Weigh This Instead!

Life After Emotional & Binge Eating

I Love My Body; One Woman’s Spiritual Journey to Acceptance

People ask me what recovery looks like. Here’s an example; the experience of the courageous Audrey MacKnight, in her own words…

Love Your Body, Walk the Camino

Audrey on The Camino

On Jan 1, 2014, I made a New Year’s decision (after a serious night of celebration!) to join a friend of mine on a pilgrimage in Spain on the Camino de Santiago. After seeing the movie “The Way” I was very inspired. I asked my husband if he thought I would be able to make such a journey. I am a 51 year old woman who had never pack-backed or hiked anywhere and who, in the past, would have been much more likely to make a New Year’s Resolution about losing 60 pounds!

Being his usual supporting, loving self he said, “You have 6 months to prepare… of course you can do it!” So I decided that if I was able to get on the same flight as the six other people planning to make the trek, then that would be a sign from God that I should go. I got a reservation on that flight. Gulp!

I ordered books about preparing for the Camino, consulted hiking experts, began buying necessary equipment; a backpack, boots, sleeping bag, etc., and started seeing how far I could walk. Initially, I started off with 2-3 mile journeys; building up to over 10 mile walks on the weekends.

I was about to participate in what I hoped would be one of the most spiritual experiences of my 51 years, but as the time grew closer, I became hyper focused on “weight”. All of the books I was reading stressed limiting the weight you had to carry – in your pack and on your body. I had lost about 15 pounds, just following the training routine and eating healthfully, but I became obsessed that I wasn’t taking weight off fast enough. It seemed the more I worried, the more my weight stayed the same or crept up. I guess that is the law of attraction at work. You attract what you think about most; good or bad.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, I just had this broken record in my head that said, ” I’m too fat to make this hike in Spain…it’s crazy, people will laugh at me…” I’d wake up every morning in fear that I would not be able to keep up with the group. Would they be annoyed with me for slowing them down or would they leave me behind? Would I be humiliated; would they look at me and think this doughy middle-aged woman has no business making such a journey? My anxiety got so high, I seriously considered cancelling my trip. I didn’t want to face the possibility of ridicule or failure. But I didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity of a lifetime because of fear either…

Four days before my departure I decided to reach out to Ellen Shuman. She had always been a trusted advisor and coach. I knew if anyone could talk me down from the emotional ledge I was perched on, it would be Ellen. I was so very glad she was able to find some time in her schedule to talk to me.

Initially, our phone call began with me trying to tell her all about my doubts and fears. Just a few minutes in she asked if I had some extra time that morning, and if so would I be willing to try something new; a self- hypnosis technique? I immediately agreed. It turned out to be so very fantastic!

She asked me to identify how I was feeling…and then how I wanted to see myself on this trip, instead. We agreed that what I wanted was absolutely possible. Ellen then asked me to come up with an image that represented how I wanted to be on the walk. I visualized myself as a brook, bubbling and flowing over rocks and over any obstacle that presented itself; calmly and happily progressing on my journey. Instead of focusing on my worries, I thought of myself as prepared, capable and ready for this trip. I could vividly imagine what being in that Cathedral at the Pilgrim’s mass at the end of The Camino would be like.

Then she asked me to come up with a memory from my past; a time when I felt judged and ridiculed for being fat. I was surprised that a memory came up immediately. It was soon after I was married, on a trip with other couples. I recalled that I thought the other wives looked like “beauty queens”; much thinner than I. I felt shame when we had to give our weight to the guys renting us the jet skis. I weighed the most. Oddly, at the time I was a perfect size 8.

Ellen walked me through that memory in a way that, by the end, I couldn’t even remember why that incident had any negative emotion for me, whatsoever. I just remembered all the fun I had on the jet skis with those women. LOL, no one wanted me to get off the jet sky because I was “too fat”. In fact, the woman I was with on my jet ski, when offered the chance to change partners, said “no”. She was having too much fun with me to switch. But, I had previously remembered that day only with a great deal of shame, around my weight, and it was driving my anxiety about this upcoming trip, without me even knowing it.

Ellen explained to me that it was as if I had an old program open and running in my brain. It was effecting how my brain was working in prep for this new trip, even though I was not even aware that that old program and others like it were open and impacting me today. We closed that program, just like you can close an open program on a computer that’s having memory issues! It was so amazing!

While I was actually making the hike on the Camino, my weight was the furthest thing from my mind. I smiled as the initial part of my walk took me past an actual bubbling brook and the positive images and words Ellen and I created to represent this trip repeating in my brain.

The trip turned out to be more of EVERYTHING I could have imagined. More difficult, more wonderful, more solitary, and more grueling. I hiked 128.9 kilometers (80 miles) of the 133.6 Kilometer journey in the first 5 days, carrying a 19 pound pack. WHEW! The longest day was 32 Kilometers/19.2 miles with temperatures reaching 102 degrees! The final 5.5 hours of that day was UP a mountain side! I thought I would need a portable defibrillator!

I did pretty well physically though. I got some blisters, but they didn’t keep me from finishing. The steep up hills and down hills are tough on the knees; so I was VERY proud to have made it, unscathed!

Arriving in Santiago de Compostela was one of the most moving experiences of my adult life. The cathedral there is one of the most sacred places for Christians (next to the Vatican and Jerusalem). I was moved to tears just being there. (I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t stop crying for 30 minutes.)

99.9% of the people I met along the way were AWESOME; the food was great, the accommodations were much better than I’d imagined (I was lucky to go with someone who’d made the journey before). Never has a vacation left me so depleted of negativity, spiritually energized and renewed–and grateful to be alive! I gained a different sort of perspective on the world and my place in it. I let go of all the trivial things that used to get me emotionally fired up and I pray I am able to continue to see the best in people and circumstances around me and in myself.

Ellen had always told me that healthy bodies come in all sizes and shapes. I now really deeply understand what she meant. I love my body; all size 16/18 of it! I thank God for my strong legs, healthy body, and fabulous curves. I saw lots of seemingly fit and thin people of all ages who were not able to finish the journey due to severe blisters on their feet, knee problems, sunburns, even broken bones from a fall. Carrying a bit more weight did not keep me from my destination, my journey; nor was it even important.

When I got back home, on the way to work, I turned on the radio in my car. The first conversation I heard was about what to eat for breakfast to be thin. It seemed so silly to me, I had to immediately turn it off.

Today, I fuel my body healthfully, work hard, and enjoy every moment of the day. I can’t stop smiling. When I talk about the trip to my family and friends, I am still moved to tears. I will never loathe my body or wish I were skinny, again, or step on a scale to help me assess my worth. Oddly, my clothes are fitting better every day. There’s that law of attraction again.

I encourage anyone who might read this to honestly love yourself and don’t postpone your life’s activities until the scale reads the magic number you’ve been longing for. I worked hard to get here (Ellen will tell you that’s so), but the destination is so worth the journey. I am so very grateful to Ellen Shuman for her wise counsel, innovative thinking, and ability to cut through the muck. Her use of this self-hypnosis technique with me was precisely what I needed to clear the old memory out, along with the entrenched and false emotions tied to it. I made room for some fabulous new ones!

 

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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.

Class Reunion Insanity

class reunion -hold pepperoni

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.

Food Commercials Alert?

Food Commercials

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…

 

Gluten Free Menu

Gluten Free Healthy Eating

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.

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