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Diet after prostate cancer : gender influences on men’s food perceptions and practices Mróz, Lawrence William


Although nutrition might play a role in prostate cancer survival, most men make few diet changes following this diagnosis. Evidence that men tend to have poorer diets than women suggests that gender helps shape men’s food practices, and might influence nutrition intervention uptake. Gender theory provides insight into these observations, proposing that masculine ideals prevent men from adopting healthy eating practices. Additionally, because many men rely on women for food provision, gender relations are also significant in men’s diets. This dissertation explores how masculinities and gender relations are implicated in shaping dietary understandings and food practices of men with prostate cancer. The first phase of the study produced an overview and synthesis of research on nutrition, prostate cancer, masculinities and food, and provides an analysis of diet and diet change behaviours for men with prostate cancer. Masculinity and gender relations theory are discussed in the context of men’s food practices, with suggestions for applications to nutrition and prostate cancer research. The second phase was an empirical qualitative study, involving in-depth, individual interviews conducted privately and separately with 14 men with prostate cancer and their cohabiting female partners. Findings are presented in two parts. First, men’s accounts of their diets following prostate cancer and the rationales underpinning diet changes (or lack thereof) are described. The men framed their food perceptions and practices as important, action-oriented and autonomous suggesting that masculine ideals influenced if and how they engaged in diet change. Second, using a gender relations framework to interpret how gender performances shaped men’s diets, couples’ dietary accounts revealed how they tended to limit men’s dietary engagement and maintain hetero-normative food roles. Complex couple power dynamics were apparent, reflecting and reproducing patriarchy through women’s deference to men’s preferences and careful negotiation of support for men’s diet changes. Together, these findings demonstrate that although masculine ideals shape men’s food perceptions and practices, complex couple interactions are also implicated. Nutrition intervention planning for men is complex and findings show that to ensure success, understanding gender relations is essential to illuminate women’s roles in the food practices and nutritional health of men with prostate cancer.

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