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Has Food Become the Background Music?

By Michelle May, M.D.

Labor Day marks the end of summer barbecues and the beginning of holiday eating. Before our bathing suits dry, we’ll be sorting through the kid’s Halloween candy while they’re at school, baking holiday cookies, and planning traditional family meals.

Food as Background MusicI love all that but it’s easy to confuse the holidays with food. For many people, the holidays have become an excuse to eat foods they don’t allow themselves to have at other times. This special occasion mentality often leads to overeating, discomfort, and guilty thoughts of a New Year’s resolution looming just around the corner.

Another challenge is that “special” occasions are almost a daily occurrence in modern day. Do you remember reading Little House on the Prairie? Laura was so excited to find an orange in her stocking on Christmas morning. Now, in our abundant food environment, we eat out frequently, go to happy hour, and bring donuts in for our co-workers – yet still use these daily events as a reason to overeat.

As one of our Am I Hungry? workshop participants put it, “Food has become the background music to my life! It sets the mood but I hardly pay attention to it anymore.”

Mindful eating helps put food into its proper context. By becoming mindful of our connections with food and more intentional about connecting with the present experience of eating, food returns to a lovely way to bring pleasure into our daily lives and significance to special occasions. Mindful eating also helps us recognize when eating has become our primary source of pleasure. Finding that delicate balance may be even more challenging, but also more important during the coming holidays when delicious food is everywhere.

So, when food is the main event, allow it to be a symphony (or a rock concert if you prefer), not the background music. Just remember to ask yourself, “If this occasion is so special, why would I want to ruin it by eating too much and feeling miserable afterward?”


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. pru grand says:

    how do I participant and use this approach?

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