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Life After Emotional & Binge Eating

My Best Friend Has Cancer

Ellen and Mary Beth

The only person in the world who has ever loved me unconditionally is Mary Beth Zolik. We have been best friends since we were in our early twenties. She was just diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I can’t, won’t consider life without her.

We met when we were rookie reporters in Charlotte, North Carolina. To this day, we giggle when we recall what drew us together.

We were both covering a school board meeting for our respective stations. I was in TV News. She was in radio (still is). We were sitting on opposite sides of a room separated by a single aisle. Another reporter had just collected her microphone from the front of the room. As this woman walked down the aisle and got closer to where we were sitting, on opposite sides of the room, Mary Beth and I couldn’t take our eyes off this woman’s legs, covered in white opaque tights… and black leg hair–lots of long black leg hair…all sticking out of her white tights. She was a TV reporter, so we found it sort of shocking. When this woman passed where we were sitting, Mary Beth’s and my eyes met across the aisle. We instantly knew what the other was thinking…and we laughed. That was it!

The moment the meeting was over we introduced ourselves and became best friends forever. Just like that…inseparable for the one year we both worked in Charlotte …and ever since…easily and intricately in each other’s lives, no matter where in the country our respective careers took us.

Since we were 23, we’ve planned to retire to the same city…we’ve always imagined ourselves like “The Golden Girls”, carrying pocket books with shells glued to them and painting our lips past the boundaries.

Even our parents, hers in Detroit and mine in Boston, became loving friends. Before she married Terry Smith and had kids; Tara, Derek, and Cullin (my Godson), we traveled the world together; China, Africa, Europe. We’ve joked that we must have been the Bronte sisters in another life. We have the ability to know what the other is thinking and to finish each other’s sentences. We have purchased the same bedspread and the same Andrew Wyeth print for our homes, without knowing it. Eerie! On a Switzerland trip, we both secretly carried the soundtrack to ‘The Sound of Music”. The moment we crossed into the Alps, we each pulled the audiotape out of our purses… laughed until we had tears streaming down our faces.

We have never had a cross word….never been disappointed in each either…although there was that one time in Switzerland when she accidentally knocked the side mirror off our rental car in a hotel garage, and I said, “Oh, Mary Beth! ” 

The chemo has started. She has a tough fight ahead of her…but her attitude is amazing… laughter always present.  Here’s what she wrote to me when she received a care package I sent with fake hair…which goes under a hat so it looks like you still have hair. (Who knew?)

” The one set of bangs seem to be just right.  Brown with golden highlights.  And the hats are adorable.  Especially the baseball caps…they fit like a charm, really cover my head.  All this stuff came with hairnets…so the rest of the family was playing “lunch lady” while I was working on my new look.  Pants wetting time!  We will perform again when you come!”

I will be there through every step…as she would be for me. That’s the gift of unconditional love.

If so inclined, please keep my friend Mary Beth in your prayers…

Seasonal Depression

Halloween is Over

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Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in empowering people who are working on emotional and binge eating recovery. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Founder of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com

On Marriage; Out of the Mouths of Babes

A friend just sent me this link to a cute blog post—kids talking about how you decide who to marry.

Here’s my favorite…

No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with.
~ Kristen, age 10

Read all the kids comments at The Daily News Dig .

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Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in empowering people who are working on emotional and binge eating recovery. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com

My “Maggeroni’s” Last Gift

Maggie at her Favorite Dog Park

I was recently reminded of an emotional truth. I like to think of it as my dog Maggie’s final gift to me.

I lost Maggie recently. By “lost” I mean I ended her life.  I can honesty say it was the most difficult thing I have even deliberately done.

“Maggeroni” was amazing, nearly fifteen year’s old; way older than the oldest age shown on the dog years-to-human years conversion chart at her Vet’s office. According to that chart, big dogs don’t get to be Maggie’s age. So in recent years I made it a point to be grateful for every single day she was still with me. I kissed her more often and actually told her how grateful I was that she was my dog. She just loved me back and let me bury my face in that soft thick ring of fur around her neck.

I prayed that when her time came, she would just naturally slip away. But that was not to be.

I first met Maggie on New Year’s Eve day, 1997, in the “green room” of a morning TV talk show . She was nine weeks old and looked like a chubby white bear cub. I had been invited on the show to talk about emotional eating. She was there to be adopted. I commented on how cute she was and before I could blink, the “adopt-a-pet” lady had Maggie on my lap. And that was that. By nightfall, we were family.

She was scary smart; one of those dogs who knew most of her toys by name. People said they had never seen a dog with such an expressive face. We always knew what she was feeling. And she was fiercely protective of me.

She came to work with me every day when I ran my binge eating disorder treatment center. When I moved to my home office six years ago, she spent every day by my side, often right next to my desk chair.  She was a wonderful companion. After me, the dog park was what she adored most!  See that smile?

People said, “You’ll know when it’s time. Your dog will let you know.” But Maggie did not tell me anything of the sort. This past year her head and heart were still fine. But her hips and legs were failing her. We had delayed the inevitable through a year and a half of holistic care; acupuncture, supplements, and anti-inflammatory meds. But those treatments were no longer working. The quality of her life had diminished, significantly and consistently. She had lost twenty five pounds since the end of 2011, but she still seemed to love being here. Her final week she was not eating (except treats, of course, which were never turned down), and she was having a tough time getting outside. Both her regular and holistic vets said it was time. 

After much soul searching and many tears, reluctantly, I made a plan. I decided she would pass away in her own bed, in her favorite spot, in our home, after eating a whole bowl of her favorite treats.

But moments after she was euthanized, I felt this overwhelming sense of guilt; like I had somehow betrayed her. She did not go peacefully, as I was told she would.

A week later, I was still having trouble shaking the feelings. Determined not to turn to emotional eating to manage my emotional pain, I got some help. I knew I needed to talk this through.

My Vet had mentioned a Pet Hospice program in my city called Angel Paws. I went to the website and learned that coaching was offered to help people deal with the loss of a beloved pet. I scheduled a phone session.

After getting some background, the coach asked me to identify the actual thoughts that were driving my feelings of guilt and betrayal. My mind immediately went to a conversation I’d had with my next door neighbor the day before Maggie’s last day. When I told my neighbor of my plan and asked if she wanted to say goodbye to Maggie, she got very upset with me, challenged my decision, told me it was not Maggie’s time to go. She said she could not talk to me about this, went inside and slammed her door.

That conversation kept playing over and over again in my head.

Then the coach asked me to recall the thoughts I had had that lead me to decide it was time to help Maggie go. I easily recounted the consults I’d had with Maggie’s long term Vet and the holistic Vet who had been treating her with acupuncture. They had both seen Maggie within days of my decision. I also recalled the third opinion I’d gotten from the mobile Vet who came to our home on Maggie’s final day. As the hospice coach pointed out, in the days after Maggie’s death I had been choosing only to focus on the conversation with my opinionated neighbor, not on the conversations with the dog experts who actually knew Maggie’s health status and gave me educated, humane recommendations.

In my grief, I’d forgotten that I get to choose my thoughts.  I was too sad to remember what I already knew; that my thoughts drive my feelings.  I, and I alone, give my thoughts power. When I chose only to replay the conversation with the neighbor, I was driving my guilt. I was not thinking about or remembering the reasons that lead me to humanely and compassionately end Maggie’s suffering. I did it because I loved her with all my heart!  

My guilt lifted. I did not betray my Maggeroni. I loved her! I loved her enough to do what I needed to do, even though it was the most difficult thing I had ever done.

I still occasionally feel that guilt come back. When it does, I consciously choose to shift my thoughts. I remember how much I loved her and how I wanted her to be free.

Rest in peace my dear Maggeroni…thank you for being my best friend for fifteen years…I will love you forever…

 

“His ears were often the first thing to catch my tears.”                                                                ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning, referring to ‘Flush’ her Cocker Spaniel

“I guess you don’t really own a dog, you rent them, and you have to be thankful that you had a long lease.”  ~Joe Garagiola

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Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in empowering people who are working on emotional and binge eating recovery. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com

Summer Surprises

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.
~Henry Miller

I was mindlessly putting my usual bananas and tomatoes in a basket at the food co-op when, just beyond the broccoli, I saw it. A blazing orange pepper—bright and perky, glowing with energy. I could not look away.

This perky pepper was making me smile!

And then I realized that the sight of this delightful vegetable was just another one of the “coming to my senses” summer surprises that I have been experiencing recently. Since early June, I have been surprised by my cravings for the colors, tastes, smells, and textures of certain foods. Especially vine-ripened tomatoes, black beans, Arborio rice, scallions, and avocado with tart plain yogurt; blueberries and strawberries; plus seriously crunchy lettuce and an Italian dressing that I am still in search of. (At this point, with four different kinds in my refrigerator, I may need to consult with the Diet Survivor Sisters to help me “make a match” to pin that dressing down!)

And I know, as the seasons change, I can expect more sensory surprises. Some will be pleasant, like the sight of plump pumpkins and brightly colored leaves. Others will be unpleasant, like the feel of temperatures below freezing and slushy, melting snow.

Opening to what each season’s moments offer, pleasant and unpleasant, we are fed and strengthened. Seeing, tasting, smiling, savoring—we wake up to the moments of our lives.

Have you had some “coming to your senses” surprises this summer?

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Nutrition therapists Amy Tuttle, RD, LCSW and Karin Kratina, RD, PhD provide no-diet articles and resources including “Stay Attuned: The E-zine for Nourishing Connections” at their Nourishing Connections website. www.nourishingconnections.com

Is There a Formula for Happiness?

Emma Shuman, Age 6

My dog Emma’s silliness, hanging out with my BFF, when a client has a break through, walking around my clean house right after my cleaning people leave…these things make me happy.

What makes you happy? If you’re happy, that’s wonderful! Good for you! You deserve it!

If you’re not happy, why is that? What are you doing differently from people who are happy?  What are you waiting for? You deserve to be happy, too. I know that, without question!

I just opened my Oprah Newsletter and read an article all about Happiness. I’m happy I read it. So happy, I want to share it. Read the whole article here, 5 Things Happy People Do.  If this link does not work, go to Oprah.com and in the Search Box type in, 5 Things Happy People Do. (Btw, technical glitches mess with my happiness 🙂 )

Create a HAPPY DAY!

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Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in empowering people who are working on emotional and binge eating recovery. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com

“Just Go Around!”

When I was visiting my Mom in her nursing home last week, I heard an older woman’s angry voice in the hallway say, “Stop pushing me”. From the arm chair where I was sitting in the corner of my Mom’s room, I glanced toward the hall, but there was no one in sight.

A minute or so passed. Then, I heard the voice again. “Stop pushing me”. A minute later, again, “Stop pushing me!”. This time, one wheelchair came into view, along the left side wall of the hallway.  The woman in the chair just sat there. She did not have her hands on the wheels, but then I saw her chair lurch forward, just a few inches. The woman said, louder this time, “STOP PUSHING ME!”

That’s when I saw the second wheelchair come into view immediately behind the first. For several minutes, I watched with amazement as the woman in the back wheelchair very deliberately and painstakingly, time after time, got close enough to maneuver her foot onto a metal bar under the first woman’s wheelchair and pushed her chair forward a few inches.

“STOP PUSHING ME! JUST GO AROUND!”

“You’re holding up the whole line. I can’t be here all day!”, said the pusher.

“I am? Who says?”, said the angry woman being pushed.

I had to laugh. There was no line; just two old women in their back-to-back wheelchairs in a 20 foot wide hallway. There was no one else in sight.

Not sure this was any of my business, I approached a nurse at the nursing station down the hall. She poked her head around the corner, saw who was involved, smiled and said, “Oh, yes, Ruth, the woman in the second wheelchair, doesn’t like to go around anyone. She’d rather push someone all the way down the hall than simply create a clear path for herself.”

Over the years, how many times could the same have been said about me? And I don’t have dementia…

How about you…ever chosen to stay on a blocked path, or pushed someone else, rather than create a clear path for yourself?

 

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Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in empowering people who are working on emotional and binge eating recovery. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com

Take Five and Thrive

I relocated my professional home this year and with this move I joined a new group of colleagues and friends.  I cherish the times when we come together as a group and share matters related to our work, space, plans and concerns. I especially like the ritual of beginning each meeting with a centering practice. As a group we share a few minutes, not more than five really, of silence. From this practice I have made some very significant discoveries.

I value the sense of connection that this practice fosters with my colleagues.  These connections are not processed verbally as much as experienced as a felt sense that I notice each and every time we come together. Creating this space brings me more fully into a presence for the meeting.  I notice a clearing of energy in the room as well as inside of me.  I love what feels like a “community exhale” just before we begin “talking the meeting.”

During our most recent meeting I noticed unexpected strong feelings and sensations emerge in my body.  As is usual, I rushed to this meeting from a busy space, both internally and externally. The silence and stillness brought an awareness of an internal emotional space that surprised me and really needed to be brought to my consciousness. 

I began to wonder what would happen if I took a few minutes of silence and stillness at other times during my day.  I began to experiment to “take five”, so to speak, throughout my day.  I realized that these breaks from the business (busy-ness) of work and life create a mini-vacation of sorts; opportunities to observe what I am truly feeling and what I need to do to take better care of myself emotionally, physically and spiritually.

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Robin Okun, LMSW, is a coach, therapist, speaker and Founder of Mindful Movement, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more about Robin at http://www.robinokun.com

“No Weak Pelvises”; The Adventures of a Brave New Belly Dancer

Lakisha, one of our Circle Members, just posted this in the A Weigh Out Forum and I can’t stop smiling. With her permission, I’m sharing it with you. I hope you enjoy it…and find it inspiring! 

Ellen

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I’ve lost my mind…

That’s what I’ve been told, ever since I told a friend that I want to learn to belly dance.  I’ve always wanted to.  I love the style of dance.  First off, it is uber sexy.  I love that there is rhythm and it’s almost like hula where you are telling a story with your movements.  I like the silky costumes, the jingly hip belts and the fantastic accessories, from scarves to jewelry and even swords!  It’s all about movement.

That’s the problem, I’ve always told myself.  Not now.  Don’t take classes now.  Don’t dance like this now.  Wait until people actually won’t mind seeing your belly!  Wait until you are prettier etc etc etc….

Seriously.

I’m not sure I’ll ever reach that conclusion.  At the moment, I’m kinda stuck.  I just want to eat and eat and eat.  And I’m not sure why.  I’m going over my tools again.  And the only thing I can think of is stress and worry.  There’s so much out of my control right now with finances and school.  And then there is the disappointment that I’m still fat.  I’m still waiting for it all to kick in.  But then I examine what I am doing and I realize I’m still not nourishing my body or caring for myself well.

So, in therapy this week, we’ve been tackling this urge that I have to…well…do nothing…to stay where I am, though I am miserable…to feel all this motivation to jump up and do something, then fail to launch. 

So that’s why I’m not going to deny myself something that I crave doing.  I wonder how much of my weight is on me because I didn’t allow myself to go and do something and feel beautiful and successful?

So here I go…belly dancing 101 later today!  After all, it’s free for students!
 
After Class # 1

Okay, so…

At this point, every muscle in my body feels the hip thing we did in class.  And, I felt silly and unflattering to say the least.  But I realized that every person in that class probably felt the same way.  I want to keep going with this.  I want for it to transfer to a life long hobby.  I want to be one of those 80 year old grannies still moving her body like this, lovely and lively. 

Right now, all I can hear is my instructor’s voice:  “Kisha, tuck your pelvis.  In this class, I don’t want to see any weak pelvises.  No weak pelvises, got it?”

All I could think, okay…no weak pelvis…I CAN do this!

What I have learned so far from this experience is that there are so many things I don’t know if I can do or not.  I used to think “I can’t dance.  I’m bad at dancing.  I have the rhythm of a snail!  I have two left fee, and one of them’s broken.” 

Thing is, I had never really tried.  That translates into so many things.  This is a running theme in my life, a life where the inactivity of my body has really only been a mirror of the inactivity of my soul.  It’s the worst self – bondage. I don’t live, because I don’t let myself live.  For whatever reason, I don’t let myself feel worthy enough, talented enough, or beautiful enough.  (Or smart enough…etc).  I don’t have to be the best at all things I do, I just have to do my best at all things.   

Time to tip the scales in my life, not my weight.

Kisha Smith
Belly Dancer

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Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in empowering people who are working on emotional and binge eating recovery. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com

For Everyone Who Has Had or Been a Mom

(This post was written and shared by one of our A Weigh Out Circle Members…)

SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW

By Sharon Kohout,  May, 2012

I have been acutely aware for months now that Mother’s Day falls on May 13th this year.  The date is probably not noteworthy for anyone else, but it has special meaning for me.   On this Mother’s Day I will be standing in a cemetery in the rural east Texas town of Mineola – facing the gravestones of my grandmother Bessie Leach, my mother Annabelle Saunders Leach, and my daughter Shayne Ann – all of whom died on May 13th.  It feels surreal – like I know there is a lesson somewhere in this occasion.  The burden will be heavy – I will cry and grieve – but will ultimately thank God for the gifts each of these beautiful women gave me.

I am struck by the tender yet resilient ties that bind our generations and the comfort that these bonds provide.  Our lives are shaped not only by the tragedies, but also by the opportunities for healing that these great sorrows provide.   As this particular Mother’s Day approaches, I have come to a poignant realization.  We mothers see ourselves as the “constant gardeners” of our children’s lives.  But if we will let ourselves be vulnerable we can be the recipients of a most precious gift: a child’s great capacity to restore and heal our hurting hearts.

Images from past and present bring this home to me.  It is May 1962 and
I am 12 years old. Sound asleep in my bed, I sense my mother crawling in next to me.  She is sobbing and I am stunned into wakefulness by her tears and moans.  She tells me in halting phrases that my 19 yr. old half sister, Dianne, has been killed in a car accident.  My dad has headed to the hospital and my mom is bereft.  The picture is carved forever in my mind:  I am cradling and comforting my mother while she grieves inconsolably.

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day 1988.  As I am standing alone in my bedroom in Lubbock, TX, quiet tears are running down my face.  It’s a difficult holiday because it marks the 3rd anniversary of the day I discovered that my mother had terminal cancer.  She died at age 62, just three months after her diagnosis, and I am still mourning the fact that she is not here to see my three children grow and thrive.  It just seems too much to bear.  My 12-year-old daughter Shayne enters the room and wraps her arms tightly around me.  The image of the two of us standing in front of the dresser mirror – crying and rocking together – is a precious one.

November 2010 brings yet another image.   My 30-year-old daughter Paige and I are standing in the Atlantic Ocean at Myrtle Beach, SC.  I watch Paige’s arm wave gracefully in the sunshine while she releases the ashes of her beloved sister Shayne onto a cool breeze.  At first I feel wooden.  I can’t, I won’t let go.  But I gradually turn my face to the sun and pray and my fingers slowly open.  Paige steps through the water to me and cradles me in her arms.  My tears mix with the ocean…and the ashes….and the prayers….and I feel that peace will come again.

Most recently, I am sitting in a rocking chair in Austin,Texas…cradling my first grandson, six-month old Jayden, and singing “Tender Shepherd” from the musical Peter Pan.  Those big eyes stare up at me in wonder and his tiny hand pats my cheek.  The healing in those eyes and in those little fingers that begin to wrap around my own is a reminder to me that, even in our darkest moments, there can also be great joy. 

And so it goes.  Sorrow and joy, shadow and sunlight, holding on and letting go.    It’s a rhythm that mothers of all generations understand and, ultimately, must accept.  But if we look both to the past AND to the future, we may find special gifts of wisdom and comfort in unexpected places.

May Mother’s Day bring you one of those special gifts!

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