In a society that worships thinness, it’s little wonder that so many women devote an enormous amount of time, energy, and expense in the pursuit of a slender body. This pursuit has come to function like a religion, with it’s own set of beliefs, myths, rituals, images, and moral codes that encourage followers to seek “salvation” through weight loss.

At the heart of this secular “Religion of Thinness” is the belief that in order to be happy, healthy, and beautiful, one must be noticeably slim. Idealized images of this ideal inspire devotees to define themselves through their physical appearance, while daily rituals like counting fat grams and burning calories give them a sense of control.

The Religion of Thinness has its own moral guidelines: “good” and “bad” foods, as well as guilt and the possibility of penance for those who transgress. Before and after advertisements invite us to be “born again” by transfiguring our flesh, while weight-loss programs tap into our desire for community by promoting solidarity in the crusade against fat. Fanatics, like Pro-Ana websites provide thinspiration, and the most orthodox adherents develop eating disorders.

Ultimately, The Religion of Thinness offers false promises of freedom and fulfillment that leave followers feeling unsatisfied and incomplete. Learning to identify and more adequately address unmet spiritual needs is a crucial step toward resolving conflicts with food and weight.

The Religion of Thinness offers two practical tools to help readers on this journey: cultural criticism and mindfulness practice. Through the use of practical techniques, readers become more conscious of widespread societal messages that fuel the $60 billion weight loss industry and become deeply aware of internal responses, which can free them to live more peacefully in their own flesh. With its combined emphasis on cultural critique and spiritual growth, The Religion of Thinness charts new territory in the movement to create a culture in which the bodies of all people are unconditionally accepted, respected, cared for, and loved.

Written both as an indictment of sociocultural standards and as a self-help book, The Religion of Thinnesscontains more than 20 images ranging from weight-loss advertising and magazine covers like GQ with a bare-breasted Jennifer Aniston in oversized jeans to religious iconography from many faiths and traditions. This groundbreaking title will become a household phrase.

The Religion of Thinness
Satisfying the Spiritual Hungers behind Women’s Obsession with Food and Weight
By Michelle M. Lelwica, Th.D.
Price:  $18.95
ISBN:  978-0-936077-55-0
Publication Date:  November 12, 2009
Gürze Books



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