You are what you eat? Vegetarianism, health and identity

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Jun;66(12):2585-95. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.02.011. Epub 2008 Apr 2.


This paper examines the views of 'health vegetarians' through a qualitative study of an online vegetarian message board. The researcher participated in discussions on the board, gathered responses to questions from 33 participants, and conducted follow-up e-mail interviews with 18 of these participants. Respondents were predominantly from the United States, Canada and the UK. Seventy per cent were female, and ages ranged from 14 to 53 years, with a median of 26 years. These data are interrogated within a theoretical framework that asks, 'what can a vegetarian body do?' and explores the physical, psychic, social and conceptual relations of participants. This provides insights into the identities of participants, and how diet and identity interact. It is concluded that vegetarianism is both a diet and a bodily practice with consequences for identity formation and stabilisation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Diet, Vegetarian* / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Identification, Psychological*
  • Internet
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Vitamins


  • Vitamins