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The Good Body: Asceticism in Contemporary Culture

Ruth P. Zager, MD
JAMA. 1995;274(12):991. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530120085051.
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The Good Body: Asceticism in Contemporary Culture is a collection of essays initially presented at an interdisciplinary conference, which considered the eating disorders in a cultural context. The editors, Letha B. Cole, MD, of the Psychiatry Department of the University of Texas Medical Branch, and Mary G. Winkler, PhD, of the Institute of the Medical Humanities at UTMB, assembled a diverse group of scholars to examine the implications of cultural practices for the individual's body and her view of her body.

Dr Cole explains in the introduction that the conference addressed "the current cultural idealization of control of the self and environment through ascetic practices and the apparent rise in the prevalence of eating disorders." This topic is pertinent, since eating disorders have often been linked to body image disturbances. The first section of the book, "Religious and Moral Implications of the 'Good Body,'" discusses the relationship of our bodies


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