“Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels”

Kate Moss and the Role of the “Extraordinary Body” in Cult Formation


  • Zoe Alderton The University of Sydney




Anorexia, cult formation, eating disorders, female body, illness, pro-ana, Kate Moss, supermodel, thin body, waif


There has always been something compelling about extreme bodies. Kate Moss exemplifies “the waif,” a body type both frightening and appealing. She is one of the most common celebrities discussed on pro-anorexia (or, pro-ana) websites. To explore the connection between Moss’s body and pro-ana participation, this article examines the potential for an extraordinary body to solidify the aims of an extremist group and to draw in new members. Her unusually slender form affirms this pro-starvation cluster by physically representing the emotional distress that lies at its core. There is no conclusive evidence that Moss suffers from an eating disorder, and she has been open about discouraging people from starving themselves to look like her. Nevertheless, she has been framed as a unique icon in the pro-ana sphere, despite her personal intent, due to the extreme nature of her body. She helps members to express mental illness and severe emotional distress via an emaciated frame and grungy-but-cool aesthetic. She therefore gives people a way to explore sickness and femininity concurrently, which is especially relevant for young women with eating disorders. The pro-ana community has adopted her as a cult icon for these reasons. Here, I analyse this process using Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge’s sociological scholarship on the social role of religion broadly and “cult formation” more specifically. This raises important questions about consent in cult formation and the role required of a leader.


lblondie. 2020. “Heroin Chic Diet”. My Pro Ana. 15 July 2020. https://www.myproana.com/index.php/topic/4039921-heroin-chic-diet/.

Abeln, Mark Scott. 2005. “Anorexia and the Cult of ‘Ana’.” Rome of the West. 31 May 2005. http://www.romeofthewest.com/2005/05/anorexia-andcult-of-ana.html.

Acevedo, Beatriz, Samantha Warren, and Edward Wray–Bliss. 2009. “The Devil in High Heels: Drugs, Symbolism and Kate Moss”. Culture and Organization 15(3–4): 331–345. https://doi.org/10.1080/14759550903250759.

Ahern, Amy L., Kate M. Bennett, Michelle Kelly and Marion M. Hetherington. 2011. “A Qualitative Exploration of Young Women’s Attitudes towards the Thin Ideal”. Journal of Health Psychology 16(1): 70–79. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105310367690.

Alderton, Zoe. 2018a. The Aesthetics of Self-Harm: The Visual Rhetoric of Online Communities. Abingdon: Routledge.

———. 2018b. “Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia Religious Groups.” World Religions and Spirituality Project. 4 March 2018. https://wrldrels.org/2018/03/04/proana-and-pro-mia-religious-groups/

———. 2022a. “Buddha Bowls: Enchanting a Secular Skinny”. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review 13(1): 50–75. https://doi.org/10.5840/asrr2022101293.

———. 2022b. Preventing Harmful Behaviour in Online Communities. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ayella, Marybeth. 1990. “‘They Must Be Crazy’: Some of the Difficulties in Researching ‘Cults’.” American Behavioral Scientist 33(5): 562–577. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764290033005005.

Bainbridge, William Sims, and Rodney Stark. 1979. “Cult Formation: Three Compatible Models.” Sociological Analysis 40(4): 283–294. https://doi.org/10.2307/3709958.

———. 1985. The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival and Cult Formation. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Balch, Robert W. 1980. “Looking behind the Scenes in a Religious Cult: Implications for the Study of Conversion.” Sociological Analysis 41(2): 137–143. https://doi.org/10.2307/3709905.

Balch, Robert W. and David Taylor. 1977. “Seekers and Saucers: The Role of the Cultic Milieu in Joining a UFO Cult.” American Behavioral Scientist 20(6): 839–860. https://doi.org/10.1177/000276427702000604.

Barker, Eileen. 1986. “Religious Movements: Cult and Anticult Since Jonestown.” Annual Review of Sociology 12(1): 329–346. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.so.12.080186.001553.

Bell, Mebbie. 2014. ““Virtual” Autobiography? Anorexia, Obsession, and Calvin Klein.” In Embodied Politics in Visual Autobiography, edited by Sarah Brophy and Janice Hladki, 48–63. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. https://doi.org/10.3138/9781442666146-004.

Bromberg, Marilyn, and Tomas Fitzgerald. 2017. “Should ‘pro-Ana’ Websites Be Criminalised in Australia?” The Conversation. 23 June 2017. http://theconversation.com/should-pro-ana-websites-be-criminalised-in-australia-79197.

Burke, Eliza. 2012. “Reflections on the Waif: Images of Slenderness and Distress in Pro-Anorexia Websites.” Australian Feminist Studies 27(71): 37–54. https://doi.org/10.1080/08164649.2012.648258.

Campbell, Colin. 1972. “The Cult, the Cultic Milieu, and Secularisation.” A Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain 5: 119–136.

———. 1977. “Clarifying the Cult.” The British Journal of Sociology 28(3): 375–388. https://doi.org/10.2307/590001.

Clugston, Harriet. 2016. “People Are Furious With B&M For Selling ‘Pro-Anorexia’ Scales.” BuzzFeed Community. 29 March 2016. https://www.buzzfeed.com/harrietclugston/people-are-furious-with-bm-for-selling-proanore-276ck.

Cobb, Gemma. 2020. Negotiating Thinness Online: The Cultural Politics of Pro-Anorexia. Abingdon: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429491795.

coffee_and_dietcoke. 2020. “Ana Quotes.” My Pro Ana. 23 August 2020. https://www.myproana.com/index.php/topic/4059491-ana-quotes/.

Cresswell, Julia. 2009. “Waif.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dignon, Andrée, Angela Beardsmore, Sean Spain, and Ann Kuan. 2006. “‘Why I Won’t Eat’: Patient Testimony from 15 Anorexics Concerning the Causes of Their Disorder.” Journal of Health Psychology 11(6): 942–956. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105306069097.

Donaghue, Ngaire and Anne Clemitshaw. 2012. “‘I’m Totally Smart and a Feminist… and yet I Want to Be a Waif’: Exploring Ambivalence towards the Thin Ideal within the Fat Acceptance Movement.” Women’s Studies International Forum 35(6): 415–425. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2012.07.005.

Dwyer, Angela. 2004. “Disorder or Delight? Towards a New Account of the Fashion Model Body.” Fashion Theory 8(4): 405–423. https://doi.org/10.2752/136270404778051573.

Elena. 2022. “Pro-Ana Websites: A New Anorexic Cult.” YouMeMindBody. 14 August 2022. https://youmemindbody.com/mental-health/Pro-Ana-New-Anorexic-Cult-Explicit.

Ferreday, Debra. 2011. “Haunted Bodies: Visual Cultures of Anorexia and Size Zero.” Borderlands Ejournal 10(2): 1–22.

———. 2014. “A Waif’s Progress: Reading Kate Moss through Affect, Ideology, and Ambivalence.” Feminist Media Studies 14(5): 791–805. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2013.831943.

Flanagan, Stuart. 2010. “4st 7lbs.” BMJ 341 (September): c5365. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c5365.

Forani, Jonathan. 2014. “Kate Moss ‘Skinny’ Shirt Axed by Hudson’s Bay Company.” The Toronto Star. 24 June 2014. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/06/24/kate_moss_skinny_shirt_axed_by_hudsons_bay_company.html

Giles, David C. 2000. Illusions of Immortality: A Psychology of Fame and Celebrity. New York: St Martin’s Press.

Gilmore, Heather. 2005. “Cocaine-Diet Gals Follow Kate’s Model.” New York Post. 9 October 2005. https://nypost.com/2005/10/09/cocaine-diet-gals-follow-kates-model/

Glauert, Rebecca, Gillian Rhodes, Bernhard Fink and Karl Grammer. 2009. “Body Dissatisfaction and Attentional Bias to Thin Bodies.” International Journal of Eating Disorders, NA-NA. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.20663.

Google Trends. n.d. “Topic: Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels.” Google Trends. Accessed 4 April 2022. https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=2004-02-03%202022-03-30&q=%2Fg%2F11b77d3p2y

Grabe, Shelly, L. Monique Ward and Janet Shibley Hyde. 2008. “The Role of the Media in Body Image Concerns among Women: A Meta-Analysis of Experimental and Correlational Studies.” Psychological Bulletin 134(3): 460–476. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.460

Guest_whatsuedidnext_*. 2017. “Opinions on a Sick ‘Heroin Chic’ Look vs a Healthy One.” My Pro Ana. 25 August 2017. https://www.myproana.com/index.php/topic/2164906-opinions-on-a-sick-heroin-chic-look-vs-ahealthy-one/

Hanukov, Ilana. 2015. “The ‘Cocaine Kate’ Scandal: Celebrity Addiction or Public Addiction to Celebrity?” The Journal of Popular Culture 48(4): 652–661. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpcu.12299

Hartley, John. 2003. A Short History of Cultural Studies. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

———. 2007. “Documenting Kate Moss Fashion Photography and the Persistence of Photojournalism.” Journalism Studies 8(4): 555–565. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616700701411979

Helmore, Edward. 2019. “‘Heroin Chic’ and the Tangled Legacy of Photographer Davide Sorrenti.” The Guardian. 23 May 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2019/may/23/heroin-chic-and-the-tangled-legacy-ofphotographer-davide-sorrenti

Hesse-Biber, Sharlene, Patricia Leavy, Courtney E. Quinn, and Julia Zoino. 2006. “The Mass Marketing of Disordered Eating and Eating Disorders: The Social Psychology of Women, Thinness and Culture.” Women’s Studies International Forum 29(2): 208–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2006.03.007

Hollander, Paul. 2010. “Michael Jackson, the Celebrity Cult, and Popular Culture.” Society 47(2): 147–152. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-009-9294-6

Howard, John. 2008. “Kate Moss—Simple Supermodel Diet!” Street Directory. 7 November 2008. https://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/47470/e_diet/kate_moss___simple_supermodel_diet.html

Howells, Richard. 2011. “Heroes, Saints and Celebrities: The Photograph as Holy Relic.” Celebrity Studies 2(2): 112–130. https://doi.org/10.1080/19392397.2011.574866

Irvine, Martha. 2005. “Cult-Like Lure of ‘Ana’ Attracts Anorexics.” ABC News. 11 November 2005. https://web.archive.org/web/20051111004118/http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory?id=803757

Kimberley. 2006. “Thinspiration.” This Isn”t Free. 2006. https://web.archive.org/web/20071117113130/http://www.freewebs.com/wannabe110/thinspiration.html

Klein, Alyssa Vingan. 2014. “Hudson’s Bay Company Pulls Kate Moss T-Shirt from Shelves.” Fashionista. 26 June 2014. https://fashionista.com/2014/06/kate-moss-t-shirt-hudsons-bay

Kreps, Daniel. 2021. “Amy Carlson Cause of Death: Alcohol Abuse, Anorexia, Colloidal Silver.” Rolling Stone. 3 December 2021. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/love-has-won-leader-amy-carlsons-causeof-death-released-1266385/

kurtcobainslovelybones. 2021. “Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels—Anorexia Discussions.” My Pro Ana. 1 September 2021. https://www.myproana.com/index.php/topic/4241975-nothing-tastes-as-good-as-skinnyfeels/

Latzer, Yael, Zohar Spivak-Lavi and Ruth Katz. 2015. “Disordered Eating and Media Exposure among Adolescent Girls: The Role of Parental Involvement and Sense of Empowerment.” International Journal of Adolescence and Youth 20(3): 375–391. https://doi.org/10.1080/02673843.2015.1014925

Levine, John, and Michael Hogg. 2010. “Cults.” In Encyclopedia of Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412972017

Lichfield, John. 2008. “France Bans Websites Promoting Anorexia ‘Cult’.” The Independent. 15 April 2008. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/france-bans-websites-promoting-anorexia-cult-809617.


López-Guimerà, Gemma, Michael P. Levine, David Sánchez-carracedo, and Jordi Fauquet. 2010. “Influence of Mass Media on Body Image and Eating Disordered Attitudes and Behaviors in Females: A Review of Effects and Processes.” Media Psychology 13(4): 387–416. https://doi.org/10.1080/15213269.2010.525737

Lynch, Tom. 2023. Making Miracles in Medieval England. London: Routledge.

Magro, Jessica. 2017. “The Cult of Eating Disorders.” Yale Daily News. 19 April 2017. https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2017/04/19/magro-the-cult-ofeating-disorders/

Maltby, John, David C. Giles, Louise Barber and Lynn E. McCutcheon. 2005. “Intense-Personal Celebrity Worship and Body Image: Evidence of a Link among Female Adolescents.” British Journal of Health Psychology 10(1): 17–32. https://doi.org/10.1348/135910704X15257

Mariani, Mike. 2016. “How Pro-Anorexia Websites Affect the Psychology of Eating Disorders.” Newsweek. 23 June 2016. https://www.newsweek.com/2016/07/01/pro-ana-websites-anorexia-nervosa-473433.html

Martin, Penny. 2003. “In Camera: Kate Moss.” SHOWStudio. 18 March 2003. https://web.archive.org/web/20030318032950/http://www.showstudio.com/projects/kte/kte_start2.html

Mau, Dhani. 2017. “Calvin Klein Unearths Unseen “90s Kate Moss Footage for New “Obsessed” Fragrance Campaign.” Fashionista. 21 June 2017. https://fashionista.com/2017/06/calvin-klein-obsessed-kate-mosscampaign

McKay, George. 2018. “Skinny Blues: Karen Carpenter, Anorexia Nervosa and Popular Music.” Popular Music 37(1): 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1017/S026114301700054X

McKnight, Jenni. 2013. “Kate: Don’t Blame Me for People’s Eating Disorders.” Metro. 16 July 2013. https://metro.co.uk/2013/07/16/there-was-no-heroin-just-chic-kate-moss-doesnt-want-to-be-held-responsible-for-otherpeoples-eating-disorders-3884391/

Miller, Tracy. 2008. “Kate Moss: I Didn’t Want to Be That Skinny.” Nydailynews. Com. 23 August 2008. https://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/kate-moss-didn-skinny-article-1.317966

Mitchell, Elizabeth. 1994. “America’s Obsession.” SPIN. September 1994. https://www.spin.com/2020/11/kate-moss-1994-interview/

Murray, Dara Persis. 2013. “Kate Moss, Icon of Postfeminist Disorder.” Celebrity Studies 4(1): 14–32. https://doi.org/10.1080/19392397.2012.750099

Nicholl, Katie. 2007. “Skinny plus Sexy Makes Me so ‘Rexy’ Says Moss.” Mail Online. 9 July 2007. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-469942/Skinny-plus-sexy-makes-Rexy-says-Moss.html

Olson, Paul J. 2006. “The Public Perception of ‘Cults’ and ‘New Religious Movements’.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 45(1): 97–106. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2006.00008.x

O’Malley, Katie. 2018. “Kate Moss Says She Regrets Mantra ‘Nothing Tastes As Good As Skinny Feels’.” ELLE. 13 September 2018. https://www.elle.com/uk/life-and-culture/culture/a23113786/kate-moss-regrets-mantranothing-tastes-as-good-as-skinny-feels/

PARTYNEXTMOON. 2016. “90s Kate Moss Inspired Diet—Member Diets.” My Pro Ana. 22 October 2016. https://www.myproana.com/index.php/topic/776713-90s-kate-moss-inspired-diet/

Penny, Laurie. 2009. “I Never Went Anywhere without This Slogan Written on My Hand. It Was My Mantra.” The Guardian. 20 November 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/nov/20/kate-moss-mottopro-anorexic

“Pro-Anorexia Movement Has Cult-like Appeal.” 2005. NBC News. 31 May 2005. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pro-anorexia-movement-has-cult-appeal-flna1C9442627

Rahmani, Fateh, Azad Hemmati, Shuki J. Cohen and J. Reid Meloy. 2019. “The Interplay between Antisocial and Obsessive-compulsive Personality Characteristics in Cult-like Religious Groups: A Psychodynamic Decoding of the DSM-5.” International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies 16(4): 258–273. https://doi.org/10.1002/aps.1634.

Ratcliffe, Susan. 2018. “Kate Moss 1974–.” In Oxford Essential Quotations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acref/9780191866692.001.0001

Richardson, James T. 1993. “Definitions of Cult: From Sociological-Technical to Popular-Negative.” Review of Religious Research 34(4): 348–356. https://doi.org/10.2307/3511972

———. 2016. “Sects and Cults.” In The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies, edited by Angela Wong, Maithree Wickramasinghe, renee hoogland, and Nancy A Naples, 1–3. Singapore: John Wiley & Sons. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118663219.wbegss571

Saliba, John A. 1990. Social Science and the Cults: An Annotated Bibliography. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Sauvé, Christopher Lee. 2014. “Official Statement: Christopher Lee Sauvé Addresses ‘Nothing Tastes As Good As Skinny Feels’ Tee.” Tumblr. 24 June 2014. https://christopherleesauve.tumblr.com/post/89917127086

Schott, Nicole Danielle. 2015. “Food Marketing as a Pedagogical Act: Teaching Women to Consume ‘Skinny’.” Journal of Social Justice 5: 1–23.

Shorter, Louise, Stephen L. Brown, Stephanie J. Quinton, and Louise Hinton. 2008. “Relationships Between Body-Shape Discrepancies With Favored Celebrities and Disordered Eating in Young Women.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 38(5): 1364–1377. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2008.00351.x

Siegel-Itzkovich, Judy. 2009. “Israeli Girls Use Web to Turn Eating Disorder into ‘Cult’.” The Jerusalem Post. 26 January 2009. https://www.jpost.com/health-and-sci-tech/health/israeli-girls-use-web-to-turn-eating-disorder-into-cult

skinny girl. 2001. “Kate Moss.” Skinny Girl. 2001. https://www.angelfire.com/sk2/skinnygirl/page9.html

Smith, April R., Thomas E. Joiner, and Dorian R. Dodd. 2014. “Examining Implicit Attitudes toward Emaciation and Thinness in Anorexia Nervosa: Implicit Attitudes in Anorexia.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 47(2): 138–147. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.22210

Stampler, Laura. 2012. “Inside Pinterest’s Frightening Pro-Anorexia ‘Thinspo’ Cult.” Business Insider. 23 March 2012. https://www.businessinsider.com/inside-pinterests-frightening-pro-anorexia-thinspo-cult-2012-3

Stark, Rodney, and William Sims Bainbridge. 1979. “Of Churches, Sects, and Cults: Preliminary Concepts for a Theory of Religious Movements.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 18(2): 117–131. https://doi.org/10.2307/1385935

———. 1996. Religion, Deviance, and Social Control. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203724217

Stark, Rodney, William Sims Bainbridge, and Daniel P. Doyle. 1979. “Cults of America: A Reconnaissance in Space and Time.” Sociological Analysis 40 (4): 347–359. https://doi.org/10.2307/3709963

Tillich, Paul. 1964. Theology of Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Topping, Alexandra. 2009. “Kate Moss’s Motto Gives Comfort to “pro-Anorexic” Community.” The Guardian. 20 November 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/nov/20/kate-moss-motto-pro-anorexic

Trebay, Guy. 2006. “Being Bad: The Career Move.” The New York Times. 20 April 2006. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/20/fashion/thursdaystyles/being-bad-the-career-move.html

Truman, Isabelle. 2022. “BBLs Are over, Eye Bags Are in, Smoking Is Back. Is Heroin Chic Next?” Dazed. 10 February 2022. https://www.dazeddigital.com/body/article/55414/1/bbls-are-over-eye-bags-are-in-smoking-isback-is-heroin-chic-next

Vartiainen, Turo. 2019. “From Twig-Skinny to Kate Moss Skinny: Expressing Degree with Common and Proper Nouns.” English Language and Linguistics 23(4): 901–27. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1360674319000303

”Waif.” 2022. Aesthetics Wiki. 2022. https://aesthetics.fandom.com/wiki/Waif.Whitcomb, Dan. 2004. “In Online Setting, a Cult of Anorexia Finds Affirmation.”Boston.Com National News. 21 November 2004. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pro-anorexia-movement-has-cult-appealflna1C9442627






How to Cite

Alderton, Z. (2024). “Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels”: Kate Moss and the Role of the “Extraordinary Body” in Cult Formation. International Journal for the Study of New Religions, 12(2), 157-184. https://doi.org/10.1558/ijsnr.27320