Mindful Eating Programs and Training

Mindful Eating Programs and Training

Close this search box.

Is Am I Hungry? weight-neutral?

Michelle May


When people ask “Is Am I Hungry? weight-neutral?” the answer is unequivocally, yes! Am I Hungry? is a weight-neutral program. But it wasn’t always that way. This is the story of our evolution from non-diet to weight-neutral.

In a previous article, I had harsh words for healthcare professionals who stigmatize, threaten, shame, and/or fail to adequately care for their patients in larger bodies. I also expressed empathy for those whose misguided attempts to help their patients are a result of the current weight-focused model of health. I get it. I was one of them.

It was a process, but I realized it wasn’t enough to be non-diet. I needed to be weight-neutral too. Perhaps the story of how my thinking has evolved will help others who are on this path too.

The Evolution from Non-Diet to Weight-Neutral

Out of my own personal struggle with food and body image, I desperately sought a “solution” for myself and my patients. Like many of my colleagues, I often referred my patients to Weight Watchers (now WW in an attempt to distance themselves from weight loss). After all, it was a “good diet” and my personal diet of choice.

Never mind that our results, if any, were almost always temporary. I had been “back on the program” 17 times! I just didn’t know any better.

(If I had to go back to medical school 17 times, someone would have said, “Maybe this isn’t right for you, Michelle.” But nobody at said that at Weight Watchers! They just took my money and congratulated me for trying again.)

Waking up to problems caused by dieting

When I finally healed my relationship with food by not dieting, I became an evangelist! I wanted everyone to experience the freedom and joy I felt. So in 1999, I worked with a psychologist, dietitian, and exercise physiologist to create a comprehensive non-diet program. Back then, I promoted it as a “non-diet weight management program.” That was all I knew. (In fact, our very first name was “Changing Weighs.”)

When we got ready to publish our first book based on our workshops in 2004, I changed our company name to “Am I Hungry?” to reflect the true purpose and benefit of the program: to increase awareness and choice about why, when, what, how, and how much we eat, and where we invest our energy.

I developed a model called the Mindful Eating Cycle upon which all of our mindful eating programs, books, and trainings are based. The Mindful Eating Cycle gives people an inside-out, non-restrictive method to manage their eating and learn to listen to, and trust, their body again.

But the title of that first book was, Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don’t Work – as if Am I Hungry? and diets had the same goal. I understand now why they don’t, but I just didn’t know any better at the time.

My passion and the obvious need for a structured non-diet approach was so great, that in 2006, I retired from clinical practice. I started a train-the-trainer program to provide other health and wellness professionals with the skills and tools to facilitate mindful eating programs in their communities, practices, and corporations. We didn’t promote weight loss and we discouraged facilitators from weighing their workshop participants weekly. But we still called it “weight management.”

Am I Hungry? becomes weight-neutral

is-Am-I-Hungry-weight-neutralAs more people were using the Mindful Eating Cycle, it was becoming increasingly clear that this approach wasn’t about weight at all. I began to realize that weight change was a possible side effect of the process, rather than the reason to do it.

Further, the benefits of the process were not dependent on the participant’s starting or ending weight. We added the tagline, “Eat Mindfully, Live Vibrantly.”

I knew that most participants “got it” once they started the program. But how would they find the program in the first place if it wasn’t presented in familiar terms? After all, who had ever heard of mindful eating? Who was Googling “How to stop dieting“?

I didn’t want people to discover this approach as a last resort when they were desperate. By that point, how many years would they have suffered needlessly, trapped in their eat-repent-repeat cycle?

Our approach is unconventional, and even counter-intuitive, so I was also afraid that other health professionals wouldn’t listen to the message if they didn’t understand what “it” was. They seemed to understand “weight management,” so I continued to use those words, but only where necessary to catch the attention of those who needed what we offered: A way out of endless dieting and obsession with food and weight.

I rationalized that, yes, people did learn to manage their weight without dieting. It felt like a necessary “bait and switch” to speak in a language they initially recognized, then teach them the language of their body. My philosophy was enter any door that is convenient; it will still be the same house. When people participated in the program, we often heard comments like, “Now I know that it was never about the food or my weight,” and “This has changed my life.”

Am I Hungry? commits to a weight-neutral approach

Is-am-hungry-weight-neutralOver time, the conflict between our culture’s weight-based paradigm and the true nature and power of mindful eating has come into sharp focus. (More on the conflict between mindful eating and the goal of weight loss here). It also became increasingly clear that if we continued to use that outdated paradigm because it was familiar to our audience and therefore easier, we would be limited by that paradigm.

Since wanting to lose weight in the first place is one of the causes of a disordered relationship with food, we have no business being in that business. Duh!

So, although Am I Hungry? has been walking this walk for a long time, and mostly talking the talk, it was time for us to declare which side of the fence we were on. Am I Hungry? is a weight-neutral program.

The transition to weight-neutral takes time

  • We began the transition from describing what we do as “weight management” to what we really do: “Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Programs and Training.”
  • Once we decided to make our weight-neutral stance official, it was announced to our Am I Hungry? Licensees during our quarterly update. Their response was, not surprisingly, very positive.
  • We updated Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Program Companion Workbook and Awareness Journal.
  • We continue to comb through hundreds of pages of our website and update or delete old articles as needed. Please be patient with us during this transition as it is a long process – but we are committed to it. If you come across something on our site that is incongruent, please reach out to us and let us know!
  • Please also recognize that there will continue to be old content on the Internet, in print, and in video format that doesn’t reflect our commitment to a weight-neutral approach. (For example, I took “Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don’t Work” out of print in 2010 because it is totally outdated, but Amazon refuses to take it off their site! Similarly, we’ve updated all the books in our book series, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, several times, but people can still buy old copies on Amazon!)
  • As many people who work in this area know, you can’t always control the spin that the media puts on your interviews and message, no matter how many times you repeat it! A completely weight-neutral message is sometimes published with a headline like “How to Lose Weight with Mindful Eating.” Frustrating! However, working with the media helps them become our allies, so all we can do is try.

Am I Hungry? continues to evolve. Is Am I Hungry? weight-neutral? absolutely, yes! But I foresee a day, hopefully not too far off in the future, when people will see “weight-neutral” and think, “Duh!” instead of “That’s cool. But how much weight do people lose?

This article has been updated from a previously published version.

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you:

Diet culture: An outdated paradigm whose time is up!

Mindful Eating and Weight Loss: Setting the record straight

Weight Stigma in Healthcare: When you know better, do better

Click here to subscribe


About the Author

Leave A Reply

2 thoughts on “Is Am I Hungry? weight-neutral?”

Comments are closed.

Your journey is unique so we provide options to explore mindful eating in a way that meets your needs.