By Michelle May, M.D.
Each month I share an inspirational email with you from one of our readers. However this month I want to share an email that was a huge aha for me. It confirmed something I had long suspected: many of you have NO IDEA what Am I Hungry?® is really about. Therefore you can't decide whether Am I Hungry?® could help you resolve your issues with eating.
Here's Mike's email. To see the many red flags actually highlighted in red, read the formatted PDF version:
(http://www.amihungry.com/pdf/newsletter-01-09.pdf). (His email has been slightly edited with his approval to protect his privacy.)
Dear Dr. May,
I have enjoyed your newsletters for almost two years now and make a point of sharing the e-mails with folks who might benefit from them.
I am a lifelong dieter. I have used every appropriate methodology available ranging from good old willpower, to medically prescribed "speed" in the late 60's, to supervised programs. I seem to respond well to a good health scare. However, once my weight starts to drop towards 270, I feel so much better that I let my guard down. I am still journaling and aim for 1400 - 1800 calories a day.
Typically, "lack of awareness" (even with thorough journaling on paper or the computer) is my downfall. I still eat due to varying levels of insecurity, self-doubt and distraction. I find that I often have to reinvent myself every morning to stay focused. My difficult background seems to trump the massive amount of dietary/weight loss education that I've had over 40 years.
My doctor has proposed bariatric surgery as the next logical step. Dr May, when you run into a person that has "tried everything" are there other methodologies that can be explored? Otherwise, I know a very good surgeon that specializes in bariatric surgery. Nevertheless, if there was a way to strengthen my focus, the surgery could be avoided.
Look, I'm not opposed to bariatric surgery for the right patient (by "right patient" I mean someone who has fully addressed the real reasons they eat) - but it wasn't going to solve Mike's problem. As one of my workshop participants said about her surgery, "They cut out my coping skill!" Another one said, "They didn't staple my brain!"
Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix.
So what were the red flags I saw in Mike's email? In summary they
were: fear-based motivation, restriction, hyper-vigilance, emotional eating that had not been addressed, and a focus on what to eat rather than why. It was obvious that although he THOUGHT he had tried everything, he had never tried Am I Hungry?® even though he had been reading my newsletters regularly. (See the end of this article to read what Mike said after he read the book!)
So what is Am I Hungry?®
The short answer is that it's a system to help you with the hundreds of decisions you make every day that affect your eating, activity, weight and overall health. Although I chose a deceptively simple title, the question "Am I hungry?" is actually a doorway into a greater understanding of why, when, what, how, and how much you eat, and where you spend your energy so you are completely in charge of every decision you make without having to resort to rules and restriction.
So the real question is, could Am I Hungry?® help you--even if you think you've tried everything--even bariatric surgery? And the answer to that question is...more questions! Below I've listed samples of the type of questions that this program will help you answer.
WHY? Why do I eat?
* Why do I think I eat?
* Am I really aware of all the situations and/or emotions that trigger me to want to eat when I'm not hungry?
* Do I find myself eating even though I said I wouldn't?
* Have I tried a lot of diets? What happened? How did they work for me long term? Why?
WHEN? When do I feel like eating?
* How often do I feel like eating? Why?
* How do I know if I'm hungry?
* How can I tell the difference between physical hunger and head hunger?
* How could I redirect my attention away from food until I'm hungry?
* What could I do to cope better with my emotional triggers for eating when I'm not hungry?
* When does "I want a brownie" really mean "I want a break?"
WHAT? What do I eat?
* What do I eat in a typical day? Would a food diary for a few days help me recognize patterns?
* What types of foods do I feel like eating when I'm eating for emotional reasons? Why?
* Do I restrict myself from eating certain foods--then later give-in and overeat those foods?
* Do I feel guilty when I eat?
* Am I afraid of losing control when I eat certain foods?
* What health issues do I need to be aware of when deciding what to eat?
* What could I eat that would help me feel better and become healthier?
* Are there any areas of my diet that I could improve right now?
* What specific change would I like to make at this time?
* What kind of foods could I keep on hand to eat when I'm hungry?
* How could I make the perfect food choice every time to satisfy both my body and my mind?
* Is it really possible to eat anything but not everything?
HOW? How do I eat?
* Do I eat while I'm distracted?
* Do I truly eat as though I love food?
* Do I eat fast, barely tasting my food?
* Do I eat differently in private than I do in public?
* Could I write an article for a gourmet magazine about the last meal I ate?
HOW MUCH? How much do I eat?
* How do I typically feel when I'm done eating?
* Do I like that feeling?
* Do I usually clean my plate?
* If I'm not hungry when I start eating, how do I know when to stop?
* What situations or emotions trigger me to overeat?
* What could I do to address my triggers for overeating more effectively?
* What do I do after those times I eat too much anyway?
WHERE? Where do I invest the energy I consume?
* Am I physically active?
* Do I watch too much TV or spend too much free time in front of computer?
* How do I feel about exercise?
* Do I exercise? What do I like to do?
* Do I use exercise to punish myself for eating or to earn the right to eat?
* What else do I do with my energy (i.e. play with my children; work on my hobbies; volunteer; travel; spend time with friends...)?
* Is there anything else I'd like to do that I'm not doing now?
* What are my goals for my relationships, my career, and my life?
* Do I practice regular and meaningful self-care in order to buffer myself from life stress?
* Does my life reflect wellness and wholeness in body, mind, heart and spirit?
As you can see, there is a lot more to it than a monthly newsletter can deliver! So back to the first question, "What is Am I Hungry?®"
It is an 8-week program that guides you toward addressing all of these questions (and many more) effectively. In my experience, until you do, there's no diet or surgery that will free you from overeating or the need to diet chronically in order to control your weight. The result is freedom from dieting and overeating, a positive, peaceful and enjoyable relationship with food and exercise, and renewed sense of wellness and wholeness.
As for the second question, "Will it help me?", after I got Mike's email, I wrote back gently telling him what I just shared with you.
He then "did" Am I Hungry?® and here's what he said when I wrote to him asking for permission to share his first email:
Dear Dr. May,
I'd be very honored if you used my e-mail as a means of reaching other people that have also ended up as "Career Dieters".
After all of the medically supervised program experience that I've had, I found that "Am I Hungry?" ties together the BEST of those programs as well as provides (and inspires) new insight into under lying issues.
I am a Systems Analyst and in the IT industry, after a major systems outage, we search for the "Root Cause" of the problem. Once the cause is discovered, we work to install safe guards to prevent the problem from occurring again. I think that "Am I Hungry?" helps people get to "Root Cause" and therefore implement real solutions.
If you want to get to the root cause of your eating issues and implement REAL solutions, visit us at http://www.amihungry.com/.
Eat Mindfully. Live Vibrantly!
Michelle May, M.D.