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Dr. Mike Dow Headshot

Eat, Pray and Love: You Can Have it All

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In the new movie "Eat Pray Love," the title of the movie is not a multiple choice question for Julia Roberts' character. She gets to do all three. However, it seems like many Americans feel like they have to make choices in their lives -- family or career, food or sex -- and that they can't have it all.

A recent Nutrisystem poll of 1,001 people indicated that most women would rather give up sex than gain 10 pounds for the summer. And about a quarter of men said the same. A Fitness magazine poll a few years ago said that over half of Americans would rather lose their jobs than get fat.

Now the story of "Eat Pray Love" -- a woman who feels so broken she must rediscover, reconstruct and reinvent herself -- sounds very familiar tale in real life Hollywood. Remember Alanis Morissette's struggle with eating disorders, breakup with Ryan Reynolds and self-discovery in India? Ever watch Dennis Rodman on "Celebrity Rehab" with a feeling of "wow, this guy has lost his true self?" Or how about Jane Fonda's ironic battle with eating disorders while simultaneously being the national face of health in her workout videos?

Eat, pray and love is actually a wining combination. The key is balancing all three in your life. How should you eat? Mindfully savor every bite, as paying attention to internal cues of taste, hunger and food is linked to lower levels of obesity. Savor more, eat less.

Should you pray? I feel religious people generally feel happier with life when compared to nonreligious people, so find something to believe in. Meditation and prayer stimulate the same part of the brain, so whether you're in a place of worship or on a meditation cushion, you'll have similar results. And find purpose in life that is greater than just pleasure.

And love? Absolutely. Studies in positive psychology do indeed support that being in a loving relationship is perhaps one of the best predictors of happiness. What should this relationship look like? Those with more positive interactions and emotional expressiveness are associated with greater life satisfaction. Translation? Love, and love well. Significant others, friends and family will decrease loneliness while increasing support, fun and intimacy.

And what about all the stuff of Hollywood dreams: youth, fame and wealth? Surprisingly, we get happier as we get older. More people in the 65 plus crowd reported being satisfied with life than those in their late 20s, 30s or 40s. Fame? Think of the 10 most famous people you can name. Would you label them as being the shining example of true happiness? And wealth? Once your income is above the poverty level, there is no strong relationship between income and life satisfaction.

Since we're not all writers of novels who can take a year to go to Italy, India and Indonesia, as the writer of "Eat, Pray, Love" did, find yourself on a daily basis. Savor every bite of that next meal. Be grateful for the person you're eating it with. Be spiritually full. Figure out a way so that you, too, can have it all.

Around the Web

Eat Pray Love (2010)

Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert's official website

Relationships | Psychology Today

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