As a black girl teenager, my body did not feel like it belonged to me. In fact, it was something that simply "was", something that I tolerated, not something I felt connected to, was aware of, or cared for. My body was something that I hid, apologized for and ignored.
During the summer of 1999, I went through a painful 3 month growth spurt. I remember my arms growing so rapidly that my mom had to take down the pictures hanging on the wall so that I wouldn't knock them when walking around the house. My arms and legs hurt all the time. I witnessed stretch marks begin growing on the outside of my knee caps, hips, and the back of my arms like a massive spider web. My body was changing and I didn't know how to change with it.
As a preteen I knew that the kind of body I had made my parents (especially my father) nervous. A voluptuous body mixed with childhood innocence can be a deadly combination in a society (including the Church) where sexual abuse and perversion is rampant. At 13, I wasn't allowed to walk around at a pool party our the beach in solely my bathing suit because it was deemed inappropriate. There way of protecting me way showing me that hiding my body was a good thing (and this I do not blame them for, but--admittedly-- I am frustrated/saddened by).
Because of my own insecurities, I further policed my body in the coming years. All throughout high school I insisted on covering my shoulders so that no could see my stretch marks. In college I rarely wore shorts because of my thick thighs and cellulite. When in the dressing room at Target or Ross, I would close my eyes while removing my clothes so that I didn't have to look at my full self in the mirror.
Today, I have a different relationship with my body. The relationship is complicated and (like all healthy and good relationships) requires work. I wake up every morning thanking The Creator for full deep breaths, joints that are functional, and a heart that still beats. I stand in the mirror, naked and unashamed, watching myself lather my brown sugar colored body with coconut oil. Oiling myself head to toe, placing special attention to my stretch marks on my shoulders, my breasts, stomach, hips and butt. Impressed at how strong and muscular my thighs are getting, admiring my narrow, natural waist line and learning to be ok with my soft, lower-ab pooch. I stand in adoration of the everything that my body allows me to do on a daily basis.
I am becoming more present, more aware, and more connected each moment, each day. I feel nourished (as opposed to bloated, over-stuffed, or nauseous) by the food that I eat, grow, and cook. I admire my adolescent stretch marks as a reminder of my resiliency. I do not apologize for what others cannot comprehend (i.e. women like me--Black and curvy/shapely/thick--are not being who they expect when they think of a vegan/vegetarian /plant-based lifestyle or nutrition). I show up and share so that other black girls like me give themselves the permission to do the same.
I am here.
Unapologetically and humbly.
I am becoming whole.
I am decolonized my body from skewed and Eurocentric ideals of health, nutrition, and food.
I am healthy.
My body matters to God, to the ancestors, and to my community.
My body is holy, my thighs are divine.
Taking care of myself is form of worship + resistance.
I am well.