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Sunshine for the soul

Health at Every Size has three legs, the first is about eating, the second about exercise, and the third...is just as important as the first two. Read more to find out what it is, and remember, a chair with two legs cannot stand.


A few years ago, my husband and I went to our local nursery. We bought some seedlings and planted them in the flower boxes on the front terrace of our house. There are two L-shaped boxes. We put the same soil mixture into each box, and divided seedlings from the trays we bought between the two. We have treated these two boxes alike throughout. They are equally exposed to the elements. On the photograph above, you will see my dogs and me sitting on the wall between the two. They are less than a meter apart.


Just a few weeks after planting, the two that started off exactly the same are now very different! The flowers in the one on the right of the picture are clearly thriving, the ones on the left, barely surviving.


Look at the photograph again. Can you see the difference?


Just outside of the frame of the photograph to the left, stands an enormous tree. A tree that keeps one flowerbox almost permanently in the shade while its sister box basks in the rays of the sun for many hours each day.


There is ongoing debate about the influence of nature vs nurture among psychologists, geneticists, educators etc. While there is clear evidence that both matter, my flowers provide a striking illustration of how a single change in conditions can lead to outcomes that are poles apart. It made me wonder, what would be the equivalent of sunshine for humans? What is sunshine for the soul?

Can something cast a shadow on some, making development almost impossible? Is there that one element that can make the difference between thriving and just surviving?


I thought about people I have worked with. I thought about how the same input from me can lead to extraordinary growth and change in some … and nothing spectacular in others. Could the key to this discrepancy lie in their varying amounts of exposure to this “sunshine equivalent?"


Sunshine for the soul

The tenets of the Health at Every Size Movement, that I am a part of, (in contrast to the weight-centered dieting paradigm) are threefold. The first two are:

  1. Enjoy living actively - i.e. move away from the “no pain no gain” attitude and learn to move for the sheer joy and power of it.

  2. Enjoy eating well - i.e. take pleasure in eating, listen to your body, don’t diet. These two are easy to understand. They are about thinking differently about food and exercise, the two things that are commonly accepted as the most important when it comes to weight-regulation anyway. What I have come to understand though, is that the first two are impossible to do without the third. Like a table with three legs is useless when it misses one, these three are each fundamental. The third leg is the sunshine. It is the vital ingredient. It is the one that makes the other two possible, and it is the one that most easily escapes our attention. The third leg, is:

  3. Self-acceptance. That is it. No provisions. It is self-acceptance of the unconditional kind. It is not “I will accept myself when …” or “if … then I will accept myself”. It is accepting as is, the good and the bad. Loving what is, even though it is not perfect. It is also not a lazy self-acceptance that says, “this is how I am and you must just accept that this is how it will always be”. Rather it is a self-acceptance that understands that compassion is the foundation of all healing. Self-love and respect create the most fertile grounds for change. Accepting ourselves exactly as we are allows us to make peace with ourselves, thereby empowering us to take better care of ourselves. We think that we must work hard to earn love, and then we can rest from our efforts. But instead, we must start by being loved, it is there that we get the strength to do the work of caring for ourselves.


How can I learn to accept myself if I have spent a lifetime criticizing and rejecting myself?

This is a very important process that deserves to be tackled with great dedication. If you think you can do without, please, look at the photograph again! There are many routes to travel to self-acceptance. Here are a few that have helped me:

  1. Seek relationship with the God of love It has been said that one cannot give what you have not received. Giving unconditional love to the self then, requires that it must be received from somewhere else first. When we are relying on human beings for an experience of unconditional love, we are on shaky ground. A more reliable source is needed!

  2. Spend time in nature

    1. Nature has many lessons to teach the keen observer, I will mention two: The rich diversity in plant and animal life reminds me that everything belongs. That beauty is found in unexpected places and in different shapes, sizes, forms and colours. All expressions of it can be accepted.

    2. Changing seasons taught me to accept that light and darkness, warmth and cold, living and dying, growth and decay are natural processes that occur simultaneously. When one thing is growing, another is dying. The losses of one season provide the compost for growth in the next. I have made peace with the fact that I have parallel processes occurring in myself too. It is never ALL good with me, and it is never ALL bad. There are good things and bad things, I can accept both.

  3. Take care in choosing your friends Pursue the company of people that accept you as you are, people that encourage and inspire you.

  4. Remember the principle of sowing and reaping Sometimes, we need to start with giving others the thing that we desire ourselves. If you want to be accepted? Accept. Loved? Love. Respected? Respect.

  5. Choose carefully what you expose yourself to on social media. Instead of looking at carefully curated photographs of people in their best moments, spend time with real people.


Sound Bite

“We will never be free from oppression until we can take ourselves out of the bondage of self hatred and then reclaim our bodies and our wisdom as sacred” Carol Emery Normandi
“When a mean makes one step toward |God, God takes more steps toward that man than there are sands in the worlds of time” The work of the chariot

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