Archive for the ‘Articles for women’ Category

For Part one in the series on The Self-Compassionate Mindset see here.

For the three parts on The Diet-Mentality see here, here and here.

Continuing our series today lets look at what the self-compassionate mind actually is:

Outlining it as the opposite of the diet-mentality of course does some good, but you also need to understand it as an entity unto itself. The more deeply you can understand and comprehend the self compassionate mind, the more ready you will be to recognize it, and embrace it in your life. It cannot be something you try to use to ‘resist’ your diet-mentality. It must be much more than that. Remember, ‘what you resist, persists.’

The self compassionate mind is what is left when you let go of the diet-mentality. It is not be to be used as a “weapon” in a battle within the diet-mentality. That kind of mindset just proves the diet-mentality is still the working operating system of your thoughts and feelings about weight control. That is what must be surrendered. And a more in-depth understanding of the self compassionate mind can help you to do so. (Abel, 2015, p.82)

Abel notes that the self-compassionate mind is about mindfulness, which allows you to be directed the way you want to go with your weight management, more than that he notes that anything you do from this place will result in, as we have mentioned, positive feedback loops that amount to a sustainable and regular practice of care, self-acceptance, self-empowerment and personal growth.

To Abel you need to move from externally motivated reasoning, that is numbers, societal expectation, to an “inner connection”, that simply eating right and exercising is not enough, and can even be emotionally destructive taken without this context. Think – just because you are running on a treadmill and lifting weights, doesn’t necessarily mean you have fostered the right analogous psychological habits. It is compassion that is needed, which he defines for us:

Emotional support in the direction of the desired change, and without self-rejection and attack when you struggle. (Abel, 2015, p.83)

This comes from within you, not from external stimuli and more than this, love is required, using positivity rather than jealousy and envy to motivate you to your goals, to avoid the “compare, contrast and compete” mindset from the diet-mentality. Going even further, patience is required, a patience that “accepts all things”, to be patiently self-supporting and self-accepting of yourself as you move through your weight management. These, Abel states are the keys to “endure the process” of long-term and healthy weight management.

Abel notes that often these kinds of sentiments are seen as being weak or soft, a flaky kind of sentimentality, aside from asking why labeling yourself positively rather than negatively is seen as weak, Abel states the opposite is true. Self-compassion requires you to have the strength to be open to, and able to withstand tough and emotional situations, and more than that to face up to them, to not shy away from difficulty and discomfort, as he states: “Real compassion is strength in action.” (p. 85) It connects you with yourself by allowing you to be open and honest and committed with yourself, to connect with your courage and honor, both pathways Abel notes which lead to contentment and achievement.

Therefore the self-compassionate mind, because it nourishes your soul and your spirit, is also the only path to understanding what long-term weight control is about and what it entails, and how to nurture your way there. (And never attempt to force your way there). (Abel, 2015, p.86)

This kindness allows you to forgive yourself for your mistakes and replenish you, invigorates you to focus on your process.


Abel, S. (2015). The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control. Scott Abe


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Lets should start with context, I feel personally that the best looking and ultimately healthier physique will come from a combination of both diet AND exercise. I’m currently reading Gaesser’s 2002 book: Big Fat Lies and one of his thesis’ is that it is actually being sedentary rather the bodyfat that truly accounts for metabolic syndrome. Right or wrong, I think this is in a sense an obviously compelling thesis, even if we don’t go so far as he does. I believe exercise to be a beneficial component to any weight management strategy, while potentially not being necessary. And with that context any weight management program I devise will have, at its core, exercise, not because it is necessarily the most important thing, but more because I think it is often overlooked. And when I talk of exercise I mean, where possible, intense exercise – with weights and cardio (weights 2-3 times per week/ interval training 2 times/week).

With that context set what about diet? Well, I think the starting place has to be with some kind of caloric measurement and observation, at what level is really up to you, but if you think you can get by without observing what you’re putting into your body at all, well I liken that to not managing your finances, or dental hygeine etc. These things needs to be monitored, to what degree you decide. I advise clients to download MyFitnessPal for their smart phones, it’s free and its relatively easy to use. It can be as involved as you want it to be, and tracks everything from weight, to bodyfat, to food, to calories, to changes in body shape, to exercise. I don’t see why you would need anything more than this app for diet. Having said that, how do you use it? Firstly, start at the home screen and select “more” (highlighted in red) and you’ll end up at this screen:

FullSizeRender (3)then select “goals” (highlighted in black). From here you’ll end up at this screen:


Here you’ll add your current bodyweight, your goal bodyweight, how much weight you want to lose per week and your activity level (in the area highlighted black). I would recommend setting your weekly goal to be a loss of 0.5kg/week. This will keep your calories at a manageable level (- 500/day off maintenance), and will get you to the 3,500 calorie a week deficit which will be more than enough for fat loss. Now, some argue the accuracy of 3,500cal deficit/week as it used to be used because it is supposed this is how much energy one pound of fat yields. While this may not be accurate (due to hormonal and individual differences) it gives us a good basis for a reduction and management of calories without dropping too low. Regarding your activity level you’ll have the choice of sedentary, lightly active, active, very active. This is the best explanation I’ve found for it:

The Activity Level factors MFP uses are based on statistics for average people, not athletes or someone bedridden. The higher your BMR, the more cals Activity Level adds. Also, the higher your LBM (lean body mass – how much muscle you have), the higher Activity Level factor you need, to account for more calories burned even when at rest. This is where many lean, reasonably muscular people err, as they don’t compensate for higher muscle mass. If you choose the wrong Activity Level setting, you may be eating too much or too little.

Sedentary: Adds about 250-500 cals/day for most people. Appropriate for: Those who work at a desk job AND are sedentary at home, with light or no exercise and low LBM; Usually NOT appropriate for stay-at-home moms/dads with young children.

Lightly Active: Adds 450-700. Appropriate for: Most people with young children, who are otherwise sedentary; Many who have a desk job but exercise moderately and have a moderate LBM%; Those who stand a lot at work, but don’t really walk around a lot or lift heavy items, etc.

Active: Adds 700-1000. Appropriate for those who have an active job (some nurses, waitresses, laborers, etc) and exercise moderately-frequently, and especially those who have a high LBM%.

Very Active: Adds 950-1400. Appropriate for those who have a very active job (trainers, some laborers, some athletes, some warehouse workers), and exercise frequently and have a high or very high LBM%. (Ladyhawk, 2011)

Once you have added this select “calorie and macronutrient goals” (highlighted in red) which will bring you to this screen:IMG_5124select any macronutrient (carb, fat or protein) and you’ll end up at this screen:

IMG_5126Make sure you change your carbs to 40% of total cals, protein to 35% and fat to 25% equally a total of 100% calories accounted for. The protein is higher than your standard amount to aid in satiety and also to aid in the promotion and maintenance of muscle mass and where possible assist in reducing the loss of such. The carbs are still high enough to energize you for hard workouts and alertness with fat being low enough but also within healthy ranges. Obviously the stricter you are in achieving your caloric and macro targets the better your results. But, for the best results, do not go over your sugar and fat targets, protein and carbs you can go over where applicable (allow this policy to influence your junk food, or cheating habits). If your bodyfat percentage is on the higher end (over 25% for a male and 30% for a girl), you’ll want to reduce your carb intake slightly and increase your fat so your ratios will look like this: 30% of total cals, protein to 35% and fat to 35%

This may seem stringent, but it need not be, and its a good way to see just how bad your eating habits are. Use this method to correct them, or at the very least be aware of them and let this become a new dietary habit for you.

Setting calories and macros are the first 2 most important steps in the dietary strategy for fat loss. Without doing these, success with be limited, perhaps impossible.

I could probably add in how to use the food search engine in the app too, how to create meals, save them and recall them, but lets do that next time.


Activity Level and Logging Exercise: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/blog/ladyhawk00/view/activity-level-and-logging-exercise-125513

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IMG_5149  IMG_5148

Surprisingly, there is only 2.5kg difference between these two pics.

For Sieraya’s first results blog, see here.

This girl, what a trooper. She has had an intense year, working 50hrs a week managing her own gym with lunch hours worked at her desk, long commutes to work and back, and the stress that comes with all of this and the job itself. She has had ups and downs over the past year and a half (since her last results blog) and not all of her work has been in the right direction. But, that hasn’t stopped her. And it’s showing through in her work, which is steadily moving in the right direction.

Now for some quick stats:

Her first pics on the left have her bodyweight at 78.3kg and her bodyfat percentage at 35%

While the pics on the right have her bodyweight at 75.8kg and her bodyfat percentage at 26%

That’s a loss of 9% bodyfat while only losing 2.5kg. What has been most interesting about her results is that since her last results blog she has put on 5kg of muscle and has lost a further 1.5% bodyfat.

The change has come from utilizing metabolic resistance type training programs and dietary strategies such as low carb, intermittent fasting and such to more bodybuilding/volume based programs that focus on heavier weights and less cardio based training, coupled with high protein diets with moderate carb intake and low-fat. Now, a sidenote, the aforementioned strategies are useful, particularly if you are looking to lose a lot of bodyfat quickly and aren’t overly concerned with keeping as much muscle mass as possible. For example, the pic below has Sieraya at a lower bodyfat percentage than she is now, and looking “smaller” but that is not necessarily what Sieraya wants, she wants muscle mass, she wants to be lean and muscular, a hard combination to be sure, that takes much more nuance.

FullSizeRenderOn the left she is 69kg with a bodyfat percentage of 23%

On the right she is 74kg with a bodyfat percentage of 26%

As you can see from the two pics together, that while she was leaner and lighter in the pic on the left, she doesn’t have the same kind of curvature and musculature as she does on the right. And these are things we have worked on together as we get results from different programs and methodologies, as we find what works for her to get her the results she is looking for.

The same goes for her strength and indeed her training ethic, in the videos below we get a glimpse of the hard work she’s put in with her strength training, as well as her hypertrophy/volume work. And let me just say, some of her high volume hypertrophy programs have been just as grueling as some of those metabolic resistance workouts (as you can see with her German Body Composition video).

I couldn’t be prouder of Sieraya and I look forward to the coming months of training as we start a new block.

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Symmetry’s Novice Program (Part 2) – Mehrad.

Symmetry’s Novice Program (Part 1) – Mehrad.

Impact of the Menstrual Cycle on Determinants of Energy Intake – Reseach Review -Lyle McDonald.

Q&A about opening a gym -Alwyn Cosgrove.

Women, Bulky Muscle & The Hulking Reality – Mehrad.

A Better Way to Gauge Intensity of Effort During Resistance Training – Brad Schoenfeld.

To Stretch Or Not To Stretch? – Mehrad.

Best Fitness Articles — June 7, 2015 – Ben and Kristen.

BioLayne Guest Blog Peter Baker – Unf***ing your Spine for Powerlifting Excellence

DOMS and Muscle Growth -Lyle McDonald.

Women Training and Fat Loss – Book Teaser -Lyle McDonald.

12 Ways to Know if You Should Include an Exercise in a Strength Training Program – Eric Cressey.

It’s ok to be fat as long as…

3 Ways to Level Up Your Coaching -Mike Robertson.

Don’t just stand there, do nothing! The difference between science-based medicine and quackery -John Synder.

Fat Loss Friday: 15 Lessons on Leaning Out – Eric Cressey.

Build Your Glutes Fast! -Chad Waterbury.

Eat, Lift, and Condition to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle -Mark Lewis and Travis Pollen.

Does Light Load Training Build Muscle in Experienced Lifters? – Brad Schoenfeld.

Squats and Deadlifts Won’t Make Your Waist Blocky– Bret Contreras.

Eight Considerations for Weight Room Training -Robert A. Panariello.

12 Observations From Training Women – Bret Contreras.

3 Weekend Mobility Drills to Help you Enjoy Spring -Dean Somerset.

Current Position Statement on Anterior Pelvic Tilt– Bret Contreras.

6 Exercises Upgrades For Better Results -Adam Bornstein.

The “Thin Woman Inside” Lie

Transcriptional Control of Energy Regulation -Dr Sharma.

Endurance vs. Conditioning – The biggest misconception in sports specific training – Wolfgang Unsold.

The Pro’s and Cons of BCAA Supplements – The Poliquin Group.

Naturopathy vs. Science: Diabetes Edition -Scott Gavura.

Doing Too Much Causes (Unnecessary) Stress and Costs You Long Lasting Results -Nia Shanks.

Top 12 Biggest Myths About Weight Loss -Kris Gunnars.

Whole Body Vibration Therapy -Steven Novella.

Responses to Ridiculous Justifications for Fat Shaming

Squat With A Large Volume To Improve Strength Rapidly.

The Curious Case of Why People Fear Protein -Adam Bornstein.

How Drinking More Water Can Help You Lose Weight -Adda Bjarnadottir.

20 Common Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight -Kris Gunnars.

Antidepressants and Weight Gain – Lyle MacDonald.

GMO Foods: Good or Bad? -Atli Arnason.

The Best Protein Sources -Adam Bornstein.

The New Rules of Specialization: How to Add Muscle Mass -Adam Bornstein.

No Carbs Diet: The Flaw in Fat Loss -Adam Bornstein.

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Why Weights Are Better Than Cardio for Fat Loss -Adam Bornstein.

The Sisterhood of Lifting -Alice Round.

Wheat Belly Deception: Understanding Wheat, Insulin, and Fat Loss -Adam Bornstein.

What Do We Mean By Fat Civil Rights?

The Body Cleanse: Does Juicing Really Work? -Adam Bornstein.

BioLayne Guest Blog by Jonathan Goodman – The Fitness Industry is Failing -Jon Goodman.

Strength Is Not Always the Answer -Adam Bornstein.

Strength and Prevention of Injuries -Mark Rippetoe.

A Better Way to Perform Circuit Training -Adam Bornstein.

The Ultimate Training Secret -Lyle McDonald.

If You Want To Lose Fat, and Keep It Off, Don’t Fall For The Low-Carb Trap -JC Deen.

5 Common Diet Excuses Too Many People Make -JC Deen.

Training For Fat Loss In Simple Terms: What You Must Know -JC Deen.

When to Eat Delicious Food and When to Avoid It -Mike Israetel.

The Hip Impingement Solution -Dan McClean.

The Sport Psychology of Goal-Setting -Mike Israetel.

Off-Season Strength Building for CrossFit: Do’s and Don’ts -Jacob Tsypkin.

Activated charcoal: The latest detox fad in an obsessive food culture -David Gorski.

The measles vaccine protects against more than just the measles -David Gorski.

What is Athleticism?– Justin Hays.

How Long Should You Stay on a Program? -Mike Robertson.

How to Stick to Your Diet -Nia Shanks.

Damage Control – What to do When You Over Indulge -Nia Shanks.

Top Fitness Articles Of 2014  -Kevin Richardson,

5 Reasons Why You Don’t Need Vitamin Supplements  -Kevin Richardson.

Are You Changing Behaviors with Motivation, Ease, or Both? -Eric Cressey.

Squeeze More Muscle into Your Training -Chad Waterbury.

Q & A: Whey Protein and the Deadlift -Chad Waterbury.

Proper Hip Thrust Technique: Head and Neck Position -Ben Bruno.

First Powerlifting Meet: 20 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Anabolic Steroids and Muscle Growth -Lyle McDonald.

Heavy Light Medium Training -Lyle McDonald.

Effects of Low-Versus High Load Resistance Training – Research Review -Lyle McDonald.

My Weekly Routine -Brad Pilon.

7 Muscle-Building, Testosterone-Boosting Tips for Guys Over 40 (& All Hardgainers) -Jason Ferruggia.

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I must offer a trigger warning for anyone who has suffered from eating disorders in the past, as that will be the focus of today’s post.

In our first post on Wolf’s work we touched briefly on eating disorders (see here) , in today’s post we’re going to look more fully at her views on such. To Wolf anorexia and bulimia are given to women at an early age by the hunger, or weight-loss cult, and are exclusively female issues:

From 90 to 95 percent of anorexics and bulimics are women. America, which has the greatest number of women who have made it into the male sphere, also leads the world with female anorexia. Women’s magazine’s report that there are up to a million American anorexics, but the American Anorexia and Bulimia Association states that anorexia and bulimia strike a million American women every year; 30,000, it reports, also becomes emetic abusers. (Wolf, 1991, p,181-2)

Other statistics states Wolf show one in five women on some college campuses to be afflicted, twenty percent are said to be binging and purging on a regular basis. Other stats state at least half the women on college campuses in the U.S. present at some time with anorexia and bulimia. Still, other stats put as many as six times as many women as stated on campuses to be bulimic, with the number of women with the illness increasing in the past twenty years. (Wolf, 1991, p,182)

If we are to take the high end of the figures, it means that of ten young American women in college, two will be anorexic and six will be bulimic; only two will be well. The norm, then, for young, middle-class American women, is to be a sufferer from some form of the eating disease. (Wolf, 1991, p,182)

Other countries are similarly afflicted states Wolf, with the U.K having 3.5 million sufferers (with 95 percent of them female), and a further 6,000 new cases every year. Perhaps even more alarming is the rate of adolescent British girls turning to eating disorders with one percent of such becoming anorexic. Sweden and the Netherlands are reporting one to two percent of women are afflicted respectively, with Italy reporting one percent of female teenagers (a rise of 400% in ten years). What is most frightening to Wolf is that these numbers represent the U.S.’s numbers ten years ago, suggesting there is potentially a global rise in disordered eating. (Wolf, 1991, p,183)

Although there are no reliable statistics on the death rates of anorexia notes Wolf, numbers from some sources put five to fifteen percent of hospitalized anorexics dying in treatment, others put the number as high as nineteen percent, with forty to fifty percent never recovering completely. Wolf finds it striking that a disease that strikes five to ten percent of American women with the highest rates of fatality of all mental illness, gets very little attention from the media, for example, it has never made the cover of Time, but rather relegated to the Style sections. Nor does there seem to be government concern, at the writing of Wolf’s work there had been no response by The National Institute of Health in regards to educations and/or prevention programs whatsoever. (Wolf, 1991, p,182)

The medical effects of anorexia include hypothermia, edema, hypotension, bradycardia (impaired heartbeat), lanugo (growth of body hair), infertility, and death. The medical effects of bulimia include dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, epileptic seizure, abnormal heart rhythm, and death. When the two are combined, they can result in tooth erosion, hiatal hernia, abraded esophagus, kidney failure, osteoporosis, and death. (Wolf, 1991, p,183)

Wolf suggests that “authoritative evidence is mounting” that anorexia and bulimia is caused by dieting and low caloric diets, with different investigators stating: “”chronic, restrained eating” to “constitute a cumulative stress of such magnitude that dieting itself may be ‘a sufficient condition for the development of anorexia nervosa or bulimia’.” (p. 196) Other investigators claim: “Ironically, dieting… itself may provoke obsessive behavior and binge-eating. It may indeed cause both eating disorders and obesity itself.” This same investigator continues: “women’s problems with food seem to stem… from their effort to get an ultra-lean body… The only way 95% can get it is by putting themselves on deprivatory diets.” Other sources of Wolf’s go on: “Much of the behavior thought to cause anorexia nervosa and bulimia may actually be a consequence of starvation… The normal weight dieter who diets to look and feel thin also is vulnerable to disturbed emotional, cognitive and behavioral patterns by virtue of the constant stress of trying to stay below the body’s ‘natural’ or biologically regulated weight.” (p. 196)

A sensitive subject to be sure, with some stark figures. It might need to be added, and it’s a message I try to advocate, that dieting, or trying to achieve aesthetic goals, is about using your reason, about doing what is healthy. I plan to engage with the Glen Gaesser’s thesis on obesity being not the sole determinant of cardiovascular disease in future works, but if he is accurate, what many need to focus on is activity rather than obsession on diet. Bodyfat levels can be indicators of illness, potentially, but being sedentary is always going to be a marker for potential illness. Rather than starving ourselves, and shaming people for their appearance, or bodyweight, or obsessively focusing on our diets, we might like to focus, rationally, on activities that get us moving, that challenge us, in a way that is reasonable, enjoyable and that promotes a scientific approach to health and well-being. I personally support anyone’s dietary goals, fitness goals, whatever they may be but I will try to motivate and educate on practices that are sound, scientific, safe and reasonable. I urge this approach to anyone who exercises.


Wolf, N. (1991). The Beauty Myth. Vauxhall Bridge Road, London. Vintage Books.

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It’s important when looking at as a contentious a piece of writing as Wolf’s that we use the academic principle of interpretive charity. Her views do present as extreme, and I must admit, that even I do not go with her fully to some, if not many, of her conclusions. When reading this book I was struck by the literary nature of it, that is: it is not hard science, it is not analytic philosophy, it is interpretational, emotional, metaphorical, experiential, and thus the claims may not be presenting as all-encompassing fact, in the mathematical sense. I’ve considered the possibility that Wolf is making emotional appeals, and using hyperbole to demonstrate the force of her critique, and thus we need to more fully engage with her work and it’s meanings to tease out just what she is trying to say (something not uncommon when we work on literature). Perhaps this is me being too generous in my view of her work, but we shall see.

To Wolf, age and weight, are two of the most “developed cults” in the religion of the “Beauty Myth”(p. 121), but more than this these are cults that women do not enter voluntarily, free to leave whenever they choose, no, these cults addict the participants, distorting their sense of reality. They are such that even if women chose to enter them freely, they could not leave once inside. Wolf’s stated reasons this is so, she states, have sound physical and psychological grounding, which she bases off three building blocks:

  1. Cults follow an authoritarian structure. This is based on dieters following “regimes” which allow of no deviation. Wolf claims the tone of diet books to be “dogmatic” and “unequivocal” with “experts” who “know best” controlling the entire process. (p. 122)
  2. Cults preach “renunciation of the world.” Dieters give up their social lives, their pleasure, they remove themselves from situations which might tempt them, with anorexics going further, that is: giving up most “earthly” pleasure such as “movies, trinkets, jokes – as an extension of food renunciation.” (p. 122)
  3. Cult members believe that they alone “are gifted with the truth.” For Wolf this relates to such things as compliments received by dieters, which are ignored. The dieter believes they know how they really look, how repulsive their “hidden from view” body is. This self-denial is most prevalent in anorexics who are convinced the quest they’ve embarked on is so, and that no-one else can see it. Moreover, this aspect of cult-like behavior states Wolf puts women into a condescension and smugness to other “less devout women”. (p. 122)

From here Wolf states:

According to Appel, cult members develop, from these three convictions, “an attitude of moral superiority, a contempt for secular laws, rigidity of thought and the diminution of regard for the individual.  A high premium is placed on conformity to the cults group: deviation is penalized… The aim of beauty thinking, about weight or age, is rigid female thought. (Wolf, 1991, p,123)

The hunger cult for Wolf actually changes women’s physiological state, in that much like chanters in cults enter “hynogogic states” in which they can fall prey to aggressive or self-destructive impulses, so too does the woman who constantly has neurotic thoughts of food on her mind, and is indeed instructed to think of food constantly. Women begin to have irrational feelings about such that terrify them, and from this feel a self-destruction and aggression that they are unaware comes from external to them, thus they internalize their struggle thinking it isn’t real.  Wolf rejects this and urges women to recognize that: “this is a genuine, formal, externally imposed implant of madness.” (p. 123)

More than this Wolf notes that many of the practices of  the “hunger cult” mirror those of other cults, in that many women have constant mantras of caloric calculation, of calories taken in and out, to the extent notes the author that “the Hare Krishna practice of chanting for several hours a day would be child’s play to them.” (p. 124) The cult also teaches meditation, for example in the “one bowel” diet, in which a bowel is placed in the hands of the participants and instructed to sit holding it, concentrating on what one wants to eat and why. Others teach women to handle, fondle and experience a single piece of fruit for twenty minutes, in which they are called to “center the mind on the stomach, to make certain the “appetite” is really “hunger””. There are also group rituals within the hunger cult states Wolf, such as those of aerobics classes, which contain “robotic parodies of exuberant movement” which is the same bouncing dance practiced by the Hare Krishnas. Another ritual prescribed by Kim Chernin, in which groups binge and purge, common Wolf states on university campuses, and “the ritual of self-abasement when women leaf through magazines together, chanting the well-known formula: “I hate her. She’s so thin.” “You’re so thin.” “Oh, come on. Me? What are you talking about?”” (p. 124) There is also a kind of sensory deprivation going on prevalent in many cults indoctrination practices states Wolf, and that “beauty pornography” coupled with “recent social upheavals” work to “constitute an entirely new, chaotic, and disorienting environment; the food self-denial most women undergo is a form of sensory deprivation.” (p. 125)

To Wolf the hunger cult takes away women’s privacy and also promotes rigid planning, in the case of the former, a woman’s body is something to be gazed upon, not solely by men (men’s body’s Wolf states, are not subjected to these pressures), but by everyone, scrutinized, assessed. Any changes in weight are publicly judged, observed and discussed. In the case of the latter, the rigidity of the food-planners routine, her exercise routine, does away with “choice”, any free time she has she is too exhausted (or hungry) to think of anything, or indeed to challenge anyone, as Wolf states: “Nutrition patterns are altered, lowering intellectual and emotional resistance.” (p. 127) There is also something of an emotional high that comes with achieving a set goal within the cult, as in the elation when one puts on a pair of size eight pants, which are seen as the rewards for all the hard work and sacrifice. More than this, Wolf notes what is called within cults the phenomenon of “love bombing” in which a member of the hunger cult receives a “barrage” of outside approval for “getting with the program”, but this has an insidious dark side to it states Wolf, the implicit assumption that this approval will be held back if one does not achieve their goals: “Cults reward submissiveness with love; winning love grows harder and harder, behavior required to do so even more submissive.” (p. 127) The natural progression from these types of “reward and punishment” behaviors states Wolf is to lead to anorexia, compulsive eating or bulimia, with women seeing temptations everywhere they go, they now have natural desires (that is to satisfy hunger) which they have to constantly suppress, which again leads to exhaustion and destructive behaviors.

How can women remove themselves from the cult of hunger?

For deprogramming to be successful, the case must be made to the cult escapee that what she has undergone “is real and powerful,” while assuring her that the craziness came from without… Women trapped cannot be deprogrammed until the case is made to them that the madness is imposed from outside the self, and that it affects their minds through time-worn, third-rate psychological sleights of hand. If those women who long to escape can believe that they have been subjected to a religious indoctrination that uses proven techniques of brainwashing, we can feel compassion for ourselves rather than self-loathing; we can begin to see where and how our minds were changed. (Wolf, 1991, p,128)

This might be enough for today’s post, I haven’t really engaged critically with Wolf’s views as of yet, as it might be nice to see her views presented and discussed before being tainted by my critique (indeed, if I even have one to offer, her views might be interesting in and of themselves).


Wolf, N. (1991). The Beauty Myth. Vintage Books.

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