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Can you lose weight with mindful eating (and does it matter?)

By Michelle May, M.D.

As New Year’s Eve approaches, many people are contemplating another round of the “repent” phase of their eat-repent-repeat cycle. They may have heard about mindful eating but wonder, “Can you really lose weight eating what you love?”

Lewis2006 It is a legitimate question (though given all the other benefits of mindful eating, a follow up question might be “does it matter?”). Without a doubt, the answer is YES, as Lewis, pictured here, and the others I’ll be telling you about over the next few posts have proven. However, we have chosen not to talk about weight loss very often because we don’t want to be associated with an industry that promotes restriction, deprivation, and guilt. Most of the promotions you’ll see this time of year promise quick fixes but deliver short-term results-even their l*o*s*e w*e*i*g*h*t claims can’t be spelled out without landing them in junk mail-right where they belong!

When we started offering workshops eleven years ago, we called the program “Changing Weighs.” Over the years, we repeatedly saw that the changes our participants experienced were far more significant than just what they weighed. Just as I had, so many were finally able to end years of struggling with yoyo dieting-what I now call the eat-repent-repeat cycle.

Lewis2010nov We eventually changed our name to Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshops to reflect the power that awareness has on the individual’s ability to become an expert in meeting their true needs-food and otherwise. But whether the numbers change or not, their life does-and that is what matters most.

But that begs the question: How can eating what you love help you lose weight (if that is one of your goals)? I’ve summarized several of the reasons below, but please come back for my next several posts to read the personal stories of several people who’ve experienced significant changes-body, mind, heart, and spirit.

  1. Depriving yourself of the foods you love eventually leads to overeating. Learning to eat fearlessly takes the power away from certain foods and is one of eight keys to breaking your eat-repent-repeat cycle.
  2. You don’t gain weight because you eat what you love. You gain when you consume more than your body needs by eating when you’re not hungry and/or continuing to eat after you’ve had enough. Relearning to identify and trust your body wisdom is essential.
  3. Loving what you eat-in other words-eating mindfully with intention and attention is another critical skill. Further, mindfulness has benefits far beyond anything that can be measured on a scale.
  4. Eating what you love opens the door to doing what you love. As you stop restricting yourself, you’ll stop punishing yourself with exercise. It becomes possible-even necessary-to discover joyful, pleasurable physical activity that supports your mood, health, and energy.

Over the next several posts, I’ll share the stories of people who have experienced these changes for themselves. You’ll see that most of them discovered that weight loss was, as Lewis says, “a byproduct” of this “getting healthy program.”

Consider setting a NEW New Year’s resolution for a change and find an Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshop near you.

P.S. We are sorry that Amazon ran out of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle during the holiday rush but we have them in stock for 35% off!


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.


  1. Interesting how Lewis said weight loss was a byproduct. I’ve lost weight (and am continuing in the process) in this manner, and I’ve said it’s about improving and preserving health and vitality… weight loss is just a perk.
    Looking forward to reading more.

  2. Excellent Michele! I like that – “a perk.” If you’d be interested in sharing your story, I’d love to interview you sometime! Let me know.

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