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Life After Emotional & Binge Eating

An Emotional Eater Heads “Toward the Shore”

Being an Emotional Eater Can be shamingBeing an emotional eater can be an isolating, lonely, shameful experience. We feel adrift. We feel we’re doing something terribly wrong and no one else could possible understand. So, our “out of control” eating behavior must be hidden from others…sometimes even from ourselves.

Over the years, as the problem seemingly takes on a life of its own, it’s more than just our eating we hide. We hide who we are; our wants and needs, our dreams, our talents and gifts…

That was the case with one of my coaching clients, Marilyn McIntosh, a gifted poet. Professionally, she was helping others achieve their writing dreams, but she was not sharing her own words with the world.

Until now…

It is my great honor to share Marilyn’s beautiful poem, “Toward the Shore”, along with her reasons for writing and sharing it openly with us…

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Hi Ellen,

As much as I have hidden being an emotional eater from the world, I have hidden my love of poetry and writing, as well…

What I have discovered in the few short weeks we have been working together is that there is freedom in becoming visible. And so, in a moment of feeling present with that gift, words emerged and marked the page with my gratitude.

You asked if you could share the poem and I would be honoured for you to do so. I often wondered what it would take for me to come out of the poet closet. Sharing with other emotional eaters who are also making their way to shore seems like the right time.

With gratitude,

Marilyn McIntosh

 

Toward the Shore

I woke with the me I have always been

The me I don’t recognize much as I age

And yet in that waking there was an awareness of another me – distant, dream filled

Food and emotions have long wrapped me in a tidal motion of desire and regret, desire and regret.

Lights on, lights off, desire and regret.

Til

In this drowning I glimpsed the outline of a life preserver – close enough to grasp

Along with the current, arms wrapped securely around this doughnut shaped saviour

I follow the guidance of a voice

Through the pull back

Slowly

Securely

Toward the shore

This voice, this human voice beckons me forward

A voice who has lived the drowning.

A voice who chooses to stand to sight others home.

Slowly

Securely

Toward the shore

I follow the guidance of a voice.

 

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I’m Ellen Shuman and I LOVE what I get to do with and for people who struggle with emotional and binge eating! I am the founder of A Weigh Out Life Coaching & Members’ Circle, Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present), 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”. Have a recovery question? Contact me, ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242.

My Binge Eating Recovery is NOT Perfect

Prevent binge eating by walkingAfter years of being trapped in the “I’m either dieting or I’m bingeing” cycle, I think this shift was one of the hardest shifts for me to make; recovery is NOT a black or white, perfect thing. And it’s not always a walk in the park!

My binge eating recovery is full of ups and downs and course corrections. And, today, I am grateful for every single lesson my imperfect recovery brings. Most importantly, I am no longer afraid of food or my relationship with it. That fear has been replaced with relief; a sense of trust. I trust that when I choose to live mindfully, using my new skills to connect with all of my thoughts and feelings, the need to go mindless with mindless eating just stops.

Today, I get to be in charge. Food is no longer the boss of me!

Getting mindful and eating mindfully vs using food to go numb, whenever I didn’t wish to tolerate the moments of my life (feel my feelings, connect with uncomfortable thoughts, move forward with difficult or boring tasks), was a monumental shift for me! It included giving up the fantasy of a perfect recovery or finding THE diet that would finally FIX me, with no slips backwards.

I found that progress, recovery from compulsive and emotional eating, is more usefully measured using these three markers (Members’ Empowerment Tool #10; Redefining Recovery):

1. My emotional eating episodes are beginning to get farther and farther apart and are fewer in number.

2. The quantity and the quality of food eaten when I turn to food emotionally is improving.

3. After an emotional or binge episode, my recovery time back to mindfulness, emotional regulation, and healthy eating is happening sooner and sooner.

When it come to binge eating recovery, progress is most often incremental and progress is progress. So please be gentler with yourself. Give yourself credit where credit is due, rather than beat yourself up for the choices you sometimes make to self-soothe with food. That begets more recovery…I promise! And it is such a relief!

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I’m Ellen Shuman and I am proud to say I work mindfully on my recovery and it’s worth it! 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. I am the founder of A Weigh Out  Life Coaching & Members’ Circle and Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). I’m also 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”. Have a question about recovery? Call me or email, ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242.

Is Food Your Friend and Only Support System?

best friend food

It happens…but it is not your destiny! Your relationship wth food… and with you,.. and with others…can absolutely change for the better. You can find more effective ways to self-soothe. I promise. Please join me for one hour on the phone-Emotional Eating Recovery, and I’ll show you how.

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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.

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 Olympic Competitor Overweight, Therefore a Loser? Really?

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 her 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 her content was 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.

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