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Cultural analysis of dieting consumers' construction of bodies and identities

Hanna Leipämaa‐Leskinen (Department of Marketing, University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 6 September 2011




The purpose of this paper is to analyze how meanings of body and identity are constructed when dieting. The paper utilizes cultural approach and focuses on the ways meanings of body and identity are constructed in social interaction.


A netnographic research design connected to qualitative diary research was applied in the study. Three web diaries including notes from a period longer than one year were analysed inductively. That is, the research questions were approached data driven.


Three themes showing the cultural meanings of dieting body were identified: “towards a better body”, “the ashamed body” and “back into control”. Moreover, two themes address the negotiating with the contradictory meanings of identity. They were labeled as “from invisible to visible” and “the humanlike scales”. The identified themes were further analysed in relation to previous findings presented by Thompson and Hirschman in their analysis of consumers' experiences of their embodied selves.


Little attention has been paid to dieting in previous cultural consumption studies even though meanings body and identity and their intertwining have been addressed. As the present findings are based on the naturally occurring data, they offer new ways to understand the meanings related to dieting. Maintaining the body project seems to be the project of becoming something (better) and therefore it asks the consumer to negotiate continuously with her body and identity. Consequently, the paper brings forth social and marketing implications that are developed on the grounds of findings.



Leipämaa‐Leskinen, H. (2011), "Cultural analysis of dieting consumers' construction of bodies and identities", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 360-373.



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