The purpose of this paper is to explore and elucidate adolescents’ reasoning about risks related to food and eating.
Boys and girls aged 15-16 years participated in a focus group interview with role-playing as a stimulus for discussion and reflection. In all, 31 participants took part, divided into five groups. In the role-playing, the participants portrayed agents who they perceived to give messages about food. In the focus group they discussed their experience of carrying out the role-play, and how they usually cope with conflicting messages, preferences and needs regarding food and eating.
The findings suggested that there were two main themes of risk profiling related to eating. One concerned bodily risk related to the food ingested and included concerns both about not reaching health and performance due to the unfavourable intake of calories, nutrients, additives, bacteria, viruses and parasites, and threats to immediate well-being following consumption. The second main category concerned the risk of being conspicuous, or “sticking out”, which incorporated food-based gender norms and norms related to table manners. In practice, the risk of not displaying an appropriate image of themselves through their food and eating choices was more prominent than risk perceptions related to impacts of food choices on well-being and performance. Difficulties in classifying foods as “good” or “bad” enhanced their uncertainty.
The results suggest that health-promotion activities for young people should focus not only on how to feed their bodies but also on how to avoid feeding their anxieties.
Rendahl, J., Korp, P., Ekström, M. and Berg, C. (2018), "Eating and risk: adolescents’ reasoning regarding body and image", Health Education, Vol. 118 No. 3, pp. 262-276. https://doi.org/10.1108/HE-05-2017-0026Download as .RIS
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