PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to explore adult diabetics' eating styles and factors which influence them. METHOD: The study adopted an ethnographic method based on a perspective which views the eating style as a cultural phenomenon. Data was collected through a personal interview, participant observation, and documented materials from Oct.2001 to Sept. 2002. In this study, fifteen adult diabetics, with an average age of 57, participated. Data analysis was done by the Spradley's taxonomic analysis technique. RESULT: The patients' eating styles were rooted in their viewpoint on illness as well as the meaning of food. Eating styles were classified into 4 types: Pathology-centered, symptom-centered, need-centered, and role-centered. CONCLUSION: A conventional approach to the treatment and management of diabetes did not consider the patient's inner world which may play an important role in the successful management of the disease. We found that it was critical for health care personnel to understand patients' values, beliefs and their way of life in order to facilitate the most successful self-care diet.