05/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Write Your Own Health Care Bill

Here is just some of the advice I've gotten from friends when it comes to dieting: Make breakfast the biggest meal of your day; Make lunch the biggest meal of your day; Don't eat anything all day, and eat whatever you want for dinner.

And exercise?

Walking is all you need; You need to get your heart rate up; Interval training is the way to go; Run, walk, run, walk.

"Eat oatmeal for breakfast," I've always heard, and not just from Wilfred Brimley. While the rest of the world was touting oatmeal to lower cholesterol and start a healthy day, I hated the mushiness of it. The slimy texture made me queasy.

When I discovered that I liked the crunchiness of steel cut oats I was thrilled. I started every day with them, sprinkling my warm bowl of oats with roasted slivered almonds and dried black currants, which I'd read somewhere were good for something (I forgot what -- maybe memory.)

"That's not going to help you lose weight," my doctor told me at my annual checkup. "The currants are loaded with sugar. And the carbohydrates in the oatmeal make you hungry again mid-morning."

I conducted my own little medical study. I began eating eggs or egg whites for breakfast. I didn't feel hungry two hours later. But when I switched back to oatmeal again one morning, my doctor's theory turned out to be right. Just liked clockwork, I was hungry two hours later.

This really confused me. How could some people swear by oatmeal when my doctor advised me to skip it most mornings? If the benefits of oatmeal could be subject to scrutiny, why couldn't everything else I've heard or read be modified to suit my needs, body and mind?

I decided to write my own health care bill.

I'm a 56-year-old woman who has suffered hundreds of panic attacks. Meditating every day has reduced my stress level significantly, but my jeans are still too tight. I'm 15-20 pounds above the weight I'd like to be. So what's a sort-of-calm, sort-of-chubby woman to do? (My yoga teacher Amy has urged me not to use the f-word, no matter what my scale says.)

"Eat a rainbow of colors," Amy told me, drawing a circle on a piece of paper. "If this represents your plate," she said, drawing a line down the middle of the circle, "Then half of your daily intake should be fruits and vegetables." That really helped me. I'm into visuals.

Amy has helped me build up the strength to do my version of a very slow sun salutation. She's helped me to enjoy whatever yoga I am able to do on any given day, and not to judge myself too harshly.

But I'm not a disciplined person. Without Amy next to me, I don't always do more than walk up and downstairs to my kitchen. And what I eat there depends on how disciplined I've been when I was at the supermarket that week. Clearly, I need a piece of legislation to turn my fantasy of a routine into a reality. So here's the first draft of my health care bill:

1. Turn every meal into a thoughtfully composed still life on a plate, with a pleasing variety of colors, shapes and textures. Sit down to eat it. Don't stand and gobble.

2. No white flour or sugar.

3. Don't keep food in the bedroom, especially boxes of cookies.

4. Drink a lot of tea.

5. Do five minutes of yoga a day. Five might turn into 10, 20, 30, even 60.

6. Once a day, walk somewhere instead of driving there.

7. Make and drink a lot of soup.

Like the health bill Congress has been wrestling with for so long, mine is a work in progress. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. But taken with a tiny pinch of salt.

Priscilla Warner is the co-author of The Faith Club. Her new book, about her journey from panic to peace, will be published by The Free Press in 2011. Follow her progress on her blog. And meet her mother at