily the ones they followed. The men were interested in their health albeit in a way of bodily appearance, particularly in respect of fatness, and presentation of an acceptable masculine physique rather than in reducing their susceptibility to illness and disease. Food for the participants was not something to be consumed in order to sustain a ‘healthy’ blood pressure for example but was something which they used as part of their physical activity regime to help build muscle and ‘keep in shape’. This was particularly important when the body was considered to be under the judgemental ‘gaze’ of others therefore being on holiday and having a ‘holiday body’ was where the display of an acceptable masculine physique was considered essential.

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