Body Story ~ Angela B.

Written by: Center for Body Trust

Categories : Body Stories

Body stories are largely missing from the zeitgeist of our time. We are often reluctant to dive into our body stories because we believe they are too taboo to share or too boring to be of interest or value. 

In Reclaiming Body Trust, we shared body stories of those who have defied the standard narrative of body apology, instead demanding care and deep respect. These stories, once unearthed, encouraged others to share theirs, too. 

Here is Angela’s Story.

When did the Rupture of my Body Trust happen? 

Well, let’s just start with the harsh fact that I was born into a country where White Supremacy set the tone for just about everything, even much in the Black community. A construct that denied my cute little black, fat, body, equality and acceptance right from jump street. So yeah, there’s that. 

Then add to that, a long string of traumatic occurrences that aided in the breaking of my body trust. 

Though I don’t have a mental memory of some of those things, like being born into a home where domestic violence happened, I know that my body remembers. 

Huge fractures in my Body Trust were caused by me being separated from my family when Mama moved us to the Pacific Northwest for a fresh start. A city where we had only one blood relative. Being transplanted from the very diverse DMV area (DC/Maryland/Virginia) to the very white state of Oregon was a culture shock for both Mama and I. Being sexualy and physically abused at ages three and four. Being teased on playgrounds and parks, from the East Coast (during summer visits) to the West from preschool to highschool, just for being fat, which is part of being me. Being sexually abused by an older boy. Being bullied during first and second grades by some really mean girls. All of these experiences conveyed to me that I was very broken and not as worthy as kids who weren’t fat. 

Another tragic period was the year I turned ten. My mother mysteriously became physically and emotionally abusive towards me. My brother, who lived with his father in another state until he was twelve, was a busy teenager, escaping most of the perils of Mama’s bipolar-mania episodes which escalated to what felt like a scene from a movie. Mama, my baby sister and I ended up stuck on the roof during a blazing house-fire. Though we were miraculously rescued, that day Mama was admitted to Dammasch State Hospital and the three of us children became wards of the state. 

Once rescued we all went into foster care with our maternal uncle and aunt where I was often abused by my aunt. Mostly emotional abuse. I became the primary caregiver for my one-year-old sister, thus losing much of my childhood. 

I learned that being an overachiever and a people pleaser might prevent bad stuff from happening. These characteristics made me more likeable and others more likely to forgive my fatness. I also obliviously continued to use food to cope. 

In my uncle’s home, I experienced patriarchy firsthand. My aunt waited on my uncle, hand and foot. As the oldest girl, I had to take on many household tasks while my brother, who was five years older than me, did very few chores. That was women’s work.

Unlike Uncle, Mama was a single parent and ran her house more like a democracy, writing out chore schedules on the fridge and rotating our duties. She even taught my brother how to cook though my interest in cooking far surpassed my brothers. 

Food, school, church and music, respectively, became my escapes, along with my best childhood friends, Tamra and Marchelle. No matter when and where my friends and I got together, I usually had my baby sister with me and most of our activities involved getting some food or candy though I had begun numbing myself with food at a much younger age. 

My mother was curvy and never told me that I needed to lose weight but so many other voices did. My daddy commented on my weight in more of a comical way, as did my uncle, but it wasn’t funny to me. Plus, most days of my summer visits with Daddy were filled with him spoiling me by feeding me whatever I wanted, fast food, treats from the ice cream truck or money for convenience store snacks. 

I was always very active for fun. Not to lose weight. I loved racing neighborhood kids (and often won), bike-riding, roller skating, etc. I hadn’t put movement and weight-loss together, though I wished everyday that I wasn’t fat. 

The summer before my senior year of high school I had a spiritual experience after reading a book about diet alternatives. I learned how to eat with temperance while still having whatever I wanted. Learned how to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was satisfied. I lost thirty pounds that summer in Virginia and returned home to very high praises for my weight-loss. Plus several young men all-of-a-sudden noticed me. 

I attended college at Howard University and played in the marching band. That rigorous exercise coupled with poverty (I usually could only afford to eat once per day) caused me to lose even more weight. I almost always had a migraine but had learned in foster care to ignore my sickness because it was an inconvenience for my aunt to have to take me to see a doctor. 

Once I got married, the patriarchal practices of men being in charge and women always submitting to their husbands was washed into my brain. My husband told me before we got married that he hoped I didn’t get fat like Mama. He doesn’t remember saying that to me but I thought about it all the time, especially as my weight gradually shifted up over the years. Feelings of unworthiness escalated. 

A further, more subtle and gradual breaking occurred in the black church, (One of my favorite affinity places!) where we were taught to please God by pleasing/serving others, without any boundaries. “Hustling for our worthiness” as Brene Brown describes in her writing. Though the church had more women members, only the men could vote on church business. When my daughter was eighteen and got pregnant by her boyfriend, also a member, she was asked to stand before the church to confess her sin while her boyfriend received a private rebuke by the pastor. This really pissed me off and was in the Reckoning stages of my BT Journey!

I had been getting physically sick nearly every Sunday for more than a year at that point with asthma-attacks and migraines from fragrance sensitivities. Church leaders said my sickness would be healed if I believed God. I believed–yet I wasn’t. Some leaders even stated that my sickness was all in my head. 

My asthma-allergy doctor, a beautiful black woman, after multiple treatments, told me to “listen to my body.” Hence, a few years later I finally left the church. I had spent over thirty (not all bad) years there. Shortly following my exodus, men in hazmat suits had to clean-up many pounds of 

toxic waste inside the church which also affected the air quality. My sensitive body was right and could most definitely be trusted. 

Leaving that church was the beginning of my Reclamation and Liberation

Still plagued by Diet Culture, I tried various diets to lose weight which generally capped at twenty pounds and usually came back with a few extra ‘pound’ friends. 

After a traumatic experience in my business, I had a huge trigger that caused my PTSD to become activated, leading to more uncontrollable, disordered eating. I was mildly suicidal because I wanted to die without the act of killing myself. I tried various Twelve-Step food recovery programs that partly resonated with me, though the rigorous demands of some programs were too much for me. Plus I was usually the only black person attending those meetings. 

Finally, I decided to try an eating disorder program and found that their program’s curriculum was really made to accommodate white anorexic and bulimic women. I do attribute learning about Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating to that program. My insurance forced the program to drop me because I gained a few pounds. It was recommended that I find a therapist to work with and when I searched for eating disorders and trauma therapists, I found Be Nourished’s website and read everything on their site! They had me at, “No More Weighting.” 

Though my first few years of learning and practicing Body Trust wasn’t easy, it was a necessary and restorative part of my journey, which continues today. 

I learned so many life-changing principles/theories. How diet culture was rooted in White Supremacy. About intersectionality. How to tap into my body’s feelings and desires. How to be more compassionate with myself. How to aim for a C rather than an A in how I live. About the ridiculousness of weight stigma. How my issues were not my fault. I also learned how to cuss a little bit. How to live for Angela (not everyone else) and let those delicious chips fall where they may. 

Most importantly, I’ve learned to embrace ALL of me! My Blackness. My Womanness. My Fatness. My Spirituality. My Creativity. My Everything. However my body decides to be! All while honoring this sacred temple in a way that’s organically nourishing for me.

~Angela B.

What is the story of your body?

Collectively, we need to hear more body stories of others in order to feel less alone in our own. If you’re open to sharing your body story, we invite you explore our body story prompts and submit your own story here.

Your story has the power to change how we regard all bodies. Thank you for telling it.


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