David Grega

David Grega, 1984-2012. Peace and comfort to all who loved him.

Oh, joy. The death of David Grega, Pagan podcaster, father to baby Mallory and a unique and well-loved voice, has sparked a call in some quarters for a “conversation” about “health.”

Dave, in addition to his other qualities, was fat. We don’t know what caused his death of heart failure at 27, but some people think they can pin it on his weight, even calling obesity a “taboo” in the Pagan community. As a fat person who is also Pagan, I think I have something to contribute to this conversation.

No one, of any size, should be unwelcome in Pagan community because of his or her weight or health issues. When I found Paganism 20 years ago, the Venus of Willendorf image spoke beautiful volumes to me about a path where I could find acceptance and feel safe enough to truly connect spiritually. I want every person out there to feel that same acceptance. You DO belong; if anyone indicates that you don’t, it is they, not you, who have the problem.

There is nothing wrong with bringing health, healing and well-being into our focus. By all means let’s try to serve locally grown food at rituals, incorporate gentle movements in gatherings, and support one another in forming stronger relationships with our physical bodies. But let’s also make sure we include those who find some kinds of movement difficult or painful, and respect that each of us may be at a different point on our journeys. Just as there is no One True Path toward Pagan spiritual growth, there is no One True Way to Be Healthy. If you have benefited from blue-green algae or going vegan or naked underwater Pilates, that’s great, but respect my right to make the choices that are right for me. I don’t owe you or anyone else an explanation for my weight or my choices.

Fat people are PEOPLE. Pointing out “for your own good” that someone is fat is an attempt to control and undermine her. If you truly are interested in what’s best for her, listen to her, accept her and care about her.

There is no reliable way to turn a fat person into a thin person. Ninety-five percent of all weight-loss efforts fail. On the other hand, many people find lasting ways to change their strength, stamina, balance, and sense of well-being for the better. When we remove our focus from the waistline, studies find that active fat people are healthier than sedentary thin ones, but many of us find the stigma about our bodies so paralyzing that it is difficult to take the first step of going for a walk or bike ride, or joining a gym.

We don’t have to be like everyone else. There are a million people out there who want to tell me how ugly and useless and unlovable I am. Pagan communities have the opportunity, the challenge, to do things differently, to make safe spaces for people of all sizes to be ourselves and connect with the beauty in each of us.

If some of these ideas resonate with you, you may be interested in the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement. I’m proud to be a minor participant in this movement. Here, for instance, is a video I helped produce in response to “Biggest Loser” commercials that suggested fat people couldn’t have love in their lives:


I’d like to end this post by quoting Dave’s own words, as posted in an online comment to Cara Shultz:

I already live every weekend like it’s my last.  Being in a car accident in 2003 that should had been fatal taught me that… now living with 2 unrelated diseases known to make people keel over and die at some point (and just put me in the hospital for a bunch of weeks) just re-enforces my mortality.

It’s an interesting week when one is saved via surgery from a close brush with death and then a week later is given a confirmed diagnosis of a disease many take to be a death sentence… and realizing my emotional reaction is more about “okay, what’s the treatment going to involve” rather than “ZOMG, there’s so many things I should have done with my life.”  Not because I’m an excessively results-oriented individual (which I admittedly am) but mostly because I manage to live without regrets, even if that means having a few bridge burning parties along the way.

If there’s something you’ve been meaning to do for a while, start planning to get it done.  If there’s something you don’t want to do – find an honorable way to stop doing it.  If someone needs something and you like them and you can more than afford it (and they’re not a needy do-nothing)… give it to them.  And for gods’ sake – don’t forget to tell people how much you value them before they keel over and die.  Funerals are not a particularly useful time to tell someone how much they meant to you.

I notice most people’s fears about death have more to do with regrets than anything else.