09/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Buffets and Bears: The Art of Making Choices

My nutritionist said that if you stood in front of a buffet featuring all kinds of foods, you would reach for precisely what your body needed to balance itself, thereby producing optimum health. Naturally there was a simple qualification to his theory. It would only work if you could eliminate from the selection process any emotion related to eating. You would have to ignore all cravings based on stress and frustration and fatigue. You would have to clear out all tainted thoughts related to how we use food to make ourselves feel better for all the wrong reasons. Then you would stand in front of the buffet with a completely clear head and allow your true internal voice to intuitively lead you to the perfect plate of food. Then and only then, would your choices be totally okay, no matter what food was chosen.

Using the clear-headed buffet image as an analogy, let's apply it to decision making as to what is best for us outside of our food choices. What if we could eliminate emotion from the process of choosing what is best for us? What if we could separate our decision making from the way we perceive things to make us feel better even when we know that perception is not reality? What if we could see what is best for ourselves and put that ahead of what others perceive is best for us, or for them more often than not? What if we could eliminate the fear that if we choose only for ourselves, we would be rejected by the others? What if we could look at our own decisions with a completely clear head and allow our true internal voices to intuitively lead us to the perfect decision? Then and only then would our choices be totally okay, no matter what decision was made.

My Dutch husband taught me to apply logic to emotion. At first it seemed like heresy. How dare he apply logic to emotion? Emotion is emotion. It can't be tainted by logic. But as my education continued, with his encouragement, I began to try it. The results sometimes felt like air moving through a place that had been stagnant for so long that it had become a forgotten place. Emotion is not a bad thing. But sometimes crippling, negative emotion prevents us from finding our way to healthy, joyful emotion.

The key to following the Dutch method is so simple, it should be more obvious. And yet, we miss it more often than not. The right to choose. Isn't every decision we make a choice? Don't we sometimes forget that we have choices? One thing the Dutch know that cannot be forgotten is that you must take responsibility for your choices, as must others. You have a right to expect that. When I recovered from cancer, I made a decision to choose for myself over and over again each and every day. Choose to love my husband, choose to raise my sons, choose to be healthy, choose to stay away from toxic situations, and choose to be kind to myself. Because cancer taught me that choosing for yourself comes with the great privilege of living. Practice it, get used to how it feels, exercise your right to choose like a muscle that gets stronger after every workout. Once you start choosing on a regular basis, it feels natural to own those choices. And life starts to make a lot more sense.

I spoke to a service organization at a breakfast recently. Looking through their chapter scrapbook, I found an article about a wonderful program co-sponsored by a local police department. It provided a teddy bear for children in traumatic situations such as fires, kidnappings, and domestic violence. I read on with great interest being a big believer in the healing power of the teddy bear. The children are given the bears right there in the field when they are feeling the most vulnerable and in need of comfort, safety and security. But, the article explained, not all children qualify for the teddy bear. A child who is raped or molested cannot be given the bear because later, in a trial situation, it may be used by the defense to say the child was unfairly influenced by the police. Bribed for testimony in some way. I say we should send a Dutch specialist over to that police department. Make a decision to give all children a teddy bear, stand by the decision, and be responsible for it in court by explaining to a jury that the police believe it is more beneficial to comfort a child who has just been raped or molested than worry about if a lawyer may later defend a child rapist by saying a teddy bear caused an unfair prosecution.

Choosing well is not always easy. And there is enormous pressure by society to choose a certain way, especially where fantastically complex family relationships are concerned. And it is something we can learn to do. It may be a natural talent for the Dutch, but not for the rest of us.

So last night, as I laid out on the counter the things my husband brought home from the Whole Foods deli for dinner, I went straight for the broccoli crunch and the raw kale salad. Almost like a craving. And that is what I chose.