EP 02: Religion and Thinness with Dr. Michelle Lelwica

Dr. Michelle Lelwica is a religious scholar who proposes a connection between eating, weight, and our spiritual need and how an obsession with food or one’s weight may mask a deeper, more spiritual need.

In her book, The Religion of Thinness: Satisfying the Spiritual Hungers Behind Women’s Obsession with Food and Weight, she outlined her research and today, she joins me on the show to share her findings and insight on the connection between our spirituality, religious beliefs, and how we view foods and weight in today’s society. She also shares her personal story as a “devotee” during her indoctrination, her experience with bulimia, and the turning point in her life that began her journey to truly connect with her body and it’s needs.

Oftentimes, we don’t realize that the voices in our head reflect the messages from the outside that we have internalized.
— Dr. Michelle Lelwica

This Week on the Every Body Podcast:

  • Feature similarities of religions and our culture’s manic devotion to thinness
  • The connection between the decline of millennials attending church and their views and beliefs around becoming thin
  • As much as one-third of the millennial population in the United States identifies as not religiously affiliated
  • How social media impacts society’s views on appearance, thinness, and our connection with our bodies
  • The history of thinness
  • How the desire for thinness is racially and ethnically coded
  • The “schizophrenic attitude” and competing messages our culture has toward eating
  • Society’s migration toward a “fit ideal”
  • Why rituals are important and their primary function
  • The most common ways rituals become ritualistic in the religion of thinness
  • Spiritual fasting rituals vs fasting to achieve thinness
  • The body’s needs and society’s association with those needs, impurities, and sin

Counter Strategies to the Religion of Thinness:

  • Find rituals that allow you to connect with your body rather than control it
  • Find images and role models that are worthy of your devotion and inspire you to be your best self
  • Find communities that are counter cultural and will do the cultural criticism with you
  • Find a new salvation myth. What is your life really about?

Additional Resources:

Connect with Dr. Michelle Lelwica:


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Daria Matza