City Research Online

A Better Me? An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Experiences of Female Cancer Survivors’ Heightened Preoccupation With ‘Healthy Eating’

Eisenberg, E. & Josselin, D. ORCID: 0000-0002-9729-939X (2024). A Better Me? An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Experiences of Female Cancer Survivors’ Heightened Preoccupation With ‘Healthy Eating’. Qualitative Health Research, doi: 10.1177/10497323231224777


The end of treatment is known to be a particularly challenging time for many cancer survivors as they transition to coping with their condition independently. They may engage in health behaviours, such as implementing drastic dietary changes to manage the side effects of treatment they have undergone, or as a way to assuage their anxiety. Understanding cancer survivors’ heightened preoccupation with healthy eating is therefore fundamental to our understanding of the psychological phenomenology of cancer. This study explored how people who have developed a heightened preoccupation with healthy eating after a cancer diagnosis make sense of this change.

Eight participants were recruited through social media. They each engaged in a semistructured interview over Zoom concerning their changed relationship with food following cancer. Their accounts were then analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA).

The article focuses on five group experiential themes arising from the analysis, Open and Enlightened About Food, Becoming A Better Me?, Developing a New Passion for Nutrition and Becoming Consumed by Food. The themes that arose from the analysis speak to the experience of becoming a ‘better’ person from having lived through cancer and developed a new relationship with food. Instead of seeing illness as a loss, several of the participants reported a positive shift linked to having developed an interest in healthy eating, something which became central to their identity. However, others experienced their new engagement with healthy eating as a preoccupation that engulfed them. These findings are discussed in light of existing theory and research, and their clinical implications are outlined. Areas for future research are also suggested.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: cancer, eating, adjustment, coping, survivorship
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0254 Neoplasms. Tumors. Oncology (including Cancer)
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
[thumbnail of eisenberg-josselin-2024-a-better-me-an-interpretative-phenomenological-analysis-of-the-experiences-of-female-cancer.pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (611kB) | Preview
[thumbnail of Final AAM A Better Me Sage.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (332kB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login