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School of Business | Department of Marketing | Marketing | 2014
Thesis number: 13659
Consumers' Alternative Diets as Identity Projects - a Narrative Approach
Author: Luukkonen, Anniina
Title: Consumers' Alternative Diets as Identity Projects - a Narrative Approach
Year: 2014  Language: eng
Department: Department of Marketing
Academic subject: Marketing
Index terms: markkinointi; marketing; kuluttajakäyttäytyminen; consumer behaviour; identiteetti; identity; ruoka; food; terveys; health
Pages: 100
Key terms: food; health; consumption; identity; power; narrative; low-carbohydrate diet
Objective of the Study:

An objective of this Thesis is to elucidate how consumers make sense of their decision to reject official nutrition recommendations, and why they choose to follow a diet not generally accepted as healthy. This Thesis will furthermore view food consumption as an identity project for the postmodern consumers of the Western societies, by examining how consumers construct their identities through their food consumption choices. This Thesis contributes to an understanding of how and why consumers choose extreme and contested diets through exploring their sense-making of these choices in storied forms. This Thesis also includes a consideration of the negotiations and constructions of identity that take place in the choices of food consumption.


This research is qualitative by nature, falling into the category of interpretative research. Consequently, the principal aim of this research is to describe and gain understanding of the phenomena rather than to explain it. Interviews were held with consumers engaged in a strict dietary regime, low-carbing, in the form of a semi-structured discussion. The research data was then analyzed using narrative analysis to detect common themes and sequences in the narratives explored.

Key Findings:

The main findings of the research denote to the relationship between food and identity, as well as food and power. The findings present how first of all our food consumption is guided by numerous discourses and moreover, how consumers use discourses of food to negotiate their identities. Six stages in the narratives of low-carbing were detected, which offer an understanding in the sense-making of this resolution to leave the official dietary recommendations and to follow a dietary regime not generally accepted as healthy. These stages are namely gaining new knowledge, change, healing, validation, mistrust, and taking control. New knowledge for these consumers came in the form of competing expert knowledge on health and nutrition. This knowledge together with the numerous stories shared by low-carbers led to the change, and healing from the self-diagnosed illnesses they possessed. A stage of validation followed, where own bodies, personal experience and the stories of others were used for validating this new knowledge, creating mistrust and finally leading into taking control. From these narratives, five themes emerged. The first theme is named growing up as a consumer, into critical and conscious. Other themes are the rising critique towards authorities, striving for approval, governmentality and health. Findings suggest that despite the diet generally perceived as unhealthy, the interviewees hold an opposing perception of health hence not believing to follow an unhealthy diet. Together these stages and themes contribute to the identity construction of consumers following the contested diet of low-carbing.
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.