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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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3 Skills for Eating Satisfaction

One of the chief complaints I hear from clients and patients is how utterly impossible it seems to say no to food on a regular basis when they’re not hungry or to stop eating when they’re satisfied. They speak about going unconscious, falling into a trance, blocking out consequences, and being reduced to overwhelming won’t-take-no-for-an-answer desire. In clinical terms, they cannot refrain from acting on impulse. Three related skills are necessary to inhibit impulses, slightly different takes on saying no to yourself around food (or anything else). The first is the capacity for frustration tolerance, which means being able to endure frustration in order to achieve goals. If you have a doctor’s appointment but return home because you can’t easily find a parking space or if you give up on doing your taxes because they’re complicated and a brain drain, you have a low threshold for frustration. Frustration is unpleasant but...
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Introducing a Forbidden Food

One of the scariest tasks in becoming a “normal” eater is starting to eat foods that you’ve forbidden yourself. However, if you move forward with mindfulness, planning and structure, you’ll be less fearful and more successful. Every time you aim to “legalize” a new food, follow (all of) these steps. All you need is a paper, pen, food, and courage! Step 1: Pick a food that challenges you which you don’t regularly keep in the house, one that exerts a moderate irrational pull, but not the most difficult food for you to resist. Step 2: After making a choice, without judgment, record your feelings about re-introducing this food into your diet—anxious, fearful, angry, hopeless, yearning, excited, mixed. Breathe deeply. Calm your anxiety by soothing self-talk.Step 3: Make a list of at least half a dozen beliefs you have about this food: I can’t eat this “normally”; I’ll gobble this right up;...
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Explaining “Normal” Eating

In a thin-obsessed culture, it can be difficult to explain why you would choose not to diet—especially if you’re overweight, more so if you are obese—because we have few culturally accepted methods for weight loss. In the past, diets and fasting were the way to go and now, of course, we have surgery, as well. All are easily understood concepts. However, if you choose the route of “normal” eating, you’re talking about an animal that is not easily described. Yes, you can enumerate its four rules and give examples. You can explain that learning to eat “normally” is a process that goes beyond changing behavior and targets beliefs and emotions. In my experience, what gets in the way of understanding the concept is not you giving a poor or incomplete explanation, but your listener’s limited ability to “get it” or to understand what the big deal is. Their limits fall into...
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Food Variety versus Sameness

When you break out from dieting and restriction and start trying to eat “normally,” you might be somewhat self-conscious about whether you’re eating right. By that I mean, if you’re eating as other “normal” eaters do. You may wonder if it’s okay to eat the same foods repeatedly or if you’re supposed to crave variety. You may be unsure if eating at set times is acceptable or if you should eat only when you’re hungry. You may believe that you either have to fall in love with food or have a nonchalant attitude about it.You'll find your answers day by day, food by food, meal by meal. In part, your answers will be based on how you feel about eating in general. Some people simply put little attention on appetite. They eat to live and are easily satisfied with the basics and an occasional food frill. Others adore grocery shopping and...
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Chart Your Hunger

Although it goes against my non-diet sensibilities to keep a journal in which you write down everything you eat (unless it’s for a specific purpose and time-limited), maintaining a hunger log can help you recognize patterns of food focus and eating in relation to hunger. In this log, you write down every time you’re hungry or think you are—when food is on your mind—by charting the day/time your thoughts turn to food, your hunger level (0=not hungry…10=famished), the setting, and the activity you’re doing. Your log might go something like this: 6:15 a.m., hunger at a 9, at home, getting ready for work10:30 a.m., hunger at a 2, at work, in a boring meeting10:52 a.m., hunger at a 2, at work, still in a boring meeting1:36 p.m., hunger at a 7, at work, time for lunch at desk3:26 p.m., hunger at a 1, in my office, about to start employee evaluations4:12...
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What Does Fullness Mean to You?

Among people who struggle with under- and overeating, there’s quite a bit of confusion about the word “full.” Is it that blissful instant of eating just enough or does it connote going beyond comfort? More important than the definition is knowing when you are still in an eating pleasure zone and when you’ve moved on to physical discomfort. Rather than pinpoint one exact moment when you’re full, think of the process on a continuum, going from empty to enough food. Sometimes one more bite (if it’s large and the food is dense and high fat) will put you over the edge; more likely, one bite more or less won’t make much of a difference. Knowing when you’ve eaten to sufficiency is a judgment call, a combination of being tuned in to appetite signals, using body memory of previous eating experiences to recognize about how much food to enjoy in a sitting,...
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Hurdles on the Road to “Normal” Eating

People often come to see me individually or attend my “Quit Fighting with Food” workshops unconvinced that dieting isn’t the answer to their eating and weight problems. They’re scared to give up structure and being told what to eat. The first hurdle they need to leap over is understanding that dieting is an unrealistic way to eat for life and, therefore, a weight loss dead end. I know there’s been an attitudinal shift when they stop talking about whether or not to embark on another diet and start grumbling about the hard work of becoming a “normal” eater.The second hurdle, related to dieting, is coming to terms with the fact that there are no good and bad foods. We usually have to bat this issue around for a quite while before they get it. While sympathizing with their yearning to label what’s okay and what’s not, I encourage them to look...
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Legalizing Foods

The prospect of legalizing foods on the road to “normal” eating is scary and exciting. Although granting yourself permission to enjoy foods that were formerly forbidden is exhilarating and freeing, you will get into trouble if you think that because foods are now legal, you can eat them with abandon. Nothing could be further from the truth. The rules of “normal” eating apply to all foods, and you have to pay extra attention when eating newly legalized foods that are highly charged from your history of fearing and craving them. You’ll need to consider whether you’re hungry or hungry enough to eat. You’ll want to tune into your emotions around the food: Do you desire it, not with frantic, obsessive desperation (mouth hunger), but with a yearning that’s organically driven in term of taste, texture, and nutrients? Because a food is legal is not sole justification to eat it. If you...
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No Such Thing as A Perfect Eater

It’s easy to understand how anyone who’s had under- or overeating problems for a long time would think that there are people out there who are perfect eaters. You know, the ones who never overeat or allow themselves to get too hungry, who always know exactly what food they want and don’t ever feel disappointed by a poor choice, who eat nutritiously 100% of the time and never struggle over food decisions. Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s no such thing as a perfect eater. “Normal” yes, perfect no. “Normal” eaters misjudge their hunger and get ravenous or end up eating when they’re not hungry. They make unsatisfying food decisions and get stuck eating foods they don’t like. Sometimes they lose track of what they’re doing and eat too much or get side-tracked and take in too little. Their clothes may hang a little loose when they’ve been too...
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Stopping Eating When Full or Satisfied

Sometimes it feels as if the worst thing in the world is to have to stop eating, never mind that you’re stuffed to the gills and your brain has gone numb. Of all the rules of “normal” eating, stopping when you’re full or satisfied is the hardest, hands down. However, it does grow organically and logically out of the previous rules. If you follow the first three, stopping is a lot easier. Well, actually, it won’t be easy for a long while, until you’ve done it so often that it’s become habit. It will be very, very hard at first. If you eat when you’re not hungry, you won’t know when to stop because it wasn’t food you wanted in the first place. On the other hand, if you’re too hungry, you’ll snarf down your food so quickly that you’ll have eaten too much before you know it. When possible, eat...
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Males and Eating Disorders

Most of my clients, book and blog readers, and message board members are women, which is no big surprise considering that women bear the brunt of this society’s pressure to lose weight and be thin, which can be a factor leading to disregulated eating. Until recently, however, we thought that men with eating disorders were a small percentage of our population. It turns out that the number is higher than we thought. According to a Cox Newspaper article, Men Struggle with weight and eating disorders, too, a national study conducted by Harvard of nearly 3,000 adults concluded that one quarter of people with bulimia or anorexia nervosa and 40% of individuals who had binge-eating problems were men. The previous estimate had maintained that about 10% of people with anorexia and bulimia were males. One explanation of this 30% difference is likely under-reporting of the problem because health professionals are more likely...
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