Weigh This Instead!

Life After Emotional & Binge Eating

Overeating Cookies Instead of Gobbling Life

Cookie Monster on Overeating CookiesCookie Monster understood this a long time ago, but it took me decades to truly understand…

Overeating cookies, obsessing about and plotting to get all sorts of food, in quantity, was an effective distraction. Focusing on food helped me avoid everything in life that left me feeling anxious …or I preferred to avoid.

Then, binge eating just took on a life of its own…and I stopped creating mine. I ate compulsively and lived my life on the sidelines….until I’d had enough!

Must not be an uncommon coping strategy, if Cookie Monster gets it (of course, as a Life Coach, this video made me smile from ear to ear)!

If you find yourself overeating cookies, regularly and detrimentally, what dreams, wants, and needs might you be ‘stuffing’, avoiding? Have you had enough?

(If curious about what to do next, listened to my FREE Phone Seminar, “Food, You’re Not the Boss of Me!; 5 Essential Steps to Stop Emotional Eating”)

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Ellen Shuman is a pioneer in the field of binge eating disorder treatment; a Coach who help people create the life they were meant live; free of binge eating, emotional eating, compulsive eating, and food addiction to cookies. She is the founder of A Weigh Out  Life Coaching & Membership Circle, Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). She is a Past President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011/2012), and created the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242.

Why Are We So Damn Proud of Weight Loss?

Why are we so proud of weight loss?The other day, as I was swiping my credit card at the Costco checkout line, I was surprised to hear a man’s voice say, “Hi, Ellen”. It was a very nice man I’ve known for 25 years. He works for the computer company that has sold me and serviced every business and personal computer I have owned since 1989.

It had been about 18 months since I’d seen him (no computer crashes in that time). The last time I’d seen him he was on crutches and clearly in pain. I asked how his knee was doing. He shared that he had had a successful knee replacement. Good for him, I said.

As he walked me out of Costco and into the parking lot, he volunteered how pleased he was with his 30 pound weight loss in prep for the surgery. Then, he told me how proud his wife was of him for losing the weight. Then, he went on to say how thrilled his doctor was that he had shed 30 pounds. And then, we said goodbye and headed to our cars.

I was so struck by how proud he was of his weight loss.

On my drive home, I found myself thinking, what else might he be proud of in his life. In the few minutes we had together, I would have loved to have heard about some interesting or selfless act he had done for a neighbor or friend. I would have loved to have heard that since his surgery he’d been walking homeless dogs at a local shelter, or about a wonderful trip he and his wife had taken to a new city, or country, or to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

What is it about sticking to a diet, weight loss, being or getting thin that makes people feel so proud… or so ashamed, when the outcome is not what they hoped? Is that really what we covet most in life? Is that the most important goal we could possibly achieve?

What do you think? Have you ever missed out on more enlivening, enriching, enlightening, enjoyable life pursuits or activities because all you could think about was how much you weighed?

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Ellen Shuman is an Emotional Eating Coach who specializes in helping people overcome compulsive eating, binge eating disorder, and food addiction. She is continuously amazed and saddened by how much time people spend obsessing about weight; their own and others!  She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present), Past President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011/2012), and Co-Founder of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, Contact Ellen, ellen@aweighout.com, or 513-321-4242.

Bruce Jenner Interview; Asks for Understanding, Then Calls Former Competitor Overweight, Therefore a Loser?

Bruce Jenner Interview-ABC News

Bruce Jenner Interview-ABC News

A friend just asked me what I thought of last night’s Diane Sawyer Bruce Jenner interview…

I was moved by Bruce Jenner’s courage and obvious pain. I have great compassion for anyone who feels they have had to pretend to be somebody they are not.

I fear he’s facing hard times ahead, as he is about to live as a woman. I wish the paparazzi, tabloids, and late night comedians would leave him alone…but I can’t imagine they will. I also hope his desire to make a genuine difference for other transgender people is not tainted by his association, past or present, with the publicity crazed Kardashians.

My only negative feelings came soon into the interview when he shared that he’d recently run into Russian Nikolay Avilov, whose record he broke during the 1976 Olympic Decathlon. With a huge smile on his face, Jenner gloats about Avilov’s appearance today, “He was overweight and out of shape. I won that battle, too.”

So, here is Jenner, asking people for understanding and tolerance as he transitions to being the woman he feels he has always been, but he doesn’t give a second thought to judging the now 66 year old Avilov as a loser because he doesn’t look like the athlete he was when he was in his 20’s. Jenner “wins” because he is thinner? Really?

People continue to amaze me! Talk about weight bias being the last bastion of judgment and stigma…and from a person who is asking for tolerance and understanding because he was born in a body that did not match how he feels about himself.

He says he wants “to be remembered as true to himself”. Does that include seeing himself as better than fat people and seeing fat people as losers???? In truth, in the middle of his gender identity struggle, I’m sure it never even crossed Bruce Jenner’s mind that his judgmental comment about another person’s body was intolerant, prejudicial, rude…or proof of weight-ism.

As his appearance changes, I hope people will treat him with less superficial judgment, more thoughtfulness and acceptance than he offered his former fellow athlete. I wish Jenner well…

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I am Ellen Shuman and I am an anti-weight stigma advocate. I am also a pioneer in the field of binge eating disorder treatment; a Coach who specializes in helping people overcome binge eating, binge eating disorder, emotional eating, compulsive eating, and food addiction, founder of A Weigh Out  Life Coaching & Members’ Circle, Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). I am a Past President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011/2012), and Co-Founder of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242.

Saying ,”Yuck, I look like a Cow”, Not Helpful to Any Emotional Eater

Writing post about emotional eater and shameAs I write this post, I’m wearing my anti-weight stigma advocacy hat…

A while back, I found an email in my INBOX from a life coach who was marketing a first time weight loss class. The subject line said ” I am 3/4 the person that I used to be…”

OK, I was curious. So I opened the email and I went to her website. I learned this coach normally specializes in coaching women in business. But now, after losing some weight herself, her newest offering was a class to help people “create an amazing body… and look and feel great”.

In both her marketing video and sales copy (her before & after weight loss pictures included), she said she was motivated to change a great deal in her life after looking at a photo of herself and saying, “Yuck, I look like a cow! How did I get this fat?” That’s an exact quote.

Please understand where I’m coming from…I feel one of the most important missions in my life is to contribute to the end of weight stigma; internal and external.  And I have never ever before publically commented on any other coach’s marketing strategy or approach to selling their services. (I believe in freedom of speech and everyone’s right to make a living within ethical bounds.) But what she said really bothered me!

So, I wrote to her. We had a brief, civil exchange. But, when all was said and done, I just don’t think she understood that her comments, even if only written about how she felt about her own body (which is how she defended what she wrote), still perpetuated weight stigma.

I hope her class was wonderfully empowering and the content different from her marketing copy….because, in my book, you are a whole person (not 3/4), with all the same talents and gifts, no matter how much adipose tissue (fat) you happen to have on your body on any given day. I would hope that anyone who plans to work with women who struggle with emotional eating issues will help those women build self-esteem and lessen shame, regardless of what they weigh or how much weight they might or might not lose.

My real hope for those of us who have struggled with or still identify with being an emotional eater or a binge eater, is that we get to recover from emotional eating without calling ourselves (or anyone else) names. I hope we can let go of the judgment and the shame, knowing in our hearts and minds that what we weigh does not define who we are or limit what we are capable of contributing to the world and to those we love…unless we let it.

I hope that shift happens in my lifetime. It’s my greatest wish! I know it’s a huge one!

Emotional Eating Warning Signs

Emotional Eating Warning Signs

Binge Eating at Night

replacing binge eating before bed with a cup of teaSometimes, regardless of the craving, emotion, or habit that drives food thoughts and overeating, we can create new intentions, new habits, new behaviors, new brain pathways. Here’s an example of how I addressed binge eating at night …

Before bed, tired and fighting the day’s end, I often get that thought, “I want something sweet”. It’s still a vulnerable time of the day for me. So, recently, I decided to address that vulnerability with great determination and new intention. I decided to create and experiment with a new habit.

If I want something sweet before bed, I decided, first, I’ll reach for a cup of decaf tea. Personally, I lean toward fruity tea blends with Stevia. After much effort to get off the questionable Splenda, I found Sweet Leaf is the brand of Stevia I like best; it has the least after taste for me.

I like drinking tea out of a thick clear glass mug that can be ready on 90 seconds in the microwave. I like the way that glass mug looks and the way it feels in my hand. When my one clear glass mug developed a crack last week, I very deliberately set out to replace it. I found a set of six new ones on Amazon. Now, I’ll have six mugs I love…always a clean one ready for my use.

Yes, I put MUCH thought into this new habit I wished to create to help me reduce my emotional eating at night. I thought about what would feel SATISFYING and healthy, for me. I got clear that I wanted to create a new habit that is in line with the life I want to live, which does not include binge eating at night before bed.

Attention to detail is a big part of building my “buy-in”; the setting of a new habit and the creating of new pathways in my brain that support reaching for a hot cup of tea before bed, if so moved, instead of reaching for a box of cookies.

Also, when changing this particular habit, it has helped me to remember that I was not “born” to struggle with binge eating at night. It’s not my destiny to be an emotional eater, nor is it a sign of weakness or moral flaw. Turning to sweets was a habit that took hold because that routine addressed a craving; a craving to “self-soothe” at the end of my day. It was never really about the cookies.

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I’m Ellen Shuman and I am developing all sorts of new brain pathways that help me stop binge eating at night. I am also a Coach who specializes in helping people overcome emotional eating, compulsive eating, binge eating disorder, and food addiction. I’m the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present), Past President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011/2012), and Co-Founder of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242. Need help? Get in touch!

Overcome Emotional Eating? What Does That Look Like in Every Day Life?

Feather client used to overcome emotional eatingOvercome emotional eating? What does that really look like…in one’s every day life?  Here’s a great example that I’m pleased to share.

By way of backround…as an Emotional Eating Recovery Coach, I encourage all of my clients to create their own “Willingness List” each week, right after each Coaching Session. What you are about to read (shared with the client’s permission), is what she posted in our Members’ Forum as her week progressed and she faced some pretty big emotional challenges.

In her words…

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These were the first 2 Willingness Commitments I have on my list for this week. If my emotional buttons get pushed and I begin to have food thoughts/food noise:

1. I’m willing to dig deeper beneath the ‘food noise’ and name the emotion underneath

2. I’m willing to sit with that emotion and feel it (deeply) and breathe.

So the next day, after committing those things to paper, I got a work email that pushed my emotional buttons. I managed to navigate through that issue without a binge and thought ,”OK, tick that off. I can tell Ellen I’ve done those items on my Willingness List.”

Then, the day after that my partner and I had an upsetting disagreement. Not a niggly one, but one of those once-in-a-blue-moon ones where all your buttons get pushed and you just can’t seem to find common ground. Enter the food noise! It didn’t start off quietly. It was a loud buzz that went something like, “Don’t forget me, CHOCOLATE, I’m your old friend. I can numb you. I’m so easy to get. YOU KNOW YOU WANT MEEEEEE!”

I paced around and then remembered that I was meant to “dig deeper and identify the emotion”. As I tried to do that it felt like a number of things; anger, upset, anxiety, etc. But when I drilled down, mostly it felt like ‘feeling let down’. The truth was that in my mind I wanted him to respond a certain way to a situation and he had responded a different way. I felt so disappointed.

So now what?

I remembered my next commitment and it was to ‘feel it deeply’ and breathe. Arggghhh! Why did I commit to that? I REALLY didn’t feel like just sitting and breathing with it so I decided the most I was prepared to do was to go for walk. I live near a beautiful lake and it usually takes about 40 mins to walk around. That felt like the very max I had to give to being ‘willing’, and just FYI to the universe, from there my ‘willingness’ was going to be all used up.

About 15 minutes into the walk I saw a beautiful feather lying on the path. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. Over the last few months I’ve started a habit of collecting a feather every time I walk around the lake. I keep them in a glass jar in my home office as as a symbol of my ‘self care’. It’s a bit of a random thing to do but somehow when I look at the jar it reminds me that all these little acts of ‘self care’ do make a difference, because bit by bit, the jar is getting fuller.

Anyway, a little girl scooted up beside me on her scooter and, as if she knew me, said “Hello!”

I said hello and smiled at her. She beamed at me and said, ” I saw you pick up that feather before. It was beautiful.”

A little taken aback I agreed that yes, it was a very nice feather. “Guess what?”, she said excitedly. “I collected some for you as well”…and with that she handed over two perfect feathers and then scootered off again.

I was so surprised and touched. It seemed like such a random, sweet thing to do. And in the context of me collecting feathers as symbols of self care it was like she was giving me a double dose just when I needed it!

The more I walked the more I had time to distill the disagreement with my partner. It gave me a chance to reflect how I might have contributed to the conflict rather than blaming it all on him. It helped me to remember that he is not a mind reader (as much as I want him to be!) and that I needed to use my voice to let him know how I felt and why I felt let down.

At the end of the walk I was hungry. I sat in the car deciding what I felt like eating. Bizarrely enough, I didn’t really feel like chocolate anymore. I actually really felt like (hold the phone)… grapes! Madness, I know. I drove to the supermarket, got the grapes and drove home. The first thing I said when I walked in our front door was, “Would you like a grape?”. (Turns out that’s a great way to disarm someone- ask a totally random question when they are bracing themselves to expect more conflict.)

We had both had time to think and cool off and by that point we were in a much better place to talk it through without the heat of emotion. It wasn’t easy, but we did it.

Feather represented self-careSomething that occurs to me as I write this is that if I hadn’t driven to the lake but instead headed directly to the supermarket to get chocolate, I would have walked in the door feeling guilty and ashamed and angry (at myself). I know from plenty of experience that feeling this way does not put me in an ‘open’ sort of mood. If anything, it’s much more likely that I would have projected my self-disgust onto him and likely continued our previous disagreement. Not pretty.

So another close shave. Eekkkk, somehow I get the feeling that there are going to be a few more of these challenging ones to test my ‘willingness’ still…

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She was right.  Overcome emotional eating? There were more challenges to come!  There will always be emotional challenges, as long as we’re alive and kicking! True recovery is not about avoiding strong emotions and difficult situations. Recovery is all about handling whatever comes our way; without distortions, judgment, fear, and stuffing feelings with food. True recovery is about facing what comes our way, with competence and confidence that we can handle any/all emotions that surface, stay present; in the moment, and work through emotional intensity with honesty and grace. This becomes possible with the development of new emotional regulation skills ….and a lot of practice!  I promise. You, too, can overcome emotional eating! It just takes a little willingness…and maybe a feather or two…

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Ellen Shuman has been a Coach for 18 years. She specializes in helping people overcome emotional eating, compulsive eating, binge eating disorder, and food addiction. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present), Past President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011/2012), and Co-Founder of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242.

Weight Bias; Are Doctors Driving Patient’s Shame about Seeking Medical Care?

Weight Bias in the Doctor's OfficeHave you ever delayed or avoided getting medical care because of weight bias or because you felt shame about your body? Were you afraid the doctors or nurses at the doctor’s office might judge you based on what you weighed or whether you’d lost or gained weight since your last visit?

Unfortunately, your concerns may in fact have been valid.

I recently co-authored a review article published in a special issue of the Journal of Obesity in which we evaluated “…the Evidence for Prioritizing Well-Being over Weight Loss”. While doing my research, I read some disturbing but not surprising research about weight stigma in healthcare, reported by the Yale Rudd Center (Now located at UCONN).

When it comes to Weight Bias and Weight Stigma, here’s what their studies found…

• 69% of participants reported that they had experienced weight bias by a doctor
• Over half of participants reported bias from a doctor on multiple occasions
• 46% reported bias from nurses
• 37% reported bias from dietitians
• 21% reported bias from health professionals

(Source: Puhl RM, Brownell KD. Confronting and Coping with Weight Stigma: An Investigation of Overweight and Obese Adults. Obesity.2006;14(10):1802-1815.)

Experiencing weight bias in health care settings may lead patients to:

a. Feel discouraged from making positive lifestyle changes.
b. Avoid seeking routine or preventive care.
c. Engage in unhealthy behaviors in response to stigma.
d. Experience negative psychological consequences.

According to the Rudd Center’s research, there is some hope. Weight bias can be reduced and the quality of medical care can be enhanced when healthcare providers become aware of personal biases and adopt effective and sensitive strategies to communicate with patients of higher weight.

(Sources: Puhl, Heuer, 2010, Puhl, Heuer, 2009, Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity Center’s Course, Weight Bias in Clinical Settings: Improving Health Care Delivery for Obese Patients, and Puhl RM, Heuer CA. Obesity stigma: Important considerations for public health. Am J Public Health. 2010;100(6):1019-1028, and Puhl RM, Heuer CA. The stigma of obesity: A review and update. Obesity. 2009;17(5):941-964.)

Have you ever experienced weight prejudice or stigma in a health care setting? If willing, please tell us about it in the comments section below. You’re certainly not alone!

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My name is Ellen Shuman and I am a staunch advocate of well-being over weight! I am a pioneer in the field of binge eating disorder treatment; a Coach who specializes in helping people overcome binge eating, binge eating disorder, emotional eating, compulsive eating, and food addiction. I am the founder of A Weigh Out  Life Coaching & Online Members’ Circle, Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present), a Past President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011/2012), and I started the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”. To learn more, please get in touch, ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242.

Mindfulness and Gratitude; A Video Gift

Mindfulness and gratitudeI spend the majority of my days teaching emotional management and mindfulness skills…to people who wish to stop using “food thoughts” to go mindless and numb. And, to support my own recovery from living life on autopilot; disconnected from my own thoughts and feelings, I write a brief gratitude list every day. So, I tend to think of myself as pretty mindful.

Then, Diane, one of my clients, sent me this video. She learned about it from a friend who is battling cancer. I watched…I cried…and I realized I’m still on autopilot much of the time…and that it is within my power to change my degree of mindfulness.

With gratitude (thank you Diane!), I now pass this on to you. It’s a lovely six minute film by Louie Schwartzberg that I hope will impact how you, too, define and create “a good day”.

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I’m Ellen Shuman, a mindful human in process! I’m also a pioneer in the field of binge eating disorder recovery; a Coach who specializes in helping people overcome binge eating, binge eating disorder, emotional eating, compulsive eating, and food addiction. I founded A Weigh Out Life Coaching & Members’ Circle and Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). I also served as President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association, 2011/2012, and Co-Founder  the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242.

Emotional Eating Recovery; Gradual, Not Perfect!

emotinal eating recovery challenged when I have so much to do“This morning, I’m feeling so overwhelmed with all I have to do at home, for my job, and the kids! But, on the way to make this call for our session, I’m getting tissues not cookies. I guess that’s what you’d call progress :-).”    ~ A quote from one of my A Weigh Out Coaching Clients

She’s right! Anytime one of my people connects with and expresses a feeling, instead of avoiding the feeling by shifting attention to food, I’m ready to celebrate! YES! That is how we define progress; emotional eating recovery happens one choice at a time…

And recovery from emotional eating or binge eating disorder does not mean you won’t still have STRONG FEELINGS. I think that’s one of the biggest myths associated with recovery from disordered eating. Feelings still happen and sometimes they hit big. What changes in recovery is one’s ability to tolerate and effectively express big feelings, small feelings, any intensity of feeling; boredom, loneliness, anger, frustration, overwhelm, etc., without using a coping behavior that’s counter to what we feel is healthy for us (like emotional or binge eating).

In truth, recovery is a gradual thing. Which is often difficult for people to tolerate, especially the case for those of us who have had a history of judging “success” through the all-or-nothing lens of a diet or “abstinence”. We were “on” or “off”. How many time did I hear myself say, “I’ve been good today”, or, “I’ve been bad today”, which translated into “I’m good” or “I’m bad”.

And, when I labeled myself as “bad”, I had a reason to head right back to the cookies! True recovery is a less judgmental, gentler experience…and such a relief!

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I’m Ellen Shuman, a Coach who has been specializing in emotional eating recovery since 1993. I’m the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present), Past President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011/2012), and Co-Founder of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com, Learn more; join me for my FREE Phone Seminar. Or call me for a free coaching assessment, 513-321-4242.

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