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How to make THIS New Year different

By Michelle May, M.D.

We got great responses on this blog post and on our Facebook post about what you wanted to be different this New Year. Thank you! As I read your comments, I could really relate.

Now I want to share a New Year’s story of my own, why the usual resolutions aren’t always effective, and the key to making this year different. Check out this video:

As I mentioned in the video, New Year’s resolutions that focus on actions and results – like going on a diet or joining a gym – often don’t succeed because they don’t address the underlying reasons you make the choices you do.

For example, being on a diet ignores the reasons you want to eat when you’re not hungry. It simply puts you in a restrictive mode of following the rules. And then at some point you switch to overeating mode and revert back to eating in reaction to emotions or other cues.

That’s why it’s essential to recognize why you eat.

Now consider your own intentions and resolutions for the New Year. What do you want to be different? And are you trying to get there by only changing your behavior, or are you going deeper to understand why you do what you do?

Please leave a comment on this blog post or on this Facebook post about what you’re thinking about. You’ll use your work in the next video when I share a way to make your intentions or resolutions more effective and make changes that last.

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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.

16 Comments

  1. Karen says:

    I appreciate your video right now because here it is, New Years Eve, and here I am planning to jump on board with a weight loss plan. I have organized a small weight loss challenge with 5 other people. All of us really want to lose weight and we all have and we all have gained it right back, plus more. Listening to your video made me stop and think about the same old patterns I repeat over and over again. Things will be different this time…I hope!

    • Been there, done that Karen! The thing is, weight loss is NOT a behavior! And since it isn’t sustainable for most people anyway, it distracts us from focusing on the choices we make day to day that really do lead to improved well-being. So what might those choices be?

  2. Trudee says:

    I want to become curious about why I do what I do. I definitely see the missing knowledge about my motivations as essential to permanent change.

  3. Debbie says:

    I am making my goals for 2019, and as I need to loose weight for health reasons your video was a good reminder for me. I try to make 5-6 goals, with action plans at the beginning of each year. One goal is something fun I want to do. As I continue to work to improve myself, health and well being I make 1 or 2 goals health related, and I have had lasting life changes although baby steps! One of my goals 2 years ago was to eat more fish. I achived this goal and now eat fish at least one meal a week at home, plus I choose fish over chicken or beef when I eat out. I have found a number of the healthy fast casual resturants that we go to for lunch on Saturday have salmon or tuna choices and I now choose the fish most of the time. At home when my husband wants pork chops I often have a grilled piece of tuna or salmon instead. I have had less success with the exercise goals, and now arthritis in my knee is limiting me even more. I am praying that this year I can find an exercise goal that and action plan that I can achieve.

  4. Amy says:

    I have had success losing weight in the past, but these last few years, I’ve really struggled. Why? Because I’m not eating solely out of hunger. Food as been my answer to stress, feeling tired, lonely, anxious, upset, disappointed etc. For 2019, I want to achieve food freedom. I want to walk by a table of sweets and not feel overwhelmed by the powerful pull they have on me. I want to end eat-repent-repeat cycles! I want to find ways to soothe myself other than food/eating. I want to get to the root of the problems I am experiencing.

    • Thanks for posting Amy – I’m sure many people can relate to your struggles with emotional eating and cravings. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, letting go of your focus on weight loss is a good first step toward breaking the power food has on you. A second step (and sometimes even more challenging) is to begin to recognize the connections between why you want to eat and what your underlying need might be. Stay tuned for more on how to do this!

  5. Pam says:

    Although I am borderline obese, for me, it’s not about weight loss. I’ve done some work on the reasons for my binge eating disorder, (with your books) but still my behavior with food is out of control. I’ve wanted to participate in one of your retreats over the past several years; timing and costs haven’t allowed for that. And maybe I don’t really deserve it?

  6. Susan says:

    I hope to stop and discover what I really need when I eat when I am not hungry. Then I hope to be able to meet that need in a way that doesn’t include food.

    • This is a wonderful intention Susan. If I may add, food might be a way you sometimes meet a need (such as comfort or pleasure); when it isn’t the primary way you attempt to meet your needs, it won’t feel so out of balance.

  7. Sue says:

    I eat mostly healthy foods, and I exercise 5+ days a week. My main concern is that I overeat…eat when I’m not hungry. I have always called this ‘mindless’ eating. I could have a snack before I leave work about 3:30, and then get home about 4:30 and still be craving chips and salsa even though I’m not hungry. At work, it’s like you said in the video, I can’t go past the break room without seeing what’s in there, and if it’s something like donuts (which I rarely eat), I will eat one even if I just had breakfast an hour ago. I really want to work on paying attention to whether I’m hungry or not. I am going to try to be more mindful in everything I do, as well as trying out meditation and adding at least one day of yoga into my life.

    • Sue, a helpful addition to this will be to pause when you notice you are wanting to eat and you aren’t hungry; a body-mind-heart scan may help you begin to sort out WHY you want to eat. In this way, you aren’t making it about resisting the food, but using desire to eat as an opportunity to recognize your needs. Make sense? (Your yoga and meditation will be good practice for noticing what it happening in the present moment.)

  8. Darlene says:

    Michelle, I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions but in the back of my mind is the ever present need to lose weight and get some exercise. I have no idea what the base reasons are for my eating too much and of the wrong things except that I love food! The taste, texture, pure joy with the experience. Just the word diet makes me want to eat more and stock up on what I will be missing out on. I need to lose the weight and exercise for health reasons besides wanting to look and feel better. What can be done for someone like me?

    • I’m glad you asked Darlene! And I’m glad you recognize that diets are triggering – true for most people at some point. The first thing I would suggest is that you let go of losing weight as your goal. There are MANY reasons for this but here are three simple ones: 1) Weight loss is not a behavior, so you can’t “do” it anyway. 2) The vast majority of people who lose weight will regain it (this is indisputable!). Therefore, if you resolve to lose weight, you are really resolving to weight cycle. 3) Contrary to what we see just about everywhere, weight loss doesn’t necessarily lead to better health anyway, because most studies are correlation, not causation. (And it doesn’t matter if you can’t sustain it anyway, but I’ve already made that point!).

      Instead, can you focus on a few small changes that are sustainable and may actually lead to better health? Based on your comment, I might suggest a few places to start (and of course, the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Program will teach you how to do these!):
      – It is awesome that you enjoy food so much (I do too!). I’m all about “eating what you love” – but do you know whether you are even hungry when you eat?
      – You mentioned eating too much. There are hundreds of reasons that may be happening, so it is important to learn how to figure that out.
      – You said you eat the “wrong things.” I don’t thing there is any such thing as the “wrong things”! All foods can fit into a balanced diet, so instead, you could learn a way to make decisions about food without guilt.
      – And of course, exercise is great – as long as your why is more about feeling good, having fun, etc. – not about burning calories!

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