Weigh This Instead!

Life After Emotional & Binge Eating

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…


Truth About Weight Loss Surgery and Weight Loss

weight loss surgery statisticsOver the years I’ve coached many people after they’d had weight loss surgery. They were seeking help from me because they continued to struggle with emotional or binge eating. Many had regained their pre-surgery weight, or were in the process of doing so, or they had never lost what they thought the surgery promised. All were feeling disappointed, some desperate, some were full of shame.

How could this be?  They’d taken this drastic, hopefully final, “this-will-finally-fix-everything” step, and they were still fat?  Now they blamed themselves for “failing” at this, too.  Nothing left to try? Now what?

Numerous times I’ve tried, with little success, to find solid statistics that might explain what I was seeing in my practice; that this was not their failure. This week Paul Ernsberger, PhD, whose is on the faculty of Case Western Reserve School of Medicine’s Department of Nutrition confirmed that data on regain after weight loss surgery are sparse and not reliable. Still, here’s what he says we do know. The truth is not pretty.

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For Everyone Who Has Had or Been a Mom

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


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!

Mothering Yourself on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just a few days away.  The typical order of this day is naturally to give to our mothers, in other words, to mother our mothers because that is what mothers do, they give.  What if we break from tradition just a smidge and add something. 

I want to declare this Mother’s Day, May 13, 2012, an opportunity to mother your own body-self.  Whether you are a mother or not a mother, you deserve this gift. With a compassionate generous heart, offer your body special caring and attention; make your self and your body smile and rejoice with gratitude. 

If you know your body really well, many “gifts” of love and caring will quickly emerge; a walk in the woods, a massage or facial, a long and luxurious bath with candles and bath salts, an ice cream cone, a beautiful bouquet of flowers; the kind you give a good friend…or something else.

If you are just now getting to know your body-self, or have a distant relationship with her, this may be more challenging.  You can use your body memory to access those times that you and your body felt alive, joy-filled or excited.  These could be recent memories or even childhood ones.  I cherish the memories of swinging; the air in my face blowing my hair forward and back as my legs pump and I find myself going higher and higher; and then as I cease pumping my legs, I relax, as the swing lowers to the place where I feel comfortable enough to JUMP!

If you struggle with not deserving mothering, this will be a wonderful exercise to move beyond that place and begin to introduce self care into your life. You get to use your creativity and imagination to play with possibilities.  Consider asking a friend what she does to give to her body.  Notice where you deprive yourself. Notice where and how you treat yourself.  Experiment and pay attention to how those experiences make you feel; repeat those where you feel “given to” and discard those activities that did not make you feel special.

Please tell me what you do to treat yourself this Mother’s Day and I give you my word that I will do the same.  I am hoping that this will be the beginning of your personal self-mothering path.  Keep me posted.

Sending you and your body love on this Mother’s Day and everyday!

PCRM Creates a Rude Misguided Ad!

OK. I have my advocacy pants on again, and they’re on fire!

PCRM, Physician’s Commitee for Responsible Medicine (really?) just started running this offensive ad, allegedly to encourage more people to become Vegan.  In the ad, PCRM manages to encourage both weight stigma and sexism! See what you think.


I just had to let them know how I felt!

On Friday, March 30, 2012, I wrote this to PCRM:

Subject: Please become more informed

Dear Dr. Barnard and PCRM,

I’m writing to encourage you and your organization to consider the following research. Surely you can find more accurate and clever ways to promote being a Vegan without spewing weight bias and inaccurate information about BMI risk? (Please see attached studies using large samples.)

BMI and Mortality; Results from a National Longitudinal Study of Canadian Adults

BMI and All-Cause Mortality Among Japanese Adults

As I’m sure you know, numerous studies have shown Doctor’s bias toward people of size. Is that what we’re seeing in your latest tongue and cheek ” Sit Next to a Vegan “ campaign?


Ellen Shuman
Ellen Shuman
Founder/Coach; A Weigh Out Life Coaching and Membership Circle,
President BEDA;Binge Eating Disorder Association,
Co-Chair; Academy for Eating Disorders “Health at Every Size” SIG

The same day, PCRM responded:

Dear Ms. Shuman,

Thank you for contacting PCRM. We appreciate your taking the time to view our ad and share your comments. I have passed your letter on to members of our communications and membership departments, and they carefully review all comments and take them into consideration. I’ve sent the attached PDFs to our nutrition department for their review. Your feedback is important to us.

The intention behind PCRM’s most recent ad, directed toward American Airlines, was to highlight a particularly positive benefit of the vegan diet – weight management. The video was not intended to offend those who are overweight. Certainly, there is no value in blaming overweight people for a condition that results from a mixture of industry marketing, government promotions, addictive qualities of foods, genetic vulnerabilities, medication effects on appetite, and, in the end, overeating. Instead, it is essential to zero in on the problem foods, expose them, and do what we can to get them off our plates.

We sincerely appreciate your feedback and hope that you will continue to share your thoughts with us in the future. Should you have any further comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Emily Price, Membership Assistant


Here’s My Response to That (Note…I’ll take on their “problem foods” strategy at another time…it’s way too simplistic):

Thanks for your response, Emily. I’m glad my concerns will be further considered! We look forward to further comment from PCRM.

In your email, you wrote, “The video was not intended to offend those who are overweight.” How could your video NOT offend those who are overweight. Your video actually encourages weight stigma. Very disturbing that PCRM

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Freedom to Move…or Not

For nearly two months I stopped “exercising”. At the same time, I was expending huge amounts of energy outward; physically, as well as emotionally.
Between the stressors of the holidays, unforeseen needs of my children, a studio relocation coupled with an increase in professional opportunities, and a mindless mishap in the kitchen leaving me with 6 stitches in my thumb (even those of us who practice and teach mindfulness have our moments… ouch),  I experienced an emotional and physical fatigue that seemed to overtake my body and my life.  

Of course some people would call these “excuses” for my sedentary lifestyle.  These same folks might call me lazy and unhealthy.  Admittedly the judgment voice in my own head echoed similar criticisms. 

My truth was that my desire, energy and motivation for movement / exercise was replaced with the need for a physical and emotional recovery.

What became clear is that I needed to give myself and my body the freedom to rest and live more quietly. This insight mirrored what my clients were sharing; they appreciate and value the freedom to listen and respond to what their bodies need, even if that means sitting or lying quietly. I was being challenged to integrate this practice into my own life and I am offering you the challenge to do the same: to really learn to listen and honor your body’s messages…all of them.  Learn to notice desire for whatever emerges and begin to act on those; be it rest, stretching, sitting, lying, walking, running, dancing… Let’s keep each other posted on our progress.


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

Can You be Fat and Healthy? York University Study Finds Thin Isn’t Always Best

When I do speeches and when I do phone evaluations with potential coaching clients, and I say the health risks of being fat are commonly misrepresented, and steeped in myth and prejudice, I am often challenged…and sometimes not very nicely. But, I make it my business to keep up with the latest research. And we are seeing more and more (and more) studies like the one below.

Just so I am not accused of slanting anything to fit my beliefs, here is the press release announcing the study’s findings, exactly as written by the University that conducted the study. 

If you have a doctor, family member, or friend who keeps telling you to lose weight, without any specific reason other than the company line, “We know excess weight is bad for you!”, consider printing this study. Take the study with you to your next visit. Use it to shift the conversation to what you might do to get “healthier”, rather than “thinner”.


TORONTO, August 15, 2011 – A study out of York University has some refreshing news: Being fat can actually be good for you.

Published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, the study finds that obese people who are otherwise healthy live just as long as their slim counterparts, and are less likely to die of cardiovascular causes.

“Our findings challenge the idea that all obese individuals need to lose weight,” says lead author Jennifer Kuk, assistant professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health. “Moreover, it’s possible that trying – and failing – to lose weight may be more detrimental than simply staying at an elevated body weight and engaging in a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity and a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables,” she says.

Kuk’s team looked at 6,000 obese Americans over a 16-year span, comparing their mortality risk with that of lean individuals.

They found that obese individuals who had no (or only mild) physical, psychological or physiological impairments had a higher body weight in early adulthood, were happier with this higher body weight, and had attempted to lose weight less frequently during their lives. However, these individuals were also more likely to be physically active and consume a healthy diet.

Researchers used a newly-developed grading tool, the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS), which has been found to be more accurate than body mass index (BMI) for identifying who should attempt to lose weight. Developed by University of Alberta researchers, it is modelled on staging systems that classify the extent and severity of other diseases such as cancer, mental illness and heart disease. It offers five stages of obesity based on both traditional physical measurements such as BMI and waist-to-hip ratio, plus clinical measurements that reflect medical conditions often caused or aggravated by obesity (such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease).

Kuk stresses that in order to determine whether or not they should lose weight, individuals should see a physician to be evaluated using the EOSS criteria.

The study, “Edmonton Obesity Staging System: Association with Weight History and Mortality Risk,” is co-authored by Chris Ardern, Assistant Professor, York University; Timothy S. Church, Director of the Laboratory of Preventive Medicine, Pennington Biomedical Research Center; Arya M. Sharma, Professor of Medicine & Chair in Obesity Research and Management at the University of Alberta, and Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network; Raj Padwal, Associate Professor, University of Alberta; Xuemei Sui, Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina; and Steven N. Blair, Professor, University of South Carolina.

York University is the leading interdisciplinary research and teaching university in Canada.  York University is an autonomous, not-for-profit corporation.


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, Vice 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

The Most Important Few Words

I lost a dear family friend this year; Mickey Chasanoff.

He was one of the last true gentlemen; a man of tremendous honor, remarkable generosity, fierce love for his family and friends, and he had a wicked fast sense of humor! And I always thought he was movie star handsome.

I think of him often, with great fondness…and with sadness. He left a big void in the lives of those who loved him. 

Recently, his wife Judy attended a special memorial service at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. It was a gathering of all of the families who, in 2011, had a loved one spend his or her final days in the hospital’s Palliative Care Program. Judy told me about the service. In particular, she spoke about one speech that touched her very deeply. Judy recounted the following. The content, the words, touched me deeply, as well.

One of the speakers, a Rabbi, spoke about the fact that everyone in the room had experienced a loss. In cases where there had been a long illness, people had time and opportunity to say everything they wished to say to each other. While other families, faced with sudden illness, had a relatively short period of time to say their goodbyes. In either case, said the Rabbi, in the end it all boils down to these few important words. 

Please forgive me.

I forgive you.

Thank you.

I love you.

Thinking about these words brings tears to my eyes.  I’m thinking about people I have already lost. In some cases, those words were not spoken.

I’m also thinking about several significant relationships in my life today. How might those relationships be enriched if I were to choose to say those few words now, rather than waiting until the very end?

Ps. I believe the Rabbi’s word were from a book called, The Four Things that Matter Most, by Dr. Ira Byock


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, Vice 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

Overcome the Allure of a Crash Exercise Program

Crash exercise/fitness programs are about as effective as crash diets; not at all. The promoters get us all excited with a promise of a stronger, leaner healthier body in just weeks: exercise boot camp for your upcoming wedding, Caribbean vacation, or holiday. Before and after photos are always included. Sure.

I remember fondly my decision to “get into shape now” many years ago. I pumped up the tires of my dust and cobweb covered bicycle and

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I’m in Information Overload! You, too?

Anyone else feel like there is just too much information coming their way?

Every single time I check my email I feel stressed!  

Daily, I see posts from colleagues on three different list servs. Many include links to articles I think I “should” read…or would actually like to read, if there were another 20 waking hours in a day.

All day long I get offers for this teleclass or that webinar—all telling me if I do not attend I will miss out, be sorry, or be left behind, or worse… never, never, ever get another client because all that I know about the internet landscape is changing and I do not know anything about the “new online blueprint”!  Today, alone, I saw these headlines in my InBox.

“Is it too late?”

“Are you coming?”

“How to get what you never had!”

“Ellen, I don’t want you to miss this opportunity!”

To be honest, I’ve been letting these headlines stress me out.  I feel so much pressure!  When I see these headlines, written by very skilled marketers, I think to myself, maybe this one webinar holds THE answer to all of my business questions, challenges, and concerns. The marketing copy says it’s so! Will I be left behind if I do not attend that 9pm webinar tonight? 

I have filled notebooks with suggestions from these freebie webinars (all hawking $1997.00 products or seminars that will REALLY give me the answers I need), but who has the time to go back and read those quickly scribbled notes? I have coaching clients to speak to, an online membership site to run, and I must find someone who has the “online blueprint” to “optmize” my website so people will find A Weigh Out.

And, in between, I’d really like a life!

Yesterday, a coaching client of mine, who shares these same feelings and self-imposed stress, said, “It’s like I see myself as a puzzle that needs to be solved. And I’m always looking for that next piece that will fix everything and make me whole.”  I so identified!  

Then, I stepped back and got mindful. I reminded myself that I am doing just fine! Why do I still so often forget that? When I continue to forget, when pressure takes over and begins to feel like that old familiar runaway train, food thoughts and emotional eating are soon to follow.

So, to today’s batch of online marketers, I say this.

It’s NOT too late! 

No, I am not coming to tonight’s webinar.

If I never had it, I probably won’t miss it.

And I’m sure if I miss THIS opportunity, there’s another one coming in the very next batch of emails.

Is the information age stressing you out, too?


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, Vice 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

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