Weight Loss as a Religious Culture Open Access

Patel, Raj Kartik (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/4x51hj54v?locale=en
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Abstract

This honor thesis contributes to the on-going debate amongst religious scholars about a "religion of thinness" or "religion of dieting" replacing established religions, such as Christianity, in the United States. By drawing up American religious history, regarding the mind-body-soul relationship, popular culture, and contemporary weight loss, diet and fitness programs, this thesis argues that the "Religion of Weight Loss" functions religiously. But, the thesis concludes that the Religion must ultimately exist in parallel with the increasing individualistic American ideas of religiosity and spirituality, as it lacks the "essence" that religions provide.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents Introduction........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 1 My Background and Interests..................................................................................................................................................................... 2 Research Methodologies and Methods................................................................................................................................................... 4 Significant and Existing Scholarly Works............................................................................................................................................. 4 Collection of Original Data......................................................................................................................................................................... 5 Defining Religion and Popular Culture................................................................................................................................................... 6

History of the Mind, Body, and Soul in the West............................................................................................................................ 7

The Ancient Greeks......................................................................................................................................................................................... 7 Christianity...................................................................................................................................................................................................... 10 Early to 18th Century............................................................................................................................................................................... 10

The Protestant Reformation and Puritan Perspective.................................................................................................................... 12

American Society.......................................................................................................................................................................................... 13 New Thought and Body Reading........................................................................................................................................................... 13 Physiognomy............................................................................................................................................................................................. 14 Phrenology................................................................................................................................................................................................ 14 Mainstreaming During the 20th Century and Fitness..................................................................................................................... 17 Devotional v. Secular Dieting................................................................................................................................................................... 20

Weight Loss as a Religious Culture.................................................................................................................................................... 21

Myths in Advertisements........................................................................................................................................................................... 21

Concept of "Change Your Life"............................................................................................................................................................... 23

In Women's Marketing............................................................................................................................................................................. 23

In Men's Marketing.................................................................................................................................................................................. 26

Roots from American Protestant History............................................................................................................................................... 30

The War on the Body................................................................................................................................................................................ 30

Ideal Bodies as Symbols........................................................................................................................................................................... 31

Rituals and Regimens.................................................................................................................................................................................. 36

Regarding Food.......................................................................................................................................................................................... 36

Shopping for Food...................................................................................................................................................................................... 36

Ordering Food............................................................................................................................................................................................ 38

Regarding Exercise.................................................................................................................................................................................... 40

In Other Parts of the Religion................................................................................................................................................................ 44

Community....................................................................................................................................................................................................... 45

Going to "Church"...................................................................................................................................................................................... 46

Individualization....................................................................................................................................................................................... 49

"Witnessing/Spreading the Gospel" and Advocacy.......................................................................................................................... 50

Authority........................................................................................................................................................................................................... 51

Companies as Denominations................................................................................................................................................................ 52

Weight Watchers...................................................................................................................................................................................... 52

BeachBody and BodyBuilding.com.......................................................................................................................................................... 53

Jenny Craig................................................................................................................................................................................................ 53

Men's Health Magazine............................................................................................................................................................................ 55

Branding of Denominations and the Role of Success Stories....................................................................................................... 55

Ministers and "Prophets"........................................................................................................................................................................ 58

Classification............................................................................................................................................................................................. 58

Ministers v. Prophets................................................................................................................................................................................ 59

Conclusion......................................................................................................................................................................................................... 64

Appendix A.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... 66

References............................................................................................................................................................................................................ 69

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