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Why do I keep struggling with the same eating issues?

By Michelle May, M.D.

In my last post, I asked you to share your two biggest challenges when it comes to managing your eating. We got so many great responses on the blog post and our public Am I Hungry? Facebook page. Thank you! As I read your struggles, I could relate because I’ve been there too. (And I promise, there is help for every single issue you shared!)

Here’s my story and my personal revelation about the question I kept asking myself: “Why do I keep struggling with the same eating issues?”

Back then I was thinking about food all the time, even when I wasn’t hungry. I’d eat until I was stuffed, then I felt guilty afterward. I finally realized that it wasn’t about the food. I discovered that why I was eating drove every decision that followed. (More about that in the next video.)

As I shared in the video, I noticed that my young children and husband were eating very differently! They follow a pattern I named the Instinctive Eating Cycle.

Am-I-Hungry-Instinctive-Eating-Cycle

They usually eat because they’re hungry, they eat what they love, they eat to feel good when they’re finished so they usually stop when they are satisfied (but they don’t feel guilty when they overeat sometimes), and they use their energy to live their life – without thinking about food all the time.

Who do you know who seems to eat instinctively?

And what about you? Why do you keep struggling with the same eating issues?

Think about one of your challenges with eating and see if you can start to make your own connections between why you eat, when you eat, and what you eat. Please leave a comment below about anything you’ve noticed about your own patterns. (Use your first name only and don’t worry if you don’t see your comment right away; we have to approve them to prevent spam.)

You’ll use your work in my next video when I’ll share a simple script that will help you decode mindless and emotional eating and understand what is really driving your cycle. More important, this script will help you figure out what to do instead of eating!

For more help: How to Make Sense of Your Eating Issues

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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.

18 Comments

  1. Patty says:

    Boredom, fatigue or stress are my triggers. Sure wish I could fix it since I know what my triggers are.

  2. Karen says:

    I found that at night I ate because I was tired and thirsty. Stress was a real trigger. I found I could get some ice cream and it would “make me feel better.”

  3. Simma says:

    Stress is a big trigger and boredom. And eating is soothing to me. I eat at night and I eat when no one’s looking (I’ll suddenly be in the office alone and find the biscuits…)
    I’m still working through the book and through all me reasons and places and times.

  4. Carolyn says:

    I realized I used food as a coping mechanism. Some people smoke/drink/etc. but I eat. Once I came to the conclusion about why I binge ate… my main goal is to find something else (something better) to become my coping mechanism. I decided to start listening to music every time I decided I want to binge eat. Also, listening to my body and knowing what foods I really want and if I really want to eat. Food was always on my mind so now I’m worrying about other things and not overthinking about when I eat.

  5. Katherine says:

    I usually eat in a very controlled manner; following gluten free, or whatever program I believe will be best for my health. I allow myself wine and limit and monitor the calories.

    In the past I have been able to be mindful regarding fullness however, currently I eat past and am not aware of if or when I am full.

    My control does well for 6-12 months….then I hit the wall and want everything I have been restricting. I usually abandon exercise, and at my age if I do this , add carbs, and don’t limit my wine I put on weight. When I am in this mode I can put on 5 lbs in a weekend or 20 lbs in a few months.

    I also travel a lot with work. It is difficult to make the right choices when eating our and ordering room service.

  6. Sherry says:

    I late night snack salty carbs and something sweet…

  7. Roxan says:

    Stress and boredom are big.

    But also, when I”m excited, happy, proud — let’s celebrate with ice cream or cake or some type of desert.

  8. Felicia says:

    For me, usually it’s a physical pain. Now I’ve got heel spurs. I know it’s comfort food, but I know that won’t fix my heels.

  9. Dolores says:

    I notice that I am driven to eat when I feel unheard or “less” than others. Especially when I feel powerless to rectify a situation, like at my job, when I can’t always be as frank or vulnerable as in a personal relationship.

  10. Dana says:

    I eat sweets to comfort myself and to fill the time on weekend evenings. Actually, weekend evenings include beer, some type of chips, and candy. I live alone and this has been the ritual that I look forward to/hate.

  11. Kanne says:

    I eat something When I feel hungry, but also when i want some reward, distraction to help me feel better. What I eat needs to be determined carefully since I had bariatric surgery ten years ago. I do run into challenges with that as well sometimes.

  12. Melodey says:

    I find I get depressed and then I just don’t care about what I eat, and so I reach for comfort food. I don’t get back on track until my depression lifts, which can be months later.

  13. Jackie says:

    I am a stress eater for sure. I have found that I eat when I am not hungry. My husband and I are empty nesters. He works the evening and I work day shift. I am home alone in the afternoon, so I find myself eating to feel the lonely void. I keep trying to get to the starting line with getting serious about taking control of my eating. I’m Struggling, I need to figure it out. I’m Stuck!

  14. Kay says:

    Stress, fear, fatigue are the main reasons I eat when I know I’m not hungry. The foods I will typically go to then can either be salty (like chips or French fries), sweet (chocolate, caramel, ice cream, etc), or comforting (pizza, mac & cheese). Even though I tell myself that eating these things are not going to help my stress level, reduce my fears, etc. the urge to eat them is so strong and dominates over any type of rational thinking….. and after eating them,then the guilt and misery sets in.

  15. Julie says:

    I eat for all sorts of reasons- sad, stressed, bored, happy, occasions and on and on and even sometimes when I am hungry! I always eat at mealtimes and then often in the evening. My latest pattern since I started trying to look into why I do what I do is healthy foods for breakfast and lunch but by supper time I want burgers and fries etc. In the evening I crave chips though lately I have added sweets. I feel like I have reverted to a worse place since I am not on a diet. I feel guilty most of the time now and I am gaining weight right before my son’s wedding. It has been a real battle not to try an extreme diet!

  16. Angela says:

    I eat when I am bored and I have been trying to figure out why and what I can do. I eat for no reason or I will make up a reason to tell myself so I can eat high calorie, high fat foods and candy.

  17. Carolyn C says:

    I eat when I’m bored and have lots of free time and I am alone. I find myself planning my binges around these periods of time.

  18. LisaAnn says:

    Physical pain, emotional pain; not doing the work to create structure around meals; when I’m alone for a period of time and I know no one will see me

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