My BIG Sacred Body; a Personal Story

While the internet continues to buzz around conversations of Pagans and obesity, I can’t help but contemplate how that is just a dot on the canvas of concerns within the lives of many people.  I have always struggled between moments of concern over health to sheer anger that others in society take the liberties to have an opinion about my outsides.  It makes me reflect on generations of my family and the layered levels of life that manifest into extra pounds and an assumption that healthy living is not a priority.

My family is from the South, my mother and father were raised in different parts of Alabama.  Growing up I  had more connections with my mother’s side of the family and had some conversations with various members about the history of my family and where they come from.  I heard stories of segregation, struggle, working as maids for “White folk” and a belief rooted in the community of the church.  They often talked about the meaning of communing with others, sharing of food representing love, sustenance, respect and caring.  It was common to share a meal after service and later that day with the Pastor at my grandfather and grandmother’s house.

I remember the many conversations with my mother about what I thought was random foods that seemed to be a commodity within the homes of Southern Black families.  I could never wrap my mind around the pickled pigs feet and I stopped eating chitlins when I saw my mom cleaning them when I was in my early teen years.  I never fully understood why they smelled so bad at that phase until I saw what she cut off. (still gives me shivers).

My mom would talk about the southern cuisines that I could not understand and reminded me of the privilege that I had being born and raised in a time when I did not have to survive on the scraps given to me.  It was these moments that I really began to understand that much of our cultural foods were built from slave times and learning to make lemonade out of lemons, or dinner out of pigs intestines.

Food to my family has always meant more than the narrow view of nutrition and was a reflection of our ancestors, culture, history and a moment of sharing.

The gravity of the symbol of food within our culture gives me a better sense of how I am so often hurt by the assumptions that people who don’t live on asparagus must not care about their health.  It is also another example of the survival of a group that are then judged on the merits of the methods they used to survive.

In my adult years I have come to think differently about what it means to be a Black woman.  In our community being “thick” or “big boned” is something that is often referred to as desirable.  The cultural stereotypes of having a big butt and hips are considered attractive.  I do not know what my ancestors from Africa looked like and if they also had the same genetic bubble butt or round hip shapes that we do, but then again I don’t know who my African ancestors are.  I do know my African American family members and most of them look like me; hips, butt and all.  Whether or not that is due to our genetics, cultural food choices or a combination of both I can’t say but the “fat” does seem to go in the same places.  (sounds like there is some genetic stuff in there to me).

When I was growing up I tried to deny this concept, that I would be a round one in my adult years.  Since I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian area of the Bay Area, it wasn’t a surprise that my two best friends in high school were thin ladies that did not look anything like me.  I had my share of body image issues, as many teenage girls do, and no amount of diet made my curves or large breast go away.  I did not look like them and never would; our ancestors did not look alike either.

I think this is the beginning of my senior year

Today I look back at those pictures from high school and I know I wasn’t fat, I was just Black.  I was “thick” in the right places and had nothing to be ashamed of, regardless of the internal and external messages that I had been hearing.  I was beautiful and a reflection of all the faces in my lineage.

In the last few years I have made some decisions about my health that I wanted to see manifest.  My husband and I started back at the gym about 2 years ago to honor the death of my mother.  I told my husband, when she died, that I never wanted to see my children cry over my body because I did not do all that I could do.  It was not about weight, it was about health and making healthy choices that felt good to ME.

Have I lost weight?  Yes but the point was not about that and more about how my body functioned and how I felt inside.  Let’s face it, those obesity charts are not made for Black women and I don’t know that I have weighed my “ideal” weight since 3rd grade.  I quite enjoy not looking like a bobble head and so I do not think I will attempt the western version of ideal weight for my height any time soon.  Instead I will continue to make choices for myself that embrace my culture, honor my sacred body, praise the vision of choice that I cherish and celebrates the bumps and clumps that lie under my skin.

And this leads me to think about my spirituality, being a Pagan and honoring myself as a part of the landscape.  Coming into the Pagan community supported that sense of “coming home” for me too, in more ways than one.  We celebrate around the table as well as the circle.  Pagans honor the essence of your being and your absence is noted, just like in the small churches of the South.  Honoring each other extends to being on a camp ground and sharing a meal with someone’s family.  There are many similarities that mirror my own family’s culture of love.

In my continued quest to align my present with my beliefs, values, history, goals and spiritual mind, I have found that my body is a part of that same equation.  I feel more in my spiritual realm when my body feels healthy and I am honoring the Gods (as well as my ancestors and culture) when I put food into my mouth.  I feel more in sync with myself when I am active in the gym; my body works differently and my mind is more balanced.

I am still a big girl.  I think I will always be a big girl in one respect or another.  Big is a state of mind in many ways.  So instead of adding a perception of negative content onto years of social pressures around weight, I have decided to honor the Big Girl inside of me.  I plan to be big in culture, big in faith, big in my Goddess power, big in my sense of self, big in my goals of overall health, big in my energy when I need to, big in my Mama Power for my children, big in my counselor abilities and big in my heart.  I will not shy away from the big girl parts of me, regardless of how my body may look.  Big is a part of my history; how do you think we got this far?

 

Teaching at a youth leadership empowerment conference in Oakland

  • Dwsclark

    Enjoyed reading your take on loving who you and your quest for a healthier lifestyle. Submitted by Alabama family

  • Dwsclark

    Enjoyed reading your take on loving who you and your quest for a healthier lifestyle. Submitted by Alabama family

  • Lsodders2003

    You know I love ya crystal what wonderful story

  • M.A.

    Healthy people come in all sizes.  This is a true thing which is currently out of fashion, but it is still true.  Thank you for being who you are!

  • wiztwas

    It is a good thing that we have so much diversity in our community, and even though I am a white, vegetarian, male in England, I am also concerned about weight, and the way women are portrayed in terms of what society expects them to be.

    I am trying to get a better connection to my food, I want to know where it came from, the people who picked it, the people who processed it and what was done to it, the earth that made it come into being.

  • http://www.facebook.com/miranda.sodders Miranda Sodders

    I’m a big girl too. I have, as do many women in my family, big breasts and wide hips, along with a big round butt. I know I look beautiful, that I am sexy. For me, weight loss is more for health reasons. Like you said, I don’t want to be dying and have my family know I didn’t do all I could to be healthy. I’ll never be a size 2, or probably anything under double digits, and that doesn’t bother me. I am a big curvy woman who loves my shape. I love my body, and it is sacred, and that’s why I want to take care of it. Congrats girl.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1542692508 Peter Dybing

    This is a great read, Love you Crystal

  • Root

    Thank you for this. At my thinnest, I was still a double digits girl; my “ideal” weight had my mother concerned that I didn’t have enough money for food. Though there is concern about staying healthy, “fit” certainly doesn’t look the same for all of us.

  • Rebekah

    Thanks for sharing your personal experience here, Crystal.  So many of us struggle with our culture’s media disseminated “norms” no matter what our size, shape, or background.  Coming to terms with who we really are inside, what the state of our health is, what we present to the world and how that reflects our values is definitely part of our journey.  (Its a tough one too!  I’m struggling with my age related changes and adopting a positive attitude around that.)

    Having a 20 year old daughter constantly reminds me of the messages I am sending and modeling to her around issues of weight, health, buying in to cultural media, aging, being a woman, self talk (this is a tough one for me), etc. etc.I honor the big in self honor, big in Goddess energy, big in FUN, big in showing up for others person that you are.  (If I could only be so Big!)  Blessed Be!Rebekah

  • Nicole Youngman

    Thanks for such a lovely post. I’m getting concerned about my own weight creeping up on me, and it’s a hard thing to balance not getting bogged down in the body-image issues with recognizing that I could be doing a better job getting the exercise and healthy food I need (and living in Louisiana doesn’t help with the latter!). I want to be careful how I frame things around my 9yr old son, too–I sure as hell don’t want to say stuff like “I’m going to skip dessert because I’m getting too fat,” but otoh  I don’t want to model an “it’s ok to pig out on whatever you want” approach. Balance, balance, oy. :)

  • Shira Kammen

    Thank you for this beautiful article. I know very few women who don’t think they take up too much space in the world, literally or figuratively. This way of being cannot continue, and you are living and speaking in such a way that will lead to change. I am so weary of being judged, by others and myself, for my packaging.

  • http://syncreticmystic.wordpress.com/ Soli

     Well said, and we need more of this speaking. Thin does not automatically beget good health, nor does being large mean having all the health problems.
    BMI is also just junk science.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rootwomin Root Womin

    wow. excellent post. thank you for sharing something that is so pivotal to our community as black wimmin. ase.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com/ A.C. Fisher Aldag

    “Let’s face it, those obesity charts are not made for Black women…”  They’re not made for real human women… or men, either.  

  • kittylu

    Doctors who are jumping on the obseity/cosmetic surgery bandwagon don’t seem to realize the damage that their doing to society by spreading hate and division.  they want to blame disease on our own choices when its all the pollution we are exposed to.

  • The Real Jersey Girl

    Thank you for sharing with us.  During my life I have watched my mother struggle with her weight issues and now, in her early seventies, she has embraced who she is and is pretty happy with herself.  I have a six year old daughter and I am keeping in mind the possibility that in the future she may also face the same issues, so I am interested in learning everything I can in order to be a wise mentor to her.  I appreciate your insight an opinions on this subject, thank you again.

  • Gergininaki

    This was an excellent post. I am glad i read this because ever since i read the post that started it all  i felt really frustrated. Now finally some closure…

  • Shauna Aura Knight

    Great post Crystal. The imprinting experience I had growing up in my home town here in Cedarburg Wisconsin–everyone in my school was skinny and white, and there were really only a couple of girls like me, who were taller and curvy. I learned through school, and through the constant dieting my mom and I did as a kid, that fat was not ok, not attractive, and no one would want me if I was fat.

    I’m currently working to lose weight and get healthy to get to what I consider a healthy fat–the weight where I still qualify as fat in the overculture, but where my own body feels healthy. I’m working to get stronger, build more muscle. What I’m focusing on just as much is trying to eat the foods that are good for me, healthy for me. Getting away from the corn syrup, MSG, chemicals, gluten…adding in the green veggies and things that actually give nutrition.

    It’s all a struggle, and I continue to hope that we can all work to help each other to be healthy as a community, while loving and honoring all the shapes and sizes we come in.

  • Stasa

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.  (From a white sister.)

  • LaurenF

    Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

  • Shakti_Luna

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!  Health does not go by BMI alone, and those charts are only suggestions.  I don’t think many people realize that one’s true BMI must be done with a specialist, involving many tests, calculations, and the like.  I had lap band last year and my goal weight (per my surgeon) is 165 no less than 150.  A BMI chart says that is overweight, but it isn’t.  

    Health, beauty, and wellness is truly based on lifestyle, diet, activity, and other factors.  Thank you for addressing this issue, as sizism has sadly creeped into our community and there is no need for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lilith.blackdragon Lilith BlackDragon

    Yes, but please be careful. You are such a beautiful woman, and it’d be terrible if you ended up with diabetes and fatty liver disease and high blood pressure, etc, and it could have been avoided with the right dietary choices and routine exercise. 

    • Soli

       but keep in mind that plenty of skinny people get those diseases and plenty of larger people do not. Weight is not automatically a sign of a person’s overall health.

    • Crystal Blanton

      In all due respect, I am not an idiot. I know about health and also genetics. Those things are not dependent on diet alone. Did you read that I am active in the gym? I think it is this type of comments that make a lot of assumptions that people are not able to govern their own health and that they need someone to remind them of health that are hurtful.

  • Alexandra Lynch

    We do not ask a rose to become a violet, nor the lily a rose, we enjoy the beauty of them all in the garden. Why then do we require all women to be of medium height and a size six, or die trying?

    I said no. I refuse to make myself invisible. I am a living face of my Lady in the world, I am called to heal relationships and speak wisdom as it’s given me to say. I am from a long line of European peasant women with large busts and full hips and solid thighs and big feet. I won’t ever be willowy or ethereal.  And that’s okay. The earth has curves, and so do I, and if someone finds that problematic, that’s their problem not mine.

    But I also delight in my physical strength and flexibility, the more so as it is clawed, inch by inch, back from chronic disease and injury. Working out and being moderate in my eating is part of that nurturing of myself, and gives me the feeling of being all one person, not a mind in a body.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593281991 TJ Christie

    I came upon this entry today.  You are wise and intelligent… this post is rich with deep remembrances and bright with inspiration.  We are Pagan, we are Sisters, and we are beautiful – you and I.  Thank you for sharing.

    I’d be honored if you’d visit me and comment if you are so drawn to do so.

    http://wiccanwoman.wordpress.com/

    Namaste.

  • Meia

    Girl…you look absolutely beautiful right now to me!!! LOL!!!  Intersting, a month ago I was verbally attacked by a sistah because I didn’t put the effort in to do my hair, ride 8 inch heel shoes, put on a dress with a hem above the knee or wear makeup and I was too fat to the point that I look 10 years older.  Hmmnn…her tirade lasted the evening and even more interesting I said nothing.  What I did say was “your opinion is noted”.  The mutual friend who introduced us was so horrified that she apologized profusely for this woman even now.  I thought that particularly odd, so I asked her why she was apologizing for her friend who didn’t feel the need to apologize for anything?  She just kept apologizing..  Finally, I told her… “you really have to understand that what your friend said to me, for once, didn’t hurt me because the person in pain was her not me.  I am surrounded by people who think I am dynamic, talented, beautiful inside and out, and that is WITHOUT fake hair, fake nails, high heels, endless makeup, stylish clothes, false eyelashes, oh the list goes on.  I can fall out of bed and just about greet my day, and my community thinks I am perfect as I am.  She doesn’t have that, and she suffers for it every day of her life.  Her unhappiness in spite of her outward efforts and appearance is palpable.  So don’t apologize for her, pray for her. ”      So I’m just sayin…when others lash out becase we don’t fit their view of anything…probably at the heart of it is their own pain.  Yea, I want to loose weight because I am older and I want to feel GREAT for years to come…so yoga, walking  and biking is my way to a thinner me, not some crazy form that society says fits all.  And, I remember her comment about my hair…”your hair is so beautiful…why don’t you straighten it” I wear my hair in natural curls…there is NO WAY I will go back to blow drying and flat ironing my stuff.  It is thicker than ever and it blows in the wind!!!  I spent years straightening it until 6 years ago it all starting falling out.  Now it is thick, natural curls.  Natural or nothing.  Big lesson for me….keep living YOU.


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