Understanding the meaning of food in people with type 2 diabetes living in Northern Appalachia

Elizabeth A. Beverly, Marilyn D. Ritholz, Linda A. Wray, Ching Ju Chiu, Emmy Suhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Purpose. Food and eating convey memories and feelings and serve important functions in creating and maintaining relationships. Given the increasing rate of diabetes in the United States, research understanding the meaning of food may shed light on how patients negotiate everyday food choices while managing type 2 diabetes. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the meaning of food among adults with type 2 diabetes living in Northern Appalachia. Methods. In-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted with type 2 diabetes patients. Interviews were coded and analyzed via thematic analysis. Results. Nineteen adults with type 2 diabetes (mean age 68.7 ± 10.6 years, mean A1C 7.4 ± 1.4%, mean diabetes duration 10.9 ± 11.9 years, 52.6% female, 100% white) participated in the study. Qualitative analysis revealed three themes: 1) "Sustaining Life:" Food and the Demands of Diabetes Management, in which participants described the role of food as operational and said that eating was dictated by time rather than hunger or pleasure; 2) "Diabetes Feels Like a Yield Sign:" Diabetes Changes Perceptions of Food, Enjoyment, and Social Relationships, in which most participants described a negative or ambivalent relationship with food after their diabetes diagnosis; and 3) "Food is Everywhere; It's Seducing:" Struggling With Diabetes Management in a Fast-Food Culture, in which participants discussed how the American fast-food culture was in direct conflict with the demands of diabetes and described how they struggled to follow a healthful diet in a culture that advertised the opposite in many venues. Conclusion. Adults with diabetes may benefit from education that addresses both the personal and sociocultural factors that guide food choices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-24
Number of pages11
JournalDiabetes Spectrum
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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