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Mistakes are normal when learning to eat mindfully!

By Michelle May, M.D.

While hiking with a friend one morning, I said, “That video you posted of your grandson pushing a walker and learning to navigate obstacles was so cute!”

My friend laughed and replied, “The next picture my daughter sent me showed blood running from his lip because he didn’t quite make the turn! He sobbed it out, then was right back at it again.”

Since this is an analogy I often share with people who feel frustrated when they make mistakes while learning to eat mindfully, I asked her if I could share the videos with you.

Learning to eat mindfully, like learning to walk, is a brand new skill for most people (or rather, a skill they’ve long forgotten). Many of us spent so many years trying to follow diet rules about when, what, and how much to eat, that making decisions for ourselves feels scary and uncomfortable. Even when you know from experience that diets never last, it somehow seems safer and easier to do what you already know how to do.

To make matters worse, diet culture taught us that when you make a mistake (“cheated”), you’ve failed so you are “bad.” This fuels the familiar eat-repent-repeat cycle. But imagine if we all just went back to crawling when (not if) we fell down while learning to walk!

Trust the Process

When you experiment with new mindful eating skills, you’ll inevitably make mistakes. Although the concepts are simple, they are not necessarily easy, so you may be tempted to give up on mindful eating too soon.

Instead of beating yourself up, remember that mistakes are a natural, expected, and even necessary, part of the learning process. Sometimes the lessons are uncomfortable, or even painful, but that’s often when you learn the most!

I often say, “Trust the process!” Lesson by lesson, mistake by mistake, step by step, you learn to trust yourself to eat what you love and love what you eat. Like walking, it begins to feel effortless and natural.

(Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a little support and encouragement from people who know how to do this and have the confidence that you will learn too!)


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.

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