Article Data

  • Views 417
  • Dowloads 135

Original Research

Open Access

Healthful eating as a manhood threat

  • Joseph A. Vandello1,*,
  • Jennifer K. Bosson1
  • Timothy Andrew Caswell2
  • Jenna R. Cummings3

1Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620, USA

2Department of Psychology, Gannon University, Erie, PA 16541, USA

3Department of Psychology, University of Liverpool, L69 7ZQ Liverpool, UK

DOI: 10.22514/jomh.2024.007 Vol.20,Issue 1,January 2024 pp.42-56

Submitted: 04 October 2023 Accepted: 15 November 2023

Published: 30 January 2024

*Corresponding Author(s): Joseph A. Vandello E-mail:


Two studies test the hypotheses that men’s dietary choices are guided by the perceived genderedness of foods, men avoid feminine (but healthy) foods as a result, and that endorsing a healthy but feminine diet can be a masculinity threat. Study 1A established gendered associations about a wide range of foods and diet types by having a college student population rate the masculinity and femininity of a wide variety of foods and diet types. Study 1B surveyed university students and found that the perceived genderedness of foods predicted men’s but not women’s food preferences, even when controlling for traditional gender role endorsement and foods’ perceived healthiness. In Study 2, we experimentally tested whether a healthy but feminine diet represents a masculinity threat for men. Using a sample of college students, men and women were assigned to publicly endorse a feminine (vegetarian) or masculine (meat-based) diet. Men (but not women) who endorsed the vegetarian diet compensated by reporting stronger identification with their gender and more liking for masculine activities, and they reported being less offended by jokes that targeted feminine groups that symbolically threaten manhood (women and gay men). Collectively, these results suggest that men may compromise healthy eating habits because of manhood concerns, and endorsing healthy but feminine diets can create motivations to compensate for threatened masculinity.


Masculinity; Precarious manhood; Dietary health; Food

Cite and Share

Joseph A. Vandello,Jennifer K. Bosson,Timothy Andrew Caswell,Jenna R. Cummings. Healthful eating as a manhood threat. Journal of Men's Health. 2024. 20(1);42-56.


[1] Schultz EJ. Weight watchers picks a new target: men. 2011. Available at: (Accessed: 9/27/23).

[2] Skarda E. No girls allowed: Dr. Pepper launches “manly” diet soda. 2011. Available at: (Accessed: 27 September 2023).

[3] Kinsman K. Men, meat, and marketing. 2021. Available at: (Accessed: 27 September 2023).

[4] Heller K. Liquid death is a mind-set; and also just canned water. 2023. Available at: (Accessed: 27 September 2023).

[5] Chaker A. M. Groceries become a guy thing. 2013. Available at: (Accessed: 27 September 2023).

[6] Contois EJH. Diners, dudes and diets: how gender and power collide in food media and culture. UNC Press: Chapel Hill. 2020.

[7] Sax D. How years of macho food marketing is killing men. 2016. Available at: (Accessed: 27 September 2023).

[8] Ciarambino T, Crispino P, Leto G, Mastrolorenzo E, Para O, Giordano M. Influence of gender in diabetes mellitus and its complication. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2022; 23: 8850.

[9] Mittelman SD. The role of diet in cancer prevention and chemotherapy efficacy. Annual Review of Nutrition. 2020; 40: 273–297.

[10] Firth J, Gangwisch JE, Borsini A, Wootton RE, Mayer EA. Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? The BMJ. 2020; 369: m2382.

[11] Stea TH, Nordheim O, Bere E, Stornes P, Eikemo TA. Fruit and vegetable consumption in Europe according to gender, educational attainment and regional affiliation—a cross-sectional study in 21 European countries. PLOS ONE. 2020; 15: e0232521.

[12] Rosenfeld DL, Tomiyama AJ. Gender differences in meat consumption and openness to vegetarianism. Appetite. 2021; 166: 105475.

[13] Gil M, Rudy M, Stanisławczyk R, Duma-Kocan P, Żurek J. Gender differences in eating habits of Polish young adults aged 20–26. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19: 15280.

[14] Cena H, Calder PC. Defining a healthy diet: evidence for the role of contemporary dietary patterns in health and disease. Nutrients. 2020; 12: 334.

[15] Grzymisławska M, Puch E, Zawada A, Grzymisławski M. Do nutritional behaviors depend on biological sex and cultural gender? Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine. 2020; 29: 165–172.

[16] Vandello JA, Bosson JK, Lawler JR. Precarious manhood and men’s health disparities. In Griffith DM, Bruce MA, Thorpe RJ (eds.) Men’s health equity: a handbook (pp. 27–41). 1st edn. Routledge: London, UK. 2019.

[17] Kiecolt KJ, Hughes M, Momplaisir H. Gender identity among US adults. In Stets JE, Serpe RT (eds.) Identities in everyday life (pp. 195–215). 1st edn. Oxford University Press: Oxford. 2019.

[18] Mertens A, Oberhoff L. Meat-eating justification when gender identity is threatened—the association between meat and male masculinity. Food Quality and Preference. 2023; 104: 104731.

[19] Stanaland A, Gaither S, Gassman-Pines A. When is masculinity “fragile”? An expectancy-discrepancy-threat model of masculine identity. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 2023; 27: 359–377.

[20] Witkowski TH. Male compensatory consumption in American history. Journal of Macromarketing. 2020; 40: 528–545.

[21] DiMuccio SH, Knowles ED. The political significance of fragile masculinity. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 2020; 34: 25–28.

[22] Willer R, Rogalin CL, Conlon B, Wojnowicz MT. Overdoing gender: a test of the masculine overcompensation thesis. American Journal of Sociology. 2013; 118: 980–1022.

[23] Connell RW, Messerschmidt JW. Hegemonic masculinity. Gender & Society. 2005; 19: 829–859.

[24] Neuman N. On the engagement with social theory in food studies: cultural symbols and social practices. Food, Culture & Society. 2019; 22: 78–94.

[25] Monterrosa EC, Frongillo EA, Drewnowski A, de Pee S, Vandevijvere S. Sociocultural influences on food choices and implications for sustainable healthy diets. Food and Nutrition Bulletin. 2020; 41: 59S–73S.

[26] Rozin P, Bauer R, Catanese D. Food and life, pleasure and worry, among American college students: gender differences and regional similarities. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003; 85: 132–141.

[27] Graziani AR, Guidetti M, Cavazza N. Food for boys and food for girls: do preschool children hold gender stereotypes about food? Sex Roles. 2021; 84: 491–502.

[28] Rothgerber H. Real men don’t eat (vegetable) quiche: masculinity and the justification of meat consumption. Psychology of Men and Masculinity. 2013; 14: 363–375.

[29] Rozin P, Hormes JM, Faith MS, Wansink B. Is meat male? A quantitative multimethod framework to establish metaphoric relationships. Journal of Consumer Research. 2012; 39: 629–643.

[30] Adamczyk D, Modlińska K, Maison D, Pisula W. Gender, masculinity, and the perception of vegetarians and vegans: a mixed-methods investigation. Sex Roles. 2023; 89: 595–609.

[31] Sellaeg K, Chapman GE. Masculinity and food ideals of men who live alone. Appetite. 2008; 51: 120–128.

[32] O’Doherty Jensen K, Holm L. Preferences, quantities and concerns: socio-cultural perspectives on the gendered consumption of foods. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999; 53: 351–359.

[33] Kimura A, Wada Y, Goto S, Tsuzuki D, Cai D, Oka T, et al. Implicit gender-based food stereotypes. Semantic priming experiments on young Japanese. Appetite. 2009; 52: 521–524.

[34] Mennella JA, Pepino MY, Reed DR. Genetic and environmental determinants of bitter perception and sweet preferences. Pediatrics. 2005; 115: e216–e222.

[35] Rozin P. Preadaptation and the puzzles and properties of pleasure. In Kahneman D, Diener E, Schwarz N (eds.) Well-being: the foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 109–133). 1st edn. Russell Sage: New York. 1999.

[36] Cavazza N, Graziani AR, Guidetti M. Impression formation via #foodporn: effects of posting gender-stereotyped food pictures on instagram profiles. Appetite. 2020; 147: 104565.

[37] Cavazza N, Guidetti M, Butera F. Portion size tells who I am, food type tells who you are: specific functions of amount and type of food in same- and opposite-sex dyadic eating contexts. Appetite. 2017; 112: 96–101.

[38] Vartanian LR, Herman CP, Polivy J. Consumption stereotypes and impression management: how you are what you eat. Appetite. 2007; 48: 265–277.

[39] Karisto A, Prattalaa R, Berg M. The good, the bad and the ugly: differences and changes in health related lifestyles. In Kjaernes U, Holm L, Ekstrom M, Furst EL, Prattalaa R (eds.) Regulating markets regulating people: on food and nutrition policy (pp. 185–201). 1st edn. Novus: Oslo. 1993.

[40] Oakes ME, Slotterback CS. Prejudgments of those who eat a “healthy” versus an “unhealthy” food for breakfast. Current Psychology. 2004; 23: 267–278.

[41] Zhu LL, Brescoll VL, Newman GE, Uhlmann EL. Macho nachos. The implicit effects of gendered food packaging on preferences for healthy and unhealthy foods. Social Psychology. 2015; 46: 182–196.

[42] Gasiorowska A, Folwarczny M, Tan LK, Otterbring T. Delicate dining with a date and burger binging with buddies: impression management across social settings and consumers’ preferences for masculine or feminine foods. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2003; 10: 1127409.

[43] Rosenfeld DL, Rothgerber H, Janet Tomiyama A. From mostly vegetarian to fully vegetarian: meat avoidance and the expression of social identity. Food Quality and Preference. 2020; 85: 103963.

[44] Oyserman D, Fryberg SA, Yoder N. Identity-based motivation and health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2007; 93: 1011–1027.

[45] Guendelman MD, Cheryan S, Monin B. Fitting in but getting fat. Psychological Science. 2011; 22: 959–967.

[46] Timeo S, Suitner C. Eating meat makes you sexy: conformity to dietary gender norms and attractiveness. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. 2018; 19: 418.

[47] Vandello JA, Bosson JK, Cohen D, Burnaford RM, Weaver JR. Precarious manhood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2008; 95: 1325–1339.

[48] Vandello JA, Bosson JK. Hard won and easily lost: a review and synthesis of research on precarious manhood. Psychology of Men and Masculinity. 2013; 14: 101–113.

[49] Courtenay W. Key determinants of the health and well-being of men and boys. International Journal of Men’s Health. 2003; 2: 1–30.

[50] Vandello JA, Wilkerson M, Bosson JK, Wiernik BM, Kosakowska N. Precarious manhood and men’s physical health around the world. Psychology of Men & Masculinities. 2023; 24: 1–15.

[51] Wilsnack RW, Wilsnack SC, Gmel G, Kantor LW. Gender differences in binge drinking: prevalence, predictors, and consequences. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews. 2018; 39: 57–76.

[52] Seymour-Smith S. Wetherell M, Phoenix A. ‘My wife ordered me to come!’: a discursive analysis of doctors’ and nurses’ accounts of men’s use of general practitioners. Journal of Health Psychology. 2002; 7: 253–267.

[53] Dixon J. The changing chicken: chooks, cooks, and culinary culture. 1st edn. UNSW Press: Sydney. 2002.

[54] Larsen KS, Long E. Attitudes toward sex-roles: traditional or egalitarian? Sex Roles. 1988; 19: 1–12.

[55] Raudenbush S, Bryk A, Cheong YF, Congdon R. Hierarchical and nonlinear modeling. 6th edn. Scientific Software International: Lincolnwood. 2004.

[56] DiMuccio SH, Knowles ED. The political significance of fragile masculinity. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 2020; 34: 25–28.

[57] Schermerhorn NEC, Vescio TK. Perceptions of a sexual advance from gay men leads to negative affect and compensatory acts of masculinity. European Journal of Social Psychology. 2022; 52: 260–279.

[58] Hsu N, Badura KL, Newman DA, Speach MEP. Gender, “masculinity,” and “femininity”: a meta-analytic review of gender differences in agency and communion. Psychological Bulletin. 2021; 147: 987–1011.

[59] Fingerhut AW, Peplau LA. The impact of social roles on stereotypes of gay men. Sex Roles. 2006; 55: 273–278.

[60] Bosson JK, Michniewicz KS. Gender dichotomization at the level of ingroup identity: what it is, and why men use it more than women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2013; 105: 425–442.

[61] Maass A, Cadinu M, Guarnieri G, Grasselli A. Sexual harassment under social identity threat: the computer harassment paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003; 85: 853–870.

[62] Schmitt MT, Branscombe NR. The good, the bad, and the manly: threats to one’s prototypicality and evaluations of fellow in-group members. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2001; 37: 510–517.

[63] Glick P, Gangl C, Gibb S, Klumpner S, Weinberg E. Defensive reactions to masculinity threat: more negative affect toward effeminate (but not masculine) gay men. Sex Roles. 2007; 57: 55–59.

[64] Luhtanen R, Crocker J. A collective self-esteem scale: self-evaluation of one’s social identity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 1992; 18: 302–318.

[65] Konopka K, Rajchert J, Dominiak-Kochanek M, Roszak J. The role of masculinity threat in homonegativity and transphobia. Journal of Homosexuality. 2021; 68: 802–829.

[66] Gal D, Wilkie J. Real men don’t eat quiche. Social Psychological and Personality Science. 2010; 1: 291–301.

[67] Wang T, Masedunskas A, Willett WC, Fontana L. Vegetarian and vegan diets: benefits and drawbacks. European Heart Journal. 2023; 44: 3423–3439.

[68] Rosenfeld DL. Gender differences in vegetarian identity: how men and women construe meatless dieting. Food Quality and Preference. 2020; 81: 103859.

[69] Branković M, Budžak A. The healthy, yet unhealthy choice: stereotypes about vegetarians and vegans in a meat-eating culture. Available at: (Accessed: 9/27/23).

Abstracted / indexed in

Science Citation Index Expanded (SciSearch) Created as SCI in 1964, Science Citation Index Expanded now indexes over 9,200 of the world’s most impactful journals across 178 scientific disciplines. More than 53 million records and 1.18 billion cited references date back from 1900 to present.

Journal Citation Reports/Science Edition Journal Citation Reports/Science Edition aims to evaluate a journal’s value from multiple perspectives including the journal impact factor, descriptive data about a journal’s open access content as well as contributing authors, and provide readers a transparent and publisher-neutral data & statistics information about the journal.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) DOAJ is a unique and extensive index of diverse open access journals from around the world, driven by a growing community, committed to ensuring quality content is freely available online for everyone.

SCImago The SCImago Journal & Country Rank is a publicly available portal that includes the journals and country scientific indicators developed from the information contained in the Scopus® database (Elsevier B.V.)

Publication Forum - JUFO (Federation of Finnish Learned Societies) Publication Forum is a classification of publication channels created by the Finnish scientific community to support the quality assessment of academic research.

Scopus: CiteScore 0.7 (2022) Scopus is Elsevier's abstract and citation database launched in 2004. Scopus covers nearly 36,377 titles (22,794 active titles and 13,583 Inactive titles) from approximately 11,678 publishers, of which 34,346 are peer-reviewed journals in top-level subject fields: life sciences, social sciences, physical sciences and health sciences.

Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers Search for publication channels (journals, series and publishers) in the Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers to see if they are considered as scientific. (

Submission Turnaround Time