October 30, 2017

It’s Not Just What You Eat, But Why

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:39 am by kellyfdennis

By Michelle May, M.D.

 AmIHungryMindfulEatingCycleMany people have the mistaken belief that their problems with food are caused by what and how much they eat. Those are important but they only tell part of the story. In fact, what you eat and how much you eat are strongly affected by why you’re eating in the first place.

The Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Cycle will help you see how each decision you make can affect your other choices.

From Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat

As you review the Mindful Eating Cycle, ask yourself the following questions to help you recognize and better understand how you make conscious or subconscious decisions about eating. More important, use these questions to discover possible steps you can take to become more mindful about your decisions.

 Why? Why do I eat?

  • Why do I think I eat?
  • Am I aware of any situations or emotions that trigger me to want to eat when I’m not hungry? Examples: Mealtimes, social events, certain people, stress, boredom, buffets, getting ready to start a diet…
  • Have I tried a lot of diets? Did they work for me long term? Why or why not? What happened?

When? When do I feel like eating?

  • How often do I feel like eating?
  • Can I tell if I’m hungry?
  • 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? Examples: Manage stress better; tell someone how I really feel; find a hobby; treat myself to a hot bath; ask for more help around the house…

What? What do I eat?

  • What do I eat in a typical day? Would a food diary for a few days help?
  • Do I restrict myself from eating certain foods—then later give-in and overeat those foods?
  • What health issues do I need to be aware of when deciding what to eat? Examples: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history of diabetes.
  • What kind of beverages do I drink?
  • What types of foods do I feel like eating when I’m eating for emotional reasons? Why?
  • 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? How do I eat?

  • Do I eat while I’m distracted? Examples: Watching T.V.; reading; driving; working; talking…
  • Do I eat fast?
  • Do I really taste my food?
  • Do I eat differently in private than I do in public?

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 those triggers more effectively? Examples: Order less food; ask for a to-go container; get up from the table; turn off the TV; say “no” to food pushers…

Where? Where do I invest the fuel I eat?

  • Am I physically active?
  • Do I watch too much TV or spend too much free time in front of computer?
  • Do I exercise? What do I like to do?
  • What else do I do with my energy? Examples: Play with my children; work on my hobbies; volunteer; travel; spend time with friends…
  • Is there anything else I’d like to do with my energy that I’m not doing now? What are my goals for my relationships, my career, and my life?

The first step to changing the way you eat is awareness. As you become more mindful of each decision point in your Mindful Eating Cycle, you’ll discover small changes that can make a big difference in why, when, what, how, and how much you eat and where you invest your energy.
Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yoyo dieter and the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. Download chapter one at http://amihungry.com/chapter1.

October 25, 2017

Seven Things Parents Say That Can Cause Eating Issues

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:17 pm by kellyfdennis

SelectiveEatingBy Michelle May, M.D.

As parents, we sometimes forget that we are raising adults, not children. Our goal is to provide them with the skills and increasing responsibility for managing their lives without our constant vigilance. One key life skill is the ability to navigate our abundant food environment while maintaining optimal health.

Here are seven things that well-meaning parents commonly say that may have unintended consequences—and what to say instead:

  1. You are such a good eater!

Children want nothing more than to please their parents. While mealtime should be a pleasant time to connect with your children, eating should remain intrinsically driven to meet the child’s fuel needs, not to earn your praise.

What you could say instead: You must have been really hungry today! Or, I love spending time with you while we have dinner.

  1. You are such a picky eater!

All children (and adults) have some foods they just don’t like. Some children are highly taste and/or texture sensitive. Selective eating may become more entrenched when we berate, beg, bribe, or threaten.

What you could say instead: I know you didn’t like it last time; tell me what you think about it today after you test one bite. Or, Did you know your taste buds grow up just like you do? I wonder if you like this big kid food yet? 

  1. Clean your plate; there are starving children in ___________ (third world country).

Avoid teaching children scarcity eating behaviors in our abundant food environment.

What you could say instead: It is important not to be wasteful so please only take as much as you think you need. Or, If you’re full, we can save the rest for later.

  1. You have to eat all your vegetables or there’s no dessert.

Kids are smart. When you bribe them for eating certain foods, they quickly realize those foods must be yucky and that dessert is the reward. They also learn to hold out until a reward is offered.

What you could say instead: I love all kinds of different foods—some that make me healthy and strong and some that are just for fun. What kinds of foods do you like? Or, Enjoy your dinner. We’ll be having dessert in a couple of hours.

  1. Eat all your dinner or you don’t get dessert.

This variation on the threat above translates to “you must overeat so I will reward you by giving you more to eat!” Children naturally love sweet foods so they can learn to override their fullness signals. As an adult they’ll order dinner to earn a piece of cheesecake—what they really wanted in the first place.

What you could say instead: Save room for dessert tonight!

  1. I was so bad at lunch today! Now I have to spend an extra hour on the treadmill.

Children are born to move. They naturally love playing actively, exploring their environment, and challenging themselves. Unfortunately, the messages they get from adults teaches them that exercise is punishment for eating.

What you could say instead: I ate more than I needed and now I feel too full and uncomfortable. I think a walk would help me feel better. Want to join me? Or, Anybody for a bike ride?!

  1. I am so gross and fat! (Or, I can’t believe ________ has let herself go!)

Kids learn from us even when we think they aren’t listening. Statements like this teach kids that it’s OK to put yourself and others down and judge people for their weight or other physical attributes. Perhaps they also secretly wonder what you really think about them.

What you could say instead: I’m not perfect but I do my best to make healthy choices.

And whatever else you say, remember to say often…I love you just the way you are!
Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yoyo dieter and the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. Download chapter one at http://amihungry.com/chapter1.

October 23, 2017

So What Does the Term “Mental Illness” really mean?

Posted in News tagged at 9:02 am by kellyfdennis

The term “mental illness”figure-thinking-with-question-mark-100152866is used quite frequently. But do you know what a mental illness really is?

From psychiatry.org:

Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.

Mental illness is common. According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • nearly one in five (19 percent) U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness
  • one in 24 (4.1 percent) has a serious mental illness

Mental illness is treatable. The vast majority of individuals with mental illness continue to function in their daily lives.

The term “mental health” involves effective functioning in daily activities resulting in

  • Productive activities (work, school, caregiving)
  • Healthy relationships
  • Ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity

The term “mental illness” refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders — health conditions involving

  • Significant changes in thinking, emotion and/or behavior
  • Distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities

Mental health is the foundation for thinking, communication, learning, resilience and self-esteem. Mental health is also key to relationships, personal and emotional well being and contributing to community or society.

Many people who have a mental illness do not want to talk about it due the stigma that may be attached. However, it is a medical condition, just like heart disease or diabetes. Mental health conditions are treatable. We are continually expanding our understanding of how the human brain works, and treatments are available to help people successfully manage mental health conditions.

Mental illness does not discriminate; it can affect anyone regardless of your age, gender, income, social status, race/ethnicity, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, background or other aspect of cultural identity. While mental illness can occur at any age, three-fourths of all mental illness begins by age 24.

Mental illnesses take many forms. Some are fairly mild and only interfere in limited ways with daily life, such as certain phobias (abnormal fears). Other mental health conditions are so severe that a person may need care in a hospital.

Now you know.

October 20, 2017

Stress and Overeating: Breaking the Link

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:25 am by kellyfdennis

By Michelle May, M.D.

Stress is a common trigger for overeating. However, stress is not necessarily bad. Stress can:

  • Protect you from harm
  • Help you react when threatened
  • Help you adapt to changing circumstances
  • Motivate you to do your best
  • Add excitement to your life

However, when you experience excessive or chronic stress, or lack the skills to cope with it, stress takes a toll physically and emotionally. Since a stress-free life is not possible, it’s important to learn to manage it, before it manages you.

What is Stress?

Stress is your body’s response to an event or situation that is threatening, overwhelming, or harmful—whether real or perceived.

Stress results from your body’s natural instinct to protect itself: the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. Such reactions were useful when your ancestors frequently faced life and death situations. In today’s society, few situations are life and death, yet your body still reacts as if they were.

When you’re faced with a challenge, whether it is true physical danger, a deadline, or a traffic jam, the hypothalamus sends impulses through the endocrine (hormone) and

autonomic nervous systems. These signals
produce a surge of energy by making various organs dump stress chemicals, cortisol and adrenaline, into the bloodstream. This boosts your heart rate and blood pressure, dilates your blood vessels, and releases glucose into your blood stream.

This response is intended to mobilize you for quick action. However, when the response is out of proportion to the actual threat, or when mobilization isn’t possible or helpful, you will experience dis-stress.

This type of stress can wear down your body, exhausting you, and weakening your defense against disease (dis-ease). As a result, you may experience gastrointestinal problems, depression, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It can also lead to distress habits like overeating, smoking, drinking, or drug use.

When you’re experiencing stress, your impulse might be to power through, freak out, or stick your head in the sand. But busyness, overworking, smoking, overeating, drinking alcohol to excess, isolation, and taking frustration out on others perpetuate the stress reaction.

Pause and Focus: Instead of trying to escape what you are experiencing, pause and take a few deep breaths. Do a slow head to toe scan and become aware of what you’re thinking, feeling, how your body is reacting, and what you’re doing as a result—without judging it. Just observe what is there.

Put things in perspective: When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stop and ask, “What difference will this make one week or even one year from now?” and “Is this really important to me?”

If the situation will have no long-term consequences and does not hold true
importance in your life, it deserves less of your energy. If you notice you’re in an “over-reactive mode,” pause and breathe.

Change your thoughts: When you view something as manageable or even tolerable, your body will remain alert but not alarmed. Thoughts about the past or the future are often at the root of stress – but the only thing you can control is what you focus on right now.

Take charge – if possible: If you notice that you’re feeling out of control (a common source of stress), ask yourself, “Can I change this? If so, how?” If you can take some action to correct, improve, or remove yourself from a situation, your stress will be reduced considerably.

Accept: When a situation is beyond your control, respect your personal strengths and limitations and use self-compassion. When you accept the situation (and yourself) as it is in this moment and just allow it to be, you won’t compound the stress response by resisting it or overreacting to it.

Acknowledge your power to choose: For example, you can choose to change jobs, discontinue your involvement with certain people, or limit your activities. You also have choices about how you perceive and react to the circumstances, events, and people in your life. Take a baby step in the direction you want to go. Empower yourself by acknowledging your ability to choose – even if your choice is to do nothing more than breathe through it.


Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yoyo dieter and the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. Download chapter one from www.AmIHungry.com/chapter1

October 18, 2017

Managing “Stress”

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:53 pm by kellyfdennis

young-girl-screaming-loud-while-holding-her-head-100162857“Stress” is a word that we sometimes use to describe the strain put on our bodies and minds when something out of the ordinary (good or bad) happens to us. Learning to  manage the “stressors” can help to decrease the strain on our minds and bodies. Here are some tips for managing stressors:

Change the stressful situation-Figure out what you can do to alter the situation so the stressor doesn’t happen in the future. Many times, this involves changing your style of communicating and the way you go about your daily life. For instance, express your feelings (in a healthy and respectful way) instead of keeping them bottled up; compromise and negotiate with others, instead of always having to be right; deal with problems head on, rather than avoiding them; learn to manage your time better; say no to extra demands for which you don’t have the time or energy.

Change yourself-If you can’t change the situation, maybe you can adapt to the stressful situation and regain your sense of control. For example, try to look at situations from another perspective. Instead of fuming during a traffic jam, sing out loud to a song on the radio. Take a “big picture” stance:  How important will this situation be in a month, a year? Give up perfectionism; it sets you up for disappointment; focus on your own positive characteristics, all will help to keep the situation in perspective.

Accept the situations that you cannot change. Typically, the behavior of other people is out of our control. Rather than stressing out about others, focus on things you can control, like your reaction to others’ behaviors; practice forgiveness when you can; accept that we are imperfect as human beings and mistakes will happen.  Share your feelings with a trusted friend (or make an appointment with your therapist) to talk through your emotions about the unchangeable situation.

-Finally, don’t get so “stressed out” that you forget to take care of yourself. Laugh everyday; appreciate a sunset; spend time playing; and breathe deeply!

Be Well and Have a Wonderful Day!

October 17, 2017

Loving Kindness

Posted in Compassion tagged at 9:26 am by kellyfdennis


My meditation for this moment:

May you be safe.

May you be peaceful.

May you be healthy.

May you live with ease and well being.

May you be happy.

Pass it on!

October 14, 2017

Counseling Can Be More Than “Talk” Therapy

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:07 pm by kellyfdennis

BasketSo, you’ve had your intake session and you and your counselor set up some counseling sessions. Now what? Well, if you’re one of my clients, you’ll likely have some “homework” to do before your next session. Depending on the reason you sought out counseling, you might work on logging emotions, thoughts, food intake. or exercise. Or maybe a combination. The between session homework is designed to help you to become more aware of self defeating patterns, negative internal dialogue, and also helps me as your counselor learn more about you and your psychological self.

As we progress, there will probably be some times when therapy is hard and you might find yourself struggling to share in session, or having difficulty completing homework assignments because of the emotions they bring up. That’s when additional strategies other than “talk” therapy can really be beneficial. The basket image at the beginning of this post is a way that one client worked through difficult emotions. She found that when her hands were busy and the creative side of her brain was engaged, she gained insight (the stereotypical “aha moments” really do happen!) and she was able to work through difficult emotions that came up between sessions.

MandalaColoringOther clients find they need help working through emotions in session. So in addition to talking about what she was feeling, one client would color while we were talking. It helped her to get some distance from the emotion so she could figure out the thoughts and beliefs behind it. Other clients have knitted, crocheted, or sculpted their way toward psychological insight.

Everyone has a different way “doing” therapy. Ask your counselor what other strategies you could use in addition to talking, if you find yourself struggling.

Be Well and Have a Wonderful Day!


October 12, 2017

Nervous About Counseling? Here’s What to Expect.

Posted in News tagged , , at 12:51 pm by kellyfdennis

CreampuffI met an individual at the local café the other day and we started chatting. She stated that she thought she would benefit from counseling, but was hesitant to make an appointment because she had no idea what to expect. This was causing her undue anxiety. I explained to her what would happen; she felt much better and set up an appointment. As a result, I thought it might be helpful to outline what you can expect at your first appointment.

Once you decide to make an appointment and give me a call, I’ll take some info over the phone, and ask you for a brief summary of why you’re seeking counseling. After that, we’ll move to setting up your first appointment, called an intake evaluation. I’ll direct you to my website (www.kellyfdennis.com) to print out some new client paperwork for you to fill out before you get to my office.

When you get to your appointment, I’ll review the paperwork you completed. Then we’ll process your payment and I’ll begin to ask you some questions to give more details about the reasons you’re seeking counseling. I’ll ask you some questions about your family history, schooling, social relationships; as well as questions about things in your life currently, such as job and/or school, current relationships. Then we’ll talk about the current symptoms you are experiencing that are, or may be, a part of the reason you’re seeking counseling and what coping skills you might already be using.

I think therapy works better when you take an active role (rather than just responding to only my questions). Therapy is really a team effort; I am trained to ask the right questions, but I’m not a mind reader, so feel free to add information that you believe might be pertinent. It can be helpful to write down some things that are bothering you ahead of time when you’re not feeling nervous, which, by the way, is completely normal.

In addition, try to be open and honest with your emotions.  Many clients have apologized for becoming tearful or expressing their feelings vociferously in their first session. This is not bothersome for me and actually helps me to understand your situation better.

Finally, try to come to therapy with realistic expectations. It is not a quick fix. Working through problems takes time, effort, and commitment to the therapy process. With effort on your part and a strong therapeutic relationship, it can be a successful tool toward resolving problems.

Be Well and Have a Wonderful Day!

October 10, 2017

Compassion and Mindfulness

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:58 am by kellyfdennis



I went to an awesome seminar some months ago about Mindful Self Compassion. I have been encouraging my clients to practice mindfulness for quite some time now and will also frequently be heard saying “you need to be kinder to yourself, give yourself some grace.” Therefore, it was great to hear about and practice the two together for two days during this seminar.

The seminar landed on two particularly stressful days for me, personally. I remember walking in to the seminar, trying to get settled and BAM! We step right into a mindfulness practice. I found myself thinking, “Wow, it is hard to stay with this practice right now.” And doesn’t the facilitator say “If your having trouble right now, give yourself some compassion.” So I did!

It was actually a really good seminar for me in that I had to practice what I preach, so to speak. I found it difficult to calm my negative internal dialogue and really had to work to stay in the moment. I think self compassion and mindfulness are especially important right now with all the unsettling things happening in our nation and around the world. When we practice compassion and mindfulness, it helps us to get to know ourselves better and in turn we can be more empathetic and compassionate towards others.

Maybe you want to try some mindfulness practices for yourself. I have several mindfulness meditations, guided imageries, and relaxation exercises available at my store. I’d love for you to check them out!

Be well and have a wonderful day!

October 8, 2017

Creative Therapy

Posted in art therapy tagged at 2:44 pm by kellyfdennis

Making art encourages self expression, assists in developing awareness of thoughts and feelings, while at the same time fostering self-discovery in a way that is different from traditional talk therapy.

While I’m not an art therapist, many of my clients have doodled, drawn, and collaged their way through some very difficult times. The American Art Therapy Association says that through the creative process people can increase their awareness of themselves and others, cope with symptoms of illness, stress, and traumatic symptoms because the creative process is a springboard for expression.

You may be reading this and think, yeah, but I don’t have a creative bone in my body. Of course you do, we all do. You don’t need to be a talented, world class artist, you just need to be able to let your hands and mind be free of self limiting thoughts when you sit down to draw, sculpt, play music, write, work with yarn, reeds, or magazine clippings.

I really like this book by Mindy Jacobson-Levy and Maureen Foy-Tormay: Finding Your Voice through Creativity. While the authors target it toward those struggling with negative body image and eating disorders, I think anyone can really use the concepts. It’s a very simple straight forward way to get started. I hope you’ll check it out and maybe dabble in some creative therapy!

Be Well and Have A Wonderful Day!

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