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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. 

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When A Safety Net Turns Deadly

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I haven’t been able to get a phrase out of my head that a client said a few months ago. It went something like this: “. . . and then the safety net turns into a spider’s web.” As a writer, I found the allusion to be brilliant. As a therapist, it was chilling. Sadly, my client was talking about her marriage. It’s common for victims of abuse, especially women, to partner up with abusers in same sex as well as heterosexual relationships. The path starts in childhood when, through no fault of their own, they suffer abuse as children—physical, emotional, sexual or, worse, all three. Parents or other caretakers are emotionally unhealthy and more concerned with meeting their own pathological needs than rearing healthy children.  As children, these individuals have no idea that they are not causing the abuse and, instead, are perfectly normal and whole, while their abuser is...
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The Difference Among Food Allergy, Sensitivity and Intolerance

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Although most of us use words such as food allergy, sensitivity and intolerance interchangeably, they are not the same. I learned this on my journey to find out which foods are causing me intestinal problems, in this case via a blood test. Fortunately, my handy dandy Lifestyle Eating and Performance (LEAP) MRT® Report (copyright Oxford Biomedical Technologies, Inc., version 8.17.20) provides a comprehensive, understandable tutorial on the subject which I thought I’d share with you in case you have any confusion about these terms.  The short distinction is thus: “The general consensus is that food allergy can be defined as any adverse reaction to food that involves our immune system”: food allergy and food sensitivity. “Food intolerance does not involve the immune system.” In a food allergy, the immunological triggering mechanism is called IgE and the most common food allergies are “peanuts, other nuts, shellfish, or foods containing sulfites. Food allergy...
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From Rapture to Rupture

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When we fall in love we generally believe it’s until death do us part. What we feel is a grand rapture. My mother used to tell me that love is the feeling you feel when you’re about to feel a feeling that you never felt before. Not very helpful for a teenager trying to understand her emotions, but most of us recognize what my mom was trying to tell me: romantic love is special, unique, like nothing else we’ve experienced. It's a kind of rapture, a state that both courses intensely through every cell of our bodies and also feels dreamlike and surreal. Love roots us in every aspect of the present while feeling as if it will last forever and that nothing ever came before. Let me give you an example. My client Ella, seeing me for marital problems, told me about when she first met her husband Lyle in...
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A Communication Lesson

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How many of us simply speak to others as we have been spoken to for most of our lives? Oh, about 100%. If we were raised by parents who were loving and skilled at effective communication—to others, to us and in their self-talk—we are likely to pick up their positive interpersonal habits. For the rest of us, well, unless we learned it somehow or other along the way, we need to understand what constitutes civilized exchange. In my view, novel writer Louise Penny’s main character, Armand Gamache, is a fine teacher, instructing his police trainees as follows: “Civility,” he says, “How can we expect it if we don’t give it?” Before speaking, he recommends that we consider what we’re about to say by asking ourselves: “Is it true? Is it kind? Does it have to be said?” Is it true? It matters that what we say about someone is true for...
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How to Become More Motivated

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Several times a week, I have discussions with clients about why they’re not fulfilling promises they made to themselves about better eating, moving their bodies more or improving self-caring. Having spent much of the first half of my life involved in similar internal debates, I understand the distress you’re in, so here’s some advice: figure out what’s preventing you from having sustained motivation. In my view, motivation has two phases: jump-start and maintenance. The first thing to figure out is which phase you’re having problems with. Some folks just can’t seem to begin, forever standing at the starting line but never crossing it. Others begin again frequently, stopping and starting over. Whichever problem you have, you’ll want to determine what’s been preventing you from starting on keeping on. Here are my ideas:  You have mixed feelings about doing whatever it is you propose to do: cook more healthfully, walk three times...
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You Gotta Have (a Group of) Friends

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As an only child, friends were my lifeline to fun, connection and learning about myself. I can’t imagine my life without not only individual friends but belonging to a group of like-minded people. Granted that I’m an extrovert, but I know introverts who also enjoy the benefits of belonging to a band of friends.  Not every group of friends is right for you. Peers can lead you astray, down paths you might not have chosen without their influence and would likely not have traveled alone. If they’re doing unhealthy things and you hang with them long enough, you’ll end up doing them too. Like going out to eat with friends who all binge and overeat. If you’re not anchored to being a “normal” eater—especially if you’re trying to become one—you’re probably dooming yourself. Also, in a group you could become the scapegoat, the one that gets teased and blamed for all...
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Will Accomplishing Goals Make You Happy?

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Ah, the beginning of a spanking new year and, per usual, there’s much talk about goals. Whether it’s doing more of this or less of that, most folks believe that reaching goals will make them happy. Unfortunately, science tells us that this idea is but a half truth. According to Happy New Year! Your Resolutions Won’t Bring You Joy, “Changing circumstances won’t make you hugely happier,” said Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside. In other words, the folks who are virtuous enough to keep their resolutions aren’t necessarily enjoying their lives more than the rest of us. And, if they are happier, it’s not because they kept their resolutions — it’s because they made the right resolutions in the right way.”  She goes on to advise that, after basic needs for food, shelter and safety are met, “Life events like marriage (makes you happy!) or divorce...
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Toxic Positivity

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Many of you, especially those who incline toward depression and anxiety, might be wondering how positivity could ever be toxic. The truth is that, like negativity, too much of always being upbeat and look-on-the-bright side can hurt you and others. When Does a Good Attitude Become Toxic Positivity? explains how. A bit of background. As a therapist, I was trained to identify and help clients focus on resolving their problems. Therefore, I had to ask people about them—over and over again. Then in the 1990s along came the Positive Psychology movement which shifted therapeutic focus to clients’ strength and resilience, a welcome addition to the field. Fortunately, I’ve not felt a clinical need to choose one aspect of self over the other: people have amazing skills as well as enormous problems. Difficulties arise, however, when we feel we must choose one perspective over the other. You’ve probably met people who are...
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When You Feel You’re Not Doing Enough

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Many dysregulated eaters not only eat more food than their bodies need, but also give too much to other people. I half-jokingly call this having an “enough disorder” and have blogged about How to Sense Enoughness. A major cause of stress (and overeating), overdoing often rears its ugly head in interpersonal relationships. Here are examples: Your elderly mother expecting you to visit twice a week, while you’re working full-time as a single parent, is a major stressor for you. You keep trying to do so, but either find that half the time you end up cancelling one visit or return home exhausted and resentful. You feel you should visit twice weekly because that’s what Mom is requesting, believing that a good child would put their needs aside and make the effort. When your friends hint that Mom might be asking too much of you, you agree while at the same time...
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The Difference Between Being In and Out of Your Body

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Having had an eating disorder, I can attest to the fact that it’s literally an out-of-body experience. This is quite a paradoxical statement, considering that we view eating problems as body disorders. The truth is that they are actually problems of the body and mind and that the root of them is not being connected to both.  Eating disorders develop when we become untethered from the sensations and cues of our bodies. They become, what is called in the trade objectified, not only by others (but generally first by them) but by us. It’s as if the body is way out over there and we are viewing it in order to act upon it—as if it isn’t part of us.  There is a distinction between thoughts and feelings that are about the body (when we view and treat it as separate from us) and those that are in the body (when...
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Do What Science Says Makes Us Happy

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Although dysregulated eaters seek happiness in food, it won’t give them what they’re looking for. Not that it’s a mystery how to become happy, with a gazillion books and articles on the subject. I’ve written a dozen-plus blogs on it myself. (see my blog archives). Here’s the latest on some of what science says from “Happiness in Hard Times” by Sari Harrar (AARP, The Magazine, June/July 2020, pp 57-59) Guidelines for happiness don’t change much, except that they may be more difficult to practice in times of crisis, for example, during this pandemic. “The happiness that helps in great difficulty is realistic. It recognizes fears and anxieties. It looks for meaning. It nourishes and sustains us, says psychologist Maria Sirois.” Does an ice cream sundae or a bag of Doritos address any of these issues? Sirois advises us to “Let yourself feel what you’re really feeling.” This doesn’t mean to make...
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Stop Letting Weight Stigma Hold You Back

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We’re all used to seeing successful people, mostly women, paired with low or average weights. This is what the media shows us, what society promotes as reality, and what we come to believe. But watching a documentary, Surge, on aspiring Democratic legislators, it dawned on me that some of these women were role models not only as females but as women who would be called “higher weight” in this culture and weren’t stuck sitting around telling themselves they couldn’t do this or that because of it. Actually, I’d had this thought when I first learned of Stacey Abrams, former member of the Georgia House of Representatives and candidate for Governor of Georgia. The fact that we notice other people’s weights at all in this country—never mind judge them for it—both drives me crazy and saddens me. But then I considered what it took for her as a Black woman in the...
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The Difference Between Manifest and Latent Problems

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Problem-solving is hard enough when you know exactly what you’re looking to fix. It’s impossible when you’re trying to fix things that you’re not able to. For example, my husband and I were trying to figure out what was wrong with an old TV on which the picture kept flickering on and off. We failed at every way we tried to stabilize it. Then a friend suggested it might be our cable connection and Comcast came to the rescue.  This shows the difference between a manifest and a latent problem. Manifest problems are what’s visible to us and what seems evident. Latent ones are generally hidden and underlie what we think of as obvious. In this case, what we thought was the apparent problem—the TV—was, in fact, an incorrect diagnosis. The underlying problem was the cable connection. Who knew? The point is that no matter how much we fussed with the...
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Don’t Believe Everything You Think

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I love this quote by author Robert Fulghum: “Don’t believe everything you think.” So succinct, so direct, so true. Whether you take this statement as truth or not will make all the difference in how well or poorly you live your life, so take a moment to consider on which side of the divide you stand.  If you don’t believe it, well, then you’re stuck with your false thoughts til you die and that’s that. This means you’ll be at their mercy to make you miserable and do things that aren’t remotely in your best interest. Sadly, you will think you’re a victim when you’re actually choosing to not develop and use the powers which will transform your life. If you do believe that you can manage your thoughts, great. That brings us to not believing everything you think. If we don’t need to believe every thought that wanders across our...
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What’s Missing From Your Life?

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If you’re drawn to food when you’re not hungry, something may be missing in your life. Or maybe more than some thing, but several somethings. You might be lacking: People Many dysregulated eaters are lonely and don’t realize it. They tell me, “I’m private and like to keep things to myself,” “I don’t want to be a burden,” or “I don’t trust people because I’ve been stabbed in the back too many times.” They believe that they should bear all of life’s hardships themselves and that they’re weak if they reach out for help. They engage in activities with people, but fear sharing authentic feelings. Some prefer the role of listening to others’ problems to opening up themselves. Some have lots of “friends” who are really only acquaintances and others don’t have even that. They yearn for intimacy but, fear it as well, and so remain disconnected, alone and lonely.  Purpose...
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What Do You Want More Than Food This Year?

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I hope you understand by now that food is not what you really want whenever you’re not hungry and grab something from the fridge or swing by the fast-food drive-thru window. Food only meets your needs when you’re hungry. Whatever else you want is something important to you, essential for your well-being and living your best life, and foundational to your happiness.  Make this the year that you finally find out what’s driving your food obsession, what’s underneath your need to clean your plate, what’s causing your secret and sneak eating—whatever you’d be doing if you weren’t focusing on food and weight every minute of your life. The question is not only what you really want, but what you want more than food. What will satisfy you more than any sweet or treat ever could? Stop reading for a minute and answer this question.  Here’s another: What are you afraid to...
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Do You Suffer from Ostrich Syndrome?

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It’s easy to think we know a good deal about problems because we have so many of them, but it’s common to see things as problems that aren’t and ignore things that are. “Admitting you have a problem, and the ostrich syndrome” by Dennis Zink (Sarasota Herald Tribune, 7/20/20, D8) helps us true valid problems and find solutions. Zink lays out five types of problems: those you 1) know about and are trying to improve, 2) are aware of and ignore, 3) don’t realize exist, 4) want to solve but lack resources or the ability to do so, 5) want to solve but aren’t solvable. He says that type #1 problems are the most common, for example, recognizing that you overeat and paying attention to eating more mindfully. He suggests that if you know you have a problem, say, drinking too much alcohol, and don’t put attention on it, “you may...
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The Difference Between Force and Power

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One of my favorite mystery writers, the Canadian author Louise Penny, brilliantly captures why some people fail and others succeed by differentiating between characters who merely exert force against and those who harness power from within. In A Great Reckoning, one character says of another, “He was more powerful than anyone she’d ever met because he wasn’t at the mercy of the elements.”  In order to avoid being at their mercy, one must have a firm moral core, a rooted center that is strong, resourceful and resilient. Power draws from deep within by formulating intention and sticking with it, strategizing about your best shot, and not self-indulgently reacting to people or situations, not falling for cheap tricks or grabbing onto quick fixes.  Then there’s force. I bet that each of you has tried to force something open (a bottle, a drawer, a key in a lock). Maybe you’ve been lucky and...
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The Problem with Wishful Thinking

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Here’s one more reason to become strong and rational of mind: “When we indulge in wishful thinking, we make ourselves vulnerable to exploitation” (Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition by Patricia S. Churchland, p. 181). By wishful thinking, I don’t mean enjoying a fleeting yearning during a nor’easter to live in the Bahamas or fantasizing about having a fling with George Clooney or Beyoncé. There’s little psychic energy invested in either example because you aren’t planning on moving any time soon and recognize that celebrities are a bit out of your league. I’m talking about persisting in obsessing about something being one way when every fiber of your being (and everyone you know) is insisting that it’s the other way. Wishful thinking can hijack reason and lead you to believe that somehow, some way, you can live in the alternate universe of your making. It has no substance, no factual backing;...
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Beware of These Traits in People

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Whether we like it or not, we all have what’s called a dark side, when we’re not putting our best foot forward and resort to irrationality and immaturity. But for some people this side is their only side. Their personality is composed of mostly unhealthy traits. “The Dark Core of Personality” highlights ones to watch out for and steer clear of in people. A team from Germany and Denmark calls these traits the General Dark Factor of Personality or D-factor. Morten Moshagen, professor at ULM University, describes it as “the basic tendency to maximize one's own utility at the expense of others, accompanied by beliefs that serve as justifications for one's malevolent behaviors.” These people are anywhere from selfish to narcissistic to psychopathic. The nine factors that compose the D-factor are: “Egoism. The excessive concern with one's own pleasure or advantage at the expense of community well-being.Machiavellianism. Manipulativeness, callous affect and...
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