Food and eating as social practice - Understanding eating patterns as social phenomena and implications for public health

Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Montréal, Canada.
Sociology of Health & Illness (Impact Factor: 1.88). 04/2009; 31(2):215-28. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2008.01128.x
Source: PubMed


Globally, public health agencies recognise obesity trends among populations as a priority. Explanations for population obesity patterns are linked to obesogenic environments and societal trends which encourage patterns of overeating and little physical activity. However, obesity prevention and nutrition intervention focus predominantly on changing individual level eating behaviours. Disappointingly, behaviour-based nutrition education approaches to changing population eating patterns have met with limited success. Sociological perspectives propose that underlying social relations can help explain collective food and eating patterns, and suggest an analysis of the sociocultural context for understanding population eating patterns. We propose a theoretical framework for the examination of eating patterns as social phenomena. Giddens' structuration theory, in particular his concept of social practices understood as an interplay of 'agency' and 'social structure' (rules and resources), is used to study food choice patterns. We discuss the application of these concepts for understanding routine food choice practices of families, elaborating how rules and resources configure the enabling or constraining conditions under which actors make food choices. The framework assists in characterising how social structural properties are integral to food choice practices, and could direct attention to these when considering nutrition interventions aimed at changing population eating patterns.

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    • "There are a growing number of studies using qualitative methods to better understand perceptions of and interactions with the food environment in adults [49-52], but there continue to be major gaps to be filled, especially when it comes to research on children. In order to inform this research, food environments researchers should begin by examining the small but important body of literature on family feeding [53,54], given that it may inform a more nuanced understanding of food access. Qualitative studies that follow participants for long periods of time (up to a year or more), include multiple forms of data collection including interviews, observation, and other methods, are particularly needed. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background While there is a growing body of research on food environments for children, there has not been a published comprehensive review to date evaluating food environments outside the home and school and their relationship with diet in children. The purpose of this paper is to review evidence on the influence of the community and consumer nutrition environments on the diet of children under the age of 18 years. Methods Our search strategy included a combination of both subject heading searching as well as natural language, free-text searching. We searched nine databases (MEDLINE, Web of Science, CINAHL, Embase, Scopus, ProQuest Public Health, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, and GEOBASE) for papers published between 1995 and July 2013. Study designs were included if they were empirically-based, published scholarly research articles, were focused on children as the population of interest, fit within the previously mentioned date range, included at least one diet outcome, and exposures within the community nutrition environment (e.g., location and accessibility of food outlets), and consumer nutrition environment (e.g., price, promotion, and placement of food choices). Results After applying exclusion and inclusion criteria, a total of 26 articles were included in our review. The vast majority of the studies were cross-sectional in design, except for two articles reporting on longitudinal studies. The food environment exposure(s) included aspects of the community nutrition environments, except for three that focused on the consumer nutrition environment. The community nutrition environment characterization most often used Geographic Information Systems to geolocate participants’ homes (and/or schools) and then one or more types of food outlets in relation to these. The children included were all of school age. Twenty-two out of 26 studies showed at least one positive association between the food environment exposure and diet outcome. Four studies reported only null associations. Conclusions This review found moderate evidence of the relationship between the community and consumer nutrition environments and dietary intake in children up to 18 years of age. There is wide variation in measures used to characterize both the community and consumer nutrition environments and diet, and future research should work to decrease this heterogeneity.
    BMC Public Health 05/2014; 14(1):522. DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-14-522 · 2.26 Impact Factor
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    • "Recent interest in probiotics has provided analyses of representations in expert and public discourses (Burges et al. 2009; Koteyko and Nerlich 2007; Koteyko 2010) as well as people's accounts of their rationales and practices relating to these products. Drawing on a focus group study, Koteyko (2007) considers the relationship of probiotics to healthy eating in lay accounts. In related work, Crawford et al. (2010) introduce the idea of 'nutritional altruism"
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    ABSTRACT: This paper explores the notion of the late modern or reflexive subject, for whom consumption, rationality, autonomy and a reflexive attitude to risk are said to be constitutive. Drawing on an example of 'ordinary' health consumption (Gronow and Warde, 2001), the paper addresses what kinds of consumer identities emerge in people's talk about buying or eating foods containing phytosterols. These are 'functional foods' which are marketed on the basis that they actively lower cholesterol. Based on interviews with people who say that they buy or eat these foods, the analysis focuses on participants' reported trajectories relating to how this came about. Participants' accounts contain a number of explicit and implicit reasons for buying or eating the foods, which I characterise as agential, contextual, or non-agential, depending on the degree to which they draw on the agency of the actual purchaser or eater. These different types of explanations can be ordered in terms of their appeals to rationality, risk consciousness and autonomy. In agential explanations, people talk, for example, of doing something good for themselves, or experimenting with the foods. These explanations explicitly position consumers as health conscious, autonomous and rational to varying degrees. Contextual explanations drew on, for example, the role of doctors or family history in alerting people to a potential problem. These suggest both a different sense of risk consciousness, which may be prompted or contextual, and a less autonomous kind of consumer who is connected to others through a set of family and other relationships. Non-agential explanations, for example, where people attributed their consumption to others or to habit, appeal neither to the rationality, the health consciousness nor the autonomy of the actual consumer. The analysis helps to reinforce the potentially contextual or fluctuating nature of risk consciousness, and the relational and non-instrumental aspects of daily practices.
    Sociological Research Online 06/2011; 16(2). DOI:10.5153/sro.2343 · 0.45 Impact Factor
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    • "Thus within the existing research on changing food habits, our study belongs to a body of research that build upon a more contextual social practice understanding of providing food, cooking and eating Halkier and Jensen 107 (e.g. Bava et al., 2008; Coveney, 2000; Delormier et al., 2009; Holm and Kildevang, 1996; Jabs and Devine, 2006; Ristovski-Slijepcevic et al., 2008). The two other dominant types of studies within the existing research on change of food habits in relation to health both tend to rest methodologically upon methodological individualism . "
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    ABSTRACT: In this article, we discuss the challenges of analytical translations between practice theory and empirical research methods in consumption research. We argue that a social constructivist interpretation of practice theory can be particularly useful in enabling consumption researchers to carry out empirical studies that are different from mainstream approaches to consumer culture. Such mainstream approaches typically privilege either individual consumer choices or cultural structures outside of the reach of consumers. We highlight two analytical affordances from social constructivist practice theory. The first is to enable consumption researchers to analyse ways of consuming and how these are entangled in webs of social reproductions and changes. The second is to allow consumption researchers to understand ways of consuming as continuous relational accomplishments in intersectings of multiple practices in everyday life. We discuss the methodological implications for data-production and data-analysis from these two analytical affordances on the basis of our empirical qualitative study of the handling of nutritionalized contestation of food consumption among Pakistani Danes.
    Journal of Consumer Culture 03/2011; 11(1):101-123. DOI:10.1177/1469540510391365 · 1.29 Impact Factor
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