The “Cult” in Diet Culture

Did being on a diet ever feel like you were a member of a cult? Well, now we know there’s a reason for that!

In this episode of the Dietitians Unplugged podcast, Dr. Natalie Feinblatt, an expert in, among other things, working with former cult members, compares and contrasts cults with diet culture.

You’ll hear about what defines a cult, and how diets often align with these criteria. Most importantly, we discussed how to figure out if you’re in a diet cult and how to get free. (It’s hard for me to admit that this part was more important than our Days of Thunder discussion, but I’ll concede the point).

Dr. Natalie Feinblatt is a licensed clinical psychologist who sees clients in Los Angeles and virtually.  She specializes in treating addiction, trauma, co-occurring disorders, LGBTQIA clients, and former cult members.  She’s been working in the field of mental health for over 15 years at all levels of care, and earned her doctorate at Pepperdine University.  You can learn more about her practice at her website, drnataliefeinblatt.com.

Episode 68 – Cults and Diet Culture with Dr. Natalie Feinblatt

Show Notes:

Dr. Natalie Feinblatt’s website

Dr. Natalie Feinblatt on Instagram

Book: Diet Cults by Matt Fitzgerald

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Exercise Dependence and Avoidance

Diet culture and eating disorders can make one’s relationship to exercise complicated.

Allow me to flashback for a moment…

It’s the 1980s, and Jane Fonda has just ruined, oops, I mean revolutionized women’s lives with aerobic exercise. Who could resist those neon-and-pastel body suits, leggings and headbands? Without reading too much into the actual history of it all, this, in my mind, is the moment where exercise became some sort of imperative for being “the right kind of female.”

And me? I hated formal exercise. I was a rough-and-tumble kid who liked to play outside at made-up games, pick-up softball and kick-ball games, and still remember the glorious summer when the oldest kid in our neighborhood would organize block-wide games of hide-and-seek, kick-the-can and ghost-in-the-graveyard (Damn my childhood seems idyllic now). I was good at nothing except being scrappy and determined. Always the slowest, but it didn’t seem to matter when we were at play.

Anyhoo, along came high school and uninspired gym teachers who, on occasion, would play videos of “The 20 Minute Workout“, which, upon remembrance, actually came with a health hazard warning, and truly felt like a cardiac nightmare even for a teenager (or maybe just this teenager??). I mean, what was with all the damn jumping??

And then, later, the years of exercising because I felt I should because that’s what thin people did. Needless to say, that ended up feeling like more of a punishment than anything else and did not endear me to exercise for a lifetime.

Flash forward to the present. It’s been a long, circuitous journey to where I am now. I’ve found what works for me for now. And what works for me might not work for someone else, and that’s okay. No one is obligated to exercise either – it’s not a marker of your worthiness as a human in any way.

So what’s your relationship to movement feel like? Do you feel compelled to exercise even when you don’t want to? Do you struggle to incorporate movement into your life even though you truly want to? If so, you might enjoy this Dietitians Unplugged podcast episode that we did with my good friend, colleague and mentor, Lauren Anton MS, RD, CEDRD-S, CPT. She’s knowledgable in all things exercise and eating disorders and Health at Every Size® and non-diet sports nutrition. She’s amazing and I think you will find her story interesting and her advice helpful.

Episode 67 – Exploring Exercise Avoidance and Dependence with Lauren Anton

Show Notes:

Lauren’s website 

Follow Lauren on Instagram

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