By Michelle May, M.D.
Before I answer the question, “What is the difference between Am I Hungry? and intuitive eating, HAES®, or other mindful eating programs?”, let me say that although I can’t speak for the others, I believe there are more similarities than differences between us. Most important, we are all doing the essential work of “cracking the cultural veneer” (as Am I Hungry? facilitator Julie Goyette MS RDN described it recently).
We are all champions of the same cause
If you’re reading this, you’re already aware that there’s an incredible shift happening in the way many health and wellness professionals approach nutrition, physical activity, and self-care. This grassroots “anti-diet” movement (for lack of a better word) has emerged from the growing awareness that decades of dieting have seriously disrupted our instinctive relationship with food and our bodies.
This movement is not new but the internet has made it possible for it to flourish in recent years. Many individuals who previously felt alone in their confusion and frustration now realize that their experiences with dieting are the norm, not the exception. Many health professionals who independently came to the same conclusions now have a voice and a tribe.
The wild, wild web…
Unfortunately, at the same time, there has been an explosion of bloggers dolling out suspect health, nutrition and fitness advice, social media feeds full of fitspo and thigh gap images, targeted internet ads promoting weight loss scams, and a culture steeped in the myth that thinness equals health, beauty, and happiness.
Some individuals and organizations have co-opted mindful eating, intuitive eating, and even the body positive movements to promote their diets, rigid food rules, and weight loss programs, whether from a fundamental misunderstanding of these concepts or a recognition of the threat they pose to the billions of dollars generated from the pursuit of thinness. (Let’s call them wolves in sheep’s clothing.)
The anti-diet movement is still relatively small compared to the forces that tell us we cannot trust ourselves to manage our own eating. The anti-diet movement needs to grow quickly and effectively or the next generation of yo-yo dieting, disordered eating, orthorexia, and shame-based decision-making is likely to engulf more lives than ever before. That’s why I don’t think of my colleagues who are doing similar work as competitors, but as champions of the same cause.
But that begs the question, how is Am I Hungry? different?
Am I Hungry? offers non-diet, weight-neutral, mindfulness-based programs and training that overlap with the published principles of Intuitive Eating, Mindful Eating, and Health at Every Size.
I’ll come back to our “non-diet, weight-neutral, mindfulness-based” principles in a moment, but it’s not really about how Am I Hungry? is different but about what we bring to the table: The Mindful Eating Cycle.
- The Mindful Eating Cycle is built on the mindfulness principles of awareness, non-judgment, curiosity, and acceptance.
- The Mindful Eating Cycle provides the structure for recognizing patterns in our beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as they relate to food, physical activity, body image, and self-care.
- The Mindful Eating Cycle enables wellness professionals and individuals to recognize and resolve problematic eating behaviors by focusing on the root causes.
- Using the foundation of the Mindful Eating Cycle as a guide, participants learn specific processes to systematically replace their ineffective patterns with new beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that support the vibrant life they crave.
- The Mindful Eating Cycle progressively builds awareness of why, when, what, how, and how much you eat, and where you invest your energy.
- The Mindful Eating Cycle provides a practical decision-making framework that is simple to learn and internalize.
- The Mindful Eating Cycle can be easily applied to myriad populations and conditions (diabetes self-management, binge eating disorder and emotional eating, those struggling after bariatric surgery, students, athletes, families) and in different formats including workshops and webinars, coaching and clinical encounters, retreats, therapy, campuses, and organizational wellness.
Am I Hungry? Principles
While I was not aware of intuitive eating, mindful eating, or HAES when I began this work in 1999, somehow this journey brought Am I Hungry? to a similar place. Now we describe our programs and mindful eating trainings as non-diet, mindfulness-based, and weight-neutral.
Non-diet: Whether you call it intuitive eating, mindful eating, or the non-diet approach, Am I Hungry? utilizes a non-restrictive methodology that promotes the fearless enjoyment of all food without restriction, deprivation, or guilt. As people heal their relationship with food, they begin to make choices that support the balanced, vibrant life they crave.
Mindfulness-based: As we become more aware of our physical state, thoughts, feelings, and actions in the here and now, we are able to choose our actions (response-ability) rather than continue to react out of habit (re-act out the past). With mindful eating, instead of trying to stay in control then subsequently feeling out of control, individuals learn to be in charge of their decisions.
Weight-neutral: Am I Hungry? is consistent with a Health at Every Size paradigm and respects the diversity of body shapes and sizes. While we acknowledge the individual’s right to make decisions based on their own values, we do not encourage people to participate in our programs with the goal of weight loss since that is counterproductive and interferes with their ability to listen to and trust themselves.
People tell us that we are really good at what we do!
The mission of Am I Hungry? is to change the way the world thinks about eating. To that end, we work really hard to provide top-notch programs and training to effectively create that shift. People who participate in our training programs give us an average rating of 4.7 out of 5! (Read what they say too!)
One of our strengths is that we utilize a variety of adult-learning methods to keep participants curious, engaged, and evolving. Each session is designed to be highly interactive and experiential and employ auditory, visual, and kinesthetic techniques that compliment a range of learning styles. The flow of each program is intentional, logical, and progressive. Our programs promote autonomous decision-making that’s respectful of individuals’ preferences, lifestyle, and experiences.
But ultimately, it is our mission that makes the difference!