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Do religion and eating disorders intersect?


Behind every eating disorder is the deep desire for spiritual connection.

At least that's what Barbara Moore believes. Moore, the dean of the Program for Study of Women and Gender in Church and Society at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in New York, is convinced that eating disorders are a relevant topic, albeit a "quiet" one. So at the 16th annual Helen Barrett Montgomery Conference, she--and many other women and spiritual leaders--will be breaking the silence.

The conference, held from November 8-10, is named after the Rochester woman who, in 1921, became the first female president of any religious denomination in the United States, the Northern Baptist Convention. The conference coincides with the 20th anniversary of Moore's Women in Gender and Church and Society program, and the topic will be "Challenging the Religion of Thinness: Affirming the Beauty of Women's Bodies."

“The more people I talk to about the conference, the more people say, ‘This used to be a problem for me’ or ‘This is a problem for my daughter,’ ” said Moore. “It is a very relevant issue and one that is often a quiet issue.”

Head speaker at the event will be Michelle Lelwica, author of Starving for Salvation: The Spiritual Dimensions of Eating Problems.

Lelwica says that eating disorders and spirituality are two things that cannot be separated, but usually are. As someone who struggled with an eating disorder herself as a young woman, Lelwica believes in affirming the goodness of women's bodies.

“These issues on the surface may not initially look religious, but when we look at them closely, we see how deeply connected they are,” says Lelwica. “Beneath the quest for thinness is a search for purpose and meaning.”

The conference will also include worship services and a screening of the film "Miss Representation." More information about the conference can be found on the school's website.

Source: Democrat and Chronicle