Self-Introduction: Ellen Resnick

I began working with people on behavior change in 1990 as a social
worker on a diabetes team at a prominent San Francisco hospital.  It
became clear early on that managing one’s diabetes was directly
related to how people manage their lives and, in particular, their
stress.  Often, I was seeing very bright people making very bad
choices.  I soon became a student in Cognitive Behavioral therapy,
learning how people’s thoughts impacted their moods and behaviors,
including decisions about food, exercise, and managing stressful

My interest grew and I wrote a talk called “What’s Eating You: Learn
the Tools to Overcome Emotional Overeating”. The ideas seem to have
struck a chord with people.  I began to treat depression, anxiety, and
relationship issues and voilà my clients were soon thinking clearer
and making better choices for their health–life affirming, self
honoring vs. self sabotaging and self defeating choices.  They were
learning how to manage emotions without numbing out with food.

Fast forward to 2008.  Although people were making better choices in
the moment, they didn’t have all the tools they needed to make good
decisions outside their comfort zone, i.e. when traveling, work
meetings (you know–when the large chocolate chip cookies appear after
the sandwiches big enough to feed a family of three), when they are
out with friends, celebrating, bored, lonely, procrastinating, at
their grandmother’s house, or with a ‘food pushing’ friend (“come on,
loosen up-it won’t matter this once.”).  So, my next talk emerged:
“What’s Eating You: Ten Skills to Manage Stress and Enhance Well
Being”. People learned the importance of attitude–having hope that
this time they wouldn’t yo-yo because they’d have skills to handle
every situation with awareness of what they needed in that moment.

Soon, I was taking a picture of each of my clients.  I’d ask them to
grab the hand that they eat with, leave the kitchen, take some calming
breaths and ask themselves three crucial questions: “What am I
thinking, what am I feeling, and what is it I REALLY need right now?”
Then came the job of building individual toolkits–things each person
could do if they were bored or sad or lonely, etc.  My clients got
creative making pretty boxes and binders with ideas for self soothing.
 Some chose knitting or jumping rope; others called their friends for
support as needed.  The choices are endless IF you are mindful of what
you are needing and can slow your impulse to soothe with food down
long enough to make a self honoring choice.  That is the work.

Fast forward to 2010 and I wrote two new talks:  one adapted from
Judith Beck’s work that I call “What’s Eating You:  Learn the Tools
for Permanent Weight Loss”, and the newest adapted from Susan Alber’s
work that I call “Eat, Drink and Be Mindful :  Soothe Your Way to
Weight Loss”.  The first talk teaches 42 cognitive and behavioral
skills for permanent weight loss.  The second I now refer to as
“surfer dude”.  Huh?  Ok, surfer dude is about Marlatt’s concept of
‘surfing the urge’ which will be next week’s blog topic. Stay


Ellen is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Francisco and
Redwood City, California. She specializes in Cognitive Behavioral
Therapy and incorporates the use of mindfulness into the treatment of
depression, anxiety, and emotional overeating. She runs a holistic
weight loss program called Center for Thoughtful Weight Loss,

Ellen is also a skilled couples’ therapist. Ellen’s interest in
behavior change grew out of her work with people with diabetes in 1990
at California Pacific Medical Center. Ellen is an Assistant Clinical
Professor in the department of psychiatry at UCSF where she worked
from 1995-2003 specializing in women’s mental health issues and brief
treatment. She ran the Cognitive Behavioral therapy group program for
women with depression. Ellen continues to supervise psychiatry
residents at UCSF. She lectures extensively in the Bay Area.  Feel
free to email Ellen at

Be sure to check out HealthyWage, the website that pays you to be healthy!

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