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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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Book Review – Power Snuggles: Your Path to Vibrant and Lasting Love

Whether your romantic relationship leaves lots to be desired or could simply use a tune up, you’ll learn therapeutic wisdom and practical strategies for getting the love you want in Power Snuggles: Your Path to Vibrant and Lasting Love by Jon and Beverly Meyerson. Although they’re friends of mine, I’d write the same stellar review of this guide to lasting love if I’d never met them. The goal of Power Snuggles is to turn universal power struggles into growth and healing opportunities. Of course, one of you can’t simply read this book and fix the relationship single-handedly. Two will need to tango for your relationship to maximize its potential. But don’t underestimate how one person making small changes can have a huge effect on a partner’s actions and reactions. You can learn a lot from Power Snuggles. After nearly 30 years of marriage and being a therapist, I did! The book...
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Book Review – Outsmarting Overeating: Boost Your Life Skills, End Your Food Problems

My sixth book, Outsmarting Overeating: Boost Your Life Skills, End Your Food Problems, was just published by New World Library, and I’m excited to tell you about it. It’s like no other book because it’s less about food than, well, the rest of your life. In fact, it’s based on this basic question: What if your eating problems aren’t really about food? If so, then all the diets and fasts, carb and calorie-counting, deprivation and nutrition information in the world isn’t going to help you. My premise, based on 30-plus years of experience treating troubled eaters—and having overcome overeating half a lifetime ago myself—is that effective life skills lead to a more manageable life, and a more enjoyable, stress-free life makes it easier to eat “normally.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? Life skills are strategies and behaviors which we all needed to learn in childhood, but didn’t because our parents were teaching...
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Book Review – Mindful Emotional Eating

The title of Pavel G. Somov’s new book, Mindful Emotional Eating: Mindfulness Skills to Control Carvings, Eating in Moderation and Optimize Coping, provides a new slant to emotional eating. What if it’s not a bad thing to do? What if it’s a natural response to a stressful life? What if we could enhance emotional eating by doing it mindfully without guilt and perhaps, therefore, eat less? This may be a radical idea for many of you. This book focuses on harm reduction, the hurt done to body and mind from out-of-control emotional eating. It is written for eating disorder clinicians and their clients and has something for each audience. Disregulated eaters learn that self-loathing and guilt drive binge-eating, and that the only true path to stopping binges is self-acceptance. Somov distinguishes between mindful and mindless bingeing. We may consciously choose to have a nibble of this or a nosh of that...
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Book Review – Embody Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and quiet that critical voice)

Ever on the lookout for books to help people feel better about their bodies, I found one in Embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and quiet that critical voice!) by Connie Sobszak, co-founder of The Body Positive. Sobszak begins by explaining that, “When we become ‘embodied’—choosing to live consciously in our bodies and thereby giving our spirits a physical home—we can experience love for our ‘flawed’ human selves.” The Body Positive model moves away from trying to fix what you perceive is wrong with your body to a “practice of improving and maintaining self-care behaviors that are motivated by positive rather than punishing forces.” Act from your “wants,” she’s saying, not from someone else’s “shoulds.” The book is divided into five competencies. In “Reclaim Health” Sobszak offers a weight-neutral, pleasure-focused approach to getting and staying healthy. She encourages readers to find pleasure in self-care rather than see it as a...
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Book Review – Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself

After 30+ years of reading books on psychology and self-help, it’s unusual for me to come across a book that absolutely knocks my socks off. But that’s just what Anneli Rufus did in Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself (Penguin Group, NY, 2014). Truly, this is a life-changing book. First, it tells it like it is—like it really is—for people who suffer from self-hatred, through the words of an author who has been there and then some. Then it lays out a reasonable, comprehensive, doable plan for learning to value yourself. Plus it’s written beautifully with a down-to-earth style. Some highlights. Rufus asserts that someone stole your self-esteem. Bull’s-eye: you had it at one point and then it was wrongly ripped away from you. She says, “Maybe no one directly told us we were worthless, but we came to that conclusion anyway as the only rational explanation of how we were...
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Book Review – Lasagna for Lunch

Lasagna for Lunch: Declaring Peace with Emotional Eating by psychotherapist Mary Anne Cohen, is a book you’ll want to read and refer back to—as a sequel to French Toast for Breakfast or as a stand alone read. If you’re a compulsive or emotional eater, both books have a great deal of wisdom to offer you. First off, I like Cohen’s style and format. She talks about her own food problems and recovery, switches to her therapist hat and provides advice on how to stop abusing food and your body, then drives her point home as an educator by detailing anecdotes and case examples from her years of clinical experience. You can see the breadth and depth of this book in her chapter headings: Evolving from Impasse to Possibility, Frozen Grief and Emotional Eating, The Inner World of the Emotional Eater, Body Image and Culture, Childhood Attachments and Eating Disorders, The Family—from...
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Book Review – Starting Monday: 7 Keys to a Permanent, Positive Relationship with Food

Are you someone who keeps ping-ponging between self care and “I don’t care”? If so, my new book, STARTING MONDAY—SEVEN KEYS TO A PERMANENT, POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD (Gürze Books), will teach you how to resolve your mixed feelings so you can establish consistent self-care with food and your body. The book was born out of the laments I hear daily from troubled eaters who insist that they’re lazy, crazy, and defective because they don’t do what is best for themselves all, or even most, of the time. The fact is, when your intentions and behavior don’t align—you insist you want to eat healthfully or go to the gym regularly but don’t, or do it for a while, then quit—it’s not a sign of mental illness or moral depravity, but of mental conflict.  What you’re suffering from is a chronic case of mixed motivations which, when resolved, will open you up...
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Book Review: Wellness, Not Weight

WELLNESS, NOT WEIGHT—HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE AND MOTIVATIONAL INTERVIEWING, an anthology edited by Ellen Glovsky, PhD, RD, LDN, is the rare book whose audience is both disregulated eaters and their treatment providers. I’m proud to have a chapter from my FOOD AND FEELINGS WORKBOOK included in it, and am glad to have this opportunity to tell you how comprehensive and useful this anthology is. As Glovsky explains in the introduction, the book is divided into three parts. Part One includes an overview of its main concepts: the mindful, non-diet approach for resolving eating problems; the Health at Every Size (HAES) model for achieving wellness; and the use of Motivational Interviewing, a set of techniques that is relatively easy to learn and can speed recovery. Parts Two and Three go into more detail about each of these concepts and how to put them into practice. This book is so rich in ideas...
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Book Review: My Secret Affair with Chocolate Cake

In the interest of full disclosure, MY SECRET AFFAIR WITH CHOCOLATE CAKE—THE EMOTIONAL EATER’S GUIDE TO BREAKING FREE by Sunita Pattani, is a book for which I wrote the foreword. Pattani takes you by the hand and walks you through her journey from emotional eating to “normal” eating and effective emotional management. What I find refreshing in MY SECRET AFFAIR is that Pattani champions the idea of finding her own way through her eating problems and respects the reader enough to ask her or him to do the same. Although she doesn’t provide cookie-cutter answers, her deep-seated belief in our inherent wisdom and desire to do right by ourselves carries the reader along as she describes her recovery and how it might inform yours. Pattani begins with an assessment of where the reader is, underscoring three factors that form the foundation of realigning with appetite and natural body weight: 1) We...
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Book Review: Stop Eating Your Heart Out

If you’re a fan of 12-step programs, STOP EATING YOUR HEART OUT: THE 21-DAY PROGRAM TO FREE YOURSELF FROM EMOTIONAL EATING by Meryl Hershey Beck, MA, MEd, LPCC will be right up your alley. Let me say at the outset that I don’t personally or professionally subscribe to or endorse 12-step or higher power programs for any kind of recovery, and that energy methods lack sufficient scientific evidence beyond the placebo effect for me to believe in their efficacy. That said, many of you who do believe in these approaches might find this book helpful. This is a user-friendly book. By sharing deeply of her personal struggles with food, depression, and being a “nice girl,” which so many disregulated eaters are, Beck lets you know that she understands what you’re going through and can help. She then moves on to various strategies disregulated eaters can use to end emotional eating and...
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Book Review: Someone to Talk To

SOMEONE TO TALK TO: FINDING PEACE, PURPOSE, AND JOY AFTER TRAGEDY AND LOSS by Samantha M. White, LICSW, is the story about overcoming trauma, loss and psychic pain. Though the book is not about eating, food or weight, if you are a disregulated eater who is trying to fully heal from deep emotional wounds, this memoir gives you a recipe for getting from here to there and will speed you on your journey. Full disclosure: Samantha is a new friend whose book I offered to blog about if I liked it. I intended to browse through the review copy thoroughly enough to get a feel for it but, instead, was hooked from page one and read every word cover to cover. This memoir starts with the death of Samantha’s daughter in an automobile accident and moves on through the aftermath of tragedy. It chronicles the tortured break up of Samantha’s marriage,...
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Book Review: Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes

If you were to combine medical knowledge, nutritional advice, a guide to mindful eating, a self-care manual, and fitness suggestions into one book, you’d come up EAT WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU EAT WITH DIABETES: A MINDFUL EATING PROGRAM FOR THRIVING WITH PREDIABETES AND DIABETES by Michelle May, MD with Megrette Fletcher, MEd, RD, CDE. For those of you in either category, this is a book you won’t want to miss. Dr. May is well known in the field of dysfunctional eating as the author of EAT WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU EAT: HOW TO BREAK THE EAT-REPENT-REPEAT CYCLE (a book I heartily recommend). In this new book, she and Fletcher map out a plan for managing pre-diabetes and diabetes that is both sensible and doable. They emphasize curiosity, not judgment, and focus on empowering readers to get out of victim mode and take charge of their health. There...
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Book Review: Move—How Women Can Achieve Athletic Goals at Any Age

Although I don’t generally set explicit goals for myself yet do okay, that’s not the case for everyone. Disregulated eaters especially often have difficulty setting and achieving goals especially related to food and fitness. If you have difficulty achieving success, here’s a book that is definitely for you—MOVE! HOW WOMEN CAN ACHIEVE ATHLETIC GOALS AT ANY AGE by Catharine Utzschneider, Ed.D. who happens to be a colleague of mine from (when I lived in) Massachusetts. MOVE! Is written for athletes and non-athletes alike. Cathy understands that you have a busy life and that you’ve failed at achieving goals before and might be a bit gun shy of a repeat performance. But this doesn’t faze her in the least. As an athletic coach, athlete, and a mom, she knows what it takes to keep stretching yourself. In what she calls “deliberate practice,” this is exactly what you do—set and achieve a goal,...
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Book Review: The Compass of Pleasure

For those of you who aren’t satisfied with simply working on changing your eating habits, but also want to understand the biology behind some of them, I recommend David J. Linden’s THE COMPASS OF PLEASURE—HOW OUR BRAINS MAKE FATTY FOODS, ORGASM, EXERCISE, MARIJUANA, GENEROSITY, VODKA, LEARNING, AND GAMBLING FEEL SO GOOD. The book deals with some complex concepts, but I found it enlightening and relatively readable if I was willing to go slowly and read through an occasional passage more than once. Linden explains why on a cellular level we become addicted to pleasure. Never mind family and cultural influences, insists this professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and editor in chief of The Journal of Neurophysiology, as he gets down to the nitty gritty of why and how our brains react to pleasure. The importance of his book lies in telling us that we’re not...
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Book Review: Body Shots

I’m delighted to be blogging about BODY SHOTS: HOLLYWOOD AND THE CULTURE OF EATING DISORDERS, a new book by my colleague Emily Fox-Kales. Among her numerous professional achievements, she is the executive director of Feeding Ourselves ( http://www.feedingourselves.com/ ), a Massachusetts program that teaches troubled eaters to stop obsessing about weight and become “normal” eaters. BODY SHOTS critiques how what we view on the big (and small) screen teaches us the precise wrong messages about food, eating, and our bodies. As stories go, this tale of Hollywood’s distortion of women’s bodies and promotion of an irrational ideal of thinness has a tragic ending—starvation, malnutrition, overeating, a cycle of yo-yo dieting and binge-eating, self-hatred, preoccupation with weight and shape, and questing for the perfect body above all else. Fox-Kales reveals the subtext of TV makeover shows that leave women feeling that their bodies are burdens that need to be transformed: “These shows...
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Book Review: Healing Your Hungry Heart

As a writer of books on eating and weight, I’m always interested in reading what other therapist authors have to say on the subject. One book I highly recommend is HEALING YOUR HUNGRY HEART: RECOVERY FROM YOUR EATING DISORDER by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Though highly personal, HEALING YOUR HUNGRY HEART is not another memoir, but a smart how-to-recover book from a wise and caring teacher. Although the book seems primarily geared to women with bulimia and anorexia, binge-eaters and men with these problems will get a lot out of it. One of my favorite chapters is on early warning signs of having an eating disorder because it teases out the subtle ways—including cultural pressure—we con ourselves into believing we’re “normal” eaters when we’re not. Poppink’s chapters on Boundaries and Family are also enlightening. As a therapist, Poppink explains how troubled eaters allow their boundaries to become violated and how that can...
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Book Review: The Gift of Our Compulsions

For years a client has been telling me about a book that helped with her food problems and anxiety and I finally bought a copy for myself. THE GIFT OF OUR COMPULSIONS: A REVOLUTIONARY APPROACH TO SELF-ACCEPTANCE AND HEALING by Mary O’Malley is as helpful as my client says it is and I encourage you all to read it, whatever kind of food or weight compulsion has been plaguing you. O’Malley’s premise is simple: Your compulsion is not the enemy, but the entrance to healing old wounds and bettering your life. Most of us treat food compulsions as ingrates whom we can’t wait to get rid of. We say, “I hate it when I can’t stop eating even when I’m full,” “I’m disgusted with myself for throwing up after a meal,” “I’m sick of obsessing about weight and can’t stand how the scale owns me.” O’Malley wisely cautions that what we...
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Book Review: Losing It In France

We Americans know how to do so many things well, but eating is assuredly not one of them. For that, it seems, we must cast our eyes across the Atlantic to France. In LOSING IT IN FRANCE: LES SECRETS OF THE FRENCH DIET by Sally Asher, we are transported to a land where enjoying food more leads to eating just the right amount of it. Part cookbook, part memoir, Asher teaches us how to enjoy food in all its facets—meal planning, shopping, cooking, serving and, of course, eating. Proving that you can judge a book by its cover, LOSING IT IN FRANCE has an enticing cover photo that looks distinctly French—bread nesting in a bicycle basket in front of a pastry shop. In the U.S., we’d look at this scene and start counting calories and carbs. We’d see the bicycle and think, Ugh, exercise. In France, bread and pastry are a...
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Book Review: Lost and Found

I always get excited when I’m about to read another book by Geneen Roth and I remained excited after finishing her most recent foray into self-help, LOST AND FOUND: UNEXPECTED REVELATIONS ABOUT FOOD AND MONEY. I encourage you all to read it, whether your problems are in the eating or money arena, or both. For those of you who haven’t heard, Roth and her husband lost pretty much all their savings when Bernie Madoff was handcuffed and led away to prison for swindling investors in a Ponzi scheme. Roth writes about her devastation and gradual, painful recovery in a way that is so honest, it’s painful to read. Therapists talk alot about our job of helping people remove their “emotional masks” to reveal their authentic selves. Well, no one does unmasking as well as Roth, and it is her brutal honesty and clarity about herself which makes your heart catch—and teaches...
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Book Review: Bulimia

What a delight to be reviewing the 25th Anniversary Edition of BULIMIA: A GUIDE TO RECOVERY by Lindsey Hall and Leigh Cohn, the publishers of Gürze Books. This “completely revised and updated” edition is not simply a book about how to recover from bulimia. It’s a valuable read for all sorts of troubled eaters. Although I had recovered from 18 months of purging in my early 30s, by the time I read Lindsey’s original book decades later, it still spoke to my heart. By then, I was starting to counsel clients with eating disorders and I know it helped every client I lent it to. This expanded edition will help even more of you, not only those suffering with bulimia. First off, Lindsey’s personal account of her triumph over disordered eating and purging is nothing but inspirational. Her straight-from-the-heart honesty and courage shine through every page. Reading about her recovery will...
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