The Role of Gender Identity in Meal Selection and Health Related Behavioural Intentions in Men
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Abstract Background: Research suggests that gender identity may play an influential role in food selection and engagement in health related behaviour; with men being less likely to engage in dieting and healthy eating and more likely to engage in exercise compared with women. Men also show greater sensitivity to gender identity manipulations, with masculinity threats resulting in over compensatory behaviours. Hypotheses: It was hypothesized that a threat to male gender identity would result in higher levels of masculine food selection, lower healthy eating intention and higher exercise intention scores compared with the comparison conditions Methods: A pilot study investigated perceptions of gender and healthiness of twenty-three different meals which were subsequently used in the main study. In the main study, a between groups design was used to investigate the effect of identity threat on meal selection, healthy eating and exercise intentions in men. Three groups participated; those receiving a threat to masculinity (n = 64); an affirmation of masculinity (n = 80) and a control group (n = 58). Results: A significant positive correlation between ratings of meals as masculine and ratings of meals as unhealthy was found in the pilot study. In the main study, a significant difference across conditions in meal selection was found for dinner options only, but no significant results for breakfast, lunch and total day options. No significant differences were found between conditions in healthiness and exercise intentions. Discussion: Overall, the results of the study did not support the hypotheses, with the exception of meal selection at dinner time. The implications of the results are discussed and areas for future research are identified, with the aim of gaining a better understanding of the role of gender identity in relation to men’s eating and health related behaviours.