Defence of thesis Friday 29. November - Heidi Kvalvaag

Heidi Kvalvaag will defend her Ph.D. degree at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of sociology and Political Science.

The title of the thesis is:

Hvorfor er livsstilsendring vanskelig? Kropp, mat og livsstil som (ernærings-)vitenskap og praksis»

The Faculty for Social Sciences and Technology Management has appointed the following committee to evaluate the dissertation:

  • Professor Martin Invar, Karolinska institutet, Sverige
  • Professor Per Solvang, Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus
  • Professor Ann Rudinow Sætnan, Institutt for sosiologi og statsvitenskap, NTNU

Professor Ann Rudinow Sætnan has administrered the cimmittee's work.

The defence will be held at 12:30, Friday 29th of November 2013 in auditorium R8, Realfagsbyttet, Gløshaugen Campus.

The trial lecture will be held at 10:15, Friday Friday 29th of November 2013 in auditorium R8, Realfagsbyttet, Gløshaugen Campus.on the following topic:

«Kan forebygging av overvekt bygge på en syntese av ernæringsvitenskap og sosiologi?»

Both the trial lecture and the defense are open to the public.
The work is supported by the Department of Sociology and Political Science, NTNU. The candidate's supervisor has been Associate professor Arve Hjelseth.



Healthy, fit and slim are highly esteemed values. Access to nutrition knowledge and healthy food has made it possible for many to try to change lifestyle. The principles are simple, eat a little less and lighter, and move a little more. Despite this, many fail. An increasing number are developing obesity and lifestyle diseases (NCDs). The thesis questions the principles and explores other ways to understand lifestyle change.

Based on a literature study, the thesis documents that science of body and food are generalized from the concepts of corpus and nutrition, developed in nutrition science and related fields. This knowledge is based on one theory (atomic theory), studied in one context (laboratory) and in one perspective (from the outside, as recorded by researchers). The understanding of lifestyle is mainly based on intervention studies exploring changes in behavior indirectly, by measuring anatomy and physiology. This confined knowledge of body, food and lifestyle is the formal and valid knowledge in textbooks, national guidelines and health information.

Based on field research in lifestyle courses, the thesis examines the meaning of body, food and lifestyle as practice. Through participatory observations and interviews the participants' knowledge of body, food and lifestyle is brought to the forefront. It is characterized by diverse meanings depending on the situation, relationship and context, being at the same time practical and reflexive. Praxis knowledge is developed through interaction with other people, nature and society, within the framework of economics, culture and language.

The thesis shows that it is not valid to generalize from narrow theories of corpus, nutrition and behavior to existential and social phenomenon of body, food and lifestyle, as done in the nutrition principles of lifestyle change. The blurred terminology may be one explanation of why the NCD strategies have failed.

The thesis presents a new practice theory of body, food and lifestyle, based on empirical data and supported by theories of social neurology, body sociology and bio-semiotics. Practice theory makes it possible to understand the interaction between biology, society and individual action, which is the great challenge of NCD. The thesis argues for a new term, shift, taking into account human characteristics as inertia, necessity and relatedness. Two examples show how practice theory and shift can realize health policy and new health initiatives.