Weigh This Instead!

Life After Emotional & Binge Eating

Family Dysfunction; The App

Christmas Family Dysfunction

Wishing you and yours a very HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON (with or without immediate family dysfunction nearby :-) !

Warmly,

Ellen

Body Shame; Give it Back!

Body ShameI cried as I watched the video posted below…for all the times in my life when I felt body shame; because I had decided one part of my body or another was not thin enough, not sexy enough, my breasts not perky enough, upper arms too fat for sleeveless shirts and dresses, my legs not shapely enough for shorts, too tall, hips and thighs too wide, stomach too protruding, posture not good enough, hair not straight or shiny enough, nose too big (plastic surgery on that one), ankles too thick, toes ugly in sandals, head too small on my large body and neck not long enough to wear pretty scarves, face too long, ears too big, teeth not white enough or perfectly straight.

You get the picture? I decided my “imperfect parts” made me less than everyone else, unacceptable in a thin-obsessed word, unloveable…all of which, ironically, drove me to more emotional eating.

But it wasn’t the whole picture!  I was taking my body, one disembodied part at a time, and vilifying it. Body dissatisfaction; body shame was a habit that started for me as I watched my mother do the same. Body shame is learned.  It grew to be a habit that distracted me from my life and from more interesting gifts and pursuits on which I could have been focused.

Today I know I am so much more interesting and am of much greater value than even the sum of my individual parts and my outward appearance…and so are you!

I hope you’ll watch this video and share what it evokes in you?

What did you feel as you watched? Leave a comment below…

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I, Ellen Shuman, am in recovery from Body Shame! I’m also a Coach who specializes in helping people overcome negative body image, emotional eating and binge eating. I am 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“. Have a question or need help. Please get in touch…ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242.

Weight Loss Supplements; The Ugly Truth

Weight loss supplements will helpEver been tempted to buy “Magic” or “Miraculous” dietary Weight Loss Supplements? I have to admit I’ve been guilty of that in years past.

I don’t care how much recovery one has from binge eating and/or dieting disorders, of course some of us are still vulnerable to allegedly respectable doctors who claim weight loss could be “easy”. (You know who you are, Dr. Oz!)

I’m all about size acceptance! I’m a card-carrying member of the “Health at Every Size” paradigm. I believe healthy bodies come in all shapes and  sizes. I have no judgment about anyone’s size, including my own!!! Still, I admit it. If weight loss were easy and safe; didn’t require I sell my soul, rearrange my organs, or harm my health to accomplish it, I’d be game. I know very few people of size who wouldn’t. (Sometimes, saying that feels like a betrayal of the size-acceptance movement. It’s not! It’s just honest and based on wanting a body that is as physically comfortable to live in as possible and has as few physical limitations as possible in  a world that’s not designed to be plus-size friendly.)

Even a couple of  years ago, when Dr. Oz said Raspberry Ketones were the miracle we had all been waiting for, I had a momentary lapse in sanity and looked those up on the internet. (Then I found my sanity, again, and stopped myself before I bought a single supplement!)

I don’t have Cable TV, so I’ve never seen HBO’s late night talk show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. But after watching this commentary about dietary weight loss supplements; a challenge to the nonsense we’re fed by popular TV shows, John Oliver has a new fan; ME! In this brilliant segment, which aired this past spring, we hear the financial and political truths behind why no one protects us from the unrelenting hawking and false claims about weight loss supplements. (Salty Language Warning!)

 

What do you think and feel when you hear about the latest diet pills or weight loss supplement claims?  Do you get hooked; feel tempted? Share you thoughts with us by leaving a comment…

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As a tireless advocate of truth in advertising and sanity, I, Ellen Shuman, work with people who struggle with emotional eating, compulsive eating, binge eating disorder, and food addiction. I am 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”. Need help, get in touch, ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242.

 

We’re Not Alone in Our Eating Struggles!

Eating StrugglesI know we sometimes think we’re all alone in our eating struggles; we see ourselves as emotionally or binge eating challenged. We think, “It would be so nice to be able to just sit down and enjoy food rather than always fearing we’re one bite away from feeling out-of-control”.

But I don’t think we’re alone out there. A friend of mine just sent me this amusing (and so true) video about everyone’s food issues or preferences these days. For some it’s no dairy, or no gluten, low sodium or low carb. Some have a shell fish or nut allergy. Some avoid foods that lead to bloat or are fermented, not to mention foods or drinks that might clash with medications.  (Vegans got thown into the song in the video below. Please don’t take offense).

Watching this video got me thinking. I don’t remember these issues being discussed over holiday dinners when I was in my 20’s or 30s. Do we really know that much more about food and it’s impact on our bodies today than we did say 20 years ago? Or did people eat and then suffer in silence?  Is there something in the food and/or environment that’s making us so much more food sensitive these days? Not all food is ‘engneered’ to make us eat more, so what’s up?

As I suggest to my clients who are struggling with turning to food for comfort or emotional relief, is their focus on food, their eating struggles, a distraction from other life or relationship struggles that really feel out of their control to change? I think it’s a question worth asking.

In the meantime, take heart in the fact that you are certainly not alone in your eating struggles…enjoy!

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I’m Ellen Shuman and I’m all about having a sane relationship with food and our bodies. I’m also an experienced Coach who specializes in helping people overcome emotional eating, compulsive eating, binge eating disorder, and food addiction, 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.

Tolerating Uncertainty Without Using Food to Cope

Using emotional eating, food to copeUsually, by the time people come to me asking for help to stop emotional eating, they have some awareness that using food to cope has become a habit.

Being food-focused has become a coping strategy they use whenever they want to avoid something else; an uncomfortable thought or feeling, a difficult situation, even a task they’d rather put off doing.

Food thoughts work (don’t I know it)! Food thoughts (and then eating) can effectively distract us from anything uncomfortable; from anything we’d rather not feel or tolerate…at least for a brief time.

Recently, I was coaching a client who was in the throws of a difficult divorce; child custody and financial arrangements still to be worked out (I’m sharing this with her permission). And, despite the fact that her gut told her a job she’d been offered was not a good fit (she feared she did not have the management skills or experience needed and she knew the company was in chaos), she accepted the position anyway because the salary was amazing. About six weeks into a 90 day probationary period, she knew she had made a big mistake and she resigned.

In a coaching session with me, she shared that she couldn’t stop thinking about how horrible that experience had been; the dysfunction at that company, how angry she was at the boss she felt set her up to fail. Over and over again, in her head, she was replaying her experinece on the job…along with thoughts about old and current conflicts with her soon to be ex-husband…

Soon, to shut down all of those thoughts and feelings; the intensity and the ‘noise’, she was binge eating again.

Then, she had an “aha” moment. She got it! Here’s what she wrote in prep for our next session.

“Something you said during our last session very much resonated with me – when I’m ruminating about something, I need to decide whether there is an action that needs to be taken (and then plan what that action is) or if I’m just dwelling and there’s nothing further to be done (and I need to let it go).

Regarding my former job, it’s unproductive ruminating. So now I’ve been redirecting myself to let it go, and trying to focus on the life that I want to create, instead. With my soon to be ex-husband, some of it has been unproductive dwelling, and some of it is an action item (I discussed the action items with my attorney yesterday).

When I’m thinking about past events, it’s been really helpful for me to ask myself, ‘is there an action item here?’, then redirecting my energy and focus.”

This is great example of what I mean when I speak about developing “emotional regulation skills”, even in light of uncertain times. Being ‘good’ at managing emotions does not mean you won’t have strong emotions. That’s a myth!

I know life is full of uncertainty and strong emotions. “Emotional Regulation” means that when strong feelings hit, instead of ignorning or stuffing them, you observe and experience those emotions…without judging them…or trying to inhibit them…without making them bigger by seeing them through the lens of past experiences…and without borrowing trouble from what might or might not happen in the future.

If you can experience feelings, in the moment, you can come to trust that feelings are full of great information…and are survive-able. Instead of blocking feelings with food thoughts, you can use thoughts and feelings (especially the uncomfortable ones) to inform you. Then, you can address them head on; coming to fully trust that you can and will choose to do with them whatever you need to do (including just honoring them as feelings that will pass…).

With practice, I’ve come to tolerate feeling vulnerable; feeling my feelings, mindfully deciding what those feelings are telling me, and then I make a plan for what I want to do next.

I find it useful to think of it this way. Feelings are just information I can use to create the life I say I want. It took me some time, and skill building, and practice to get there, but today I trust that I can handle any feelings that come my way…

What’s the alternative… contining old patterns; still using food to cope? The habit of stuffing feelings down with food just delayed the work I needed to do to live a more peaceful, productive, happy life…

How about you? Are you still using food to cope? Please share a comment–tell us about your experience. What do you think makes tolerating feelings rather than using food so hard? What gets in your way of change?

(BIG topic to cover in a blog post! If you’d like to learn more about emotional regulation skills, be sure to join me for my free phone seminar about overcoming emotional and binge eating.)

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I’m Ellen Shuman, a Coach who has been helping people overcome emotional eating, compulsive eating, binge eating disorder, and food addiction for more than 20 years. I started A Weigh Out & Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). I’m also Past President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011/2012). I’ve been there, done that. If I can be of assistance to you, please get in touch, ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242.

Feeling Empty? Halloween Humor

Eating on Halloween

How My Emotional Eating Started

How my emotional eatiing started

Ellen Shuman-Age 4

My very earliest memories are of food; stealing food from the bread & cookie drawer in our kitchen on Flower Rd.

At first, it happened mostly on Saturday and Sunday mornings. My brother and I would be watching cartoons in the den. My very unhappily married parents were still asleep, so the house was calm and quiet. But with every nerve in my body I must have known that would change…as soon as they woke up.

So, I’d go back and forth between the den and the kitchen, stealing Wonder Bread and chocolate chip cookies, each time rearranging the food in the packages, hoping to minimize evidence of how much food I had taken.

I was four years old. That’s when my emotional eating began…but we didn’t know it was emotional or compulsive eating way back then. Instead, all the focus was on what I weighed. “What a shame. She has such a pretty face”, I often overheard my mother and grandparents say as they discussed my “weight problem”.

I remember the very public weigh-ins in elementary school, in the nurse’s office. The whole class was lined up against the wall as the nurse called out the weight of each person who took their forced turn on the scale. My teacher would record that awful, shaming number on her clipboard. My weight was always the highest weight in my class.

When I was eight, my mother convinced our pediatrician to give me diet pills. Dexadrine, which was Dextroamphetamine, speed, commonly prescribed as a weight loss aid in the 1960s until the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classified dextroamphetamine as an addictive substance. (I have many clients who report the same experience with their mothers and pediatricians and diet pills in the 1960s.)

In elementary school, my older brother regularly and very publicly called me “Tubs”. By high school, he had all of his friends calling me “Ray”, after linebacker, Ray Nitschke, on the Green Bay Packers. They thought that was hilarious. To me, a teenager who loathed her body and desperately wanted to fit in, and kept trying and failing to lose weight, it felt cruel. That bullying drove me to more overeating.

Funny, when I look back at my childhood pictures, I’m always surprised that I was not really that large. Not that how fat I really was at that time matters, but I do see it as evidence of how distorted the all consuming focus on my weight really was. (Today, I know that my mother’s anxiety about her own weight, and her own shame and pain over having been a fat child and teenager, drove her obsession with my weight. She feared I would experience the same feelings of shame she felt about her body. She thought she could prevent it by insisting on weight loss. It was so misguided, but not at all uncommon, then or now. Unfortunately, even today, when it comes to chubby children, we still see this weight focus play out with seemingly well-meaning adults, even medical professionals, and pubic health educators.)

Because all the focus was on my weight and what I should and shouldn’t be eating, it was decades before I understand the truth about why I overate; how and why emotional eating became my strategy for all emotional regulation.

My focus on food was all about disconnecting, avoiding, procrastinating, numbing-out, or just taking the edge off something that had me emotionally stirred up. Thinking about food, and what I could get to eat, brought temporary relief from thoughts and feelings I found uncomfortable and sometimes intolerable. I used “food thoughts”, and my focused plans to sneak or get food, as a distraction from other things. Once I got my hands on the food, I could go “unconscious”; eat mindlessly so I could avoid being mindful. My food focus was a distraction from my family, my hyper sensitivity, often, from my life in general. Then, at some point in time,  it just became a habit; a way of functioning; coping with everyday life…

Can you relate? If you’re still struggling, are you aware of why you are food-focused or do you still believe it’s all about what you weigh? If open to sharing your experiences with emotional eating, please comment below…

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If you’re struggling with emotional eating, please know you are not alone. If you’d like to learn more about ways to overcome compulsive overeating, including the role anxiety and depression may play in emotional and binge eating disorder, please join me for my Free 1 Hr. Phone Seminar. Click here for my next seminar dates. You can also contact me, Emotional-Binge Eating Recovery Coach Ellen Shuman, @ ellen@aweighout.com, and 513-321-4242.

Four Food Groups Revisited

 

Remember when you were a kid, you learned about the four food groups. Oh, if only it were still that simple!
Food Groups

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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.

Emotional Eating and Insecurities

Emotional Eating with Chocolate CakeAt a family get together, a business meeting, or at any gathering that includes other people, have you found yourself using food to manage insecurities?

I often tell people who are struggling with emotional eating that emotional eating has very little to do with food. “How can that be?”, they ask, skeptically.

Think about it. Focusing on food helps us distract us from uncomfortable feelings; anger, loneliness, boredom, and/or any insecurity.

Shifting to “mindless eating”(consciously or unconsciously) effectively prevents us from being “mindful” in that moment in life. Mindless eating blocks our ability to observe our feelings and behaviors…and therefore prevents us from using that information, non-judgmentally, to change long standing, self-sabotaging, self-defeating and painful behaviors that are out of line with the life we want to live.

The following experience, shared with the permission of the client who lived it, is a great example of  what can happen for the better when we become our own “observer”, see old patterns, and choose to respond differently.

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“I was away at a conference for two days last week, which gave me a bit of perspective and time to mull things over. Most of my peers in our school division were at this conference.

At one point, just sitting in a session, I noticed that I had started feeling very uncool and like I “needed” validation from some of my peers to feel okay. I recognized that I have felt this way before, but it startled me, because I haven’t see it so clearly. I recognized it as a pattern, and could see how I was interpreting the behavior of others as validating or diminishing me.

I saw that this causes me a lot of trouble, because it leads me to feeling helpless, a victim, and also it keeps me passive. Rather than reaching out and connecting with others, this leads me to almost expect to not connect, and therefore to feel and be isolated.

So I sat with that for a bit, and then I deliberately started connecting with people around me – taking the first steps. It felt very good. Later, at a supper with my school division colleagues, I purposely focused on staying grounded and authentic within myself, rather than being what often feels like “fake me” who is unsure, worried they won’t like me, and tries to impress (!! How old am I again??) and ends up feeling very un-authentic. So I really was connecting much more authentically.

We had the best time! These events can be a bit awkward, but we had so much genuine fun at our table. I was so glad I was really there! :-)”

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YES!  This is what recovery from emotional insecurity and from emotional eating can look like…did you notice that food was not even mentioned as an issue at that table…because she was “there”; fully present, fully engaged and choosing how she wished to show up in the world—mindfully. When living mindfully, the need for mindless eating just goes away. Nice work!

(Need help to stop emotional eating? Check out my FREE Telephone Seminar, “5 Essential Steps to Stop Emotional Eating”. )

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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.

Weight and Health Risks Get All Mixed Up!

Weight Stigma Awareness WeekWe’re approaching the Binge Eating Disorder Association’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week 2014 (Sept. 22-26th), Again, this year, I’m honored to be a Featured Blogger. To get the conversation started early, here’s my WSAW post from last year. It’s about weight and health risks getting all mixed up.

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Ever notice that weight loss is celebrated, even when the way it was achieved was clearly unhealthy?

On the TV show “Extreme Weight Loss” a young woman is encouraged to lose 100+ lbs. in three months. At weigh-in , she’s down 108 lbs. In Phase Two, the next three months, she’s told to lose another 60 lbs. But her insanely rapid weight loss has begun to slow. She gets sick. She tells the camera she’s afraid she can’t lose 60 more pounds in time for her next public weigh in, as ordered by her trainer. Now, feeling desperate, she is eating more than she has been told to eat and has started to purge. We hear her vomiting off camera…

My 82 year old mother recently experienced a significant weight loss; the result of an undiagnosed adverse reaction to a medication. After eating almost nothing for a month, my Mom is malnourished, weak, and has muscle deterioration. She can barely stand. Still, my cousin says, “Well, at least the weight loss is a good thing.” He wasn’t kidding. I also wonder if the staff at her nursing home would have sounded the alarm sooner if Mom had been in a smaller body, rather than her size 18.

Weight stigma is harmful for people of all weights, shapes, and sizes.

A client of mine, a middle-aged woman and avid jogger, tells me she is above a “healthy weight” by 15 pounds. “Currently, do you have any health problems?” I ask. She answers, “No, not yet”. I’m curious, “Who says that 15lbs. puts your health at risk?” Her response, “Everyone knows that being fat is bad for you”. She happens to be a physician.

I wish she were alone in her weight bias, but she’s certainly not…

In 2013, the American Medical Association labeled obesity “a disease”. How can that be when we now know that overweight and obesity, alone, are poor predictors of an individual’s health? In recent years, several large studies, including those from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, have shown that physically fit obese people actually have a lower incidence of heart disease and death, from all causes, than do sedentary people of “normal” weight. So, where’s the proof that weight, alone, causes disease and/or death?

Upon seeing these new emerging studies, some in the medical field scratch their heads and call this “The Obesity Paradox”. Really? What’s up with ignoring that facts; that there are a lot of fat and healthy folks out there? What makes it so hard to believe that a person can be fat, fit, and healthy? Is this just more weight bias or, hmm, could there be some economic motives at play here…like selling more pharmaceuticals and filling surgical suites?

As a coach who works by telephone, I find myself in a unique position. I never see a client’s body nor do I know what he or she happens to weigh (unless it’s brought up by them in conversation). Still, whether a size 4 or 4x, I hear the same pain, judgments, fear of being large (or larger) and therefore destined to be “unlovable” and/or “unhealthy”. Many of my clients struggle with their own personal bias; favoring thinness…while hating and blaming their non-conforming body for society’s stigmatizing and rude behavior.

I learned a long time ago that weight bias cannot be weighed on a bathroom scale. Regardless of weight, shape or size, we’re all vulnerable.

So, based on more than twenty years in the health and wellness field, here’s what I know about weight and health, and what emerging research is beginning to support. If your goal is to be as healthy as possible, and your focus is on weight, the emphasis is on the wrong syllable. When interventions are focused on weight loss, rather than on improving overall health; emotional, physical, nutritional and spiritual health, people end up feeling like they’ve failed, again, and again, and again.

We all know that diets don’t work for most. And exercise motivated by desperation to burn calories rarely continues because when people don’t lose weight as quickly as contestants on shows like “Extreme Weight Loss” and “Biggest Loser”, they feel like real losers, get disheartened, and they stop doing anything at all to get healthy.

If labeling obesity as a “disease” could lead to the types of interventions and services I see improving health in my clients, I’d be willing to bite my tongue and go with it. I’d love to see research and funding for programs that encourage mindfulness practices, self-care instead of self-loathing; hands on support to be more physically active, increased access to healthier whole food choices spaced throughout the day, better sleep habits, and the development of critically important emotional regulation skills that reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and emotional and binge eating. That could be health-promoting for people of all weights, shapes, and sizes…and varying degrees of health!

In my experience, whatever a person happens to weigh on any given day, when provided with specific, effective tools that empower them to take better care of their physical, emotional, nutritional, and spiritual health, health is more likely to improve. And, as a side note, when the emphasis shifts away from weight and toward healthy practices, a body has its best shot at finding its own natural weight, whatever that happens to be; one healthy step at a time, without dieting, diet pills, surgery, or TV shows that potentially trigger eating disorders and perpetuate weight stigma…

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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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