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Food choices amongst gay men Kasten, Gerald

Abstract

Studies of food choice have been conducted predominantly with women, rarely with men and sexual orientation has not been ascertained. Gay men are at risk for a number of nutritionally-related adverse health outcomes, and learning more about their food choice processes will enable health services providers to offer more informed care. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the food choice processes of gay men in Vancouver. Data and recipes collected from 13 men via semi-structured, audio-taped interviews were analyzed using iterative process methods. Queer Theory and Constructivist assumptions were used as resources for analysis. Three main themes were identified, all incorporating aspects of gender performance: body weight and body image; food choices; and food work. Participants talked about restrictive eating and assumed a discourse that gay men limit or avoid foods in order to control body size and achieve a societally-constructed objectified body. Some participants contested this discourse. The men choose gendered foods without regard for those constructions and recognized that making such choices could be critical of the masculine hegemony. Sensual appeal of foods was prioritized but balanced with choices to enhance health. Participants used food to nurture others and were more likely to cite spending time on preparation when preparing foods for others rather than solely for themselves. Several participants learned to cook at an early age. This was assessed as outside of appropriate gender roles and received negative feedback. Such cooking may be an example of early life cross-gendered behaviour. Participants in this study spoke of preparing foods to achieve both excellent taste and exceptional presentation, particularly when entertaining other gay men. This use of food as performative of one’s being gay would be a unique aspect of the participants’ food-related behaviours. Broadly put, the process of coming out freed participants to question gender constructions. They chose foods and did food work without much regard for the gendering of food or tasks. The practice implication is that providers need to question if men they are working with may be gay, learn about and provide culturally competent care.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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