Insatiable with Ali Shapiro, MSOD, CHHC

252. The Religion of Wellness Culture with Anne Helen Petersen

November 16, 2022 Ali Shapiro, MS, CHHC Season 13 Episode 3
Insatiable with Ali Shapiro, MSOD, CHHC
252. The Religion of Wellness Culture with Anne Helen Petersen
Show Notes

The Wellness culture we see as we scroll through Instagram or listen to in our earbuds on various wellness podcasts often casts itself as the opposite of Western Medicine. And yet, both industries overlap via the same value system of Puritans and Protestantism. 

From “clean eating” to failed functional medicine protocols because “client’s aren’t disciplined enough”, Protestantism and Puritanism are alive and well in both industries. 

This wouldn’t be a problem except these guiding principles aren’t actually how the body works. As a result, while both industries have different offerings, both limit us because of their blindspots created by these religious values and beliefs. 

In today’s episode with one of my favorite writers, Dr. Anne Helen Petersen, we discuss: 


  • A background of what Protestantism and Puritanism are and how they’ve influenced diet and wellness culture and the deeper meaning implied in hashtags #blessed, #highvibes, and #nolowvibes

  • How Protestantism and Puritanism especially influenced fat phobia and the 80s and 90s body ideal of what Anne calls “aspirational containment”.
  • How wellness influencers and celebrities like Peloton instructors have given us secular outlets to satiate the needs that religion provides.
  • How Anne shifted and continues to shift her relationship to exercise and work by incorporating this value that is considered “bad” in Puritanism yet supports the body to thrive.
  • Anne’s process of first intellectualizing how problematic these religious values are in relation to exercise, the body, and work and then actually making the changes to embody new values that support her feeling great and athletic in her body, now in her 40s. 


  • About Anne Helen Peterson
  • Anne is an American writer and journalist. She received her Ph.D in Media Studies, where she did her dissertation on Celebrity Culture…we will get into why here in the episode.
  • She worked as a Senior Culture Writer for BuzzFeed until August 2020, when she began writing full-time for her newsletter "Culture Study" on Substack. I know many of you read it. It’s so so good. Her most recent book “Out of Office” is about the future of work. And she has two new podcasts of her own: Work Appropriate and Townsizing, which is about people living in small towns.


Mentioned in this episode:

Free Food as Safety Gatherings with Ali: Gather with like-minded health rebels who hate small talk to learn how to apply the Insatiable Season 13 podcasts to your life. Ali will teach, provide coaching exercise, tools and coach a few participants stress eating so you can get to the root of your stress eating and work through it. No white knuckling required. 


Culture Study with Anne Helen Petersen

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