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Going Bananas: Weird thoughts about food caused by dieting

By Michelle May, M.D.

Can you conjure up the memory of a favorite childhood food? How do you feel when you catch a whiff of one of your family’s traditional holiday dishes? Do you smile when you think about the best meal you’ve ever had?

Most of us would agree that food leaves a powerful imprint. A woman in one of my workshops once said, “Food is the background music to my life.” But what about your experiences with dieting? Are you aware of how they’ve affected your thoughts about eating?

banana half peeledAlthough I haven’t dieted for many years, I recently had an experience that made me realize how deep the groves really are. I had an early board meeting and arrived to find a continental breakfast. As I ate the top of a banana nut muffin I was aware that I felt disappointed. I don’t even like store bought muffins unless the top is fabulous (brown sugar, nuts, etc.) and I could tell by looking at it that this one wasn’t going to be. As you know, I believe in eating what you love – and I wasn’t loving this. So why did I choose it? I looked back over the options and saw bananas. That would have been a safer choice but I suddenly realized that I didn’t take one because past dieting taught me that a whole banana counted as two fruits. I had stopped eating them because I never wanted to eat half of something.

Really? I chose a banana muffin over a banana because of the allowed serving size? Now that’s funny!

As I’ve worked with yo-yo dieters over the years, I’ve heard many stories about how guilt, fear, and misinformation has led to feelings of deprivation, bingeing, and even irrational choices. While some of the stories were about decadent desserts, chips, and fast food, others were about grapes (“you can only have 12 so why bother”), carrots (“they are high glycemic”), nuts and avocados (“fat is bad”).

Pay close attention to old food rules that may be affecting your decisions, actions, and enjoyment now. Mindful eating not only helps you more fully experience your food, it teaches you to approach eating (and living) with awareness and curiosity. If you’d like a little help increasing your awareness, check out our Mindful Eating Virtual Coach App for deciding when, what, and how much to eat.

I’d love to hear your experiences.

(Check out my recipe for Banana Nut Muffins!)


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. Caren Oliver says:

    You think that’s bad – I just realized I always pass up peas and corn because they are #4 vegetables (#4 are starchy veggies on the 1975ish WW plan that you had to measure and could only have one a day)!
    So tonight I’m having a pea and corn combo side veggie with dinner!

  2. Dana says:

    I completely relate to the banana issue! There have been times when I have backed away from a banana only to end up eating a refined trigger food later. If I’m eating healthfully, I have to be careful with bananas (or corn, peas…) — but on a binge anything goes. Thanks for the post. It’s comforting to not feel alone with this disordered logic!

  3. Barbara says:

    Great post! It’s not often I get to laugh when reading about dieting. I, too, relate. I never gave much thought to WHY I eat what I eat, although I did recognize how many of my comfort foods harkened back to the “fun food” days my mom planned (somehow, making mashed potatoes, mixed with my corn, into “fun food” made them taste so much better!).
    Between your book and the one by — oh gosh, I can’t remember his name — the “Mindless Eating” one, I’m paying more attention to WHY as well as What and How Much!

  4. Joi Tydings says:

    I had a lapband didn’t work but through the doctor’s office we got to meet professionals in the eating disorder industry. Through 12 1/2 hour coaching they mentioned your book and also brought up many good points from Eat What you Love Love What you Eat. The points finally stuck and through reading your book and studying it (underlining, notes and thoughts) I am down to a healty weight with out depriving myself of any food. After over 30 years of ups and downs on the scale I can almost safely say I am over this “food thing”! So thank you thank you I am beginning to learn how to live.

  5. Martha says:

    Great post! How many former and current WWs are missing out on the health benefits of bananas because they didn’t want to “waste” two points on them? What crazy, disordered logic! As a recovering WW and yo-yo dieter committed to helping other women heal their relationship with food and live happy, slim and healthy lives through pleasure, slowing down, feeling good and nourishing their whole self -body, mind and soul – I love your teachings.

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