Click here for the SHiFT Strong Online Meeting Schedule

Women’s Health Month

June and July Events
Space is available in the new Living In Recovery Program. Week 2 begins Sunday, June 11th. Call the ACORN office to register.  941-378-2122

Monsey, New York!   Bradenton, Florida!   Bristol, Vermont! 
ACORN is offering several events in the next few weeks in several locations. Start your summer with Abstinence and Recovery. We are registering NOW for the following events:

Women’s Health Month
May is Woman’s Health Month and as it has just ended I have taken a bit of time this morning to reflect on my own health and what I have done to look after myself over the years.

The term “looking after myself” has had very different meanings at different times in my life. For the majority of my life it meant doing what I wanted, how I wanted, when I wanted followed by feelings of guilt, shame and resentment. It meant doing things for other people that I really didn’t want to do and then walking around feeling angry at them and everyone else. It meant cancelling social commitments to stay home and watch TV and eat because I needed to “rest.”  It meant feeding my body whatever food I wanted so I wouldn’t feel “deprived.” It meant spending money I didn’t have on things because I wanted them and “deserved” them and then feeling self-pity because I “should” have more money. I thought looking after myself was doing exactly what I wanted and what I thought felt “good.”

This way of thinking didn’t get me very far or, more accurately, it didn’t get me very far in living a meaningful, successful life full of love, gratitude and purpose. But it did get me far into morbid obesity, far into debt, far into depression and anxiety, far into anger and resentment, far into self-pity and far into self-hatred. I think I was a little confused on what the true meaning of “looking after myself” actually meant.

Today I believe “looking after myself” means doing the things that are most in line with who my true self is. What are the things I can do each day that bring me to a place of true joy, true gratitude, true love and true service to others? Many times this includes doing things that I would rather not do. It includes doing things that feel really hard at times. It includes doing things that don’t always come easily or naturally to me. And yet, at the end of most days I now go to bed with feelings of acceptance, peace and gratitude.

Here are the six things I do these days that truly are “looking after myself”:

  1. Be Abstinent – The most important thing I do every single day is to follow my personal food plan that allows me to be free from the bondage of food obsession, allows me to be free from carrying around 150-plus pounds of excess weight, and most of all nourishes my body so I can think and be in the world as I was meant to be. If I stop doing this for any meal, I stop living the life I was put here to live. For me, to stop being abstinent means spiritual, mental, emotional and, eventually, physical death.
  2.  Morning Reflection – Every morning when I wake up I take a few minutes before I do anything else to get quiet and present. I pray for a day full of love and peace, I pray that I can be of service to others, and I pray for the willingness to continue to move forward, taking the next right step. Then I set my timer and “meditate” for a few minutes. Meditation, for me, means sitting in a comfortable position, in a quiet place, with my eyes closed and being still, letting thoughts drift into my mind and letting them pass, being aware of any messages that seem to be coming from the universe or something outside of myself, a power greater than me.
  1. Evening Reflection – Before I go to sleep at night I take some time to review my day. What did I do well today? What could I have done differently? I remind myself that this is not time to beat on myself; rather it is a time for me to look at what I did well. If I looked objectively at my waking hours – and I’m sure you are no different – I find that they are filled with many successes, and now is the time to acknowledge them. I also observe the moments when I struggled throughout the day. Again, if look at these objectively, they can be viewed as one of my greatest assets of the day as they are growth opportunities, lessons for ways I can show up differently the following day.
  1. Connection – Every day it is vital for me to connect with others. This connection may come from chatting with an old friend and laughing until we have tears streaming down our cheeks and our belly’s ache, or it may come from spending a sweet moment looking for worms in the dirt with my 4-year-old niece (my FAVORITE person in the world). Or it may come from sitting in a coffee shop and striking up a conversation with the barista and finding out about their life…all of these connections are critical to my health.
  1. Support – I have seen and experienced first-hand that I cannot successfully do “life” alone. It is vital for me to get and give support to others every single day. This support comes in many forms. Today, I get my support from attending 12 Step meetings, attending support groups that allow me to share openly and honestly with others who “get” what I am talking about and daily one-on-one check-ins with people who are my partners in recovery. These support systems are a great reality check for me and are essential to my daily well-being.
  1. Gratitude – There are so many amazing things happening in my life, and it is important for me to stop and recognize these every day. For a lot of my life I fell into that “poor me,” “why is this happening to me” style of thinking, always wanting things to be different than they were.  This negative thinking leads me to self pity and negativity and I can’t afford to wallow in those feelings for very long these days. So, before I go to sleep each night, I take a few minutes to write down what I am grateful for at that moment. It may be something as simple as I have a comfy bed to sleep in, or that I saw a beautiful flower on the side of the road, or for the helpful sales clerk at the grocery store or it may be for my beautiful niece, or the rolling-on-the-ground laughter I shared with my mom that afternoon. Or it may be for the tough piece of feedback an honest friend gave to me that morning. There really are so many amazing gifts that I receive every day and, if I don’t stop and notice them, I can once again easily trick myself into believing life is just too hard again…and I definitely don’t want to go back there! Writing down a minimum of 5 things I am grateful for each day requires a tiny amount of effort in relation to the enormous payoff I receive from living with an attitude of gratitude…it is life changing.

Above are practices that are drastically changing my life. Yet there are many other things that are important to looking after myself, such as getting enough sleep, having a work-life balance, spending time with family and friends and getting outside and moving my body…every day.

Let me know what “looking after yourself” means to you.

Wishing you all an abstinent June full of health, fun and gratitude,


New 3-Week Pilot Program for Extended Care June 2017

Huge news, we have drastically reduced the cost of the 3 week Living in Recovery program!! 3 weeks only $2,900 and 2 weeks only $2,500.

We have heard you loud and clear about wanting longer food addiction recovery programs and are passionate about bringing you this pilot program. We have had great interest in the new program and would like to have your participation. We plan to make the Living In Recovery program a regular ACORN offering but we need you, our ACORN alumni, to help with the development.

Hope to see you there!

Phil, Mary & AmandaExciting New Program

Due to many requests, we are running a pilot 3 week residential program in
Bradenton, Florida June 4 – 24, 2017 with an option to attend an
ACORN Primary Intensive before and/or after.

This 3 week program will offer people an opportunity to learn and practice the skills necessary to begin and maintain food dependency recovery.  The “Living in Recovery” program seeks to provide a supportive and structured experience in a less restrictive and “real world” setting.

The goal of the “Living In Recovery” 3 week program will be to enable participants to take home what they practice during their stay. In addition to using the most current evidence based treatments for food addiction recovery, we will provide participants with a “real-world” environment: they will stay in a residential home, grocery shop at the local markets, prepare their own meals following their individual, abstinence-based food plans; participate in 12 Step meetings, have a daily practice of journaling and writing, as well as attend scheduled daily process groups and educational talks.

This program is for you if …

  • You are struggling with your abstinence and recovery.
  • You have strong abstinence and want to work on deeper emotional issues.
  • You want more help with your most difficult recovery challenges.
  • You have persistent blocks to long-term stable recovery.

The recovery and transformations we have seen when people attend our shorter programs has been phenomenal; we are excited to see the miracles after this 3 week “Living In Recovery” program.

Please register quickly as there is limited space.

**You must have attended an ACORN Primary Intensive or 3 Days With Phil to attend this 3 week program.


Option #1:   3 week “Living In Recovery” program – $3,900 NOW $2,900
$1,300/week; includes lodging, does not include food

Option #2:   2 week “Living In Recovery” program – $3,000 NOW $2,500
$1,500/week; includes lodging, does not include food

Make this a 4 or 5 week program by including either one or both of the Primary Intensives, held May 26-31 and June 30-July 5.

Option #3:   One Primary Intensive plus 3 week program –  $5,300 NOW $4,300
Includes one Primary Intensive plus 3 week “Living In Recovery” program

Option #4:   Two Primary Intensives plus 3 weeks program – $6,300 NOW $5,300
Includes two Primary Intensives plus 3 week “Living In Recovery” program

Schedule: See the sample daily schedule Click Here

Location:  Sugar Free Place, 3018 Pine Street, Bradenton, FL 34208

Contact: Raynea McCumber 941-378-2122 or

Register Online: or call 941-378-2122

How do I know if I am a Food Addict?

Am I a Food Addict?
We are often asked, “How do I know if I am a Food Addict?” This is a great question and one for which I wish there was a clear answer. Unfortunately, unlike with other diseases, there is not a simple blood test that can determine if we are Food Addicts or, for that matter, if we are addicted to anything. First of all, if we are asking ourselves this question, then perhaps we are already having some sort of struggle with eating, food(s), weight, body image, etc. One of the simplest things we can do to gain some clarity is to ask ourselves a series of questions:

  • Do I think about food or my weight all the time?
  • Have I lost weight over and over only to gain it back and more?
  • Do I obsessively calculate the calories I’ve burned against the calories I’ve eaten?
  • Do I have physical problems resulting from the way I eat – or don’t eat?
  • Do I eat large amounts of food in a short period of time?
  • Do certain foods trigger binges?
  • Do I weigh myself once or twice (or more) a day?
  • Do I eat differently in front of people than I do when I’m alone?
  • Do I have emotional problems resulting from the way I eat – or  don’t eat?
  • Do I find it difficult to stop eating after one or two sweets?
  • Have I done serious work in psychotherapy only to find my “food problem” was unaffected?
  • Have my eating and/or eating behaviours caused negative consequences in my life?
  • Has a family member or medical practitioner said they are concerned about my health due to my eating?

Answering Yes to one or more of these questions could indicate that you are struggling with food addiction. Ok, great, I may or may not have food addiction…but now what can I do? The next step to figuring out the answer to this question is to try the treatment given to food addicts – and see if it helps.

There are many differing ideas as to what the “proper” treatment for food addiction is. However, there is one very common theme in successful treatment of any addiction…and that is to abstain from the substance/behavior that we are addicted to. So, for food addicts, this means abstaining from eating the foods or doing the food behaviors that our bodies have become dependent upon. The task of figuring out what food(s) we are personally addicted to – and how to go about abstaining from them – can be a tough one, and we often need support with this. There are many types of support out there from the plethora of 12 Step Food Groups, to therapists, recovery coaches and treatment facilities. Sometimes we may need to enlist the support of all of the above, and, sometimes, we find everything we need to be free of this addiction within a 12 Step group such as Overeaters Anonymous. Click here for a partial list of 12 Step groups that deal with food addiction

If you want to try and figure out what foods are addictive for you, you can start by writing a list of all the foods you have binged on or have started eating and found you couldn’t stop. Also, think about the foods you think you couldn’t live without. The most common ingredients of addictive foods are sugar, flour, grains, high fat and salt. Take a really honest look at your eating history to determine what the foods are. Once you have identified your binge food list, then completely abstain from all of them and see what happens. Do you find this really hard? Are you able to abstain completely from those foods? Are you experiencing any detox symptoms (headaches, foggy brain, fatigue, irritability)?

If you are able to continue abstaining from these ingredients for a week or so, your cravings and food obsessions should slowly start to diminish. If this happens, then there is a good chance you are food addicted.

If you think you are food addicted, we strongly suggest you get support. It has been proven over and over again that people with the strongest recovery have enlisted support – and usually lots of it. Click here to read more about different treatment options available at ACORN

The upcoming dates for ACORN’s food addiction recovery programs are:

  • April 26 – May 1: Primary Intensive, Monsey, New York
  • May 5 – 7: 3-Days in Florida, Bradenton, Florida
  • May 26 – 31: Primary Intensive, Bradenton, Florida
  • June 12 – 16: Primary Intensive, Vancouver BC, Canada

Register for an Event

  • April 22 is World Earth Day, what are you doing to recognize this day? More importantly what are we doing every day to look after our planet?
  • More than 1 billion people in over 200 countries participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.
  • Want to know what your environmental footprint on the world is. Click here to take Earth Day Network’s Ecological Footprint quiz

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:
(712) 432-0111 
Access Number 1014962#

World Health Day and an Abstinent Passover Brisket Recipe


I can’t believe it is April already and that Spring has arrived. I am currently in Florida enjoying the beautiful sunshine and warmth so it actually feels like summer.

March was a very busy month for ACORN. We had a 3-Day program, a 5-Day Intensive and a week of process groups in between. Once again I was privy to witnessing amazing healing, recovery, surrender and abstinence. What a true gift I have been given to do this as my career.

Some of the comments we received regarding these recent events are:

  • “Thank you from the depth of my heart for giving me this beautiful experience with so much hope and for being a part of saving my life.”
  • “I feel so blessed to have found ACORN and to have the support I needed to do my work.” 
  • “The intensives and Three Days have moved me further along in my recovery journey at a deeper level than I could have done in 12-Step meetings.  I am most grateful.”

It was truly an amazing couple of weeks! Phil flew off to New York the next day to hold a 3-Day event. It went extremely well, so well that those folks have asked us to hold a 5-Day Intensive in New York April 26 – May 1. They experienced some deep recovery and want to keep it going. So for all of those that ask us if we ever do events in New York, here’s your chance. Call us to find out the details 941-378-2122.

While Phil has been in New York, Mary, Raynea  and I have been gearing up for our next events in Florida. We have two events scheduled for May in Bradenton, Florida. A 3-Day with Phil & Amanda May 5th-7th and a 5-Day Intensive May 26th-31st.  Click here to register or call us if you have any questions 941-378-2122.

The Spring months also bring a few other dates to celebrate. One of them is right around the corner on April 7th. It’s World Health Day. This year’s focus is depression. The World Health Organization chooses a specific health topic to focus on every year that is a concern for people all over the world.  Depression affects people of all ages, from all walks of life and from all countries. It causes mental anguish and impacts on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences.

Depression and addiction feed into each other and one condition can often make the other worse. I personally can relate to this. As a food addict whose life was spiraling out of control I often battled depression. Who knows what came first, the depression so then I reached for food to numb me out and give me that “high” feeling, or the food addiction which was so debilitating and, therefore, caused the deep depressions I would often experience.  When my depression and addiction were at their worst I could barely get out of bed. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t sleep. I had many thoughts of suicide and truly didn’t want to be alive. I remember thinking, “If this is what life is, then I don’t want to be part of it.”  Today I am incredibly grateful that I do want to be part of life and that I have found recovery. Yes, there are still many ups and downs in my life, after all that is the reality of life. However, now when I feel the depression coming on I have tools, resources and a support system to help me through it. As an addict I couldn’t deal with the depression until I had first dealt with my addiction. I could not get healthy mentally and spiritually until I got clean and, for me, that meant becoming abstinent from all the foods my body had become addicted to. So yes, when we have addiction and depression it can be incredibly hard. But there is a way out. I am living proof!

So, in recognition of World Health Day, let’s talk openly about depression and addiction as it is a vital component of recovery. The stigma surrounding all mental illness is a major barrier to people seeking help, and talking about it helps break down this stigma and ultimately leads to more people getting the help they need.  Click here for more information on World Health Day.

This year in April many people are also celebrating Passover and Easter.  These holidays are often full of family, friends and FOOD!! The food part can be a struggle with those of us affected by food addiction. In recovery I choose to focus on the people I am with rather than the food being the focus, and I always contribute an abstinent dish to the occasion. Click here for a link to an abstinent Passover recipe contributed by an ACORN alumnae, Taube from Boston.

Drop me a line and let me know how you celebrate Passover and Easter or any other Spring holidays that are important in your life.

Happy Spring, World Health Day, Passover, Easter and anything else you are celebrating.

With love & abstinence,

International Day of Happiness – Mary Foushi

Today is International Day of Happiness.  When asked to write an article about this day of celebration I realized that I had never heard about International Day of Happiness.  So I did a little research on the website and discovered how this special day got started and what it is all about.  Here is what I found:

What is the International Day of Happiness? It’s a day to be happy, of course! Since 2013, the United Nations has celebrated the International Day of Happiness as a way to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world. In 2015 the UN launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals that seek to end poverty, reduce inequality, and protect our planet – three key aspects that lead to well-being and happiness.

I began to reflect upon what Happiness means to me.  I thought about Happiness being an amazing benefit of abstinence and recovery.  Happiness is part of having positive energy as I go about my day and interact with those around me.  My dog Ellie makes me happy.  My husband Phil makes me happy.  My friends make me happy.  Looking at a flower or enjoying a beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico makes me happy.  Laughter makes me happy.  Holding a newborn baby makes me happy.  There are many people, places and things in my life today that make me happy.

Page 133 in “Big Book” Alcoholics Anonymous says,” We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us.”  So Happiness – for those of us who follow a Twelve Step program – is something we can pretty much trust as a result of recovery.

I can also relate with what the BB reading says because life was a “vale of tears” for much of my life as a food addict who was active in her disease.  I was deeply unhappy for many, many years.  However, I imagine that most people around me didn’t have a clue as to just how unhappy I truly was.  I was the little fat girl – and adult – who always had a smile on my face while inside I felt sad, worthless and depressed.  I was unhappy.

  • I thought that being thin would make me Happy.
  • I thought that having the right clothes would make me Happy.
  • I thought that if only you liked me, I would be Happy.
  • I thought that if I had a fancy car I would be Happy.  That one didn’t work; I ended up with a fancy car, huge payments and unhappiness.
  • I thought that if I had the right house and right furnishings, I would be happy.
  • I thought that if my partner would only take out the garbage right when I asked, I would be happy.
  • I thought that if I could go on a fancy vacation, I would be happy.  I love fancy vacations and have been in some of the most beautiful parts of the world, but because I wasn’t FREE, I wasn’t truly happy.
  • If only … if only … if only …

Over the last week I’ve read several things on Happiness.  One quote stands out to me:

“It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is.”

This beautiful quote by Dutch Philosopher, Desiderius Erasmus (born in 1466), speaks to my heart.  Becoming willing to be what I truly am has been life-saving, life-changing, life-enhancing and completely liberating for me.

When I denied who I am (not was) as a food addict I was never truly happy.  I was always fighting against reality.  I did everything I could to deny reality.  I tried diet after diet.  I gained weight and lost weight.  I attempted to be a “normal” eater to the point of watching how “those people” ate and then trying my best to copy them.  I gave myself permission to not deprive myself of any foods.  This experiment worked for about 10 minutes.  I spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars working on my “issues” thinking that if I only uncovered “why” I ate then I wouldn’t eat!  Whew!  That was exhausting!  Although I got some help with my “issues,” I never got the support I needed to sustain abstinence from out-of-control eating.

Once I learned that food addiction is a real and treatable disease, received appropriate treatment for this disease, and surrendered to the needed structure and support to maintain abstinence and recovery, I not only lost 200 pounds but also began to experience freedom from the obsession while no longer living in bondage to food or my thinking. This is real Happiness.

So, how might I celebrate International Day of Happiness today … and every day?

  • By admitting that I’m a food addict.
  • By accepting that I am a food addict and that this just ain’t gonna change.
  • By putting my abstinence and recovery first – no matter what.
  • By building my life each day around what I have to do for my abstinence and recovery rather than building my abstinence and recovery around what I want to do in my life that day.
  • By staying deeply connected with people who, like me, are “willing to be what he (she) is.”
  • By saying Yes to suggestions from my spiritual guides and mentors.
  • By being of service to others who share my same struggles.
  • By expressing gratitude for the amazing gifts of recovery.
  • By acknowledging that I don’t feel Happy every day.  And knowing that if I keep doing what I’ve been doing I will get through whatever is troubling me and eventually be Happy, Joyous and FREE again.
  • By trusting deep in my heart that the chiefest point of happiness for me, Mary Foushi, is being willing to be – today – what I am.

My hope for you today is that you celebrate International Day of Happiness in whatever way makes you truly and profoundly Happy.

With love and deep Happiness,