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: 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 enact the...
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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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Book Review: The Self-compassion Diet

What a delight to blog about THE SELF-COMPASSION DIET: A STEP-BY-STEP PROGRAM TO LOSE WEIGHT WITH LOVING-KINDNESS by Jean Fain, LICSW, a colleague from the Boston area, where I lived and worked for decades. Although I rarely focus on weight loss, this book has such powerful strategies for becoming a “normal” eater (and shedding pounds), that I want to spread the word. The premise of the book and CD is simple: by using self-compassion or “a deep awareness of one’s own suffering,” you can radically go from being a dysfunctional eater to a functional one. Fain describes self-compassion as composed of mindful awareness (a basic technique of keeping attention on the present moment), self-kindness (treating yourself with caring, understanding and validation), and common humanity (the awareness that suffering is part of the human condition and that others suffer in a similar way). I love that Fain considers self-compassion both a personality...
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Book Review: The Brain That Changes Itself

An enlightening new book, THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF: STORIES OF PERSONAL TRIUMPH FROM THE FRONTIERS OF BRAIN SCIENCE by Norman Doidge, M.D., is not about eating per se, but I recommend it because it is all about mental change. Although the title may sound daunting and dry, the book is anything but. THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF teaches us about how plastic—malleable and changeable—the brain is. For most of history, it was thought that the brain’s workings were fixed and permanent, that because we’re hard-wired, that’s how we stay. Although we do have instincts and a good deal of hard-wiring inherited through our DNA, there is much about ourselves and our lives that can be altered by thinking differently and taking actions in ways that reshape and rewire the brain’s neural pathways. One relevant chapter in the book is devoted to stopping worries, obsessions, compulsions, and bad habits. Doidge writes,...
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Book Review: Creativity Workbook

Ever think that there must be another way to work on your eating problems? FINDING YOUR VOICE THROUGH CREATIVITY: THE ART AND JOURNALING WORKBOOK FOR DISORDERED EATING by Mindy Jacobson-Levy and Maureen Foy-Tornay (Gürze Books, 2010) offers an approach that encourages you to use creativity to access your innermost thoughts and feelings about your disregulated eating. As the authors, both art therapists and professional counselors, say, “Art bypasses the flow of thoughts and words that continually run through our heads. Although words can be meaningful…they can also serve as a façade that masks true feelings. This is particularly true for individuals with chaotic eating patterns whose negative self-talk has become a habit and focal point.” This workbook taps into the non-verbal part of your brain, using creativity to help you shut off those pesky thoughts and teach you to recognize exactly what you’re feeling. The authors maintain that disregulated eaters too...
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Book Review: Women, Food and God

WOMEN, FOOD AND GOD: AN UNEXPECTED PATH TO ALMOST ANYTHING, Geneen Roth’s new book, is a must read. You might wonder, as I did, what she could possibly have to say that she hasn’t said already after penning some half dozen bestsellers. The answer is lots. Although there’s nothing so new and startling that it will knock your socks off, she still has wisdom to impart from her own food struggles and recovery and from studying and pursuing emotional/psychological health for decades. First off, for all you secularists (of which I am one) who fear that this book is some sort of religious or spiritual tome, let me put your mind at rest. When Roth speaks of God, she’s not talking about the concept in the traditional sense—to her, God can be anything or nothing. Her intent is for you to discover and hold dear the divine in yourself. Second, she...
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Book Review: A Trio of Books

A trio of books by Barbara Small, MA on subjects near and dear to the hearts of disregulated eaters—assertiveness, effective communication and self-talk—belong up there on your bookshelf. Small, a reformed overeater and “nice girl,” counselor, and life coach from Victoria, BC, has lots of insightful and instructive things to say about how to get your head on straight, get out of behavioral ruts, and speak your needs. In WHAT ABOUT ME, WHAT DO I WANT: BECOMING ASSERTIVE she focuses on how to get what you want in life. Starting off with communication styles, she moves on to discuss how we learn to communicate poorly and how to use cognitive restructuring to turn around your thinking with hands-on suggestions to become more assertive. The book is filled with self-assessment exercises, practical advice, and humor. In fact, it’s a mini-workbook written in clear, cogent language that teaches you exactly what you need...
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Book Review: The End of Overeating

I highly recommend Dr. David A. Kessler’s new book, THE END OF OVEREATING: TAKING CONTROL OF THE INSATIABLE AMERICAN APPETITE. He was the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1990-7 and writes on eating and weight from a professional perspective, but also as someone who struggles with food himself. Some pertinent points from this very enlightening and readable book. Kessler begins by talking about why it’s hard to resist certain foods: our bodies crave the mixture of sugar, fat, and salt contained in most prepared foods. While we get a dopamine boost from each ingredient alone, the biggest rush comes from a combo of all three. Even the anticipation of eating them triggers a response in our brains, as does unconscious cuing which happens when anything in the environment creates an unconscious or conscious association with food—seeing grandma reminds us of her yummy brownies, cruising by Taco Bell...
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Books to Avoid

There are so many pop psychology, clinical, and self-books written nowadays, that I can’t keep up. Most of the time I’m amazed at what, after 30 years in the field, I still can learn. However, occasionally I’m appalled by some of these books which can be detrimental to certain kinds of clients and reinforce their problems, not only with food and weight, but in other areas as well. Most self-help books are written for the general population—people who are having trouble changing their thinking and behavior in various settings—not for trauma survivors. Yet, more and more, the people I treat come from childhoods that are traumatic, at worst, and seriously dysfunctional, at best. Most already compare themselves intensely unfavorably with others, have major issues with self-esteem, self-worth and self-image, and have spent decades trying to improve their emotional health. considering their backgrounds, nearly all have made incredible strides, but too many...
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