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Why most resolutions are doomed to fail!

By Michelle May, M.D.

The last week in December is the time when many of us begin looking forward to the fresh start of a new year. We might set goals to clear out clutter, clean up our act, or create a life we love – but as we are often reminded, most resolutions will be just a distant memory by February. So why are most resolutions doomed to fail? As you’ll learn in this short video, it’s because most people make a critical mistake…

Learning about TFAR literally changed my life! Once I finally understood that following a diet was merely an action that didn’t address the underlying thoughts and beliefs that drove my habits, I stopped making resolutions that were doomed to fail!

Please comment below: What thoughts do you have about eating that may be leading to unwanted results? Then in the next video, I’ll give you an example of how you can “rewire your brain” for lasting change.

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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.

22 Comments

  1. Carol says:

    I’m either “in food jail” (on a diet) or I’ve temporarily broken free and feel as if I had better get everything that I usually deny myself while I can, before I put myself back in jail (go back on my diet). So one slip leads to a binge. I tell myself that I’ve blown it and I might as well enjoy myself while I can. (all-or-nothing) Except that more and more I find that I don’t even enjoy the overeating. It’s almost a chore. Strange.

  2. Lynn Menth says:

    I think for me my thoughts are I need to lose weight because I know it is better for my long-term and overall well being (the bones will hurt much less). Looking at the TFAR cycle, I being to feel better, but with those improved feelings come the compliments – which cause feelings and thoughts of “you are done” , which starts the vicious cycle of going back to old eating habits “this just once” – and you know the rest of the story.

    • Lynn, that is an excellent use of TFAR! It is also a good example of “dichotomous (all-or-none) thinking” that is very common in people who struggle with eating. (Read more about it here: https://amihungry.com/articles/different-shades-of-grey/).

      As I’ll talk more about in the next video, think about how to change the thoughts that are driving this pattern. For example, instead of eating differently in order to “lose weight”, could you think about eating mindfully in order to “feel better.” Then when your actions actually help you feel better, you will reinforce the thought that “eating differently helps me feel better” instead of driving yourself back to overeating.

  3. Jill Jones says:

    I get overwhelmed with all the conflicting information about which foods are “good” or “bad” (gluten, dairy, grains, etc.) so then I either don’t eat anything, or eat all the things and never really figure out what makes me feel satisfied and healthy.

  4. Tamara says:

    I too get overwhelmed by all the conflicting information over what constitutes at “healthy diet”. I have formed a belief that if I could just maintain a sugar and caffeine free diet, I will be amazingly healthy, energetic and of course…. slim!!! Hasn’t worked in 30 years of trying, but the belief is still there. I am always going to start my amazing super healthy “green” diet tomorrow (or after xmas, or at the moment the starting point has shifted to New Year!), which means that in the meantime I get to eat all the things I am going to miss out on for the rest of my life (usually in excess!) . I know it is totally absurd and I know that my belief is not working for me (quite the opposite in fact!), but how on earth do I change that belief? Sometimes I just get so totally frustrated with myself as to why I am unable to change. Why do we do what we do when we know what we know?

    • Tamara, your beliefs are a product of our culture and decades of restrictive messages that simply don’t work (it’s not just you!). A great place to start is by acknowledging that those thoughts and beliefs aren’t working for you (or most others). In fact, there is a lot of evidence that the Restrictive Eating Cycle contributes to the Overeating Cycle. Take this Eating Cycle Assessment to see what your patterns have bee: https://amihungry.com/eating-cycle-assessment/ and check back on Wednesday for another video about how to change the thoughts that aren’t working for you.

  5. Misty says:

    I ‘m not happy with the image of me in the mirror or photographs. I tell myself today is the day I am going to start eating healthy. For the next week I’m eating healthy and exercising, I feel great ! Then I see the girl at work eating cake and I think I can heave a small piece, everything in moderation… Except that small piece turns into another small piece and so on. Then I am fed up with myself so I go and eat something else.

    • There may be a few thoughts behind the scenario you’re describing that might be driving this pattern:
      – I’m not acceptable the way I am.
      – Eating healthy is something I either do or don’t do starting today (rather than a process).
      – I ate cake; I blew it! I might as well keep eating…
      Misty, this is a very common sequence – eat-repent-repeat! If you haven’t read chapter 1 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, please take a few minutes to read it today (free: https://www.amihungry.com/chapter1). Then tomorrow (Wednesday), I’ll have another short video for you about changing your thoughts.

  6. Angela says:

    I over eat. I make mostly healthy food choices but I over eat. I am told not to skip breakfast but if I’m not hungry perhaps I should skip breakfast? I think the grazing method has actually made me gain weight because I would eat mindlessly at my computer working. Now I have the habit of eating at my computer which I’m struggling to break. It seems that I eat more when I’m stressed.

  7. Charlene says:

    For the most part , I eat healthy. When my weight goes down I get a little too comfortable with what I think I can eat and get away with it. Then it begins to creep back up. I think my biggest issue is taste. If I don’t have certain things (sweets) for a long time, I’m good. Once I get that taste (usually cookies or brownies), it’s hard to resist. The other issue is one day “this is good for you” the next day “this can cause…..”. Very confusing.

    • Charlene, you and others have mentioned that you generally “eat healthy” but still struggle with food. I believe this is because overeating is rarely about the food; instead is about your relationship with food! An important clue about your relationship with food is your use of the phrases “get a little too comfortable,” “get away with it,” and “hard to resist.” I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago: https://amihungry.com/articles/peace-with-food/. Mindful eating will really help you develop a more peaceful relationship with food and make decisions about eating that aren’t dependent on willpower (which is a limited resource)!

  8. Sally says:

    Hi! My resolution for the last 20 Years has been to eat and exercise so as to have the body that makes me feel happy and confident. I have failed every single year…Not sure what is wrong with that thought and how to change it so as to get different results!

    • Sally, is it possible that believing your happiness and confidence depend on how you look is undermining your happiness and confidence? What would happen if you started from a place of self-acceptance instead? (For example, “I will practice self-care because I love myself, not so I’ll love myself.”) Then you could set an intention to make one small change you believe you can sustain; when that habit is firmly in place, add another small step, and so on. Thoughts?

  9. Jill says:

    I really struggle with if i eat too much at lunch then I tell myself that… and i force myself to miss my mid-afternoon snack that carries me to dinner (because of the fear of eating too many calories and gaining weight). And then when I tell myself that it setups me up for failure, of course, and I end up eating more and stressed out. Which, if I just ate a little less at lunch, then i could comfortably have my snack, and eat a nice dinner. It’s so amazing the minute I get into a restrict thought that my brain goes crazy.
    I also really struggle with wanting something sweet after lunch and dinner. I think, oh i need to wait to see if i truly want it, or oh i need to wait it out because that will put my calories over the top today. Where as if I just thought, sure, have a little chocolate and savor it, then I can move on.

    • You are exactly right! The restrictive thoughts set you up for your eat-repent-repeat cycle! Now your work is to notice when you are having these thoughts and gently direct your brain in a more effective direction. Do you have any ideas about what those new thoughts could be?

  10. Sarah says:

    I feel as though I do not have a mechanism to let me know when I am full, I am also very susceptible to triggers to eat when I am not hungry.

    • These are very common symptoms that respond well to mindfulness by increasing your awareness of your physical, environmental, and emotional states. For example, satiety is due to a complex set of physical and mental signals that can be delayed, missed, ignored, or misinterpreted. Similarly, recognizing the TFAR cycles that trigger non-hunger eating will help you address the underlying causes. This Eating Cycle Assessment may be a good place to start to identify your patterns.

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