‘Your Body Is A Temple’ is a catchphrase lifted from the Bible. The original intent of that phrase was to encourage people to treat themselves with respect and care, and to recognize that as humans we are vessels for the sacred.
Unfortunately, the phrase has been forged into a hammer and used against us, to beat people into harsh ‘self-improvement’ regimens or to shame people for not complying with a narrow set of expectations.
For that reason, I think the phrase needs a little reworking –
Here, I fixed it for you –> Your body is not a temple, it’s an ecosystem! Tweet this.
Temples are hard as stone, fixed and unchanging.
And when disasters arrive, temples can be turned into dust.
Ecosystems, on the other hand, are soft. They’re absorbing and forgiving, they weather the storm. They adapt to changing conditions, and they begin to repair themselves before we even realize they’ve been damaged.
An ecosystem is infinitely stronger than a temple, but it does need balance and care.
I believe one of the foundational aspects of becoming a leader and a changemaker is shifting our priorities in relationship to our bodies, because we understand that maintaining a healthy body is in deep service to our Great Work in this life.
Here are a few mindset shifts that are crucial for cultivating sustainable leadership –
Unplug From Objectification Culture
Eve Ensler first opened my eyes to the opportunity cost of beauty fixation – every hour, every dollar and all the emotion we invest in trying to mold our bodies into the perfect shape and appearance is being diverted away from using those resources to build something more lasting and meaningful with our lives.
Now, just to be clear, I am not saying that it’s not okay to be beautiful or to enjoy your body – I’m just saying what I think we all know, which is that Western culture is totally overboard on this front. I know plenty of intelligent, talented women who have invested more money into breast augmentation, weight loss, lip injections and Botox than they have spent on their education or their business, with predictable results.
Even without taking things to this extreme, there’s an energy drawdown that happens when we obsess over appearances, and there are choices we make when striving for an ideal form that are not in service to keeping our body ecosystem balanced and thriving. Skipping meals to cut calories, for example, does not promote the mental acuity you need to develop your thought leadership. When you look back on your life, are you going to be more proud of accomplishing your Great Work, or of fitting into your skinny jeans? True up your daily decisions according to your answer.
Set Realistic Expectations & Play The Long Game
Workahol is a helluva drug – and (as always) the trickiest part of weaning yourself off the addiction is knowing when you’re hooked.
The truth is, there will always be a place for a little hustle in your entrepreneur game. There’s going to be days when you graze out of the cupboards instead of taking the time to prepare a nourishing meal, there will be nights when you burn the midnight oil, and there will be cups of coffee to lure you out of bed the next morning and get you back to work. But hustle should be a strategic short-term decision, not a permanent way of life.
Over the long term, healthy vibrant foods and regular movement are the fuel your body needs to keep in good working condition. Caffeine and sugar (and the processed foods that rapidly turn to sugar in our bodies) are habits we lean into when our health begins to decline, to artificially shock our systems into having energy and alertness. If you find yourself regularly saying, “I need coffee!” (reality check: coffee is a want, not a need) or reaching for sugary snacks, this is a sign that you’re pushing your hustle too far, and it’s time to reprioritize.
If, in evaluating your daily life, you think you don’t have time for exercise or for preparing healthy meals, the wise response is to adjust your business goals and your priorities, not to continue to abuse your body. That might mean delaying a milestone or material gain in the short term, but I promise you that over the long term, you are more likely to get where you want to be by making space for habitual self-care than by driving yourself into an auto-immune crisis or adrenal fatigue.
Ditch The Programs And Reclaim Your Power
Vegan, Paleo, Dukan, Zone, Raw, Ketogenic… I could go on and on. Books, magazines and the mighty interwebs are overflowing with theories on how you ‘should’ be eating. Every theory will cite a mountain of ‘evidence’ about why their system is the best, but beware of pseudo-science – the plural of anecdote is not anecdata.
The problem with claiming there’s One Way You Should Eat is that it presupposes there’s One Way To Have A Body… Which I hope we all realize is, well, a pretty dumb premise. But people fall into the trap of picking a system and rigidly following it to a T for a number of reasons –
One common reason is that it can feel like a relief when someone tells us what to do. Dogma of any kind gives us an illusion of safety in an overwhelming world, but it comes at the price of giving away our power. Just like with the notion that ‘your body is a temple’, let’s be real about the fact that anything rigid – including dogma – is more likely to crumble under pressure than to withstand the test of time.
Another common reason people cling to programs is that we’re chasing some ‘result’ above and beyond feeling good – and let’s be honest, often the result we’re chasing is that we want to lose weight, which is a promise that programmatic diets usually make to us. If this rings true for you, go back and read Mindset Shift #1.
Lastly, many of us have low-key food addictions, and several eating plans allow their followers to eat unlimited amounts of one food group or macronutrient in exchange for severe restriction of another. By following the program, over the short term you can achieve a desired result on the outside while never addressing your disordered habits on the inside. But over the long term, you’re likely driving your body ecosystem into deep imbalance. You’re also bypassing an opportunity to heal a pattern which is most likely impacting more areas of your life than just the way you eat (emotional avoidance, anyone?).
My invitation to you is to release the dogma around programmatic eating, and lead with listening to your body. I am not a trained dietician or health coach, and I am not qualified to guide you through the process of discovering your body’s nutritional needs, but I do promise you that doing this work on the inner and the outer will not only improve your long-term physical health, it will also support you in showing up as a vibrant and powerful entrepreneur.
There is wisdom in knowing you don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to be paying attention. Push any temperate ecosystem too far, and it will eventually become a desert or a swamp. When you notice your body swinging too far out of balance – or ideally, before you start to feel the noticeable effects – remember to re-prioritize self-care, and remember that you’re not only tending to your body ecosystem for the sake of your own wellbeing (although that’s certainly reason enough), but also out of responsibility to your Great Work and to the impact you can make on the world when your body is balanced and thriving.