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Michelle May, M.D.: Physician, Mom, and Author

When Michelle May, M.D., wanted to find a way to impact the world, she realized medicine would be the route to go.

"I decided to become a doctor because I love the idea of making a significant difference in the lives of other people," she says. "While I was growing up, my dad was a radiology technologist then manager of a radiology department, which is where I was first exposed to healthcare as a career."

Now a published author, a mom, and a wife, Dr. May has made a successful career for herself in the medical field thanks to the support of her family, which she adores.

For her undergraduate education, Dr. May went to Arizona State University, where she received her B.S. in psychology. She was also involved in a variety of activities at her school, and was even the president of her sorority, an experience which she says was "great for building leadership skills."

After Arizona State, Dr. May went on to medical school. The University of Arizona College of Medicine gave her a chance to fine-tune her skills. During her second year of medical school, she met the man who would eventually become her husband at a bar. At the end of that year, she got married.

After medical school, she did a three-year family medicine residency at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

"I served as chief resident during my third year, and I had my first child the same year," she says of her time at the Medical Center.

When Dr. May finished her residency in 1991, she created a private practice. She decided to go into family medicine because she "wanted to work with patients 'from cradle to grave,' and address the entire breadth of the wellness and illness."

Working in a suburb of Phoenix for 14 years taught Dr. May a lot about the industry. In 1999 she decided to focus on another passion of hers: being an author and helping people through her advice. She started a company called "Am I Hungry?", and a few years later she published Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don't Work.

"In 2005 I left my private practice to focus all my energy on reaching more people with the mindful eating approach to weight management that I had developed," Dr. May explains. "I teach people how to become more mindful and connected to their body, thoughts, and feelings in order to recognize and cope with their triggers for overeating."

At first, Dr. May was hesitant about leaving her practice, but she knew she needed to follow her intuition.

"[Everyone in my family has] always been very supportive of my career path, even though some people found it hard to believe that I would leave a successful medical practice to follow my true passion: inspiring others to get off the diet-weight gain roller coaster."

A self-professed "yo-yo dieter," Dr. May says that the "non-diet" approach to her program is what she hopes will make a difference in how people look at how they eat.

"I personally struggled with my weight throughout my teens and into my thirties," she confesses. "As a physician I had many patients who were struggling with the same issues, and I realized that restrictive dieting was not the answer for most of us. When I finally broke free of my 'eat-repent-repeat' cycle, I became passionate about helping people relearn to care for their bodies without dieting and deprivation."

Building a program based around her own experience, she wrote about the steps it takes to lose the weight and keep it off.

Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I love cooking, wine tasting, hiking, yoga, and entertaining friends.

Q. What is in your CD player right now, and what was the last song you heard?
A. I just heard Celine Dion's new song, "Taking Chances" — how appropriate!

Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A. O, The Oprah Magazine.

Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. American Idol because our whole family watches it together.

Q. Who is your role model?
A. Stephen Covey because his approach to life management inspired millions to think differently about their priorities. He took it one step further by training others to share his ideas and reach even more people with his important message. I hope to inspire millions to think differently about weight management so they can free up their time, energy, and money for more important pursuits.

Q. Your favorite ice cream flavor?
A. Anything chocolate and/or with nuts or candy in it (Rocky Road, Fudge Tracks, etc.).

"Weight problems and food issues aren't just about what you're eating, but why you're eating in the first place. Hunger is a physical feeling," she explains. "Although the 'intuitive eating' concept was not new, I wanted to develop a program that could help people learn a strategic way of addressing their overeating challenges without punishing or depriving themselves. I developed the 'eating cycle' to teach people about the decision points that impact the way they eat."

Dr. May says that she is glad her career has progressed because of the decisions she's made, but that it hasn't always been easy to know what the outcome would be.

"On several occasions I had to make decisions that could change my career and even my life forever. Instead of becoming paralyzed by fear, I learned to become very clear about my goals and intentional in my choices," she notes. "In every case, the benefits of taking a risk have outweighed the safety of staying the same."

When she's not busy with her work, Dr. May spends her days with her husband of 21 years, who is a professional cook, and her teenage kids. "Life is good!" she says. Her daily routine now allows her quality family time.

"Besides doing what I love every day, I now I have a home office and a flexible schedule that allows me to spend time with my kids," she says with content. She also travels to medical conferences and gives presentations on "a cognitive behavioral approach to addressing obesity."

As for her advice to the next generation of medical hopefuls, Dr. May says that individuals know themselves and their capabilities the best.

"First, follow your passion. When you love what you do, your patients and colleagues will see it in your attitude and your results. Second, trust your gut instincts. Although you won't always be able to see where you are headed, listen to your intuition and you'll be amazed at where your path takes you. And most importantly, enjoy the process. Don't be in such a hurry to reach some arbitrary goal (graduation, med school, job, money) that you miss the moment you are living in right now."

On the net:Am I Hungry?

Dr. May's blog at

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