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Finding the Right Fuel to Achieve Physician Work-life Balance


My food choices reflect what type of balance I’m achieving …sometimes giving me life indigestion as a physician.

 I’m reading a book recommended to me by my sister-in-law called "If Buddha Came to Dinner." It describes an approach to food and eating which has, unfortunately, become entirely foreign to most of us - looking at food as nourishment. The author describes our overly-processed, heavily salt-and sugar-laden typically American diet as almost addicting. She argues that whatever we crave is probably what we already consume to excess.

Compared to most people I know and certainly compared to the majority of my patients, I eat healthy. We belong to a community farm share program, grow our own fruits and vegetables, eat vegetarian once or twice a week, and avoid red meat. But, reading this book has challenged even my own concept of “healthy,” making me realize that even if I’m eating many healthier things, the manner in which I approach my food may not be healthy.

I’m guilty of eating breakfast in a rush - sometimes in my car, consuming lunch while working on the computer, and sometimes choosing to stay at work to finish charts rather than making it home for dinner with my family. As I consider making changes to not only what I eat but also how I eat, I realize, as the author points out, it involves changes beyond my diet.

My food choices reflect what type of balance I’m achieving. I eat in a rush in the morning because I wake up too late because I go to bed too late and so on. I eat lunch in front of my computer because I value my work more than I value taking a short break to eat mindfully. And, I miss dinner, because I want to be done with my work when I walk out of the office door.

All of these choices give me life indigestion. Things don’t flow smoothly. I feel “too full” of obligations, commitments, and items on my to-do list. My appetite for the things I enjoy diminishes. I crave quick fixes for my energy slumps.

So much of what I discuss with my patients relates to a healthy lifestyle - or the lack of one. I dispense dietary advice, recommendations about exercise, sleep, and stress control. However, I often find it challenging to do the very things I recommend to others.

The author recommends a “cleanse” in which you limit yourself periodically - maybe once a year or so - to easily digestible foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds for one week to three weeks. The purpose is to give your body a rest from the endless demands we place on it to digest and process our typical diets.

I’m not sure I’m ready for a dietary cleanse, but I wonder about a life “cleanse” in which I take some time to do those things that are easily done and allow myself a chance to rest, recuperate, and repair itself. This is definitely advice for my patients as well as their doctor.

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