Beyond the Belly

On the Psychology of Eating

Beyond the Bel­ly is a mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary lec­ture series pro­vid­ed by O’BRAIN Lab, Fac­ul­ty of Med­i­cine, Uni­ver­si­ty of Helsin­ki. It is open to stu­dents and the gen­er­al pub­lic. The aim is to give a broad per­spec­tive on eat­ing behav­ior away from patho­log­i­cal conditions.





How to Attend a Lecture?

For the lec­tures you would like to attend, please reg­is­ter using this form. Each lec­ture is held at one of the two pos­si­ble sites (See the maps below). Loca­tion for each lec­ture is stat­ed in the list above after the date:


Audi­to­ri­um 229, all lec­tures at this site are at 14:15 EET


Hall 107, all lec­tures at this site are at 10:15 EET


Lecture Summaries

Cultural and social resources in food and eating – culinary capital, cultural omnivorousness and culinary cosmopolitanism


March 17, 2023 14:15 EET @Aurora — Taru Lindblom, Professor in Food Culture, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki

What do food pref­er­ences and tastes regard­ing eat­ing tell about our socioe­co­nom­ic posi­tion? Is one’s taste real­ly an idio­syn­crat­ic per­son­al fea­ture? How do social­iza­tion, peers, and oth­er rel­e­vant lifestyle groups affect the ways we appre­ci­ate or appro­pri­ate cer­tain ways of eat­ing? What oth­er resources than the mon­e­tary ones are rel­e­vant in the above-men­tioned issues?

The lec­ture will give insights into food-cul­tur­al issues to eat­ing i.e. look at the role of cul­tur­al and social resources in food and eat­ing. The view­points pre­sent­ed dur­ing the lec­ture draw from dis­ci­plines of cul­tur­al soci­ol­o­gy and soci­ol­o­gy of con­sump­tion. The lec­ture will explore soci­o­log­i­cal con­cepts such as cul­tur­al and culi­nary cap­i­tal, cul­tur­al omniv­o­rous­ness, and culi­nary cos­mopoli­tanism. Here, food is con­sid­ered a cul­tur­al arti­fact, and rather than focus­ing on the nutri­tion­al val­ue of food­stuffs it empha­sizes the mean­ings placed to eat­ing that are brought about in social rela­tion­ships between people.


 Social Media’s Impact on Eating Behavior


March 24, 2023 14:15 EET @Aurora — Maria Kardakova, Doctoral Student, University of Surrey, UK, Registered Nutritionist, Instagram Blogger

It appears that unhealthy eat­ing behav­iours such as skip­ping meals, binge eat­ing and emo­tion­al eat­ing are asso­ci­at­ed with social media use. In addi­tion, social media users are more like­ly to com­pare them­selves to oth­ers, lead­ing to feel­ings of inad­e­qua­cy and body dis­sat­is­fac­tion. This could also lead to orthorex­ia ner­vosa and dis­or­dered eat­ing behav­iours such as restric­tive diet­ing and binge eating.

 We will dis­cuss the poten­tial risks asso­ci­at­ed with the use of social media and how it can lead to unhealthy eat­ing habits and body image. We will talk about dif­fer­ent tac­tics that social media has used through­out his­to­ry to con­fuse peo­ple about their body image and lifestyle.

We will also talk about how social media can pro­mote healthy eat­ing habits and cre­ate a pos­i­tive envi­ron­ment for healthy eat­ing. We will dis­cuss mod­ern trends in well­be­ing and the work that has been done in this area at a social and reg­u­la­to­ry level.



The Role of Social Identity and Social Norms on Plant-forward Eating


March 31, 2023 14:15 EET @Aurora — Laura Salmivaara, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Forest Sciences, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability (HELSUS)

Being aware of cli­mate change and bio­di­ver­si­ty loss should change our food habits in a more sus­tain­able direc­tion. Reduc­ing the con­sump­tion of meat and increas­ing the con­sump­tion of plant-based foods would ben­e­fit the envi­ron­ment sig­nif­i­cant­ly but steer­ing the change has proven to be chal­leng­ing and eat­ing meat has remained a pre­vail­ing norm in West­ern soci­eties.
Food choic­es are com­plex process­es that are influ­enced by many fac­tors and sus­tain­abil­i­ty increas­es the com­plex­i­ty. Peo­ple define and express them­selves with dif­fer­ent food choic­es depend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion and peer group. Exam­in­ing of social iden­ti­ty opens one aspect for con­sid­er­ing of food choic­es and the dif­fi­cul­ty of chang­ing them. Con­sumers who iden­ti­fy with cer­tain social groups and thus adopt dif­fer­ent social iden­ti­ties are also more like­ly to act accord­ing to the group’s social norms and to con­sume foods with char­ac­ter­is­tics that match the group. Accord­ing to the research, the effect of social iden­ti­ty is dif­fer­ent for veg­e­tar­i­ans, veg­ans, omni­vores, or flex­i­tar­i­ans. More­over, par­tic­u­lar­ly veg­e­tar­i­ans and veg­ans face sit­u­a­tions where social norms con­flict. They may feel social pres­sure to behave in accor­dance with pre­vail­ing (meat eat­ing) norms. On the oth­er hand, they may feel the need to try to change or under­mine them.
The lec­ture dis­cuss­es the role of social iden­ti­ty and social norms in sus­tain­able food choic­es, espe­cial­ly relat­ed to plant-for­ward eat­ing. We also go through social norms as a way to change behaviour.



Going with your gut: The Role of Vagal Afferent Signals in the Control of Behavior


April 14, 2023 14:15 EET @Aurora — Nils Kroemer, Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Psych. (Professor of Medical Psychology, University of Bonn & University of Tübingen)

The vagus nerve plays a vital role in adjust­ing behav­ior accord­ing to meta­bol­ic demands by trans­mit­ting sig­nals from periph­er­al organs to the brain. Although vagal affer­ent pro­jec­tions are assumed to play a lim­it­ed role in goal-direct­ed behav­ior, I will review emerg­ing evi­dence on their rel­e­vance in allostasis—facilitating prospec­tive changes in behav­ior that ensure long-term sta­bil­i­ty of home­osta­sis. First, in line with recent pre­clin­i­cal find­ings, I will show that non-inva­sive tran­scu­ta­neous vagus nerve stim­u­la­tion (tVNS) boosts moti­va­tion and mood recov­ery after exer­tion. Sec­ond, I will high­light stim­u­la­tion-induced changes in rein­force­ment learn­ing, indi­cat­ing a broad­er role of vagal affer­ents in val­ue-based deci­sion-mak­ing. Third, I will review how tVNS mod­u­lates the inte­gra­tion of bod­i­ly sig­nals and dis­cuss how mul­ti­modal stud­ies on gut-brain inter­ac­tion may help advance insights about adap­tive behav­ior beyond delib­er­ate top-down con­trol. Fourth, I will out­line sev­er­al remain­ing chal­lenges and open ques­tions that still ham­per trans­la­tion­al advances. Tak­en togeth­er, the recent progress has paved the way for an improved under­stand­ing of the con­trol of adap­tive behav­ior by sig­nals orig­i­nat­ing from the body, which may help resolve long-stand­ing ques­tions about the link between somat­ic symp­toms and men­tal disorders.



Food & Marketing


April 19, 2023 10:15 EET @Athena — Laura Forsman, Viikki FOOD DESIGN FACTORY Manager

Food in our day and era is a mar­ket-dri­ven busi­ness. What is the role of mar­ket­ing — e.g. food design and adver­tis­ing —  in the way we con­sume food and sat­is­fy our diverse needs with food? How has the com­modi­ti­za­tion of food led to a food sys­tem in cri­sis, includ­ing the neg­a­tive exter­nal­i­ties on human health? What kind of food “prod­ucts” could we have in the future, that lead us to a place where food is sus­tain­able, healthy and its busi­ness is social­ly just?


The role of food literacy in the modern food environment


April, 28, 2023 14:15 EET @Aurora — Riikka Pajulahti, Doctoral Student, Department of Food and Nutrition, University of Helsinki; Henna Vepsäläinen, Researcher, Department of Food and Nutrition, University of Helsinki

The cur­rent food envi­ron­ment has become increas­ing­ly com­plex. Thus, mul­ti­ple fac­tors of the envi­ron­ment around us affect our food-relat­ed behav­iors and eat­ing habits. What is the role of food lit­er­a­cy, i.e., the skills, knowl­edge, and behav­iors to access, under­stand and use food-relat­ed infor­ma­tion, in pro­tect­ing diet qual­i­ty and sus­tain­able food choic­es in the food sys­tem? And how food lit­er­a­cy devel­ops through­out child­hood and ado­les­cence in dif­fer­ent envi­ron­men­tal settings?



Towards evidence-based sustainable public health nutrition — Nordic Nutrition recommendations 2022


May, 5, 2023 14:15 EET @Aurora — Maijaliisa Erkkola, Professor, Department of Food and Nutrition, University of Helsinki

The new edi­tion of the Nordic Nutri­tion Rec­om­men­da­tions (NNR) will be pub­lished in June 2023. The NNR con­sti­tutes the sci­en­tif­ic basis for nation­al nutri­ent rec­om­men­da­tions and food-based dietary guide­lines (FBDG) in Nordic and Baltic coun­tries. In addi­tion to include an update on NNR for ener­gy, macro- and micronu­tri­ents, NNR2022 will devel­op evi­dence-based plat­forms for the nation­al FBDG as well as the inte­gra­tion of over­weight and obe­si­ty, and sus­tain­abil­i­ty and envi­ron­men­tal issues into FBDG. The sci­en­tif­ic report will be the most author­i­ta­tive frame­work for inte­gra­tion of sus­tain­abil­i­ty into the nation­al FBDGs in the Nordic and Baltic coun­tries, and their nation­al food and health poli­cies and programs.



Health enhancing food policies


May, 5, 2023 14:15 EET @Aurora — Minna Huttunen, Ministerial Adviser at Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland

Food sys­tems mat­ter for food and nutri­tion secu­ri­ty and for the liveli­hoods of those involved in these activ­i­ties (eco­nom­ic sus­tain­abil­i­ty), but also for envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty. These key objec­tives are inter­con­nect­ed, but pol­i­cy mak­ing and pol­i­cy analy­sis have his­tor­i­cal­ly tend­ed to deal with them in iso­la­tion. Food sys­tems ‑con­cept draws atten­tion to the impor­tant syn­er­gies and trade-offs that might exist between these dif­fer­ent areas, and to the need for increased co-ordi­na­tion between pol­i­cy mak­ing com­mu­ni­ties. What is the role of poli­cies and what can be achieved with them? Bet­ter poli­cies for food sys­tems require robust, evi­dence-based, and inclu­sive pol­i­cy process­es. To devel­op effec­tive poli­cies, these process­es must suc­cess­ful­ly over­come fric­tions relat­ed to facts, inter­ests, and val­ues. Food sys­tems are high­ly depen­dent on the envi­ron­ment, but also exert pres­sures on it. The world is fac­ing major chal­lenges: 1) Glob­al­ly, about 2 bil­lion peo­ple do not have reg­u­lar access to suf­fi­cient, safe, and nutri­tious food; an even greater num­ber are over­weight or obese. 2) Tech­ni­cal and struc­tur­al change and the reper­cus­sions of COVID-19 as well as changes brought by the Russ­ian aggres­sive mil­i­tary action are putting pres­sure on the liveli­hoods of peo­ple work­ing on 570 mil­lion farms world­wide and along oth­er stages of the food sup­ply chain. 3) The envi­ron­men­tal dam­age from food pro­duc­tion is con­sid­er­able. Around 80% of all threat­ened ter­res­tri­al bird and mam­mal species are in dan­ger because of habi­tat loss due to agri­cul­tur­al expan­sion; food pro­duc­tion (includ­ing pre-pro­duc­tion and post-pro­duc­tion activ­i­ties) accounts for 21–37% of anthro­pogenic green­house gas emis­sions. Food sys­tems approach makes progress simul­ta­ne­ous­ly on all these three dimen­sions. Pol­i­cy mak­ers active in dif­fer­ent areas (e.g. agri­cul­ture, fish­eries, envi­ron­ment, pub­lic health) must take a more holis­tic view on the set of objec­tives as well as on the set of pos­si­ble pol­i­cy levers, and coor­di­nate to avoid inco­her­ent poli­cies. Poor diet con­tribute to poor nutri­tion and poor health out­come, increased num­ber of non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­ease (dia­betes type 2, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, many can­cers), increased health­care expen­di­ture, short­er life-span, decreased labor pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and low­er income.

What kind of food pol­i­cy tools are used and how well they work to improve health?