What Stops You from Treating Your Body as a Friend?

by | Nov 11, 2022 | Libido | 21 comments

Treat your body as a friend
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I was not kind to my body yesterday, and I am feeling it!

When people used to complain about food insensitivities, I never really understood until it started happening to me. I’ve been having some real issues with gluten lately, and I’ve largely gone off of bread. But last night I had the biggest craving for cookies, so I made a batch of chocolate chip ones, and I ate way too many.

And I was in agony all night.

I just can’t do that anymore.

I wanted to write a big post today as part of our series on feeling safe, but I’m not feeling well enough to do it.

So as I sat down this morning, I smiled when the first comment I saw was on an older podcast, about treating your body as a friend. She wrote:

The way my body currently looks has become a huge struggle for me. I know exactly why my body has changed–a bunch of kids in just a few years. I haven’t really be able to do much about it. But the changes are a little heartbreaking. Right now, I don’t really want to be in any pictures because why would I want to remember or keep looking at something that makes me miserable. My husband has been pretty supportive in holding off family requests with me because of my mindset.

All that to say, that I really did appreciate this podcast. The idea of thinking of your body as a friend instead of an enemy is not something that I think Ive ever heard before. But more than that, I think, it just prodded me to think of the way that God created our bodies. That they are meant to change and that He did not design that by accident. There’s a lot to unpack in that thought I know – but it definitely gave me a different way to start thinking about my body than I have really before.

What does it mean to treat your body as a friend?

I think there are two elements: 

First, you appreciate your body.

Like this commenter said,  you realize how much it has done for you and you are grateful for it. Your body gave you your children! Your body allows you to experience the joys of life, the wonderful smells, the wonderful tastes, the feeling of a cold autumn air on your face. 

You aren’t embarrassed of your body, wanting to keep it out of sight. You respect and honor your body, knowing that it is an intrinsic part of who you are.

Second, you’re kind to your body.

You pay attention to what your body needs. You don’t treat your body like a servant, where you’re always trying to get more and more out of your body without giving your body anything back. You know your body needs rest. You know your body needs proper fuel. You know your body needs down time. You need water and fresh air and movement. 

I’ve actually been trying to do this a lot lately–but I forgot last night when chocolate chips danced in my head. I regret that now. I know that I need to listen to what my body is telling me and honor that.

One of the reasons many women don’t enjoy sex is because we’re so cut off from our bodies. 

Because we don’t like our bodies, and because we experience our bodies as embarrassing or shameful, it’s very hard to pay attention to what our bodies are feeling enough to get aroused. When our self-talk about our bodies is negative, how can we ever enjoy sex?

And then sex is seen as an imposition, because it means you have to pay attention to your body, which you hate. If you spend most of your life trying to ignore what your body is telling you, then how do you tune in to experience pleasure through your body? It’s difficult.

These are all thoughts that have been going through my mind this morning as I renew my dedication to treat my body as my friend!

I really don’t want to wake up to another morning like this.

 

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But as I’ve looked back on this last week, it’s reminded me of something else–another reason why we women may not like our bodies.

Perhaps one of the reasons women feel such body shame is that we’ve been treated as if we’re primarily bodies.

Women get cat-called. As we talked about on the podcast a few weeks ago when Meghan Tschanz joined us, women experience men commenting on our bodies, as if that’s the sum total of who we are.

And while our bodies are our friends, they are not the sum total of who we are.

Tragically, though, often Christian resources and pastors talk about us as if we are just objects. As I posted on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter this week:

Women's Bodies Objectified

This needs to stop.

It is a feature of fundamentalism that women’s bodies are seen as dangerous.

What amazes me is that so many evangelical Christian men sound more like Iranian mullahs when they talk about women’s bodies than they sound like Jesus.

That should give us pause.

Right now, in Iran, women are risking their lives–risking their bodies–to protest a regime that keeps them in bondage.

May I ask that we think of them today? Read some news about Iran. Pray for Iran.

Remember their slogan–Woman. Life Freedom.

Our bodies are an intrinsic and important part of who we are.

We are not only body, but we are body. We need to keep that in balance, so that we may treat our bodies as friends, not try to control others, and use our bodies to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Maybe that’s a good thought for Remembrance Day, as well.

Be kind, everyone.

 

 

Can We Treat our Bodies as Our Friends?

What do you think? Do you have trouble treating your body kindly? What do you think of those quotes? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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21 Comments

  1. Stefanie

    I don’t know if I could live without chocolate chip cookies. I’ve made some really good almond flour chocolate chip cookies. I think the recipe was on the Wellness Mama blog. She has some good, but healthy, desserts.

    Imagine treating your body like a friend and not just something you put up with.

    The complicated messages we receive about our bodies. I want to add one: the idea that our body is a tent. That it’s temporary and we are just waiting for “the real thing” when we get to heaven. I think the mindset is also kinda like how some conservative Christians think it’s ok to trash the earth because we’re leaving anyway.

    1 Cor 5:1-10 CEV
    1 Our bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth. But when these tents are destroyed, we know that God will give each of us a place to live. These homes will not be buildings someone has made, but they are in heaven and will last forever. 2While we are here on earth, we sigh because we want to live in that heavenly home. 3We want to put it on like clothes and not be naked.

    4These tents we now live in are like a heavy burden, and we groan. But we don’t do this just because we want to leave these bodies that will die. It is because we want to change them for bodies that will never die. 5God is the one who makes all this possible. He has given us his Spirit to make us certain he will do it. 6So always be cheerful!

    As long as we are in these bodies, we are away from the Lord. 7But we live by faith, not by what we see. 8We should be cheerful, because we would rather leave these bodies and be at home with the Lord. 9But whether we are at home with the Lord or away from him, we still try our best to please him. 10 After all, Christ will judge each of us for the good or the bad that we do while living in these bodies.

    Reply
  2. Stefanie

    I want to say, I also thinks this gets into who you think God is. Because if you’re used to living out your Christianity like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, then life is about duty and staying on God’s good side, and not about joy.

    For me, that’s what Christianity has been. Following all these rules to stay “safe.” To keep God happy and get to heaven one day. So it’s ok to be miserable right now (light and momentary troubles) because your reward for a holy life (eternal glory) “far outweighs” the heartache.

    Reply
  3. Matt

    When you have written about the stereotypical older gent (whoops, like me…) complaining on girls wearing sundresses or whatever in church (*not* like me) it has reminded me again and again of the Taliban. I was in the USAF for many years and flew into Afghanistan many times. One of my proudest was taxiing out at Kubul International Airport and seeing a couple of women who had brought lunch to their guys who were doing airport construction. The ladies smiled and waved at us as we taxied by, which I could see as they weren’t wearing burkas. Seeing all of the anguish in Afghanistan as we left last year brought such heartache remembering them, and worrying about their lives there now.

    Why oh why do so many in our church not understand freedom from the law? Why do they think so highly of themselves as to be like pharisees, mullahs, or the Taliban? It all hurts. So many should be getting millstones custom fit.

    I wish us all to experience freedom in Christ.

    Reply
  4. Laura

    Wow! This is great and also a reminder that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. If I’m not treating myself well, I’m not treating the Holy Spirit well. Since I was a teenager, I struggled with body image issues.

    It is appalling the things these “Christian” authors and pastors say about women. I’m thinking of His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley. He talks about how a wife “should not let herself go” now that she finally caught her man. Emerson Eggerichs said that wives who gained weight should not get upset when their husbands comment to them about it. His advice was that “your husband cares about your health, but don’t comment on his drinking problem or his pot belly.” Some of these books make it sound like it’s alright for men to gain weight, but gosh forbid if a woman gains weight after marriage, her husband will be tempted to cheat or look at porn. No wonder I struggled with bulimia in my first marriage. I worked out regularly and still didn’t feel like I was attractive enough to my husband. He looked at porn (mostly magazines because this was before internet porn got big) and frequented strip clubs.

    Well, here I am in my mid-40s. I am somewhat satisfied with my body, but I am NOT comfortable getting naked in front of a man. I could never understand how people could have casual sex with strangers. Why would anyone want to get naked in front of someone they don’t know? What’s also hard about liking my body was that it was used in my marriage. It was like my body and mind were separate. I don’t know if I can explain that well.

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      The whole thing about “letting yourself go” is ridiculous. I know precious few women who “let themselves go;” I know a lot of women who lack the time and resources to be trim, a lot with health problems (PCOS), a lot who are built on a curvy platform, and many for whom genetics os what it is.

      But I know a lot of women who feel browbeaten about “letting themselves go” or obsess about normal aging and associated changes in weight and body composition, or the changes that inevitably come from pregnancy. We aren’t twenty five and childless forever and that is a very, very short time in a woman’s life.

      This is when I suggest people look st photos of women athletes who are also moms. Lauren Fleshman is a great example.

      Reply
  5. S

    This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I have been striving to treat my body as a friend since giving birth to my daughter. I wanted to raise her to do that and so I had to learn. It has been life-giving. But it’s still such a struggle some times–to submit to the limitations of a mortal body. But the more I treat my body well and honor its unique needs, the more clearly and abundantly I am able to feel the Spirit.

    The book The Liturgy of the Ordinary is one of my very favorites. It speaks of how we can connect to God, worship, and seek to be spiritually fed in the every day ordinary things. There is a chapter on the body that is so good! I read it sometimes just to remind myself. (Really the whole book is fantastic!)

    And Sheila, try doing a search for 4 ingredient cookies. No flour and they actually taste good–if you like peanut butter. 😁 They come together super fast too –perfect for nighttime cravings.

    Reply
  6. Phil

    Hey Sheila – you dont have to go with out chocolate chip cookies! There are some really great gluten free Bakers that make some jam up chocolate chip cookies. I use to sell stuff from a guy called the Grainless Baker in PA. I just looked them up and they are now under the name Three Bakers Gluten Free Bread – Dan and Jane are the primary founders. When I had my store I used to sell their stuff and I had people drive in from long distances to get it. They are good folks and according to their website they ship! Not sure about that Canada thing…but I know they will try if they can. As for the body thing, my wife made the comment the other day that she wishes she liked her body more. I dont have much of a response besides support for her and I tell her -well I like your body. How to get her to like her body is something that is beyond me. I do know that it certainly would be helpful for her and us if that wasnt an issue. Hope you feel better and have a great weekend Y’all!

    Reply
    • Phil

      Also I heard that this week is diarrhea awareness week. It runs all week! 🤣🤣🤣🤣. Sorry for the bad joke – just thought it was appropriate LOL. Have fun be well.

      Reply
  7. Connie

    I have found it interesting that, though I’ve been doing the gluten-free thing for years (cured my supposed IBS), now I have been making bread (and cookies) with organic Einkorn flour, which is an ancient wheat, and it’s ok. My son’s MIL is also ‘gluten intolerant’ but could eat the bread in Australia. Australia has laws against GMOs and some toxic sprays. Maybe it’s not the gluten? I don’t know, but I love that I can eat bread again.

    A few years ago I stood at a mirror and asked God, “What do You think of me?” No audible voice, but in the next few days, a totally new message formed in my heart. The next time that h insulted my body, I laughed and said, “You’re not so young anymore either.” Just didn’t register like it used to. That was the last time he did that. I bless my body now. It is God’s temple. So freeing.

    Reply
  8. Jane Eyre

    The way my mind and body work, both feel better when I take care of my body. Good food, adequate sleep, and exercise are all keys to keeping things on an even keel.

    I will note that some women can be really awful to other women about their bodies. I have been called “fat” far, far more by women than by men (note: I am not fat, and even if I were, it isn’t okay to insult someone that way). Women can be the Modesty Police, too. Women will pick apart other women for wearing too much makeup or no makeup or comment endlessly on clothes and hair.

    Reply
    • GCB

      The worst kind of sexism is when it’s from someone the same sex as you.

      Reply
      • Laura

        Internalized misogyny.

        Reply
    • Laura

      Jane Eyre,

      When I was a thin teenager, I was called “fat” by a few people (mainly the mean girls) and my brother because he knew it upset me. Unfortunately, I have internalized this belief for many years and at 46, I am trying to overcome it. It does not help when some of these male “Christian” authors and pastors are derogatory about women’s bodies. In Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book on marriage, Mark criticized his wife for cutting her hair during her pregnancy calling it “the mommy haircut” and feeling upset by it. Pastor Allen-Stewart Clark told wives not to let themselves go and even talked about having a divorce weight for his wife. Yet, this man has no room to talk. The link here talks about this.

      https://julieroys.com/sermon-criticizing-wives-weight-pastor-resigns/

      Reply
  9. JB

    This post is a godsend!
    I was just experiencing some negative thoughts about my body while exercising with my husband today, even though he was being encouraging. I am absolutely disconnected with my body, and experience anxiety (whether severe or slight) when doing anything that draws my attention to my body.

    Your comments on how certain people in the church and in Iran see women reminded me of Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture Harmless Woman- a brass torso with grotesquely exaggerated breasts and buttocks. This “woman” has no head, arms, or legs, so she cannot speak, think, go anywhere, or do anything- she only exists to be ogled. Having grown up in purity culture, this artwork hits me on a visceral level. https://www.wikiart.org/en/louise-bourgeois/harmless-woman-1969

    Thank you for using your voice to do the Lord’s work!

    Reply
  10. Lyndall Cave

    I think it’s also important to remember that there are a lot of cultural forces working against us when we try to be kind to our body. If it feels like we’re fighting an uphill battle, we are! Fatphobia that tells us skinny is more desirable, dualism inherited from Ancient Greeks that tell us the spirit is good and the body is bad, commercialism trying to make us dissatisfied to sell us more things, patriarchy saying that female bodies are less than male bodies, ableism telling us that only whole and perfectly working bodies are worthy. . . It’s a lot.

    In the face of all this, kindness to our bodies is remarkable and holy work.

    Reply
    • JB

      That’s such a good point!

      Reply
    • Meghan

      I was going to say this! We can’t tell folks to treat their body as a friend without acknowledging the privilege of even being in a position to do so. Sometimes, just *not* seeing the body as an enemy is a victory.

      Reply
  11. SRL

    https://detoxinista.com/almond-flour-cookies/

    I can’t handle gluten for several years and haven’t had a good chocolate chip cookie ever since. Last week I made these and these are amazing!

    This month’s topic is much needed for us. I keep crying and crying because I see a sliver of hope for our sex life. It just can’t be rushed. Thank you!

    Reply
  12. Sadie

    I first tried eating gluten-free in 2014, did it half-heartedly & went on/off it for a few years before deciding to stick with it for good in 2018. Honestly, it became so much easier to do after I just cut it out completely, because it freed me from always having to make that choice between health & yummy food – and I no longer had to deal with the guilt of making the wrong choice. There’s lots of good gluten-free products & recipes to make your own stuff. My favorite bread is Schar or Canyon Bakehouse. You could try buying a 1:1 all-purpose flour, so you can use your cookie recipe & it will turn out pretty similar.

    My body is not my friend because I am in constant pain due to a rare headache disorder (NDPH). I’ve had my headache 8 years now, so trying to be friends with my body feels comparable to befriending an awful bully. I feel rather disconnected from my body because that’s part of how my mind has adapted to the chronic pain. Trying to pay close attention to my body makes me more aware of the pain. I do think this really affects my experience with sex, but it’s hard to say how much. I’ve asked in my NDPH support group & people didn’t feel like it affected their ability to orgasm, so there’s hope I suppose.

    Reply
  13. Estelle

    This post resonates, too, with me. The past 5 years I have been going to Flamenco classes again after a twenty plus years break. Last weekend I took part in a show and it was such fun. Especially as one’s shape did not matter at all (and we were all shapes, sizes and ages). It was all about the rhythm, the teamwork, creating something joyous and energetic together, and celebrating each other’s individual skills.

    Reply
  14. Sara K

    It makes me SO sad how many evangelical women are alienated from their bodies. I grew up in a conservative evangelical denomination where we did NOT dance, even at weddings. The college I went to in the early 80s had a Christian lifestyle statement you agreed to that included not dancing. BUT 20 years ago, in a private, silent prayer retreat, I heard God tell me my husband and I should take dance lessons, that there was healing in it. I can hardly tell you how “out of the blue” this felt at the time. 20 years later, I am an accomplished ballroom dancer, and I SO appreciate and get joy from using by body. I still struggle–I wrestle with doing things like eating too many chocolate chip cookies, and I’ve gained 20 pounds during covid because of personally difficult times where I went to emotional eating. But I never stop dancing, and it’s been an incredibly healing thing for me! I highly recommend it if you live in a city with a dance studio. You don’t even need a partner at most places–you can dance with a teacher or take group classes where everyone dances with everyone……

    Reply

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