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The bigger society: considering lived consumption experiences in managing social change around obesity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Mary McCarthy, Dr Mary Brennan


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Purpose - This paper aims to argue that the limited success in addressing rising rates of obesity is underscored by health promotion practices and policies' failure to consider the instrumental and symbolic functioning of food as part of identity formation, relationship construction and socio-cultural conditioning over consumers' life course events. The aim of this paper is to ignite the power of critical approaches that seek social change through contextualising the subjectivities of obese individuals' personal lived experiences with food.Design/methodology/approach - Taking a transformative consumer research approach which recognises the range of theories and paradigms required to comprehend and positively influence well-being, this paper draws on the work of Foucault and Bourdieu to study the discourses of 21 obese adult consumers.Findings - The research shows that food behaviours conducive to weight gain are enmeshed in participants' biographies and everyday experiences across the arenas of identity, environment and the body. Transposable dispositions are formed across these arenas which often can be at odds with practices of self-care and frame how individuals use food in their responses to significant life occurrences.Practical implications - The findings provide an avenue to potentially guide policymakers in shaping health-promotion programmes which assist consumers in self-regulation without compromising their relational identities, interests and self-knowledge.Originality/value - This paper makes several important contributions to the managerial understanding of obesity, including the consideration of "obesogenecity" beyond its relativity to the temporal surroundings of "built" and social fields in the here and now, and more relative to the illimitable occasions, times, spaces or stages consumers traverse through their lives.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brennan M; McCarthy M; Cronin J; McCarthy S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Journal of Marketing

Year: 2014

Volume: 48

Issue: 9-10

Pages: 1558-1578

Print publication date: 01/09/2014

ISSN (print): 0309-0566

ISSN (electronic): 1758-7123

Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Ltd


DOI: 10.1108/EJM-02-2013-0065


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