I just returned from a visit to my PCP as a follow-up on my progress (really lack thereof) on developing a more healthy approach to eating and weight loss. She has been my doctor for a relatively short time, and for a while was primarily treating all the more immediate and critical medical issues I dealt with last year. When I was finally recovering both physically and mentally, one day I remarked to her that at least I had gotten a good blog post out of the experience. She took an interest in my writing and each time I see her it comes up in the conversation.
Today, I received one of the most unusual prescriptions I’ve ever had from a medical professional. After admitting that things weren’t going very well, Dr. G started out by asking what I eat for breakfast, and believe me, I knew where this was heading. While I don’t have a PhD in nutrition, let me tell you that I can recite endless lists of “good foods,” “bad foods,” “fattening foods,” “healthy foods,”and know all about “low carb,” “vegetarian,” “vegan” and “ancestral, paleo, cave woman, disgusting animal organs are good for you” diets.
Having a basic understanding of what constitutes healthy eating and healthy living in general is not the problem really. The problem is that this knowledge somehow doesn’t filter down to the reptilian, autopilot, section of my brain that is still convinced that starvation is around the corner. Then there’s that other part of the brain where behavior patterns that involve compulsive food consumption during times of stress, or just indulge in them as a comfortable habit, have been etched into my brain’s landscape like ruts in a frozen field. Maybe that’s the same snake-y room in the brain, I really don’t know. I’m not a brain scientist either. But it’s clear that these competing brain cells need to synchronize and start firing in the same direction.
So, Dr. G, being perceptive, knew she better divert quickly down a different road. So she asked, “Have you ever heard of mindful eating?” I think the brain cells that fired off at that question live in one of those reptilian rooms described above, because I almost replied, “Sure, I don’t mind eating until I’m full….” but fortunately I caught myself before blurting that one out. Even though Dr. G seems to appreciate my sense of humor, that might have been a bit too much.
Oh, Mindfulness! You mean that blissful state where every thought and every move is conscious and deliberate, where mind, body and spirit live in complete harmony. Sure, I’ve been there–but never mind how I got there because it might have involved an illegal substance, I’m not saying. (Remember, I became a young adult during the 60’s, and that’s all I’m admitting to.)
Joking aside, though, it does seem that this might be the way to begin making some progress. When your PCP tells you to go home and start writing about mindfulness as a strategy for healthy living, that really sounds like good advice. No diets, no counting calories, no good or bad foods, no particular expectation of pounds lost by the next visit. Just paying attention, being present, listening to my inner voice, and being responsive to what I really need. Not a simple or easy path, but one that seems well worth walking.