Great Article!  These are some of the most common things I hear from my clients….

By Michelle May, M.D.

Diets are filled with dogma about when, what and how much to eat. Certainly “the rules” are usually based on observations that make sense, but unless you understand why you do certain things, you’ll break the rules as soon as the temptation is greater than your motivation.


Let’s examine some of these myths, where they come from and how to make long term changes that will work for you.

Myth: Don’t Eat After 7pm

Your metabolism doesn’t shut off at 7:01 pm so why is this rule so common? It’s based on the observation that many people who struggle with their weight overeat in the evening. Most have already eaten dinner so they aren’t snacking because they’re hungry. They snack because of boredom, television, loneliness and other triggers.

Rather than creating a rule to address those habits, ask yourself “Am I hungry?” whenever you feel like eating in the evenings. If you truly are, eat, keeping in mind that your day is winding down so you won’t need a huge meal. If you aren’t, consider why you feel like eating and come up with a better way to address that need. Ken, a man in one of my workshops, realized he was just bored so he started doing stained glass in the evenings to entertain himself. Whatever works!

Myth: Eat Small Meals Every 3 Hours

This rule is based on the fact that many thin people tend to eat frequent small meals. However, most of the thin people I know don’t check their watch to tell them it’s time to eat – they eat when their body tells them to. They eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re satisfied. Since that tends to be a small meal, they get hungry again in a few hours.

Instead of watching the clock, begin to tune in to the physical symptoms of hunger to tell you when to eat. And remember, your stomach is only about the size of your fist so it only holds a handful of food comfortably. By learning to listen to your body’s signals, you are likely to follow a frequent small meal pattern naturally.

Myth: Don’t Let Yourself Get Hungry

This one is based on the belief that overweight people are incapable of controlling themselves when they’re hungry. In my experience with hundreds of workshop participants, once they learn to tell the difference between physical hunger and head hunger, the opposite is true.

Think about it. When you’re hungry, food tastes better and is more satisfying. My grandmother used to say, “Hunger is the best seasoning.” Besides, if you aren’t hungry when you start eating, what’s going to tell you to stop? Of course, you also need to learn to recognize hunger and make time to eat before you’re too hungry since it’s harder to make great choices when you’re starving!

Myth: Exercise More When You Cheat

I hate this one because it has caused millions of people to equate physical activity with punishment for eating. As a result, many people either hate to exercise or use exercise to earn the right to eat.

While it’s true that your weight is determined by your overall calories in versus your calories out, exercise is only part of the equation and has so many other important benefits. Instead of using exercise to pay penance, focus on how great you feel, how much more energy you have, how much better you sleep and how much healthier you’re becoming. In the long run, you are more likely to exercise because it feels good than because you’re forced to.

Myth: Follow Your Diet Six Days a Week Then You Can Have a Cheat Day

This is absurd! What if you were a harsh, overly strict parent six days a week then completely ignored your kids every Saturday? How would this approach work for your marriage or managing your employees?

It just doesn’t make sense to try to be perfect (whatever that is) Sunday through Friday while obsessing about everything you’re going to eat on your day off. Then on Saturday you overeat just because you’re allowed to so you end up feeling miserable all day. Huh? Personally, I’d rather enjoy eating the foods I love every day, mindfully and in moderation. I call this being “in charge” instead of going back and forth between being in control and out of control.

Myth: Eat X Number of Calories a Day

Does it make sense that you would need exactly the same amount of fuel every day? Aren’t there just days when you’re hungrier than others, maybe because of your activity levels or hormonal cycles?

Rather than setting yourself up to “cheat” on those hungry days and forcing yourself to eat more food than you want on your less hungry days, allow yourself the flexibility to adjust your intake based on your actual needs rather than an arbitrary number. Important: for this to work long term, you also need to learn to tell the difference between physical hunger and head hunger.

Myth: Carbs are Bad (or Fat is Bad)

This “good food-bad food” thinking makes certain foods special. As a result, you may feel deprived and think about them even more than you did before. Worse yet, healthy foods become a four-letter word.

The truth is all foods fit into a healthy diet. Since different foods have various nutritional qualities and calorie content, you can use the principles of balance, variety and moderation to guide you without trying to restrict an entire food group.

Truth: You Are In Charge

I assume the rule-makers are well-intentioned and don’t realize that they’ve created a tight rope that most people fall off sooner or later. It’s time to give yourself the flexibility to make decisions that both nourish and nurture you.


Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yoyo dieter and the award-winning author of Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don’t Work. Find additional articles and resources at

June 25, 2009

Today, my patient came to my office concerned about her recent weight gain. She is almost 200 pounds and has struggled with her weight for many years. She’s used Phen-fen, medically prescribed diets, and even starvation. She told me she feels a constant need to eat, oftentimes when she is already full. She eats “by the clock” or when it’s “meal time” and also when she’s around others who are eating.

When I asked her if she’s ever eaten when she feels like eating or based on her own hunger, she looked at me and didn’t say a word. It was obvious that this had never occurred to her before.

My patient’s style of eating is typical of a chronic dieter- one who is constantly trying new diets (diet pills, diet books, and other gimmicks). She also shows signs of being an emotional eater and a “disconnected eater”. An emotional eater is someone who uses food to cope with emotions, such as sadness, anger, depression, and boredom. While a disconnected eater is completely disconnected from their own internal need for food (example, hunger). Instead, their eating habits are dictated by external factors- someone of authority (example doctor), other people in their presence, what time of day it is, what they have read or heard how they “should” or “should not” eat, and others factors outside of themselves.

One of the first steps towards changing these negative eating behaviors is slowing down, tuning into yourself, paying attention and acknowledging that it’s happening.

1. Probiotics have been around for over 100 years.  Most of us have only recently become familiar EliMwith the term, but, the very first concept of “friendly bacteria” was proposed in 1907 by researcher, Eli Metchnikoff.

2. Probiotics literally means FOR LIFE (Pro= For; Biotic= Life).  Probiotics are beneficial cultures that can promote health and prevent disease when consumed in adequate amounts.

GI tract3. Probiotics help to maintain and restore balance of our digestive tract.  Our digestive tract contains over 100 trillion bacteria- some beneficial, some neutral, and some harmful. Several factors can cause an imbalanced digestive tract- A poor diet, stress, antibiotics, alcohol and tobacco, and aging.  By adding more probiotics, the balance of beneficial bacteria is greater than the harmful bacteria.

4.  Probiotics have many potential health benefits.  Although probiotics are most commonly associated with maintaining good digestive health and enhancing our immune system, there have also been some studies which have shown possibilities of some probiotics to prevent certain forms of cancer, reduce cholesterol levels, and even prevent kidney stones.

5. Probiotics are not all equal.  When choosing a probiotic,  it is important to identify the genus, species, and strain name.  For example, Lactobacillius (genus) casei (species) shirota (strain). Even cultures with the same genus and species name, but, different strain names have different effects.

6. Probiotics count in numbers. Most probiotics have been studied to have effects with at least 5 billion bacteria. Make sure to identify the number of viable probiotic cultures contained in each serving of the product and be sure that that is the amount studied to have a health benefit.

7. Probiotics should have published research which support its specific health benefit.  There are many products claiming to be probiotic. Be sure to choose only products that use strains that have been studied to have a health effect.

dairy8. Probiotics are often associated with dairy products. 

9. Probiotics can be included as part of a healthy diet.  Similar to fruits, vegetables and other foods Healthy Dietwhich should be consumed daily for optimal health, probiotics should also be consumed daily to maintain good health.

10. If you have any questions about taking probiotics, contact your doctor or Registered Dietitian.