A Tragedy Creates Potential for a National Pagan Discussion on Health

David Grega (1984 – 2012) was an important figure in Pagan mass media and he was only twenty-seven. He passed recently due to heart failure. He was part of the Pagan Centered Podcast and the Texas branch of the Pagan Newswire Collective.

Peter Dybing, charity coordinator and Pagan blogger, wrote his concerns about the state of our community’s health. “One of the most valued principles within the Wicca community is that all bodies are sacred and beautiful. This is so engrained in our culture that that we have developed a collective amnesia concerning the health affects of obesity. To even mention the issue has become a kind of taboo. Yes all bodies are beautiful, but all hearts, circulation systems and health levels are not.” “A Pagan Taboo, Obesity”

Margot Adler, author and journalist commented “Peter:
This is an issue that my late husband and I discussed all the time. “Why are there so many obese people in Paganism,” he would ask me. “it’s a nature religion after all!” He was fit, a runner, ate perfectly, and I should say he still died of cancer. As for me, I had a history of being overweight most of my life. I was two hundred pounds during my sophmore year in college. I ate partly because it was a fortress against the world. Particularly for women in the sixties and seventies when sexism was rampant, and we wanted to be taken seriously, being overweight allowed me not to be a sex object. It also was the one reliable comfort and pleasure. I read “fat is a feminist issue” – a really important book. Now I am only about 5-7 lbs over what I should be, and the only way I have been able to keep the weight off is to walk at least 5 miles a day which is not something that is easy for everyone. I live in Manhattan. after all, and I don’t have a car. But I wear a pedometer almost all the time, and at 66, I am probably more fit than I was at 20, at least in some ways.I tell people Go out an get a pedometer, and if your health permits, start a walking program and slowly work up to ten thousand steps. I did 20 thousand today. That’s almost ten miles. The truth is that fit overweight people usually don’t have many medical problems. I have long wanted to hold a workshop at Pagan gatherings to discuss all this, perhaps a panel with a group of people.”

Epiphany Paris commented “I personally don’t see a contradiction between seeing the body (any shape) as sacred, and also having an emphasis on health … One way to be supportive would be to sponsor workshops on health, and have those offerings available to anyone in the community.

Last thought… one thing I know is that hating my body makes it a lot harder to get healthier. Thinking of my body as sacred embodies me to increase my health. Thinking of our bodies as sacred does not equal, to me, ignoring health.”

Iris Firemoon at her blog posted a response The Pagan Conversation of Obesity. “Obesity in the Pagan community is a part of the larger issue of health.  And health is not just about weight.  It is about treating our bodies as sacred.  It’s about what we put into our bodies and making sure that they are in the best condition possible for the long haul.  It’s about putting things into our bodies that were created by nature or the gods, not by putting synthetic replicas into our bodies as a substitute. It’s something that not only Pagans struggle with, but health is a consideration for all humans.  When we are at the height of our possible health (which is different for all of us because of genetics, injury, etc.), we improve the quality of our life.  We reduce disease.  We prolong life.  We feel better for longer.  I strongly believe that our bodies respond better to invasions and prevent disease when they are in optimal condition.  We are better vessls for divine work.  We are better able to serve.  We are better able to participate.” – Iris Firemoon

In a thread on Google+ I found out that Dave had started Pagans Promoting Healthy Active Tendencies (PHAT) It was sponsored by the Pagan Centered Podcast.

Many say that Pagans are just a bunch of overweight feminists. Well, we have mostly overcome the negative aspects of feminist extremism – but that overweight part still applies. Time for us to do something about that! That’s why Pagans promoting Healthy Active Tendencies (abbreviated: PHAT) was created. We’re here to provide peer-advice among Pagans on what works and what doesn’t work for us. By having a network of peers, we hope to spread this to the entire Pagan community and eventually grow beyond our reputation of being a fat community.

The acronym PHAT (pronounced like the word “fat”) embodies the informational ideal of this group, where people go from being overweight to “pretty hot and tempting” as 90′s slang would put it. Pagan paths are largely paths of self-transformation and this group encourages positive self transformation.

They aren’t sure if they will be able to maintain the site since Dave had most of the information.

The site looks like it had a good start with some informative articles and they encouraged participants to meet with their doctor for a check-up. The site also mentioned that Dave had lost over 100 pounds since trying to lose weight. Weight lose is supposedly one of the key components to improving heart health.

At the blog Shackled Spirit – Disability’s Spiritual Toll Lydia M N Crabtree wrote “Mourning, Discipline and Responsibility”.

“New research demonstrates that some of the most beneficial health results come from having and participating in an extended community. Belonging and being active in a church or club or some other group. I feel that for neo-pagans, this is one that is very difficult to achieve. The numbers of viable, healthy groups available for participation are limited and those limited groups often harbor a wariness or cliquishness that makes it difficult for new persons to become involved. This speaks to a discussion regarding communal responsibility to those who identify as like mind and are outside the scope of this blog – this time.

Finding and managing ones illness through traditional means of responsibility come discipline is being in a leaking ship while navigating  uncharted water of illness undefined and disability difficult to manage. From one day to the next my physical and mental capabilities shift making setting some disciplined exercise or even sleep wake schedule hard to do. I would say impossible; however, I am not so sure that it is. I would love to hear from others who are disabled and discuss how discipline and responsibility play a role in their continued illness.”

T. Thorn Coyle replied:
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of the obesity article and how it is fraught with a combination of privilege and real concern. There are so many factors we need to take into account, and responsibility, discipline and choice are only one axis. An important axis, to be sure, but when we have systemic hurdles to good health from agribusiness and food corporations who have conspired to load the market with cheap, non-nourishing foods that directly impact our health and our communities, we need to remember that personal responsibility is but one part of the equation.

Thank you for speaking your truth, and writing of your illness. I have students – all of whom must have some sort of exercise program that is suited to their health and body ability – some of whom struggle from the aftermath of invasive cancer surgery, or imbalanced hormones. They exercise and eat well – often spending money they can ill afford – and are still not thin. Conversely, I know other people who are actively in bad health, some of it from lack of exercise and good food, who are simply not choosing to make the changes that will enable them to even get out of a chair with greater ease.

These are tricky topics and we would all do well to bring compassion to the table.”

It is a tricky topic. Personally, I would not want to attend a festival or conference and have someone hand me literature about dieting. That is between my physician and myself. There is the potential to have Pagan type weight loss or health support groups such as Pagans promoting Healthy Active Tendencies (abbreviated: PHAT). There is room for discussion along with other health topics such as diabetes, mental health, sexual health, and drug abuse.

The question is. Where do we want to go from here. Perhaps workshops and discussion panels would be appropriate. If they happen, I want to see this include a mix of people from the medical field, spiritual leaders, and people with personal experience.

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About Tara "Masery" Miller

Tara "Masery" Miller is a Neo-Pagan panentheist Gaian mage living in the Ozarks with her husband and pets. She's also a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. She is the editor of Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul which you can find at Immanion press. www.immanion-press.com/info/books.asp She has a minor is religion from Southeast Missouri State Missouri State University with an emphasis in mysticism. Masery has lead various groups over the years and organized Pagan Pride Day events. Her magic and author page is at www.taramaserymiller.com

  • kadiera

    Let the judgements and body policing begin…Pagandom has long been one of the few places I can avoid that topic, but I guess that’s over.

    Personally, I think *weight* is the wrong measuring stick. Sure, eat better, move more….but weight by itself isn’t the answer. And the idea that everyone has access to all they need to be healthy is a huge leap of privilege.

    At my thinnest, nearly 18 years ago, I was also my least healthy. I ate less than 1000 calories a day and walked/marched (I was in a competitive marching band) about 100 miles a week. While I was within a normal BMI…I still had doctors trying to put me on diet pills. My blood pressure was high, my blood sugar a disaster, and I felt like crap. I routinely felt light headed and queasy after a practice, and suffered heat stroke rather than drinking enough to keep ahead of the heat during more than one competition.

    Four years ago, I weighed just 10 pounds less than I do now, and was at my healthiest ever as an adult. Definitely overweight, but eating mostly things I could identify (no boxes, no bags, starting from real food), and in karate class twice a week. Normal blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and all those other things that doctors check to determine health. Stronger than I’ve ever been. Faster than I’ve ever been (I had never run on a regular basis before then).

    Now? Well…it could be better, it could be worse. 2 complicated pregnancies later, several meds that caused weight gain that I’ve mostly worked my way back out of, and not nearly enough time for the things that would improve that. Much of my time is spent running 2 complicated kids to doctors and therapists and arguing with their school. We have virtually no family or community support; it’s nearly impossible to find someone to watch my older child for a few hours so I can get anything done, and then I’d have to manage to schedule a nurse for my younger child at the exact same time. Even getting enough sleep is a challenge, much less finding time to track down healthy food or get more exercise.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/ Tara “Masery” Miller

      “Let the judgements and body policing begin…” Let’s hope not. Judgement doesn’t help anyone. Compassion does. I had to find compassion for myself before I took control of my health. Now I am off insulin and feeling much better mentally and spiritually. I still have days or a week at a time where my moods swing into the dark but that’s can’t be “fixed” with exercise.

      Instead of body type policing it would benefit our community to offer opportunities for those who would like companionship on a journey toward better health. You mentioned you had doctors at one point wanting to put you on diet pills. I had that happen to me as well and luckily I did not go that route since there can be complications.

      Iris Firemoon wrote that the discussion is part of the larger national discussion on health. “It’s about putting things into our bodies that were created by nature or the gods, not by putting synthetic replicas into our bodies as a substitute. It’s something that not only Pagans struggle with, but health is a consideration for all humans. ”

      Instead of having a discussion on what body type is better or more pleasing to the community or the Gods, we can discuss the medical and supportive needs of community members. That is the heart of the concern.

      • kadiera

        Though that may be *your* intent….I’d suggest not reading the comments on some of the other posts floating around this week on this topic. :)

  • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

    You know, I would be all over helping to develop literature on HAES as a Pagan spiritual practise. It needs to come from the right place, though, and it needs to be focused on helping people who *want* the help to find ways to eat healthy, nutritious food they can afford, find safe and available movement options they will enjoy, and *not* be focused on numbers on a scale, tape measure, or clothing tag.

    When I presented at ConVocation this year, I did a workshop on creativity as devotion using yoga and qi gong to open up the creative channels, get through artist’s block and so on… perhaps for next year, I’ll add a workshop on moving meditation.

    I follow Abby Lantz’s method of yoga, which she calls “yoga for the body you have today”. She teaches how to modify poses to get the most out of them whilst being gentle with the limitations your body presents, whatever they are, and I strive to follow her example.

    What would you recommend for ensuring that a workshop on moving meditation is as accessible as possible?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/ Tara “Masery” Miller

      My suggestion is teach people how to find their right movement pace. What I’ve found is that if I start out thinking I am only really “trying” to add movement and exercise to my day is by expecting the body of a pro just discouraged me. My exercise currently is mainly walking my dog but I would like to add moving meditation or dance in secret more to Pagan music like Fever Ray. :)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3K3DL73W4A6UMC2TLZ533HHI7Y Ashleen

    This may seem superficial or worse, but …. Self-image has a lot to do with our health and (here’s the part that might make you groan or roll your eyes) how we dress has a lot to do with that. Big people often wear baggy clothes, either because they think that hides how big they are or because they think that’s all that can be comfortable. Rather than rattle on about fashion and psychology, I’ll just suggest that you watch 2-3 episodes of “What Not to Wear,” and remember that if you don’t have a $5,000 credit card, you can achieve similar results by going to the thrift shop and paying attention. Changing how you look to others changes what they mirror back to you, and changing what you see in any/all mirrors can be inspiring. For witches, by the way, this is not caving, it’s glamoury.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/ Tara “Masery” Miller

      Self-image is a major part of health. Thank you for adding that to the discussion. In the post “Mother Carry Me Down to the Sea” I wrote that I’m a survivor of abuse and it took a long to to even find the path of self acceptance. “At Luisah’s workshop about Oshun, people of all shapes, sizes, and genders danced to drums. The steps had us strutting our stuff and our hands moved as if we held mirrors “oh I look good” or fans for flirting. There I was instead of being a nervous wreck about my body type, I was laughing and dancing among strangers.

      Eventually I practiced smiling in the mirror. Mostly they were a quick glance and a tight lipped smile with barely upturned corners. Now when I catch my reflection I’ll grin and maybe touch my bangs thinking “That’s me! I’m here. I do exist. Looking good beautiful.””

      I’m also a fan of the beautiful at all sizes movement which encourages women to look their best and feel their best about themselves so they’ll go out and enjoy life without worrying what others may think.

    • MadGastronomer

      Has it occurred to you that a) poor self image is something fed to us by pretty much everyone in this society, including the above post, and b) that good-looking, well-fitting clothes for fat people are both hard to find and 2-3 times more expensive than for thinner people? Don’t lecture us about our wardrobes, it’s condescending.

  • Peter Dybing

    Great discussion of the issues surrounding health living in our community. I is great to see the discussion turning in this direction. This post is well written and presents various views, great writing

  • http://pragmaticwitch.blogspot.com/ Marienne

    One challenge my husband and I have faced is the idea that if you are spending time being healthy for yourself, that is time that you could have been spending serving the “pagan community”, and therefore that’s bad. My husband runs half marathons and I do occasional 5Ks as a way to support his efforts. That means that every so often, we’re off to a race instead of being available to teach/attend a workshop or festival. We spend money on new running shoes instead of on the latest books or tools to “support the community”. We are seen as less of a “pagan community” supporter because we engage in healthy interests that paganism just plain doesn’t provide these days. Other religions offer support systems for those who want to embrace different aspects of a healthy lifestyle (whether through exercise, diet, stress management, time management, breaking addictions, etc.), but paganism seems to be slow on the uptake for offering those for interested parties.

    I think more than the “we have to accept every body type as divine therefore we don’t put an emphasis on health”, the core challenge is that pagans by and large don’t like being told what’s what and immediately take the defensive if anyone says anything that doesn’t agree with the “now-state” of a person’s being. We are an experiential path–if we are not experiencing things that we feel are directly representative of poor health, then in our minds, we don’t have poor health. So even if your arteries are as solid as half-dry quickcrete, if you’re not feeling any ill effects from it, you’re totally fine…and because pagans don’t like being told by “the authority” (for whatever value of authority is out there) that something might be wrong, there’s a habit to rebel even stronger against any diagnosis that conflicts with our personal views of reality.

    So if I’m 100 pounds overweight according to medical standards and don’t have diabetes or an in-my-face heart condition and can still get around on a typical day and do whatever I like at any given moment, in my reality, I decide that I have no health problems and continue doing what I’ve been doing. Because pagans are very focused on the wheel of the year as the end-all-be-all of spiritual timekeeping and are, in many cases, unable to look at cycles into the future (whether it is about long-range planning for multi-year events or financial planning or whatever), then if one’s health is fine now, there’s no thought to “someday those same stats might come with serious health complications”.

    Paganism is a spiritual path of now. It is VERY good at being in the now. Until people develop “now problems” with health, you won’t see a focus on changing health patterns…and by that point, some people will decide that it simply isn’t worth the effort. For those who either try to be proactive or for those who are in a way that they need to change in the now, there simply aren’t the resources within paganism available. Sad, but true.

    • Straelbora

      I think you make an excellent point in that many of us Pagans are very thin-skinned about any criticism, no matter how constructive and sensitive. And the knee-jerk anti-authoritarianism that seems to go along furthers this.

      If you do a Google image search for “fat Russell Crowe,” that’s my basic build. I tend to 10 to 50 pounds over my idea of about 210 lbs. I was at a Pagan event several years ago and was, for lack of a better word, ambushed by two friends of an “Earth Goddess”-figured woman who was attracted to me. They knew that I had a history of dating tall, svelte women. I was taken to task by them for being a ‘lookist,’ ‘buying into the patriarchy’s image of what women should look like,’ etc. I explained that it was nothing personal, but I just found myself only attracted to a certain type. They said that there was something wrong with me, and that I wasn’t “really a Pagan” since “real Pagan men are attracted to women for their personality, not their looks.”

      When I countered that if I said that I was only sexually attracted to tall, athletic men, they wouldn’t, as ‘good Pagans,’ dare to question my sexual preferences, they finally let the issue drop.

  • Mojothom

    i cant comment on the pagan community, but i can tell you what has made the most difference to me recently in losing weight that was endangering my health; i found out that modern wheat is bad for me. it affects blood sugar worse than table sugar. those of you who are concerned might consider going for heirloom wheat flour or avoiding wheat altogether (although wholegrain wheat does have valuable nutrients.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carole-Miles/100001792850223 Carole Miles

    Like it or not, two groups that have unusual rates of obesity that often overlap are pagans and sci fi/fantasy/role players. Overweight people tend to sit two hours more per day than people of proper weight. I attended one convention three years in a row before I discovered than one of the huge women I saw every year wasn’t in a wheel chair! I had never seen her standing. But I did see her eat dinner one evening. Two large burgers, large fries, large onion rings, and a large shake. A lot of people, myself included, are in serious denial about what we eat and how much. I saw a man about to have stomach-stapling surgery showing a reporter the huge gulp sugary soft drink he drank a dozen of every day. Nowhere in the interview did he accept responsibility for drinking them. Denial is as big an enemy as fat is. /I myself am 60 pounds overweight from a thyroid condition that caused me to be constantly hungry. It’s being treated now, but it’s hard to get the weight off. Several things do work: adding more fruits and vegetables to the daily diet and increasing exercise. Drinking water can also help. As for a community that can help: I have heard good things about Weight Watchers online. My sister and I are planning to enroll soon. If it works, I’ll try to let you all know.

  • WhiteBirch

    I get concerned about this sort of topic, because I feel like even when approached from a HAES angle, there’s often a judgment of “good fat person” versus “bad fat person” which you just can’t make from the outside. To use myself as an example, my BMI is about 32, which is theoretically obese. I’ve worn the same pants size since I was 14. I am the same size and shape as my mother, who is the same size and shape as HER mother. I am clearly designed to be this size. My mother who looks pretty much the same as me, just 20 years older, is a very fit active woman. She’s a gardener, she’s a horsewoman, she works outside every day. She’s the person that people hold up as an example of “my body is just built that way and it’s fine.”

    By comparison, I am not very active. I have an indoor tech related profession, I have an old knee injury that makes anything but swimming (non impact) kind of a dicey business. I get my nature puttering around the yard gently. I’m a “bad fat person” in the activity department. But I eat well. I live on veggies and unprocessed foods, I limit artificial stuff and especially artificial sweeteners (horrible migraine trigger!).

    I would venture to say that we’re both at a similar point on the healthy spectrum, I just prioritize what I put in my body and she prioritizes what she does with it. But both of us get a lot of unwanted, unsolicited health advice because of the way we look, and the people who advocate “health” over “thinness” are often just as intrusive, because they’re trying to judge my lifestyle choices to see how healthy they are.

    I always feel like these HAES discussions tell people who live by a certain ambitious ruleset “gee we’re sorry people treat you badly when you’re a GOOD fat person” but they shame me just as much as someone who says “eww chubbo” on the street because I’ve ordered my priorities differently than some.

  • Rayna Templebee

    This has long been a concern of mine, in large part because my matron goddess Aphrodite teaches that we must live ourselves. I’ve taught circle dances for ritual workshops as an offering to Her and to the community. Thanks for this important discussion.

  • Kym Lambert

    I’m really horrified to see the dialogue here is so much about “obesity” and not about HEALTH. It is fallacy to say something is a “obesity

  • Kym Lambert

    I’m very sad to see so much talk here about “obesity” as if it were a proven cause of health problems, when this has not actually been shown in the research. This creates a stigma and shame, it does not help promote HEALTH. The dialogue needs to turn to health, not fat.

    “Obesity related illnesses” often aren’t, they often appear in people of all sizes but are not diagnosed in thin people as often, they often aren’t actually treated in fat people until they lose weight. There are no proven “fat caused” illnesses, but there do seem to be some conditions that TEND to cause weight gain, although not always. Correlation does not equal causation. I believe that too often people who are deemed unacceptably overweight are less likely to take care of their health problems either because they feel so bad about themselves they do not care or because of the shaming they face when they go to a doctor. This has to stop.

    We need to think about health. A person who eats healthy and exercises is more likely to be healthy but they are not likely to permanently lose weight (only 5% maintain weight loss beyond 5 years). Extreme diets and over exercising to try to lose weight, instead of eating a balanced diet and exercising moderately, is itself a health hazard. If a skinny person does this they are diagnosed as ill, but we push “overweight” people to.

    People come in all sizes. There are healthy fat people, just as there are healthy skinny people. There are unhealthy skinny people, just as there are unhealthy fat people. A weight-loss paradigm puts the focus in a very unhealthy place. We need to build and promote a health paradigm instead.

    This is why I’ve chose to be a Health At Every Size fitness trainer, rather than sell a false promise of weight loss. A few links here on HAES ideas if people are interested (I promise, none are me promoting my own business).

    http://bigliberty.net/truth-behind-fat-links-science/ (the best round up of the studies on obesity and health)
    https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/ (entertaining as well as informative)

  • AQ

    I’m going to be “that person”:

    I find it pretty close to impossible to feel even the slightest shred of grief or sadness at the passing of a fat-shamer.

    My caloric intake is about 1500cal/day, mostly fruits and vegetables. I walk where I can, when I can–and it’s all I can do to maintain my weight thanks to being an insulin-resistant PCOS sufferer.

    But it’s never good enough for the fat-shamers.

    I’ve left doctors’ offices in tears after being told “I don’t need to examine you–lose weight and all your problems will be solved!”–which led to it being several years and countless hours of agony before I was finally diagnosed with spondylolysis and referred to physical therapy by a doctor who was more concerned with me being in pain than he was with the fact that I weighed thrice what he did.

    When my husband decides he wants Oreos, ice cream, or snacky cakes (which I don’t even want unless I’m on my period–in which case I make do with a Caramello bar), I have to walk away from the grocery cart and go wait in the car after giving him my share of the grocery money, because I don’t want to hear nasty comments or get dirty looks from people that assume that the junk food is for me.

    My blood pressure is normal, my blood sugar/A1C is ridiculously normal (4.7), and the highest my cholesterol has ever been is 165.

    Do I sound a little angry? Good–because I am. This blogpost crosses the fat-shaming line several times, whether intentionally or not, by promulgating the idea that being overweight automatically means that you’re unhealthy. However well-meaning, I think that Pagans who want to talk about health matters need to be conscious of HOW they phrase things, and WHAT their intent is. If their intent is to fat-shame, then they’re nothing more than rank bullies and should be ignored as such.

  • http://www.cernowain.com/ Cernowain Greenman

    The ancient Pagans used to say “heathy mind and a healthy body” and “all things in moderation”. There’s no reason we can’t embrace those Pagan principles today, at least as a goal, if not a reality. My weight goes up and down all the time. I’ve lost 30 pounds in the last three months, but still am overweight, but I’m working on it and eating right. It’s a constant life-long battle for me.

    I would definitely be offended if someone handed me a brochure at a Pagan festival about health just because I’m overweight. I do not think we should focus soley on the issue of obesity, but rather health in general.

  • MedeaMetis

    I must admit that I am rather conflicted about this whole discussion. Perhaps my “conflict” arises becasue I can see (and have lived) both sides of the equation.

    When I was about 20, I weighed 230 pounds. I was active within the magick and Pagan communities and I saw Paganism as a respite from the shame, teasing and disapprobation I endured on a nearly daily basis. Strangers, my family, kids at school, etc., all had unsolicited advice to give about my health. I became inured to folks hiding their criticism through pretending that their mean comments were really for my benefit and *not* reflective of their own insecurities and food issues.

    In my early 20′s, by my own volition and agency, I started to lose the weight and have now been, for the past 15 years, a socially acceptable size 6 or 8. I am healthy, I work out, I am considered very attractive and have outstanding blood pressure. But, you know what? I feel far more insecure now than I did when I was 230. I feel like I can never measure up, that no matter what I do, I will always be assessed on how I look and how much I weigh. Yeah, those slings and arrows of concern/criticism have never truly gone away, but are now just internalized.

    I have noticed the obesity problem in Paganism. But, I have also noticed that a lot of folks who are incredibly invested (or “concerned”) in policing the lives of others are merely trying to run away from dealing with their own issues. You don’t get spiritual “brownie points” for pointing out the obvious and you don’t store up treasure in the Heavens for “saving” all the fat folks.

    Going after the fat people is low-hanging fruit. At the end of the day, I suppose it is far easier to address ‘fatness’ as opposed to the other systemic, concealed and irksome problems within Paganism.

  • xCeption

    In my community, we’ve lost 3 beautiful witches to cancer in the past year, but the big threat to witches health is fat?

    I just had to go for a walk around the block to calm down a bit. (I KNOW! a fat person, walking!!! well, I multi-tasked and got coffee while I was out there)

    You can tell zero about a person’s health by looking at their size. I know here and on some of the posts linked to, people keep insisting that they’re concerned about “health.” but if your starting point is, what do we do about all the fat pagans, then it looks to me like “health” is the fallback when it’s pointed out how hurtful all of this is.

    The idea that a body is ok/healthy or not based on it’s size flies in the face of the idea that all bodies are sacred. I think what’s happening here is an insertion of mainstream attitudes about the body into pagan space. And it makes me really sad.

    For those of you who are saying…but, but, we have to DO something about the FAT people! I mean, FOR the fat people! please check out the health at every size links that have been posted.

    But, the bottom line as far as I’m concerned is that it is not up to a community, any community, to police the health of it’s members. Those of us who are parents obviously need to be thoughtful about the health of our kids, but beyond that, a person’s health is between them and them (or them and their deity if that applies) unless and only unless they specifically ask for input.

    When thin people die of sudden heart attacks (Yes!! it totally happens!!) do we interrogate and problematize thinness? come on, my lovely witches and pagans, we can do better than this.

  • Mother Willow Moon

    I would like to add my comments to this post. I want to say that I was a very thin woman until I lost my uterus and my ovaries. I lost them at the age of 24. No hormonal treatment was given to me and over 5 years I put on about 60 pounds. Then I fell down a flight of stairs and was injured badly. I had two back surgeries… one that gave me the ability to walk and know when I had to go to the bathroom… and then again I fell and had to have the same surgery again. I put on even more weight over those two years. So now at 130 pounds overweight I struggle with the ability to lose weight.

    First I went to physical therapy where they worked on ultra sonic sound to keep the scar tissue to a minimum around my nerves. I specifically told them that I wanted help developing an exercise program that would not be harsh on my back. No one provided it. Then I told my doctor that I wanted to learn how to eat better so I could lose some weight and she sent me to a nutritionist that told me about the basic food groups. I already knew about that. I told her that I needed something more. I got a brochure. Yay! I reached out for help so many times it was crazy. But each thing needed so much of my time that I couldn’t fully commit because I was raising three active children. I spent my time running kids all over the planet and keeping them entertained in the summer. (with no weight loss)

    Now I am a lot older and I spend my time working from home and still running around with my three beautiful grown children and my grandchildren. My daughter is about to have my fourth grandchild and we joined weight watchers together. Our grocery bill doubled! I have to try and eat all the time, but I don’t really eat that much so it is hard for me to remember. We are trying new recipes and trying yoga at home. It is so frustrating.

    I guess I grew up in the Fast food boom. It was easy to grab and go. It is so much easier than trying to figure out what in the world to make that is under a certain amount of fat grams, carbs, and calories. Weight Watchers has some great Apps, but it still hard to learn to cook on a budget fresh low fat food. We have always made a menu for our family, because we are on a budget. It isn’t like we don’t plan healthy meals, yet here we are.

    I would give anything to lose this weight. I have spent thousands of dollars over the years and given hundreds of hours of my time researching and preparing plans so that I could lose the weight. I guess my problem is that I cant work out like I used to. Even walking too much can cost me a day or two of extreme pain. (but I still do it lol)

    I dream of my thin me and want me back so that I can be light and able to move through things so much faster. I feel so old in my 40′s. When I attend an event… especially if there will be dancing… I have to bring my wheel chair because I will dance myself to exhaustion and still dance some more in the chair. lol!

    I tell you all of this because I want to point out that it isn’t a lack of regard for one’s weight that makes us heavy. It is frustration because there is really no inexpensive way to learn how. In Wicca we learn so much better as we connect with those who have wisdom and knowledge. As they show us how they do the things they do we try it and they help us correct the small things we are missing. At least everyone I know does. We learn a lot on our own, but as the Mother of our Hereditary Tradition, I watch my children and grand children blossom when simple concepts are shown to them. It isn’t so complicated as the mind would have you believe. Compassion and patience is what helps me to nurture strength in my family.

    But there is nowhere that actually offers that one on one time that doesn’t cost a fortune for weight loss. IT would take pages to tell you all that I have done to lose weight, but here I sit still heavy. I would give anything to learn a way to incorporate into my busy life, that doesn’t put me back in a hospital bed, a gentle way to get my weight off my body. I have patience if I can learn how. I just get frustrated and go right back to my old habits of hurry up and grab a meal. Most days I eat a small meal once a day and a snack in the afternoon. I just don’t have a lot of time.

    My thoughts are that people that have succeeded should share their experience and focus on how to make healthy foods affordable for people on a budget and how to be kind to your body as you get into physical activity. That would be the route that I would love to take. We are gentle to Mother Earth, and our spirits as we learn to connect to world through Wicca, yet weight loss seems to be harsh and constantly aggressive. I guess all the classes that I took just didn’t stick. I teach my children that anyone can point out your flaws, but a truly wise person will walk with you as you learn new skills to overcome them.

    Blessed Be
    Mother Willow Moon
    Family Wicca

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/ Tara “Masery” Miller

      Thank you Mother Willow Moon for sharing your story. Because of Turners Mosaic, I suffered a shutdown of my ovaries and thyroid. This caused me to gain a lot of weight, 80 lbs and I almost went into a coma. You mentioned that you received pamphlets about how to eat healthy and were told about the food pyramid. I got those too and only found the booklet that explained how diabetics needed to count carbohydrates as beneficial. You commented that “My thoughts are that people that have succeeded should share their experience and focus on how to make healthy foods affordable for people on a budget and how to be kind to your body as you get into physical activity.” That is something I would like to know more about as well and I could also add what I have learned since I have since lost those almost all of those 80 lbs and hope to continue to improve my health.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/ Tara “Masery” Miller

    Because there are quite a few comments I’m writing a general reply.

    Each person’s emotions and thoughts were taken into consideration. Some were filled with a lot of pain and anger concerning “fat shame” and “fat stigma”, there are many words for it. I too I have gone through such feelings. I got it from my own father, at school, and from within my own head which I’m sure the hardest.

    There are people of many different shapes and sizes and that makes the human population diverse and beautiful especially when we are dressed in colors and can smile. The size of a person doesn’t automatically say they have depression or other health issues. For me though, and for others, it is important we loose weight. I faced future kidney failure and toe, foot, or leg amputation from diabetic complications if I didn’t do something.

    As we look through the blog posts and most of their replies, let’s keep in mind that no one has recommended fad diets or interventions or any other extreme measures. Just an open dialogue about weight concern. This dialogue now includes concern for discrimination.

    The post I wrote was not meant to be in depth but simply a compilation of the topic that had cropped up. I did like Margot Adler’s idea of a panel and it could be expanded to health in general. As I suggested it could include a mix of people from the medical field, spiritual leaders, and people with personal experience. Who would they be? I only know they would part of our community.

  • Sophia Catherine

    I’m worried about the individualizing of disability and health – which are social issues – in the Pagan community. I’m not sure that having panels of doctors (or even healers) will necessarily help. Where are the panels of disabled people talking with authority about exclusion from the community, without needing doctors to speak for us? Where are the body-positive larger people talking about the social factors that combine when it comes to overweight? I think we as Pagans are dangerously influenced by our individualized culture, and we forget that life is about community and society. We also don’t read enough about the sociology of health. A lot that goes into health is social, and there are complex factors involved.

  • MadGastronomer

    More and more studies show that weight has NOTHING to do with health or life expectancy (here’s one of the latest). There is NO causation shown to exist between fat and heart disease, blood pressure or cholesterol. You can be entirely healthy AND be fat. And we have no duty to be healthy, either. Health is not an absolute thing, and insisting that everyone must be healthy by some arbitrary standard is really ableist and classist, and very much violates the principles of body autonomy.

    You are body-shaming and food-shaming.