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Gluten Free and Mindful Eating

By Michelle May, M.D.

Michelle May, M.D. answers a question about mindful eating:question mark gold


I am in the middle of an 8-week Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshop and I am realizing that I can finally be free of dieting – but something has thrown me for a loop.

Long story short, I’ve had chronic illness (details omited) for over twenty years now. With mindful eating, I’ve become more tuned in to my body and realized that the symptoms seem to be related to eating gluten. This pointed me in the direction of food allergies, food intolerances, sensitivities, or even Celiac disease. I’m undergoing some tests to find out, but in the meantime, I managed to avoid gluten completely for 4 days in a row – and doggone if I didn’t have even ONE of my episodes! Then I ate one bowl of cereal and my symptoms returned.

This is throwing a curve ball at me. On one hand, my absolute favorite foods are breads, pastas, etc.! I don’t know how on earth I could give those up forever… but on the other hand, I feel almost excited that by “just giving up these foods” I might literally get the rest of my LIFE back!

But how do I do this without triggering diet mode, restrictive eating, rebellion, and all that? Has anyone else dealt with food allergy or food sensitivity issues and successfully managed to continue with the Am I Hungry? method without freaking out?!
Thanks so much for any help!

Michelle May MD replies:

As you are learning in your Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshops and from reading the book Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, freedom from chronic yo-yo dieting is about learning to eat what you love fearlessly, and learning to love what you eat mindfully.

In fact, your discovery is one of the many benefits of mindful eating! We often have people in our workshops who suddenly make the connection between what (or how much) they were eating and how they feel.

As you probably know, I have also written books and workbooks for people with diabetes and for people who have had bariatric surgery. Just as it may be the case for you, these individuals do much better when they limit or eliminate certain foods. But the key to making long term sustainable changes is to apply the strategies you are learning through Am I Hungry? without turning those limitations into a restrictive diet.

Hint: It’s all in the way you think! Here are some specific suggestionsfor making changes to your diet (for any reason) without falling back into a restrictive eating cycle:

1. Mindful eating is eating with intention and attention. Assuming that your intention is to feel great, think of your dietary changes as choices that you are making in order to feel your best (rather than some externally applied diet). Reread Healthy vs. Restrictive Eating on page 163 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat to help you embrace this mindset.

2. When asking “What do I eat?” you’ve learned to ask three questions: What do I want? What do I need? and What do I have? The question “What do I need?” is all about acknowledging your personal health needs. In your case, it appears that you don’t need gluten if you want to feel good!

3. Make changes to your eating that don’t leave you feeling deprived. Your meals may need to become more creative and emphasize non-gluten containing foods. You may also want to experiment with substitute products–and there are plenty available now.

So rather than thinking of your new discovery as a diet you’ll have to be on for the rest of your life, you have a wonderful opportunity to use mindful eating to help guide you to balance enjoyment and nourishment so you can focus on living your life vibrantly!

Q&A with Dr. May

If you have a question about mindful eating that you’d like Dr. May to answer, post it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or send an email to training @ amihungry.com (eliminate the spaces on both sides of the @!)


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. A friend of mine sat across the table at Olive Garden (her choice) and looked at my crouton-free salad and lack of bread sticks. She stated, “I could never give up bread!” My response was, “You would if it made you sick as a dog within three minutes of eating it.” That was three years ago. Today she is also gluten free after learning it was the cause of many of her problems, too.

  2. E.R. says:

    This post was very helpful to me. I had open heart surgery several years ago, and have often wondered how I might apply the “Eat what You Love” ideas to my life. By susbstituting “heart issues” for “gluten inssues” here, I can better imagine how I might apply Dr. May’s ideas to my own situation.

  3. I’m so glad E.R. That’s what I hoped!

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