Pagan News and Views Since 1998

In pagan culture, personal body image isnt often talked about. Every once in a while you hear someone speak a little about the fertility goddesses of the past and their "huskier" body types... but that is about it. I write this now because I am jumping on the diet train again to take off a couple pesky pounds that have - yet again- creeped on to me. I am not a "big girl" but i have learned from past experience that it is easier to loose 5 lbs than 50 lbs. It made me think about how dieting is pretty much a non-subject as it pertains to paganism... why?

When I dieted the first time and talked to a few other pagans about the subject, they poo-pooed away my reasons for dieting. They told me to accept and find beauty in who I was. That certainly has value! People of all shapes and sized are beautiful, and I think it is wonderful that our culture accepts a wide range of body types. That said, my reasons were:
a) health; i had gestational diabetes when i was pregnant and i was told that by loosing weight I could reduce my chances of becoming a type 2 diabetic.
b) self image; good of bad, I didn't see the person in the mirror who I FELT inside... i didn't want to be a supermodel, but I wanted to feel sexy, pretty, and young
c)To prove I wasn't just another "victim of genetics"- my mom, her mom, and a long line of moms before me never could get off their "baby weight"- and they all said that I was doomed to be "fat" forever... that stung

So i really worked my butt off (quite litterally) to get to "thin". Now i have gained approx. 5 lbs and i am getting back down to MY ideal weight.

So the question about body image in paganism... is what constitutes a good body type? How do we support people who choose to loose weight for WHATEVER reason, and still find beauty and value in people who are "voluptuous" and choose to stay that way.

If I feel* fat at 165 lbs- that doesn't mean that I think everyone else who is "that big" is fat. It is a strange concept I know... but I just feel that some people are truly MADE to be big, and some aren't. I had a dear friend in college who was absolutely gorgeous at 160 lbs and 5'3. She had a tiny waist, wide "child bearing" hips. soft shoulders and she was stunning. I looked like an overstuffed sausage (in my opinion). She is BEST bigger, and I am BEST a little, leaner.

History shows that today's unnaturally skinny ideal just replaces a long line of body images. The ancients had "venus of willendorf" ideas about womanhood. In a time when winter and drought starvation was a very real and ever present danger, the ability to gain and maintain weight was impressive. Men wanted stocky, strong, fertile women who could carry a baby a full 9 months during times of scant food, and still be able to care for them. Later, when agriculture began to change women weer more ideal if they had SOME fat... but especially if the were youthful like the greek statues- ready to produce babies for many years. Breasts have always been important... but the SIZE varies from era to era, culture to culture. In egypt we see many hieroglyphs that indicate that women of that culture wore their breasts exposed. We know today that "belly fat" is a health risk often caused more by stress than by diet, and for a long time a tiny waist in women, and sometimes men, has been a mark of beauty (hense corsets)... However paintings in the mideaval period seen to indicate that the woman's fashion of that era was gathered in the front to make the belly look "poofed out"- so much that in several paintings all the women look pregnant. In the baroque period (Marie Antionette's age) women were voluptious and indulgence and decadence exemplified beauty. Painters like Paul Reubens painted the classical gods and goddesses of greece as broad, pale youths... with small breasts and scant signs of puberty. Today, with the aid of plastic surgery, airbrushing, and photoshop... "being ideal" is more about wealth and power than ever before!

So in women, the "ideal" changes so much, one era's beauty is often unrecognizable to the next... usually beauty indicates health and wealth... But what of men?

The early greek "kouros" statues show a muscled body type, low body fat, and youthful. Soft muscle definition, and normal weight seems to be the ideal throughout many cultures. What has changed is the age of the "ideal"... in ancient cultures some praised "maturity" - where the leaders grew long beardsm or in the case of the egyptians- wore false beards. That said... intrestingly around the years 1000 ad... jesus is depicted in a few places with a bigger "gut"- perhaps during this time the ideal changed... like in "Maiestas Domini" 1096 AD in Toulouse, France. In the early rennaisance it seems that men were depicted relatively thin... and then the "greek ideal" returns with a fury, reenstating muscle definition and youth. The Baroque period preferred even more muscle-y mature men... with well defined, large biceps, thighs, glutes, and wide shoulders... In the roccocco and colonial ages, men were much more, delicate... with rounded faces, the wealthy wearing blushed cheaks. In that era the ideal was the opposite of "rugged"- in fact quite "feminine" compared to other eras. This gradually faded till we reached the last century... where muscle bound has once again become the norm... but today's ideal is nearly impossible for the average guy to reach- without steroids. Huge muscles and zero body fat makes achieving perfection for men as hard as it is for women.

However, we don't diet to be perfect.... we diet and exercise to look "better" or sometimes be healthier. It is commendable when a person goes through all that hard work to get to wherever they feel "good" about themselves. Too often do people act like it is merely "good luck" when someone looses a lot of weight. It is hard dedicated work... maybe harder for some than others, but when someone works to achieve that goal, the deserve to be proud! That isnt to say that someone who has a hard time dieting, or chooses not to - should be "ashamed" or is "less" than anyone else... one person achieving their own goal is NOT a reflection on anyone but themselves. My mother always says "backhanded" things like "oh you just lost it because you are young, older people can't lose weight like that". Statements like these are degrading, though it may BE harder for "older" people, that shouldn't diminish the hard work and dedication I put it! The balance is finding inner self-worth BEYOND outer appearances, while still being proud of the work you have accomplished.

I had to accept after loosing my baby weight that even though the scale was the same number as when I was 17 and "youthful" my body would never be THAT again. Just one look at my beautiful baby and all of the stretchmarks and "pooch" is worth it. I think all pagans should find their "inner goddess or god"- use your will to change those things you can (diet- exercise- stress), but also use your divine connection to come to a place where when you look in the mirror you can see perfect, beautiful, divine, you. If that is 300 lbs or 120 lbs, super strong, or super lean... it doesnt matter. If you think a "boob job" or losing a few pounds will get you there, than more power to you! When you feel beautiful - YOU ARE beautiful!

* or handsome lol

-Blessed Be!

Views: 32

Comment by fantumofthewinds on July 11, 2010 at 10:44am
very good write , I think with todays world people as well as eating has changed and I think because of this foods are now taken out side the home and this can and does cause problems for ones health. I grew up in a old fashion world and mom was always inside the home that's not to say that her job was defined its just what woman did . but now days with a two partner working worlds things have become more diverse, but I guess my world has stayed the same . I would think that for older generations of people that lived off the land it was much different and much harder which required more effort, but today things have become less and less complicated as we have stores everywhere. And I think with the invention of many things such as video games we work the hands and the eyes and the mind but not the body lol. Also the fact that now days everyone wants a fee to play valley ball , base ball , foot ball etc.... when at one time all these things were just fun . so the body moves less and the mouth moves more lol. but I wish you luck on your diet as for me home cooking its the only way to go MP
Comment by Megan L Conklin on July 11, 2010 at 2:01pm

I agree with you a lot. Proccessed foods, fast food and oversize potions are a huge and all pervasive bane on society... The chemicals found in food today fool us into eating more, and they take a huge toll on our bodies. I am a big fan of getting back to natural foods, like organic produce, juices, homemade meals (rather than prepackaged) and game meat of free-range meat rather than "regular". I never realized how much "crap" is in the foods we buy, until I started reading labels and dieting. Foods made for kids are the worst! We are raising a whole second generation (mine the first) of kids who are effectively addicted to sodium, high-fructose or high-glucose foods, and empty calories. Meats, dairy and eggs are chock full of hormones, chemicals, and whatnot... and pesticides and bio-engineering are in the corn and vegatables (stuff that is supposed to make up for the bad stuff we eat)!

Thank the gods for organic foods on the rise. I am actually not 100% "natural" - it is still outrageously expensive for some things... but I try to buy milk, eggs, juice and veggies organic. My daughter and I walk everywhere we need to go and we additionally walk at least 1/2 to a full mile every day just for "outside time"- (a lot for a 1 year old in a solid stretch). Most people i know wont take their toddlers out on walks, even short ones, because of the "hassle". I personally think if more parents got their kids outside everyday, walking, playing, collecting rocks... we would have a healthier, happier, more active generation.

I am OBVIOUSLY not "anti technology" or anti-gaming... My daughter watches a little bit of TV- usually the "backyardigans" and "your baby can read" once every day... so about an hour/day. I know I watched WAY more than that as a kid. The rest of the time she plays outside, reads books, draws and colors, plays with blocks, or disassembles my house (so i don't get too bored). She doesn't go to daycare, I stay at home with her. I feel that is my place- at home personally RAISING her myself. I respect women who want to build careers, by the romantic/nostalgic in me doubts that the ancient pagans sent their kids to daycare... jobs or not. I actually have seen a LOT of parents my age returning back to more "traditional" family roles.That means home-cooked, wholesome food- at least in my house.

What is my next step? eventually when i have land I want to grow my own organic vegetables (i grow herbs now). I want to become a lot more self-sufficient, a skill i think is dying out. If I can I hope to go hunting for an elk or deer this year (MY first time!) That will give us lean, hormone free, cheap meat through winter. I already exercise, but i want to do more, possibly getting back into zumba (a step aerobics and latin dance exercise) or maybe karate or tai chi. This is where I completely agree with you also- fees. I think it is SO ridiculous how much gym fees, rec center fees, class fees, league fees and more are. Sure I understand some of it - but why is it impossible to find a group of people to get together for FREE or just a fee to cover gear... and exercise. I guess i should stop complaining and just do it myself...

Thanks Again, Blessed Be!
Comment by fantumofthewinds on July 11, 2010 at 3:17pm
I agree as the saying gos to much of a ' good thing ' can be a bad thing . moderation is the key to everything. MP


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