A modern day holy anorexia?: Religious language in advertising and anorexia nervosa in the West
OBJECTIVE: In this review we comment on the media, in particular advertisements and the internet, using religious and moralistic motifs in connection with eating and their possible role in promoting modern-day 'nutritional' consumerism and fundamentalism (diet, discipline and discipleship).
METHOD: We have reviewed historically the concept of holy anorexia and have analyzed the pictorial and language content of some representative advertisements.
RESULTS: Words used include 'temptation', 'decadent', 'heaven' and 'purity' and suggest a connection with eating and moral values. They also imply eating as either heaven or sin, to be yielded to in both circumstances.
CONCLUSIONS: Such messages identifying eating with guilt or reward could precipitate 'atypical' eating disorders in vulnerable subjects, invoking the historical associations with extreme religiosity and anorexia. It is not clear how these 'fundamentalist' trends developed but health educators should be aware of them in dealing with at-risk subjects for eating disorders.