Religion, politics, and yes let’s add nutrition to the fray. In my in-the-trenches experience in the industry and the blogosphere, I’ve noticed that people take their chosen paths of optimal health very seriously. And by very seriously I mean that many border on obsessed and dare I say, cultish.
This will be the first of a multi-part series that will examine various nutritional, exercise, and health trends that cross over into fanatical. This instalment will focus on how to recognize a health cult.
Cultish Criteria: Identifying the Health, Fitness and Nutritional Zealots
- The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader/philosophy and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
- Questioning, doubt, dissent are minimized or discouraged
- The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel. The power of suggestion plays heavily here from leaders to followers.
- The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar–or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
- The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society – an outsider vs. insider doctrine.
- The leader is not accountable to any authorities – particularly those of the scientific community.
- A “group-think” mentality, where individualism is only encouraged to the extent that is allowed by the nutritional cult leader.
- Rigid rules and regulations to eating – rarely to never grounded in good science.
- The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no other path towards optimal health than the one they have chosen.
- Consider themselves and their authorities to be “forward thinkers” and feel that if the rest of the world would just “get it” we would be one big happy, healthy, and lean planet.
- Their way of eating, and their authorities who espouse it are victims of persecution by the media, crooked scientists and government.
- A victim mentality – whereby they feel slighted by the “non-believers”.
- Excessive reliance on logical fallacies to defend said way of living.
- Claiming any extremists within their group are “a few bad apples” and “no more zealous than any other group”.
- Obliviousness to the reality that they are in fact part of the cult by their fervent defence of their chosen health path.
- Excessive reliance on a single (or small handful) of books to “prove” the worthiness of what they promote.
In the next few episodes I will look at some of the most prominent dietary zealots. I will look at specific diets and we will examine the difference between the sensible
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