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Karen's Blogs

Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life.Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

Improving Life Skills to Decrease Upset and End Emotional Eating

Need some useful strategies for handling upsetting situations more effectively? The stronger your skills, the better you’ll be at handling life without needing to turn to food as a crutch or comfort. Reduce procrastination . We often eat when we wish to put off a task we deem unpleasant. We tie the task to negative feelings—it’s too painful, difficult, time-consuming, etc., and, therefore, put off doing it. Instead, associate tasks with positive feelings such as pleasure, fun, or pride in achievement. Duke University Professor Ariely had to give himself painful daily injections for 18 months which made him sick well into the next day. Initially he procrastinated, but then he started renting his favorite movies to enjoy while he was recuperating from the injections. (Dan Ariely’s The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home ) I have little time to read fiction and one...
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Creativity Can Replace Mindless Eating

Half a lifetime ago, I did a lot of mindless eating, especially when I had that antsy feeling from having nothing to do. The more I turned to writing (fiction at first), the less I thought about food. The more writing I did, the more I wanted to do, so that it occupied my free time and gradually became a passion. Moreover, it energized my mind and body in a way that food-as-time-filler never could or did. To help you find your passion, here are some creativity stokers: In “Idea therapy: 8 ways to put your brain in its most creative gear” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 7/28/15, E6), Brigid Schulte describes the work of neuroscientist John Kounios, a professor of psychology at Drexel University who studies creativity and insightful thinking. Here are his ideas on creativity and mine for decreasing mindless eating: Be positive: Negativity is often due to anxiety and generates more...
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On Never Giving Up

While attending a presentation of educational scholarships for deserving women at a local women’s center where I volunteer, it struck me that each of the several dozen women who had received scholarships had nearly the same thing to say: that though life had been very hard, they had never given up hope that they would make a better one for themselves. Hearing them, I got to thinking about how dysregulated eaters sometimes fall into victimization, helplessness and despair and how ready so many of you are to give up on becoming “normal” eaters. One young woman from Afghanistan left her large family and, on her own, traveled to the US where she was given an “adopted” mother to live with. How many of us can imagine what it would be like to come to a strange country where we didn’t speak the language, leaving our family behind in a war-torn country?...
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Releasing Tension to Decrease Mindless Eating

Do you eat to relieve tension? Maybe you call it by another name—stress, distress, anxiety, feeling antsy. Whatever you call it, the truth is that you don’t need to eat to release tension. By switching your view of it, you can reduce mindless eating. You may feel tension in the construct we call the mind. Your thoughts race, your self-talk stokes the fires of pressure building and building, and your head feels as if it’s going to explode unless you do something. Equally, tension may arise in your body. You may feel as if you can’t sit still, that you just gotta move. Your shoulders, neck or back may feel tight and even tender and sore. Under this kind of pressure, you may tell yourself that only food will make you unwind and feel better. Did you ever stop to think what this tension might be about? My guess is that...
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The Importance of Seeing Yourself Through Different Eyes

I was listening to an NPR program when the interviewee mentioned that, in order to change his life, her husband would need to see himself in a different way than his mother saw him. I thought how true it is that unless we’re viewed differently than how we see ourselves, we can carry around the same negative view our parents had of us for a lifetime. So, whose eyes do you see yourself through and what do you see? In the case above, the husband was adopted by a woman whom he reported as “loving me, but she could be mean a lot.” If you’re brought up by people who were unkind to you, you unconsciously assume that you deserve meanness, are bad, and that there is a great deal wrong with you. This is how children think, coming to believe that falsehood is truth. The truth is that children mistakenly...
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More on the Do or Don’t Breakfast Debate

My October 20 blog, Do You Need to Eat Breakfast?, gave one (surprising) evidence-based answer to this question about our morning meal: eating breakfast is not essential for good health. Now come more studies saying, not so fast, that breakfast is, after all, an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Rather than get angry or frustrated that there is no “right” answer, appreciate the beauty of science testing hypotheses and coming to new conclusions due to new evidence. Let your critical thinking skills (my new book, Outsmarting Overeating, due out January 13, has an entire chapter devoted to improving critical thinking skills as a way to eat “normally”) analyze what you read and come to your own conclusion—which may be that the jury is still out on the question. Heather Leidy, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at Missouri University, reports that “’research showed that people experience a dramatic decline...
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Envy

A client sharing her problem with envy discovered it was actually a dual problem. First, hate that she coveted what someone else had—in this case, thinness—and, second, her shame about experiencing envy made her feel worse about herself. Her feelings got me wondering how many of you also struggle with envying people with thinner bodies and whether you, too, dislike yourself for having this emotion. My discussion with my client we’ll call “Jane” made me curious about what people truly want when they covet other people’s slimmer or fitter shells. What about you? Do you wish to have their actual body or do want your own trimmed down, toned version? Jane and I discussed what she was willing to go through to get what she perceived a thinner person did to get such a body. Did it involve “normal” eating or more, such as starvation, over-exercising, deprivation, purging or laxatives. What...
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Exercise Calms You Down

When we think of exercise, what comes to mind is usually its benefits to body organs such as the circulatory system. But, did you know that exercise is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to reducing anxiety? It’s true. Next time you’re upset and have the urge to eat, move your body instead. Here’s why. Scientists have long known that exercise combats anxiety, but not exactly how that process works—until now. According to “How exercise calms the brain” (THE WEEK, 7/26/13), “physical activity creates excitable new neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that regulates emotion, thinking, and memory.” One would think that this process would make people more anxious, but it works just the opposite. Studying active and sedentary mice, Princeton researchers discovered that the brains of mice that ran on their wheels regularly contained more of a specific neuron that releases the neurotransmitter called gabapentin,...
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Personal Bill of Rights

Most adults who grew up in dysfunctional families in which their parents drank or used drugs, were physically/sexually/emotionally abusive or neglectful, and/or were mentally ill, have difficulty knowing as adults what their rights are. Here’s a Personal Bill of Rights by Charles Whitfield (his books are great!) to live by:
1. I have numerous choices in my life beyond mere survival.


2. I have the right to discover and know “my Child” Within.


3. I have the right to grieve over what I didn't get that I needed or what I got that I didn't need or want.


4. I have the right to follow my own values and standards. 


5. I have the right to recognize and accept my own value system as appropriate. 


6. I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe or it violates my values.

7. I have the right to dignity and respect. 


8. I have the right to make decisions. 


9. I have the right to determine and honor my own priorities.


10. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others. 
11. I have the right to terminate conversations with people who make me feel put down and humiliated.


12. I have the right not to be responsible for others behavior, actions, feelings or problems.


13. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect. 


14. I have the right to expect honesty from others.

15. I have the right to all my feelings. 


16. I have the right to be angry at someone I love. 


17. I have the right to be uniquely me, without feeling that I'm not good enough. 


18. I have the right to feel scared and to say, "I'm afraid."


19. I have the right to experience and then let go of fear, guilt and shame. 


20. I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings, my judgment or any reason that I choose. 


21. I have the right to change my mind at any time. 


22. I have the right to be happy.


23. I have the right to stability, i.e., "roots" and stable healthy relationships of my choice. 


24. I have the right to my own personal space and time needs. 


25. I have the right to be relaxed, playful and frivolous. 


26. I have the right to be flexible and be comfortable with doing so. 
27. I have the right to change and grow.


28. I have the right to be open to improve my communication skills so that I may be understood. 
29. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people. 
30. I have the right to be in a non-abusive environment. 
31. I have the right to be healthier than those around me. 
32. I have the right to take care of myself, no matter what. 
33. I have the right to grieve over actual or threatened losses. 
34. I have the right to trust others who earn my trust. 
35. I have the right to forgive others and to forgive myself. 
36. I have the right to give and to receive unconditional love.
If you want to be emotionally healthy, you need a healthy belief system like Whitfield’s. To make it yours, rewrite his list in your own words. Feel free to add new rights. Repeat them daily to yourself aloud in front of a mirror. Work on living by these rights and you’ll become healthier and improve your relationship with food and your body.

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Remembering "Normal" Eating

Most of us were born “normal” eaters and the process for responding to appetite is really more about relearning than starting from scratch. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t have gotten this far as a species if we didn’t automatically know how to feed ourselves well. What you remember about eating “normally” may help you return to it more quickly. Think back to when food wasn’t an issue for you, when you ate when you were hungry, knew exactly what you wanted to eat, and stopped when you were full or satisfied. When you didn’t seek comfort in food or obsess about calories and weight. Recall, if you can, the wonderful feeling of connection to yourself and your ease with food. What was it like for your body to be so naturally satisfied with food without you giving much thought to it? If you’re able to remember that experience, allow yourself to...
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Fixed or Broken

A post on my message board ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings ) a few months ago included the words, “Some of us are broken.” I hear often from clients that they’re “broken”—read as not fixable. However, there is no such thing as a totally “broken” person or a totally “fixed” one. This polarization is an example of unhealthy, all-or-nothing thinking that perpetuates the idea that anyone is wholly defective or entirely perfect. Needless to say, broken is not a good way to think of yourself. We all are lacking in some areas, and most of us excel in others. No one is a mess or completely okay. Each of us has our issues! Think of the most terrific, most together person you know, then consider their flaws. They have them, I assure you. Now think of the most dysfunctional person you know (not you!), then consider what they do well or have achieved. The...
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Thoughts on Fat

I’m always thrilled when the media catches up to enlightened thinking. Sadly, it’s a rare occurrence, which makes it worth mentioning because, to greater or lesser degree, what we read, hear and see often shapes our thinking. A NYTimes article by Roni Caryn Rabin, “Fat Wasn’t Always a Bad Thing,” jumped off the page at me. It’s one of the few I’ve read for public consumption that views fat from a logical, realistic perspective. The article explains the purpose of fat in evolutionary terms: folks who had the most meat on them survived times of food scarcity and famine (which was most of human history), while those who were lean died. Fat was a good thing! In fact, fat was just about the best thing you could be if you wanted to live long and prosper. The heavy people who survived, of course, passed on their genes to subsequent generations who...
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Treat Yourself Like You Treat Your Dog

Last week I was talking to someone with an eating problem who joked about treating her dogs better than herself. She described feeding them exactly what they wanted and her joy in loving them unconditionally. My first thought was how common her attitude is among dysregulated eaters who often treat family members, friends, and, yes, pets better than themselves. Maybe you’re one of these people who are caught in a vicious cycle of devaluing yourself which leads to disordered eating which erodes self-love which perpetuates more disordered eating. The process of putting all your good feelings into an “other” and holding all the bad ones inside yourself is called projection and stems from discomfort with feeling lovable and worthy. Think about it: Why would you treat an animal better than you? You’d only do it if you didn’t think you deserved as much as Fido or Whiskers. I’m not suggesting that...
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