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Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Sean T. Doherty

Advisor Role

Thesis supervisor


As obesity rates continue to rise, the negative health impacts associated with unhealthy food choice behaviour remain an issue of concern. Observing the connection between food consumption and weight gain alone is likely not sufficient to understanding people’s construction of food choices. More detailed examination of a novel concept, the overall food choice process (FCP), including food thoughts, plans, purchases, and preparation, leading up to food intake/consumption may contribute to an improved understanding of food choice behaviour.

This thesis explored the wider FCP that gives rise to observed food consumption by testing passive video recording technologies, an innovative data collection method that yielded maximum detail and minimal recall bias and misreporting as possible. This thesis also examined the patterns of FCP decisions, and its potential relationships with sociodemographic and social interaction related variables using exploratory multivariate statistical techniques, as well as the possible effects of social influence on FCP decisions, based on real-world observations and an in-depth follow-up interview.

Data were obtained from 20 participants (aged 30 to 50), who wore a hidden body video camera over a 4-day period to capture their actual daily food-related activities. FCP events were coded with relative certainty about 66.1% of the time, according to a subjective, yet systematic ranking by the researcher.

Findings from the empirical analysis revealed that food purchases tended to occur in social settings and food preparations occurred alone at home; social interaction variables tended to correlate most with the FCP variables and body mass index unexpectedly had no significant correlation at all; overweight subjects’ FCP decisions that were affected by social influence when they conformed to others’ dietary patterns were possibly due to social stigma.

This experimental study demonstrated the potential for an automated tracking system to capture fine-leveled information as part of the overall FCP beyond just food consumption in real-world environments. The empirical results potentially supported several elaborations to the food choice process model—expansion of the personal food systems stage to possibly include FCP decisions, sociodemographic and social interaction variables, and ordered sequence strings of FCP decisions, as well as the influences stage to potentially include sociodemographic characteristics and social factors influencing FCP decisions. Adding these observable and interconnected elements missing from the mechanical part of the model may contribute to an improved understanding of daily food choice behaviour, however further research on a larger scale is warranted.

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