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Lovely radicals… it’s podcast time!

In this week’s episode of the “Life. Unrestricted.” podcast, it’s my great pleasure to talk to Dr. Michelle Lelwica from Minnesota.

Michelle is a professor of religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where she teaches courses on the intersection of religion, gender, culture, and the body. She did all of her graduate work at Harvard Divinity School, where she received a Masters of Theological Studies in Christianity and Culture (1989) and a Doctorate of Theology in Religion Gender and Culture (1996). She is the author of “Shameful Bodies: Religion and the Culture of Physical Improvement” (2017), “The Religion of Thinness: Satisfying the Spiritual Hungers behind Women’s Obsession with Food and Weight” (2009), and “Starving for Salvation: The Spiritual Dimensions of Eating Problems among American Girls and Women” (1999). She has also written different scholarly articles and popular blogs addressing women’s conflicted relationships to their bodies.
In our conversation, Michelle talks about:
– How early she started to feel self-conscious about her body
– How she spiraled down into an eating disorder, while nobody knew or saw how sick she was
– How getting taught how to think critically, as well as learning about the history of how women are being kept small by narrow beauty standards helped her to recover
– How religious narratives influence our culture’s obsession with “physical improvement”
– Where some of the roots of our hope for “salvation” and “finding happiness” in thinness can be found in Christianity
– How women’s desires, appetites and bodies are contextualized in religious narratives
– How the story of Eve and the apple influenced the way women and their bodies are treated and perceived to this day, and how similar some of today’s diet-culture messages are framed
– Questions to ask ourselves when it comes to our belief that we have to “be pretty” or “be skinny” or “look good”: For whom? Why? Says who?
– Why our use of language matters, especially around bodies, food, exercise and weight (“good”, “bad”, “sinful”, “guilty”, “get rid of”, “burn”, “eradicate”, “purge”, “repent”, etc.)
– How foundational myths bleed into modern day diet-culture
– How dieting, diet-talking and wanting to belong to certain food/eating/fitness tribes (Paleo, Vegan, Crossfit, Keto…), gives many people a false sense of community where all they hear is the respective gospel
– How women get distracted from giving their unique gifts and presence to the world by the pursuit of “a better body”
– How our culture’s pursuit of “physical improvement” serves the interest of transnational capitalism
– Why never to underestimate the effect of the intense amount of harmful imagery and messages our brains have to take in on a daily basis
– How the BMI (which was never intended to be an indicator for health to begin with!) was manipulated and how this influenced how we view bodies and weight
– Why the lowering of the BMI had everything to do with profit and how the financial ties to this decision lead to the weight-loss industry
– How corporations deliberately send us contradictory messages
– How getting angry about having been duped can awaken your internal drive for change
– How Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly”-series about the objectifying, narrowly defined, digitally enhanced depiction of women’s bodies in advertising shook her awake
– How the “cruisade for thinness” and the “obesity epidemic” started around the same time and what that should tell us about the harmful long-term effects of dieting
– Why “slowing down” can be the greatest blessing
– How to start appreciating non-conformity
– How she challenges her students to ask themselves what their true personal values are…
… And so much more!

Michelle doesn’t have her own website (yet), but you can find the articles Michelle wrote by googling her name “Michelle Lelwica”. Here are a few examples from Psychology Today:

Here’s the link to her latest book called “Shameful Bodies”…:

And here’s the link to her books “Religion of Thinness” and “Starving For Salvation”:

And here’s the link to the book she mentioned, “The Good Body” written by Eve Enzler:

Also, here’s the link to “Descarte’s Error” by Anthony Damasio:

Jean Kilbourne addresses body image and women’s depiction in advertising in her award-winning “Killing Us Softly”-series as well as in all of her work, find out more here:

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