Weigh This Instead!

Life After Emotional & Binge Eating

What if All Doctors Prescribed “Well-Being” over Weight Stigma?

Weight Stigma in the Doctor's OfficeI hear this all too often. I’ve thought it myself…

The last time I saw my doctor, he told me to lose weight. I’m heavier today than I was at that last visit. Now I have a medical problem that has nothing to do with my weight but I’m afraid to schedule an appointment because I know I’ll have to get weighed and he won’t be happy with me.

Weight stigmatization is bad for health, yet studies show many medical professionals practice it. Weight Stigma potentially puts everyone at risk; fat, thin, and everyone in between! Here’s why…

When people live at higher weights all sorts of assumptions are made about those people being “unhealthy”. When health issues are blamed on weight, true causes may be overlooked. In lower weight or “average” weight people, medical issues can be missed because it’s just assumed they’re healthy. “Oh, we don’t need to check you for diabetes, your weight looks great.”

But what if all healthcare providers prioritized well-being over weight, with every person?  What if they looked at our individual health, no matter what we happen to weigh, without any assumptions about our size?  That’s what my co-authors and I propose in our new Review Article, published today in the  Journal of Obesity, supported by a review of the latest research.

Based on research on the impact of weight bias, along with a comprehensive review of studies that show trying to get everyone to be a “normal weight” is not improving health for the majority of individuals, we propose a new model of care. It’s focused on health vs. weight. It fosters physical and psychological well-being in all patients, no matter what they weigh.  In an excerpt from our article, here’s what that might look like in the doctor’s office, when our patient Jasmine sees the doctor…

When Dr. Johnson greets her today, Jasmine seems anxious and tells Dr. Johnson, “I almost did not come in today knowing my weight is up from the last time I was here and you suggested a diet. I feel like such a failure. However, I need help for my migraines, so here I am.” Dr. Johnson and Jasmine look at each other, there is a beat of silence, and they both sigh.

Dr. Johnson says, “You know, Jasmine, I have been reading the research on weight loss interventions and weight-cycling and I’m realizing that if the same thing happens to almost everyone, it probably is not the fault of the person, it is probably more about the process itself. So, instead of focusing on weight loss, I’m encouraging my patients to think about what makes them feel better in their everyday lives; emotionally and physically. For example, do you feel better when you eat more fruits and vegetables, drink more water, take a walk with a friend, meditate to relieve stress, and get enough sleep? There’s good evidence that those behaviors are going to make you healthier and feel better even if your weight does not change.”

Jasmine is a bit surprised by Dr. Johnson’s shift and says, “Well, typically, when my weight loss slows down or stops completely, I stop doing any of those things you mentioned that would help me feel better and be healthier.” Dr. Johnson says, “I understand, but we’re going to turn the focus from your weight to your health. Because those behaviors are linked to health, why not do them anyway?”

Jasmine smiles at Dr. Johnson and says, “It sure would be easier to come back and see you the next time I’m supposed to if I did not have to lose weight first.”

Dr. Johnson replies, “I do not want anything to stand in the way of you getting your medical care, including worrying that I might scold you. Now that we have a better plan, I am going to have the nurse retake your blood pressure.” Jasmine and Dr. Johnson then discuss treatment options for Jasmine’s migraines.

Right before Dr. Johnson leaves the room, Jasmine shares one more quick concern, “I like the shift from weight to health, but there is this Weight Focusers group at work. If I do not go, I’ll get charged a higher premium for my health insurance.”

Dr. Johnson says, “Let me know if I can help with that. The Affordable Care Act is supposed to allow you to follow your doctor’s recommendation, and I have no evidence that Weight Focusers is going to make you healthier and lots of evidence that says that weight cycling is linked to poorer health.”

Jasmine leaves the doctor’s office feeling hopeful and understood.

As Dr. Johnson finishes the chart note, she realizes that her own body is relaxed, her jaw unclenched. She feels like she has made a better connection with Jasmine and developed a sustainable treatment plan she can follow. Dr. Johnson is curious and maybe even a little eager to see what happens next. However, she does wonder what will happen if the reviewers do not see weight loss in this patient, or a goal of weight loss in the treatment plan.

 To read the full Review Article in the Journal of Obesity, click here, The Weight-Inclusive versus Weight-Normative Approach to Health: Evaluating the Evidence for Prioritizing Well-Being over Weight Loss . PLEASE SHARE THE FULL ARTICLE WITH YOUR PHYSICIANS AND OTHER HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS!  You can download a PDF of the article and hand it to (or mail it to) your doctors…even anonymously, if that feels more comfortable.

We can reduce weight stigma in health care, in our lifetime! No matter what we happen to weight, all doctor’s can be educated, encouraged to be our ally; to look at actual medical issues and not be blinded by any prejudice or assumptions driven by weight stigma.

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Ellen Shuman is 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. She is the founder of A Weigh Out  Life Coaching & Members’ Circle, Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). She is 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.

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Facing the Death of a Friend

I’ve never experienced the death of a friend, a peer. And, Jennifer Moore, how is that possible?

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post about the fact that three friends of mine, Mary Beth, Jennifer, and Frieda, had been diagnosed with cancer within the span of just a few weeks. So, in the time since, there have been many milestones recorded; first chemos, last chemo and remission for Mary Beth, a stem cell transplant for Frieda and a long, slow climb back to health, and several changes in chemo when chemo wasn’t working for Jennifer.

There have been unexpected hospitalizations for all three, along with many periods of waiting for pet scan results– some news was encouraging, some we celebrated, sometimes the results tested our hope.  Some tumors shrunk, some disappeared, some got bigger. But my friend’s lives and mine went on…

A friend is dying

Mary Beth Zolik & Jennifer Moore

There have been birthdays, high school and college graduations. This past winter Jennifer threw a bridal shower for Stacy, her wonderful daughter-in-law to be. I was so disappointed I couldn’t drive there, as planned, because of a snow storm. So Mary Beth and Jennifer emailed this picture to me during the party and said the empty space left next to Jennifer represented me being there, in spirit.

Much of this, for me, has been experienced long distance, as my friends live far from where I live. But, from the start, all calls and as often as possible in person visits have included our usual laugh-so-hard-we-have tears in our eyes moments…only now, the stories shared included tales of post chemo hair loss (hair loss everywhere, so the need for tweezing chin hair was temporarily suspended and celebrating by all of as a “bonus”). And then there were the wig stories…

Wig stories were plentiful!  On one visit to Detroit, a get-together with Jennifer and Mary Beth, both were now wearing wigs and trying to get used to them. Jennifer kept adjusting hers, afraid it might be askew. We laughed every time she did so. Chuckling, she said, “Remember when you got home from work and you couldn’t wait to take off your bra? Now, the first thing I want to take off is my hair!”

Mary Beth shared that she had two wigs, one short and dark and one longer and lighter in color. So, she named her two white Styrofoam head-shaped wig holders, “Laverne” and “Shirley”. Shirley, of course, wore the dark short hair and so scared their new puppy,Teddy, that just picking up that Styrofoam head with wig attached proved to be the best technique they’d ever seen for stopping bad puppy behavior.

We have laughed so hard, we’ve peed our pants. But I haven’t been physically present enough to witness the bad times. And, yesterday, it became real, too real. For the first time I realized a friend is dying. Mary Beth and I have known from the start that Jennifer’s prognosis was poor. We talked about that between us, but not with Jennifer. So, I guess denial was easy.

Jennifer was hospitalized suddenly last week, following unexplained and unremitting abdominal pain…and has been told she will live a week to one month more. Her son Michael set up a CaringBridge webpage to keep us all informed. On it he wrote,

“With all of this happening so quickly we have been told by the doctors that it is time to get Mom home and make her comfortable. It is with deep sadness that I relay this news to all of you. For 33 years my mother has been my best friend, my finest mentor and most trusted critic. She is my heart and soul. I know all my siblings feel the same way and what’s more incredible is how she has made us all feel unique in our different and special relationships with her. As we move into this final phase, words cannot express our surprise nor sorrow…”

My heart is breaking today…especially for her children…but also for every one of us who has been touched by Jennifer’s life force. And a force she is!  How is it possible for her to die? As anyone who has known Jennifer will tell you, she has a personality bigger than life!

I first met Jennifer Moore about 25 years ago, through Mary Beth.  At the time, Jennifer was a business reporter and TV news anchor in Detroit and we were on our way to spent 10 days in East Africa on a photographic safari. I had never laughed so hard for 10 days straight in my life!  Jennifer is wickedly funny and smart, the undeniable life of the party, always! She can be loud and raunchy, and remarkably great fun, even exhausting…so how can that energy just die? I know it has to go somewhere next…I just wish I knew where…

My thoughts, prayers, and heart are with Jennifer and her family…

 

July, 11, 2014
Jennifer MooreI just learned that my friend  Jennifer Moore passed away this morning.  I’m so sad…and grateful that her son Michael and brand new daughter-in-law Stacy setting up a CaringBridge website, giving those of us who do not live nearby an opportunity to tell Jennifer how we feel about her. They did such a lovely job of keeping all of us all informed this past week. Today, here’s what Michael wrote…

We Wish Our Mother a Magnificent Journey

A little after ten this morning, our mother succumbed to her nearly two year battle with cancer. Comfortable and in her own bed, Mom passed surrounded by a house full of light and love that she created. The thoughts and prayers left on this site have been nothing short of breathtaking, each one a fitting tribute to a woman who inspired us all. Thank you for being with us through this difficult time. Our hearts are filled with love, not only from our mother, but with the knowledge that she touched so many lives, in so many profound ways.                                               

 

Posted on CaringBridge By Ellen Shuman — Jul 4, 2014 2:01pm
Jennifer…I’ve been thinking about you and when we first met…in an airport on the way to Africa. (Could that really be 28 years ago?) I just told someone about that trip and recalled that I have never laughed so hard for 10 straight days in my whole life! The picture that we all have in our homes, of the four of us in that baobab tree on the Serengeti, is my favorite picture, ever! For me, it represents a time of joy, peace, calm, laughter…friendships that will go on forever in our hearts. I hope wherever this next part of your soul’s journey takes you is filled with more of the same; joy, peace, calm, laughter, and the love of wonderful friends. I have had the pleasure of calling you my friend, Jennifer. I love that…and you! And if souls can meet again in some other place and time (I sure hope that’s possible), I’m putting in a reservation to meet up with you, again, someday…so please keep an eye out for me…maybe in another baobab tree????

Goodbye my friend…

 

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Lonely…and Bingeing Online? Look Up, Instead.

Are you lonely? Sometimes, when I feel lonely, instead of making an effort to connect with people in a more personal, emotionally intimate way, I find myself bingeing online; reading and posting a lot of little nothings on Facebook.

I was a late adopter of social media. I admit I often find it fun and informative; a quick, non-intrusive way to find out what old and new friends are doing these days. It’s a great way to kill some time. I get to lurk; see the fun other people report having; live vicariously. I’m happy for them, sometimes envious, sometimes I feel left out.

Lately, I’m acknowledging that it’s just not satisfying; I liken it to eating a bunch of empty calories. It leaves me feeling empty, malnourished. When I spend too much time on Facebook, I achieve this illusion of emotional intimacy. The truth? For me, it’s a lazy, non-committal, risk-free way to get my friendship and my family needs met. This is not the life I want…

I know I’m not alone. Watch this…then, try turning off your computer, iPad, smartphone, Gameboy, XBox, etc. What’s that like for you?

“I have 422 friends and, yet, I’m lonely. I speak to them all every day and, yet, none of them really know me…LOOK UP.”

 

What do you think?

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Ellen Shuman is 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. She is the founder of A Weigh Out  Life Coaching & Members’ Circle, Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). She is 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.

Can You Change Emotions with a Reframe?

Can you change emotionsCan you change emotions with a reframe?

Sounds too simple. But, in some cases, it works!

Recently, I was complaining to a friend about a BIG SUV parked in front of my house, most days of the week and sometimes at night. Actually, it’s parked right in front of the path to my front door. I have to park in front of it or behind it when I bring in groceries. Most days, my view out of my home office window is this big car. This happens every May though the end of August. So, I’m imagining it belongs to a college kid or a nanny who works for an unknown neighbor a block away. The back of their house butts up to my street. So, the young woman, whom I have seen only once, parks her car on my street and uses the gate at the back of their house.

I was saying to myself, “Yes, it’s a public street. But why can’t she park on her own street in front of her own house?” It was really bugging me! My friend said she had struggled with the very same issue. She lives on a cul-de-sac and her next door neighbor has a bunch of teenagers and a bunch of cars.

Here’s how she reframed the situation. She told herself this was a useful thing, “Because there’s a car parked right in front of my house, it always looks like someone is home. Now, it’s much less likely someone will pick my house to burglarize.” Great reframe!

It worked! I am now saying the same thing; looking for the positive side of a situation I cannot control. Seeing this young woman’s car in front of my house has not bothered me since. Amazing!

Changing emotions when Emma steals shoes

Emma has been caught! Bows her head in shame.

Now I’m trying to do a reframe every time I can’t find a shoe or sock…and then I find it in my dog Emma’s favorite spot in the den (unharmed). My reframe, “How cute; Emma loves to have me (or the next best thing; the smell of my feet) near her when I’m not home or not awake (she does most of her stealing in the dead of night). This reframe really makes me smile! Emma is pretty happy with it, too :-) !

You can change emotions through ‘Reframe’. It works!

Do you have any situations in your life that would benefit from a reframe?

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Ellen Shuman is 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. She is the founder of A Weigh Out  Life Coaching & Members’ Circle, Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). She is 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.

Love Your Body

Love your body…sounds like such a foreign, unobtainable concept for so many of us. That makes me very sad.

What impact does hating our bodies, or select parts of it, have on our willingness to show up, to participate, to risk, to achieve, to connect with others, to love?

This comedian, Pete Holmes’, monologue made me laugh, and smile, and left me wondering why so few people speak this truth.

 

What do you think…and feel…when you watch this video? (Warning-some sexual references)

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Ellen Shuman is 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. She is the founder of A Weigh Out  Life Coaching & Members’ Circle, Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). She is 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.

Can You Embrace Your Body Image?

This video left me in tears. What an incredible shame it is that so many women (and more and more men) spend a lifetime loathing the body they inhabit.

I hope this photographer and mother of three, Taryn Brumfitt, raises the money she needs to get this film about improving body image made. It is so needed!

Do you struggle with your body image? How does this video make you feel? Please share your thoughts.

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Ellen Shuman is 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. She is the founder of A Weigh Out  Life Coaching & Members’ Circle, Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). She is 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.

Craving Structure Instead of Food

For years, I’ve been listening to coaching clients and people in the A Weigh Members’ Circle talk about how much they crave structure, order, routine; that without it they often feel overwhelmed, distracted, disorganized, rudderless, mindless…and that makes them even more vulnerable to binge eating.

Often, people tell me they just need to get their home (or office) more organized, or finish this project or that, before they can focus on fixing their binge eating problem.

Here’s what one person shared, as she reflected back on her week,

“I feel like something is holding me back from really using the tools and making this a priority. Maybe all things in order and time…I have been doing a ton of different things to get my surroundings in order and de-cluttered. This feels great! You have really helped get me going with this. Maybe psychologically I am feeling like I need to clean up the outside stuff before I can really get to the inside stuff?? Maybe I can tell myself that it’s ok to do a little of both.”

She was onto something here!

And I completely identified with what she was feeling and doing! I used to stay compulsively busy doing everything else I could possible think to do to stay distracted from what I actually needed to do; which was to connect–-with my thoughts, my feelings, my responsibilities, acknowledge the impact my past experiences had on my life…and then live in the present.

tornadoI always felt I needed to have structure; be following some plan, be constantly in motion. Years ago, one of my staff people said working with me was like being caught in the middle of a tornado (clearly, not a compliment). I just felt if I kept spinning, kept planning, kept doing, I didn’t have to feel…anything.

 

I had two speeds.

1). I was compulsively organized and busy, perfectly productive–-in an unconscious attempt to stay disconnected from thoughts or feelings that might leave me feeling emotionally uncomfortable.

2). I wanted to shut it all down, turn it all off, go numb. So, I turned to food.

Now, I know that that compulsive drive I had for “structure” was evidence that I was feeling a need to escape my life, to “go away”. When structure failed, as it always did, I’d go back to the food to create a short-lived escape. And then I’d use food over and over again to keep that numbness going.

Then, the cycle repeated. I’d try to create new structure so I could stop the binge eating. Often, that structure came in the form of a new diet. “If I just follow this diet perfectly, I’ll feel glued together again.” We all know how that turns out.

On the subject of “structure”, one of our A Weigh Out Circle Members wrote, “I can get overwhelmed when I don’t have it in my life, yet I get overwhelmed when I have too much. I struggle each day finding that balance!!”

It is a balance. Structure and organization can be a very helpful thing…or a way to escape thinking and feeling.

Today, I know when my need for structure and organization feels compulsive, even desperate, I know something is up.

When I feel organized and proactive in my everyday life, when I am calmly, systematically handling stuff that needs to be planned, organized, de-cluttered, I know I’m “connected”; present in the moments of my life, and living mindfully.

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Ellen Shuman is 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. She is the founder of A Weigh Out  Life Coaching & Members’ Circle, Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). She is 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.

Chocolate Easter Bunnies Calling Your Name?

Celebrate EasterAnybody experiencing a chocolate bunny hangout this morning?

Just in case you’re wondering if it’s OK to give away, throw away (or eat in moderation) leftover chocolate Easter Bunnies or eggs, marshmallow peeps, or Passover Matzah, I know of no law in the east or west that prohibits that :-).

May you learn whatever lessons you’re meant to learn from recent holiday season eating experiences, without judgement! And may any remaining boxes of Matzah and 2014 chocolate Easter Bunnies find their best possible demise :-)…

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Ellen Shuman is an experienced Coach who 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.

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