Just desserts? Exploring constructions of food in women's experiences of bulimia

Kate Churruca*, Jane M. Ussher, Janette Perz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Bulimia, an eating disorder that affects more women than men, involves binging and compensatory behaviors. Given the importance of food in experiences of these behaviors, in this article, we examine constructions of food in accounts of bulimic behavior: how these constructions relate to cultural discourses, and their implications for subjectivity. Fifteen women who engaged in bulimic behaviors were interviewed. Through a thematic decomposition of their accounts, we identified six discursive constructions of food: "good/healthy" or "bad/unhealthy," "contaminating body and soul," "collapsed into fat," "pleasurable reward," "comfort," and "fuel for the body." Many constructions were consolidated through participants' embodied experiences, but made available through discourses in public health, biomedicine, and femininity, and had implications for subjectivity in terms of morality, spirituality, and self-worth. Thus, despite women deploying these constructions to make sense of their bulimic behaviors, they are culturally normative; this point has implications for therapeutic and preventive strategies for bulimia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1491-1506
Number of pages16
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Australia
  • diet, nutrition
  • discourse analysis
  • eating disorders
  • health promotion
  • interviews
  • malnutrition
  • qualitative
  • social constructionism
  • thematic decomposition
  • women's health


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