Online weight-loss services and a calculative practice of slimming

Online weight loss services provide a novel kind of a material tool that ‘scripts’ the practice of slimming. This study takes a practice-theoretical approach to the slimming practice produced when using such services. It analyses the script of use that is constructed by the services, and the meanings, materialities and competences that are enacted in their use. Based on 20 interviews with women who were users of two Finnish online weight-loss services, the study concludes that the services transform food into quantitative depictions of calories and nutrition. They configure slimmers as calculative agents and slimming as a practice based on incessant recording and monitoring. For online slimmers, the services acted in the double role of a control device with a focus on calorie restriction, and a learning device used to develop a skill of healthy eating. In the latter role, online slimming was hoped to result in an internalisation of a lifestyle change that would make calculation and constant monitoring unnecessary and the services redundant for their users. The results suggest that for its practitioners, online slimming is temporary rather than longstanding, but it may and is expected to act as a mediary in establishing other practices related to healthy lifestyles.


Niva, M. (in press) Online weight-loss services and a calculative practice of slimming. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine (2015), DOI: 10.1177/1363459315622042.

Everyday distinction and omnivorous orientation

In recent years, studies on cultural consumption have experienced a Bourdieusian renaissance. This is indicated by a growing body of research analysing distinctions in different areas of culture, and numerous studies on the homology thesis applying the concepts of distinction, field and capital. Concurrently, however, it has been argued that instead of distinctive tastes, distinction and class status are increasingly manifested by cultural omnivorousness. Most studies on distinction in food have analysed eating out and stylization through restaurant preferences, rather than everyday food choices.

In this article, Nina Kahma, Mari Niva, Satu Helakorpi ja Piia Jallioja investigate everyday food choices from the perspective of distinction and omnivorousness. They draw on cross-sectional quantitative data collected in 2012 among 15–64-year-old Finns (N = 2601). The article maps out the relationship between food choice frequencies, dispositions and social background with Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA). The results show that the consumption of fruit and vegetables, ready-meals and convenience foods were among the most divisive food choices. The first structuring dimension juxtaposed processed, fatty and sugared foods with unprocessed foods and fresh ingredients. This dimension was associated with healthiness and weight control as dispositions. On the second structuring dimension there were differences in the valuation of taste, pleasure and sociability, and a contrast between moderate and restrictive choices. Particularly the first dimension was associated with educational, occupational, and gender differences. Distinction within everyday food choices was manifested in the use of healthy and unprocessed foods and ‘moderate hedonism’ in contrast to more restrictive tastes.

Article: Kahma, N., Niva, M., Helakorpi, S., & Jallinoja, P. (2016). Everyday distinction and omnivorous orientation: An analysis of food choice, attitudinal dispositions and social background. Appetite, 96, 443-453.

The food we eat in the Nordic countries: stability and change

Together with Nordic colleagues, Mari Niva and Nina Kahma from the CSCR contributed to an article called The Food We Eat in the Nordic Countries. The authors show that from 1997 to 2012, Nordic food culture is characterized by stability but also some change. Core elements in traditional Nordic national food cultures persist, such as the existence of two different lunch cultures based on hot and cold meals respectively, the dominant position of meat in dinner dishes, and the rather simple meal formats of both hot lunches and dinners, as ‘platefuls’. But many changes can be identified too, such as the marked tendency that water is becoming the most popular everyday drink for all meal types, the radical decline in cake served as an in-between, the apparent increase in vegetarian hot lunches and dinners, the introduction of fruit and vegetables at breakfast and lunch, and the rise in cereals and yoghurts for breakfast.

Full article:  Holm, L., Skov Lauridsen, D., Gronow, J., Kahma, N., Kjærnes, U.,Bøker Lund, T., Mäkelä, J. & Niva, M. (2015). The food we eat in Nordic countries – some changes between 1997 and 2012. In Bergström, K., Jonsson, I.M., Prell, H., Wernersson, I, Åberg, H. (Eds.)  MAT ÄR MER ÄN MAT. Samhällsvetenskapliga perspektiv på mat och måltider. Vänbok till Marianne Pipping Ekström. Göteborgs Universitet, Institut for Idrotts- och kostvetenskap. Online:

Nordic study shows everyday contexts facilitate or hamper healthy eating practices

Together with Nordic colleagues, Mari Niva analysed the relationship between diet quality and the following practices: social company while eating, the regularity and duration of eating and the activity of watching TV while eating, using a survey addressed to representative samples of the population in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden (N = 7531). The questionnaire elicited detailed accounts of one day of eating focusing on social and practical aspects of eating events. The authors conclude that daily practices related to eating are correlated with diet quality. Practices that are important are in part universal but also country-specific. Efforts to promote healthy eating should address not only cognitive factors but also everyday contexts of eating that facilitate or hamper healthy practices.

Full article: Holm, L., Lund, T. B., & Niva, M. (2015). Eating practices and diet quality: a population study of four Nordic countries. European journal of clinical nutrition. Online: