Ending those yo-yo diets: Author shares key with Morristown hospital staff

Dr. Michelle May, author of 'Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.' Photo by Adam Casadevall
Dr. Michelle May, author of 'Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.' Photo by Adam Casadevall

By Adam Casadevall

The time is fast approaching when we all make New Year’s resolutions. The most common one, of course, also is the most abandoned: “I’m going to lose weight and pursue a more healthy lifestyle.”

Dr. Michelle May, author of 'Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.' Photo by Adam Casadevall
Dr. Michelle May, author of ‘Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.’ Photo by Adam Casadevall

Why wait until Jan. 1, 2014?  Dr. Michelle May, author of the award-winning book, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, told staff members at Morristown Medical Center that the solution is as simple as asking yourself: “Am I hungry?”

May describes herself as a recovered yo-yo dieter who used her personal struggle to create the Am I Hungry?® workshops.

Her program is unlike any dieting program because it isn’t one; it is a set of principles that allow users to become more aware of their eating patterns, locate problems, and discover how to balance eating for nourishment and eating for pleasure.

When she was practicing medicine early in her career, she noticed that many of her patients were struggling to keep up with diets the same way that she did. They knew the information but weren’t able to implement it.

Gradually she began to understand the mentality of people who eat instinctively. They don’t think about eating; they eat only when they need fuel. This came as a revelation and was the foundation for what would become May’s Mindful Eating cycle.

That program is used by companies all over the country, and Morristown Medical Center has just joined the list.

“Our new vision at the Atlantic Health System [parent company of the hospital]  is to empower our communities to be the healthiest in the nation,” said health educator Cristin Cooney, the only licensed facilitator of May’s program at the hospital.

Staffers filled a lecture hall last week to hear May outline the program. She kept it light and humorous, in contrast to many austere diet programs that are based on deprivation and restrictions. Followers often lapse and regain weight, hence the yo-yo metaphor.

“The mindful eating cycle is an inside/out process,” said May.  “Food is integrated into the very fabric of our existence.”

Morristown Medical Center. Photo by Adam Casadevall
Cristin Cooney of Morristown Medical Center. Photo by Adam Casadevall

What’s missing is the question “Why?”  According to May, once we understand our own eating cycles, everything else falls into place.

May contends that people over-diet the same way they over-eat: Either way, they obsess about food. Exercise is viewed as punishment for breaking dieting rules, she says, when in reality it’s a tool to bring joy and improve our well being.

This program may be an epiphany for some, because affluence and lifestyles don’t really matter. You just have to be willing to experiment and find out what works the best for your body, May asserts.

Cooney hopes that once the hospital starts utilizing principles of mindful eating, the ripples will spread throughout the community. The effectiveness of the program, she said, lies in its simplicity. All you have to do is stop and think: “Am I hungry?”

MG correspondent Adam Casadevall, a Morristown High School alumnus, graduated recently from Rutgers with a degree in journalism and media studies.

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