Click here for the SHiFT Strong Online Meeting Schedule

Q & A with Phil and Amanda Sunday, Sept 2 and Thursday, Sept 6

Do you have questions about food addiction or the ACORN Primary Intensive?


I would like to take a moment to welcome you to ACORN and thank you for contacting us. This MAY be your first step to Recovery!

I know you have probably received our “welcome” letter with attachments regarding the ACORN Primary Intensive© but, I would like to take this one step further to answer your questions and be sure you understand what you can expect during this lifesaving program.

We have scheduled two Question & Answer sessions with Phil Werdell (ACORN founder and facilitator) and Amanda Leith (ACORN facilitator). In this session, we will give an overview of what to expect at an ACORN Primary Intensive and leave time for your questions toward the end.

Please, let me know if you are interested in either of these dates/time as we will only take a limited number for the first session. If you have questions before the Q & A sessions, let me know and I will do my best to answer!

This session will be no cost to you and best of all you, will receive a 10% discount for your first ACORN Primary Intensive.

Sunday, September 2 at 2:00 p.m. EST.  Session 1 Q & A with Phil and Amanda (click the highlighted link below to join us)

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:
Or iPhone one-tap :
US: +16699006833,,7776123099#  or +16468769923,,7776123099#
Or Telephone:
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 669 900 6833  or +1 646 876 9923
Meeting ID: 777 612 3099

Thursday, September 6 at 7:00 p.m. EST.  Session 2 Q & A with Phil and Amanda (click the highlighted link below to join us)
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:
Or iPhone one-tap :
US: +16699006833,,7776123099#  or +16468769923,,7776123099#
Or Telephone:
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 669 900 6833  or +1 646 876 9923
Meeting ID: 777 612 3099
International numbers available:

Thank you and I hope you will join us for one or both of the sessions!

Please, forward to anyone you think may be interested in either of the sessions!

Thank you,


September 21 – 26 ~  Primary Intensive – San Diego, CA
October 9 – 14  ~ Primary Intensive – Bradenton, FL
October 15 – 20 ~   Living In Recovery – Bradenton, FL
November 23 – 25 ~  Alumni Weekend – Codependency for Food Addicts – Vancouver, B.C.
November 27 – December 2 ~  Primary Intensive – Vancouver, B.C.
December 3 – 9 ~  Living In Recovery  – Vancouver, B.C.
January 18 – 23 ~  Primary Intensive  – Bradenton, FL
January 24 – 30 ~   Living In Recovery – Bradenton, FL
Feb 1 – 3 ~  Alumni Weekend – Bradenton, FL
Feb 8 – 13 ~  Primary Intensive – Private Group – Bradenton, FL

What the Heck is Self-Care?

I had very mixed up ideas about this throughout my life…these ideas included calling in sick to stay home bingeing and watching TV all day, buying myself an ice cream cone because I deserved it, missing exercise class because I was “too tired and went last week” and buying new clothes instead of using my money to go to the dentist as clothes made me “look good”. These are all warped ideas and they were the best I could come up with prior to recovery…to me, self-care used to mean doing anything I wanted and that made me “feel good”. All of these things were designed to make me “Feel Good”.

“Feeling good” now comes to me very differently than it used to. The things that truly fill me up and therefore leave me feeling happy, peaceful and content now include:

  • Following through when I say I will do something
  • Rigorously eating my abstinent food plan every day
  • Walking in nature
  • Riding my bike, flying down a hill
  • Connection to my Higher Power through daily meditation and prayer
  • Playing with my 5-year old niece, Georgia ( you knew I had to get that one in there)
  • Laughing until my stomach hurts with my Mom
  • Making my bed every morning
  • Doing the dishes after each meal
  • Being compassionate to others in pain due to food addiction
  • Telling the truth

And I could go on and on…that actually surprised me. When I started writing this list I couldn’t think of much and then once I started they just kept flowing. Wow! My life is pretty amazing and I “feel good” so much more than I ever used to. Even when I am struggling (which let’s be real…is often, for the simple fact that I am a human being which means I will have challenges every day of my life) I can still feel good and look after myself. It’s actually imperative that I practice good self-care, I believe that recovery is just that…self-care and looking after myself! So these things actually are life-saving for me. What actions are life-saving for you? What makes you “feel good” and what is your personal definition of “self-care”?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.




Miraculous Journey

Happy June!!

We are just days away from the beginning of summer…yay! I used to dread summer as for me it meant shame and pain. Shame of my obese body that I wasn’t willing to stuff into summer clothes (tank tops, shorts and bathing suits) and the physical pain of the rashes that showed up on my body from the multiple places where my skin chafed (you know what I mean, between my thighs, under my tummy…etc.). Thanks to recovery, summer means something very different for me now! It also seems like it means something different to Skylar. Skylar is an ACORN alum who joined us at our Primary Intensive just over a year ago. In honor of Men’s Health Month (yes, June is Men’s Health month) we asked Skylar to share a bit of his recovery journey with us…..and WOW what a journey! Keep reading to hear where Skylar was only 12 months ago and where he is now. Truly inspiring.

I would love to hear from our other male alum about their journey too, drop me a line, say hi and give me an update.

We also have some exciting news…TWO new locations for upcoming events!! Click here for the details. Ok, I will give you a hint…one location may possibly be in California and one location may possibly be in New England.

May your June be filled with inner peace, abstinence and growth,


I’m a 49-year-old married guy who’s been overweight most all of my life. 

As a reference, just over a year ago I weighed in at around 350 lbs. and this weight was quite normal for me. I’ve had periods of some weight release over the years, with diets, trainers and personal cooks. All of these were things I knew I needed just to get me on track to be able to get on with my life and get some “normal” eating habits. 

I’ve had a lot of experience with drug and alcohol addiction. I’ve been around the rooms of 12  Step fellowships for 24 years at the end of this month. This is something that I hold true and love to celebrate. I’ve worked the steps with a sponsor and have taken a lot of other men through the steps. But I did all this with an obese body; not looking within as my eating became an addiction. 

About nine years ago, I first found the rooms of OA. Realizing that “I knew this stuff”, I did what I knew I needed to do. I got a sponsor, bought some literature and wrote out an abstinence list of foods that were my “alcoholic foods”. I started working on the steps, and I lost some weight. I got some freedom, but for a long time, I felt like it was still just a diet that I was on and there was a bunch of foods that I couldn’t eat. Volume of eating and time of eating were things that were still up to me to decide. When I ate out with friends or went to restaurants; as long as I was mindful about what my decisions were I was good: I still had my abstinence. 

Over time I started to allow more and more foods into my life that weren’t there before. At least I wasn’t bingeing on this or that I told myself. But over time I had my weight back although I believed that I felt good about myself. I was somewhat shamed about going to OA meetings so I just started to skip those. And so I was back to the life that I’ve always known, minus a few things I learned in OA. Some time went by and I really fell back into the food, and my ever expanding wardrobe had to get a few new additions to it in the 4 to 5X size range. 

Just over a year ago an old friend from OA paid me a visit. She said that my time was up and the only way out of the food addiction for me was to go to treatment. This was something I had looked at for months and even years. Within the hour, I was booked into the center. I was terrified but completely willing to do this. Over and over I considered and reconsidered: I wanted this, but I was about to get on a plane and check myself into treatment. Am I that screwed up? I knew that I didn’t know what else I could do. From that moment on I decided to stop the binge eating. I put down the sugar and a few other foods that were obviously not doing me any good, and I just waited out my days until I got on the plane.

On May 2017, I arrived, alone and a bit nervous, but totally willing to start something. I didn’t want to call this a new chapter, but it was definitely something different. 

Day 1. I met the group of people who were in a similar situation as me. We talked about food plans and a whole bunch of other stuff and I committed my food for the first time to someone. That week was kind of like going to summer camp, except by the end of it I was able to have a better understanding what food addiction looks like, and how it had me in its grips. 

Committing my food to a sponsor. Weighing and measuring. I was committing to all the things I said I would do at treatment. It was hard. In fact some days it really sucked, but I had willingness. Where it came from I don’t know, but I had it. The one other thing I knew I needed that nothing else out there offered me was a sense of spirituality.

Spirituality was something that helped me all those years ago in my other 12 Step program. Whatever it was back then, I really needed it now more than ever. So when I got home I checked in with my sponsor and scheduled time to work the steps. I did a bunch of grocery shopping and had to clean my kitchen. But not only with a rag and cleaning products; I got a friend to come over and give it a smudge. Some burning sage and an eagle feather filled my kitchen with smoke from the abalone shell. I placed some crystals around. I sat in the middle of my kitchen floor and started to meditate. I needed all the help I could get. And some sort of connection with the powers that be is where the difference lies. I’ve spiritualized my kitchen. 

I made a commitment to my sponsor that I was going to do this food plan unchanged, weighed and measured for 90 days before reevaluating. My 90 days had come and gone, not always easy, but I did it. With the help of a dietitian, my sponsor and my sponsor’s sponsor, I did make some slight adjustment to my food plan. I definitely now know I can’t do this alone. 

Today I have a great relationship with what I get to eat and with my sponsor. I go to meetings regularly and I really understand more than ever what food addiction means to me. I have admitted that I’m a food addict, powerless over food. One day at a time. I get to be free! I’m now under 200 lbs., somewhere I haven’t been since I’m sure I was a teenager. I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt, and loving the life I get to live today.

Upcoming ACORN Events

Weekly Teleconference “Nuts & Bolts”

Please join us Wednesday evenings for recovery support.

This no-cost abstinence support group is open to all. Led by Sherri Goodman, professional trainee.
Wednesdays at 7 pm (EST.)
Conference call in number:
(605) 468-8002
Access Number 1014962#

Women’s Health Month

Happy May!

Today I was thinking of the saying “April showers bring May flowers”. That saying doesn’t really fit for Florida weather (as there really hasn’t been any rain to speak of), which is where I am currently but it definitely fits for Vancouver’s weather. May is a time for new beginnings, the sun is warming, flowers are starting to bloom, birds are chirping and the garden is showing signs of growth. May is also Women’s Health Month. What will you do this month to take care of yourself?

For me, taking care of myself and working my program of recovery are two in the same. I heard someone recently share that recovery is simply taking good care of myself in all areas of my life; physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually. Am I looking after my physical body? Am I looking after my emotional health? How are my relationships? Do I follow a daily spiritual practice? In order for me to truly look after myself, I need to take care of my whole being. If one pillar of my foundation is shaky then truly my whole being is off kilter. The scary part is that I may not even notice I have a shaky pillar until all four of my pillars are in jeopardy and then I am in a pretty desperate situation. The good news is that it now doesn’t take much for me to get back on track and once again, be in a place of positively moving forward.

It’s vital for me, especially as an addict in recovery, to take a pulse check often of how I’m doing in all areas of my life as it is very easy for me to slip back into poor self-care. Recently, I learned a new tool called a Recovery Grid created by Roland Williams. The details of how to use the grid are a different topic (a great topic but a different newsletter) however I thought the healthy living checklists were brilliant. I have shared them in the box below so you can assess how you are doing with self-care. This is by no means so that we can judge and be critical of ourselves. It’s just a great checkpoint. For me, I need as many tools as I possibly can have in my tool belt to help me be honest and see if I am on track. I lived so much of my life being in dishonesty with myself that I truly often can’t see the truth.

Take a look at the grid below and notice the things you are doing and notice what you’re not doing. Would the things you are not doing be beneficial for your personal recovery and well – being? If so, what commitments are you willing to make around doing these things? Remember that small changes are much more attainable than lofty grandiose commitments that we actually never end up doing and then get to feel bad about ourselves for not doing (I know this one well).

As I have been writing this article, I have taken note of areas that I haven’t been focusing on and I can definitely tell there are several. Under my physical health, I really haven’t been doing any consistent exercise lately. Exercise is something I either seem to do full on or not at all (an addict…you think?). Recently, I have been in the not at all part of the compulsion. So about 2 weeks ago I committed to taking a 30-minute walk every day. I’m pretty sure I haven’t missed a day. My mind can easily tell me all sorts of negative things about this like; 30-minute walk – that’s nothing, you should be running, what about cardio…and the chatter continues.  The important thing here is that I took a look at what I am and what I am not doing to look after myself which allows me to then get honest and make changes that support my long-term health physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. And that my friends is a beautiful piece of recovery…that I actually can take a look, get honest and make commitments (that I actually keep) to move towards recovery and away from relapse or towards health and away from the disease. That is a miracle.

Would love to hear what you will do to look after yourself in the month of May (men too).

Biologicaly – Physically

  •  Do I follow a healthy eating plan
  • Am I getting enough sleep
  • Do I get adequate exercise
  • Heath Care Provider: do you have one, do you go, do you follow what they suggest
  • Do I have good hygiene
  • Do I avoid toxic substances: caffeine, tobacco, sugar…etc 
Psychologically – Thoughts/Feelings

  • Do I regularly see a therapist/coach/counsellor
  • Can I identify and express my feelings
  • What is my stress level
  • Do I have good self – esteem
  • Do I think positively for the most part
  • Do I intellectually challenge myself regularly

Socially – Relationships

  • Romantic relationship – can I be in one, am I able to love someone and let them love me back
  • If I am currently in a romantic relationship is it strong in all areas: commitment, intimacy, passion
  • Friends: do I have any, if so what kind – do they lift me up or bring me down
  • Family: do I have healthy relationships with my family members
  • Do I have fun
  • If in recovery do I have a strong sober support system: recovery group, partners in recovery, sponsor
  • How is my relationship with myself: do I enjoy my own company


  • If I belong to an organized religion do I follow the practices
  • Do I believe in a Higher Power and if so do I build that relationship daily
  • Do I live my according to my values: honesty, compassion, tolerance, respect, humility, integrity






The start of summer is a busy time at ACORN. Today, we start a Primary Intensive in Florida, followed by a week of Living In Recovery and a Step 4-9 Alumni weekend to finish it off. In June we have a Primary Intensive starting June 8th in Vancouver, followed by a Relapse Prevention Alumni Weekend (I think there is waiting room only for this left?) and then a week of Living In Recovery. There are many events that could be part of your self-care plan.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, sober May.

Peace & Abstinence, Amanda

Upcoming ACORN Events

Special Request From Phil

The Food Addiction Institute is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, separate from ACORN, that advocates for abstinence-based food addiction recovery.  Phil, Mary and many in the ACORN network were involved in founding FAI in 2005. FAI is preparing to launch a nationwide campaign, “Just Say It! Addiction to Food is Real! Recovery is Possible!”

As an alumni and/or friend of ACORN, you have a unique perspective on the value of this work with food addicts and understand the importance of spreading the word to others. In order to do this effectively, the FAI campaign needs a paid professional staff to coordinate this project at a minimum of $100,000 per year.

I invite you to consider supporting this campaign by making a contribution in either of two ways:

  1. First: Make a tax-free contribution online to The Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s 24-hour 2018 Giving Challenge beginning at 12:00 p.m. (noon) May 1 and ending 12:00 p.m. (noon) May 2. A live link will be released prior to the start of the Giving Challenge. Every donation will be “MATCHED” up to $100! We will send out a reminder email with details prior to that day and a final reminder email on the morning of May 1. Please see the FAI Newsletter for more information.
  2. Second: Consider becoming a sustaining supporter to the campaign. Either pledge to contribute or raise $1,000 per year for 3 years. If 100 of us do this, the campaign will be financially self-sustaining.

The goals of the campaign include: 

  • Normalize food addiction as a disease.
  • Achieve 10% of doctors and health professionals screening for food addiction.
  • Present a website that both doctors and their patients can consult for the most current resources for treatment.

If you have questions, please contact Elsie Khamis, M. Ed., Campaign Coordinator and Secretary to the Board of Directors, at 773-729-8043 or

Feel free to share this information with others who are interested in improving the recovery climate and services for food addiction. Thank you for your consideration.



Upcoming ACORN Events