Last week I completed a study of myself: a 100-day Mindful Eating Practice. This chapter of my life existed from March 1st- June 8th, 2017.
I became my own laboratory: the subject of my inquiry and curiosity.
This project was created to replace something else: a surgery to manage two issues caused by stress and weight. I chose a kinder, gentler medicine. And I’m really glad I did.
In December of last year—after months of resigning myself to feeling as good as I could, I made a declaration to have two surgeries just after the first of the year.
The first was a long-recommended sinus surgery to repair the back of my septum and open up my sinuses. I was born with cleft lip and palate and had multiple corrective surgeries as a child. The miracles of all of those surgeries manifested in a new issue: scar tissue wreaking havoc on my body’s ability to keep my sinuses healthy. I was hopeful for an outcome free of repeated sinus issues and infections: free to feel wonderful enough to work, speak, write, transform. The need for and the potential of this surgery were both clear to me, and there was no question my quality of life would improve. It did tremendously.
The second surgery wasn’t so black and white. Also long-recommended, this surgery, scheduled for February 8, was a partial hysterectomy to alleviate inconvenient and unpleasant symptoms of fibroids and delivering two nine pound babies. Without saying too much more about that, I signed up and met with two surgeons, completed the blood work and set the date in my work calendar.
Also in my work calendar was a work dinner on January 31 where, by chance I was seated next to my dear friend and wellness advisor to our museum, Ayurvedic practicioner Sapna Punjabi Gupta.
She took a deep breath after I told her my story. “Cancel the surgery,” she said. “Give me three months.”
I looked at her in disbelief. “Cancel the surgery? Can you do that?”
At home later that evening I called my Integrative Medicine doctor, Dr. Carolyn Matthews (Baylor). She generously walked through the plan with me, and with much compassion, helped me see that surgery didn’t have to be the only way. Twelve hours later it was done: two doctors’ offices, one operating room and admissions removed my name from the schedule on February 8, 2017. Yes, you can cancel a surgery.
I spent the month of February thinking back on the lessons I’d learned in the vast world of health and well being since a diagnosis (and cure) of papillary carcinoma (thyroid cancer) in the summer of 2011.
Having cancer opened up a new future for me: a future of exploring and listening to the best teachers in the fields of integrative medicine, mindfulness and well being. Having cancer made me well: grounded in an understanding that our bodies—to the cellular level-- are a reflection of how we live.
As a student in the relationship between diet and longevity, I participated in several elimination diets through the Cvetko Patient Resource Center at Baylor Hospital (21 days), with Arbonne (30 days), and with Mark Hyman (21 days). For me, 21 days is a commitment, but one without lasting impact. I knew I needed something with more staying power: 100 days, 3.14 months, almost a season, long enough to make new habits a practice.
I also knew it had to be simple: I chose to eliminate five things: alcohol, dairy, gluten, sugar and caffeine (which quickly became coffee, interestingly the experience I missed the most throughout the detox). The Mindful Eating Practice, as it was designed, became my synthesis of many learnings, explorations and experiences. The success of the Mindful Eating Practice happened because I worked from a future I wanted to be in. I authored this future. I engaged dimensions of body, mind and spirit to steady my focus, and ultimately create that future.