Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

How Do Men's Female Relatives Feature in Their Accounts of Changing Eating Practices during a Weight-Management Programme Delivered through Professional Football Clubs?

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

How Do Men's Female Relatives Feature in Their Accounts of Changing Eating Practices during a Weight-Management Programme Delivered through Professional Football Clubs?

Article excerpt

Social support is essential for weight loss but we know surprisingly little about how family relations are (re)negotiated when men attempt to lose weight. We use qualitative data from a men-only weight loss and healthy living programme (observations and focus group discussions) to investigate how men talk about the women in their families in their accounts of modifying their eating practices. Men constructed partners, mothers and mothers-in-law as highly influential, portraying their roles in responding to their changed eating practices in different ways as: facilitative or detached allies, undermining change, or resistant to or threatened by change. We suggest our analysis points to the need to explore how the broader social context can be acknowledged in weight management programmes to facilitate negotiation of changes to eating practices. At a more fundamental level it raises the potential for a broader renegotiation of the relationship between performances of masculinity and health.

Keywords: obesity, masculinity, health behaviour change, family food practices, professional sports clubs

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The UK prevalence of male obesity is amongst the highest in Europe (International Association for the Study of Obesity, 2010). It is expected to rise at a faster rate than female obesity in the next 35 years (Government Office for Science, 2007) and nearly 50% of UK men are expected to be obese by 2030 (Wang, McPherson, & Marsh, 2011). These trends pose a threat to individual health (through increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer), a burden on health services and a challenge to public health (Counterweight Project, 2008; Gortmaker et al., 2012; Greener, Douglas, & van Teijlingen, 2010; King, 2011; Wang et al., 2011). The development and evaluation of weight management strategies which are effective and appealing to men is a public health priority (Gortmaker et al., 2012, Hunt et al., 2014a; Morgan, Lubans, Collins, Warren, & Callister, 2011c).

Weight management strategies that focus on individual behavioural change and ignore the socio-economic and socio-cultural context in which behaviours are enacted, whereby "food, bodies and eating are disembodied and disengaged from the social contexts in which people live their lives" (Warin, Turner, Moore, & Davies, 2008, p. 98), are unlikely to be successful. Behavioural "choices," such as eating less and undertaking more physical activity, need to be understood as embedded within and influenced by social and cultural contexts (Hunt, McCann, Gray, Mutrie, & Wyke, 2013). The place of gender in understanding and influencing these in context, i.e. as social practices, is important not least because health behaviours such as eating and physical activity are an important means through which performances of gender are achieved (Bennett & Gough, 2013; Gough & Conner, 2006).

We have argued elsewhere (Hunt et al., 2013) that prevailing cultural constructions of masculinity are closely related to men's decisions about health-related behaviours, including help-seeking (Galdas, 2009; Hunt, Adamson, & Galdas, 2010; O'Brien, Hunt, & Hart, 2005) and alcohol consumption (De Visser & Smith, 2006; Emslie, Hunt, & Lyons, 2012; Lyons & Willott, 2008), as well as eating (Bennett & Gough, 2013; De Souza & Ciclitira, 2005; Gough & Conner, 2006; Jensen & Holm, 1999; Sloan, Gough, & Conner, 2010) and physical activity (PA) (Messner, 1992; Sloan et al., 2010; Welsh, Robinson, & Lindman, 1998). These constructions are often presumed to be inherently health-damaging (Courtenay, 2000), mitigating against men taking care of their health, or putting them in an ambiguous position between wanting to care for their health as responsible citizens, without appearing to care "too much" as men (Robertson, 2003). We have also argued that weight management strategies which take account of cultural ideals of masculinity, so that interventions are seen to bolster rather than threaten valued aspects of men's identities, are more likely to be successful (Hunt et al. …

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