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Rice and Gravy, Love and Spirit

By Carol Penn, MA, DO

Today was the first of eight sessions in a Philadelphia private medical practice where I am implementing an evidenced-based treatment protocol utilizing The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s small group model. The common diagnosis for this group is Morbid Obesity with a BMI of >40 and co-morbidities including Diabetes type II, chronic kidney disease, osteoarthritis, hypertensive heart disease, and chronic pain syndrome. All of the group participants have tried multiple diets; some have experienced success then put the weight back on, and then some.

As each member introduced themselves, common themes began to surface, together with smiles and laughter: the joy and comfort of food, love of sweets, and common ethnic roots. 4 of the 5 of us hail from the Gullah or Geeche culture, where lives and memories are built around the perfect preparation of rice with well-seasoned gravy, served with a generous portion of cornbread on the side. More than mere comfort food, it is a sacrament that’s crossed oceans and ties us to our family roots and ancient tribal memories, calling forth something intangible, unspoken, yet palpable in our hearts and souls. So how does one cut off a lifeline, even when one has identified that on certain levels it is no longer good for you?

One member shared that she recently was able to lose 11 pounds when she only allowed herself to eat her favorite rice and gravy, pasta and bread on Sundays. She shared that during the soft belly breathing she was praying and asking God to help her control her desire to eat large portions. She has seen female relative after female relative develop diabetes. She felt this was her date with destiny and she wanted to break the cycle.

Another group member shared that she had seen a family member reverse her diabetes, although with a BMI of 54 and a recent 30 pound weight gain, she knew she needed to do something more than to “try” to lose weight one more time. She said her reason for being in the group was simple; she simply was not ready to die at 57. “This is a start in my working on me…This body is my temple and I want a renewed spirit living in a healthier temple.”

And so, another Mind-Body Medicine journey has begun for this group with lives ready to be transformed and temples rebuilt.

  • Ayelet wieder cohen

    good luck Carol with your group, sounds like a fresh start

  • avigail antman

    Goog luck carol