Socially constructing healthy eating: a Foucauldian discourse analysis of healthy eating information and advice

Mackenzie, Joanna (2020) Socially constructing healthy eating: a Foucauldian discourse analysis of healthy eating information and advice. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.

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Abstract / Description

It is well recognised that eating a poor quality diet can lead to a number of long term health conditions and premature mortality. In response, a variety of materials, offering healthy eating advice from both state and commercial sources, have been produced in the UK to help and encourage people to eat well and avoid diet related health issues. However, a large proportion of the population still suffer from long term conditions which could have been avoided through an improved diet. The aim of this research was to consider how healthy eating advice is relayed to the public and how people relate to it by exploring how healthy eating is socially constructed in the 21st century in the East of England. The research aimed to uncover the discourses used in healthy eating texts in the UK, how people positioned themselves in relation to these discourses and the power relations between institutions and the UK public.

A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis was applied to a range of healthy eating texts from both state and commercial sources. In addition, five focus groups were carried out to determine how the participants positioned themselves within the text’s discourses and their sense of trust in the materials.

The analysis of the texts uncovered a combination of discourses including scientific, thermodynamic, natural, childcare, medical and moral discourses which offered up subject positions to their readers in relation to moral citizenship and personal responsibility.

Through the use of bio-power, foods within the texts appeared to be categorised as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods in which bad foods were considered to be risky to health due to their nutritional composition. Most of the texts assumed people have the agency to follow the text’s advice and failed to consider the readers’ personal context. Focus group findings revealed that many participants felt that healthy eating should be based on common sense and ideally it is better to listen to your body to understand what it needs and there is no one size fits all approach such as that presented in the texts.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Healthy eating; healthy diet; good foods; bad foods; health issues; Foucauldian Discourse
Subjects: 100 Philosophy & psychology > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
Department: School of Human Sciences
Depositing User: Chiara Repetto
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2023 14:31
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2023 16:46


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