Your body as a temple

I spent the vast majority of my life hating my body.   If it’s not because my thighs are too fat and my skin is too pockmarked, it’s because I’m infertile, I can’t digest dairy, or my inside has just as many problems as my outside.  My metabolism is too slow.  My joints are too weak.  My gut too leaky.   I can come up with and rationalize about a million reasons to hate my body, and once I solve one problem, it’s pretty easy to start zeroing in on another.

First: this is just dumb.  Everybody’s body has more and less smoothly running components, and whatever we punish ourselves for probably isn’t all that bad.  And if it is, chances are good we’ve each got lots of stellar things going on to counteract it.  The world, and, in particular, your body, isn’t out to get you, just like mine isn’t out to get me, so don’t let yourself be drawn into viscous cycles of hate and pain.  What is, is, and never in a malicious way.

Second: these negative feelings–ones of self loathing and hate and despair–they foster in us feelings of deprivation and need.  I see every single day clients dealing with self loathing as their biggest roadblock to mental and physical health.  I hate this!  It’s ridiculous!  And I’ve battled it over and over again myself in just about the most viciously possible ways.  Hating my self and my body made me feel as though I could never make progress, and I was hopeless, and I hated myself for it, and as such I needed, so desperately, something to make me feel better.  Food was my drug of choice.  So it called to me strongly, and often I binged.  Or grazed.  Medicated. And then I’d feel even worse.   And drawn to food.  Again.   Cycling constantly between futility and pain on one hand, and food on the other. It’s not a good situation to be in, and the longer you’re in it the harder and harder it gets to pull yourself out.

And then you acquire all sorts of disordered behaviors, and negative associations with foods, and you doubt yourself and you doubt your body and the world makes less and less sense every day.

OR perhaps your situation is not quite that dire, but you want to have the healthiest relationship with food and your body as possible.

So what do you do?

You reconceptualize.  There are a number of ways to do this.  For one, you can seek out healthier ways to medicate, such as yoga or running.  Or, two: you can consistently employ positive reinforcement to make yourself realize all of the truly wonderful and beautiful things about you.  A third heuristic that I find quite helpful and awesome, however, is this:

Pretend you are a god.

I’m not kidding.  Think about a god, a goddess, a temple, some divine being, something you worship and cherish beyond all other things (get your minds off your Rabbits, ladies).  What would you feed it?  When would you feed it?  Why?  How often would you make it exercise?  Would you drive it into the ground with cardio or with weights?  Would you pop it’s zits in the mirror?  Would you pinch it’s fat?  Would you say nasty things to it when no one else is listening?

Fuck.  No.

You would, clearly, adopt whatever habits are best for it’s health.  You’d also probably let it deviate, and eat chocolate from time to time.  You’d be honest with it, but you’d praise it thoroughly.  You’d lavish on it wonderful, luxurious attention, and you’d appreciate all of it’s imperfections exactly as they are.  You’d give it bubble baths, you’d tell it to calm down, you’d make sure to keep it’s fridge stocked with the freshest ingredients possible.   You’d encourage positive thinking.  You’d treat it well.  You would, in essence, give it, to the best of your knowledge, and within the realms of your power, the greatest care imaginable.

Now let that temple be you.


It kind of works, doesn’t it.  It rather inspires me.  I feel a greater sense of self-love when I think this way, and I want, more intensely than usual, to be good to myself and to relax and to be healthy and to be free. This kind of external perspective helps us be more objective about the ways we should treat ourselves.  And it makes it fun.  When we step outside of ourselves, and release ourselves from whatever negativities or loathing or what-have-you we might we wrestling with, we can breathe more deeply and think about ourselves as beings that deserve love. Because we fucking do.  And if we deserve love, oughtn’t we be the first ones to treat ourselves that way?  Nuture yourself.  Don’t be a punisher.  That kind of discipline, ages and ages of psychological research has shown us, is ineffective.  Instead, be a positive reinforcer, and be a nuturer, and a lover.

This kind of perspective also adds a bit of inspiration to adopt new behaviors.  It helps us stick to them, too.  Suddenly our new, difficult eating habits are less of a burden and more of an exercise in excellence!  How fun!  Wake up in the morning and ask: what would I feed a lovely mermaid?  Let’s get her some fresh juice and an omelet, tell her she’s lovely, stroke her hair, and invite her back for healthful, filling lunch.   And tell her to wait to eat again for that meal, because she’ll be more metabolically healthy that way, and mermaids deserve to be as healthy as humanly possible.  AND THEN REMEMBER THAT THIS MERMAID IS ACTUALLY YOU!  And you’ve got power and self love and beauty and all of the tools necessary to treat yourself like it.   I am Aphrodite, hear me roar!


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04 2011

10 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    Great post. Our body and the mind we have been given is the greatest gift we have been given, it makes so much sense to treat it as such.

  2. 2

    I’m inspired. Thanks!

  3. magic1 #

    What helped me the most was becoming an athlete. I chose cycling because even as a fat little kid, riding my bike meant freedom. Of course I was still *crazy* and I overtrained on my way to becoming a kickass cyclist. But eventually I became impressed by what my body could DO – even after I spent years starving it, stuffing it with unhealthy food, feeding it diuretics and laxatives and diet pills. Once you have ridden your bike 100 miles in a day, or run a marathon, it’s hard not to think of yourself as a Superhero.

    • pepper #

      If this were facebook I’d LIKE your comment a million times. You’re totally right, and that’s totally badass.

  4. 5

    “Be the mermaid…be the mermaid…” lol

    It is so true – treating ourselves with the right combination of respect and grace is so important, yet so often neglected.

  5. 6

    Loving ourselves is key, isn’t it? I’ve imagined myself as a best friend, who of course I’d want to nurture lovingly. Me as goddess sounds good, though. I’ll try it!

  6. Trevor #

    It’s funny. Yesterday, I told someone at work who struggles with being overweight that I’m an emotional eater. Her response was “your kidding”. I’m not overweight and I’m a fitness nut. I understand her response, I can hide it well. However, the emotional part of binge eating still hits me very hard. I qualified by saying that “eating a four pound frozen fruit cake in an afternoon while watching the movie ‘Chocolate’ means I have a eating issue.”

    The idea of thinking yourself as God isn’t something I’m totally comfortable with. However, the concept of being made in the image of God is a comfortable thing that I need to put into practice. That includes treating your body as a temple. Pepper I think your message applies to majority of faiths/religions out there whether it’s thinking yourself as a God and/or treating your body as a temple. Humans are the species that has the most in common with the deity/deities we worship.

    It’s time I started thinking of my body as a temple the next time I considering that chocolate bar, chips, pop, etc.

  7. 8

    *nods* A huge breakthrough in my therapy was the realization that I was a “stuffer”, someone who doesn’t binge per se but stuffs myself to use food as a soporific. Being aware of those habits doesn’t translate into automatic behavioral change (alas!) but it has helped me tremendously to see how I was using food in such a negative way.

    I love this post so much, I’ve retweeted it and shared it on FB. As I wrote there, I love your no-holds-barred approach to health and body image issues. You’re not preaching, you are *sharing* and that is so inspirational to me. Thank you!

  8. 9

    i struggle with very painful endometriosis (bad enough that i sometimes black out) and a 2-yo back injury…and binge eating disorder. i try really hard to treat my body with care…i try and remove myself a bit and tell myself to treat my own body the same way i’d treat a dear friend. i try to do the same with negative self-talk…productive comments and constructive criticism are good, pure negative spewing is not. i remind myself that i can’t expect my body to be kind to me if i don’t respect it.

    but i do still struggle with body hatred, both the body image type and the type aimed at the physical pain. i find myself watching people at the gym and wondering what their relationship with their body is and what assumptions they make about me. i project and assume they are thinking it is easy for me…esp those who are heavier since i know workouts can take added physical and mental energy/commitment/etc at a higher weight. i have this desire to yell aloud that it is HARD for me…that my 4-4.5mph walk is a fight (a fight approved by the docs). that i used to be able to run until my back stopped me. that the endo will feel better during the w/o but much worse after. that i can’t take off for pain or i’d never go (i DO take off if i really need it).

    i guess my takeaway there is just that we never fully know the relationship anyone has with their own physical self. i am as guilty of assumptions as the next person (but i recognize it..and then feel guilty which is NOT productive but very much me). relationships with others take work, but the relationship we have with ourselves and our own bodies should also be one we work on and ma be more important than any other.

  9. Taryn #

    What a wonderful message, and so beautifully written. If only I could put it into practice…

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