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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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Mirror, Mirror

A recent blurb in the newspaper has me agog. According to an online survey by Transformulas, a British beauty company, women look at themselves in the mirror every 30 minutes on average daily when they’re awake (Did they really need to add “the awake” part?) and men check themselves out every 27 minutes. My guess is that statistics in the US are about the same, but I fear they may be even more outrageous. The Transformulas survey says that when women are mirror-gazing, they’re reapplying makeup—11 times a day. Obviously this is not the case for men, so what is it that draws us repeatedly to our own image. I’m wondering, when we look in the looking glass or pass a reflective store window, are we looking at or for? Are we checking to see if there is something out of place that needs to be fixed—we’ve left a roller in...
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Thinness and Gender

As if we don’t have enough gender disparities in this society, I’ve been noticing lately how thin men and women are viewed and treated differently. Skinny men, whether they perceive their physique as unmanly or not, are basically left alone. Perhaps they’re not adored as hunks or hotties, maybe they’re covertly envied or even laughed at, but no one has all that much to say about or to them regarding their bodies. Thin women, on the other hand, are too much talked about and talked at, on constant display. They are perceived as having it all together and often are the recipient of envy and resentment. One day I overheard a store cashier say to a slender woman, “Oh, lucky you. You can eat anything. I wish I looked like you.” Another day I heard a trim woman mention to her friend that she’d gone to a spa. Her friend laughed...
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It’s Not About Weight

If you have been heavy your whole life (or most of it), you may believe that your main problem is getting your body to a healthy, more comfortable weight. You may be convinced that your life will be dramatically different when you’re at your ideal size and that you can then kick back and enjoy life. If you are so obese that your size restricts mobility and activity, you may find that life does vastly improve when you reduce your size. Being more comfortable in your body and able to do more may be enough to change how you feel about yourself and put your life back on track. However, even if you lose the weight, you will still have many issues to deal with. My concern is that people who loose a tremendous amount of weight are not changing enough of themselves to become emotionally healthy. It is certainly easier...
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Body Self-Hate

I’ve been thinking lately about a comment an overweight client made in an offhand way that seems to capture the intense emotions women have about their and other women’s bodies. She mentioned that while shopping she’d seen a middle-aged woman with a “good figure” who was wearing short shorts. Her first reaction was envy that a woman in her 50s still looked so trim and “like a teenager.” However, when my client looked more closely, she admitted to experiencing “enormous satisfaction” that the woman had some cellulite on her highly visible thighs. My client went on to say that she felt terrible wishing cellulite on someone, but that that emotion was better than the self-hate that overwhelmed her looking at the woman’s seemingly perfect legs. In that moment of “satisfaction,” my client could finally quash the hate she felt toward her body by finding fault with that of another. I would...
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The Big Event

Attending an event when you’re feeling crummy about your body can be highly stressful. You may refuse to go, waver back and forth on a decision, engage in a shopping frenzy to find the exact right thing to wear, or say yes and be filled with dread. The occasion might be a wedding, anniversary, birthday party, or some other family gathering that’s bound to include all the relatives. Or a high school or college reunion or get together with a group of colleagues or old friends. The big worry is how you’ll be judged if you’re above average size or if you’ve lost a major amount of weight regained it. You feel badly about yourself because you believe that people with think badly of you because of your largeness. This belief is partially accurate in that there may be people at the event who are judgmental or obsessed with thinness who...
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Being Fat and Feeling Fat

Once again, I’m grateful for the messages boards of Diet Survivors ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dietsurvivors ) and Food and Feelings ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings ) for giving me ideas for my blogs, this time on the difference between feeling fat and being fat. As a person with dysregulated eating and/or distorted body image, when you feel fat, you’re describing eating or believing you’ve eaten too much, being bloated or stuffed, and/or experiencing your clothes as tight, making it seem as if you are too large for them. Feeling fat does not necessarily correspond with weight or being fat. At 102 pounds, you can feel fat from “normal” eating, overeating or wearing clothes that are too small. Yes, feeling fat, a subjective, internal experience, can be associated with being fat, an external one. However, as a nonfat person, you don’t have the actual sensations of carrying around excess weight, being judged, stared at, stigmatized, or discriminated...
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Changing Weight

As we get older, most of us put on weight or have body shifts. If you’ve been slender most of your life, it can come as quite a shock to try on a garment you haven’t worn in a while only to find that it no longer fits. Or you may realize that you’re now more comfortable in a larger size than you previously wore, but find no major change on the scale. Either situation may generate an uncharacteristic, new focus on food and weight, even when you’ve not been previously concerned about them. Some people who’ve never had eating or weight problems make the transition to a larger clothing size and higher scale number fairly easily. They figure they’ve been fortunate for a long time and attribute body changes to age, decreased activity, and hormones. They may watch what they eat a bit more carefully and cut back somewhat on...
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Body Acceptance

In her new book, Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, Gina Kolata puts forth a version of set point theory, maintaining that for mostly biological reasons, the body has a natural weight that it will return to again and again. She presents case studies and scientific evidence based on research that the body “fails” at dieting because it simply cannot drop below a minimum weight. If she is right, how can you learn to accept your so-called set point—when you’re eating both “normally” and nutritiously—even if you wish it were lower? The fact is, even if you can’t change your body, you can always change your mind. Many heavy people get on with life and don’t become obsessed with losing weight or being fat. They know they’re large, might or might not aim for fitness, and weight is not the focal point of...
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Being Critical of Appearance

Not everyone feels the same way about their appearance. Some people could care less what they wear and how they look. They’re too busy with other things to fuss about clothes, have low self-esteem, or are depressed and lack the interest or energy to make a big deal about appearance. Other people are obsessed with how they look—striving for a perfect body, spending oodles of time and money on the right clothes, unable to leave the house without taking their appearance into account. Some of these people, as well, may suffer from low self-esteem and only feel good about themselves when they think they look their best. In the middle of the continuum are people who have a reasonable pride in appearance, but don’t go overboard . Much of attitude about appearance comes from what we learned in childhood. Think about how your parents viewed their looks. If you had a...
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When Your Clothes Are Too Tight

Whether you’re learning to legalize foods and enjoying them for the first time (or the first time in a long time) or are putting on weight because you’re not paying attention to your food intake, your clothes may be getting tighter. A waistband digging into your belly, a zipper that won’t quite close, or pant legs that bind your thighs all can lead to physical discomfort. And if you’re someone engaged in ongoing battle with food and weight, snug clothes can bring on feelings such as shame, disappointment, and panic as well. People put on weight for a variety of reasons, including inability to exercise, aging, food allergies, medication, vacation, “the holidays,” and hormonal changes. “Normal” eaters might be a bit frustrated, surprised or perplexed by putting on a few pounds, but most take it in stride without an intense reaction. They might try cutting back on treats, increasing exercise, talking...
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What Should We Look Like?

What weight should you be and what kind of body should you have? Time- and culture-bound as we are, women especially can’t help but unconsciously model ourselves after the images we see, the bodies we’re told either to have or avoid. From medicine to the media, we’re focused on two extremes: those who are fat or overweight and those who are ultra-thin or gym-sculpted. We notice these folks, rather than average-looking Jills and Joes, because, for the most part, that’s where the “in the know” fingers are pointing. Three recent images I recently encountered are perfect examples. Two are from a comedy club. Before the first act, the audience was “entertained” by an oversized TV screen flashing images of some current young diva and her female dance entourage, none of whom looked remotely like anyone I know and few that I see in my daily comings and goings. It was hard...
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Romance and Body Image

I hear the same story over and over from clients: I want or wanted to lose weight to meet a man. Although I haven’t heard this exact sentiment from male clients, they have said that they felt if they were to divorce, at their current high weight, they feared no woman would want them. Ironically, in the case of the women, their problem with romance was never really their weight; it was that they were consistently choosing the wrong men, which is a statement about their self-esteem, not their size. These clients were so preoccupied with looking attractive, looking thin, and looking for love and approval, that they never stopped to ask themselves how they managed to unerringly find dates and mates who treated them poorly, showed little ability or desire for emotional intimacy, and who, to a person, ended up causing them to feel inadequate and rejected. They were paying...
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Why Is Thin In?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to start from scratch, without preconceived prejudices about what to think about fat and thin and make up our own minds? Unfortunately, we can’t completely erase our mental chalkboards or delete all our attitudes, but we can do a good deal to think clearly and for ourselves. First off, how ‘bout being conscious that we’re programmed to believe a certain way—that thin is better than fat? If you saw a dog or cat that was no meat and all bones what would your initial reaction be? If you’re honest, it would not be, “Gee, Fido or Whiskers is sure lookin’ good” or “What a fine looking animal!” Rather, you’d be alarmed that the poor scrawny thing might be undernourished and starve to death. And if you saw a slightly plump animal, I doubt you’d recoil in horror; you might even find it endearing and cuddly. So why...
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