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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. 

Stop Asking Why People Won’t Change

Humans are meaning-making creatures with built-in curiosity about people and the world to help us survive and thrive by learning new behaviors and putting new ideas into practice. One kind of persistent answer-seeking that is regressive is wondering why someone doesn’t or won’t change. Though you may feel dismayed or dissatisfied because my explanation isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, it’s still the truth, one which you eventually will need to accept to become emotionally healthy. Let’s say that Mom regularly invalidates your thoughts and feelings, insisting that you think and feel as she does, or she becomes angry. You try hard to explain yourself over and over, but she still acts as if what your saying makes no sense or is wrong. So, you ask her repeatedly, “Why don’t you understand me?” or ask yourself, “What can I do to get her to understand me?” Nothing. Not a darn...
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Cultivating Doubt to Find the Truth

As I’ve written in my Food and Feelings Workbook, most of us feel uneasy with doubt and some people turn to food when it gnaws at them. We adore certainty because we believe it will lead us away from harm and towards safety and comfort. In reality, the opposite also can be true. Doubt helps us seek the truth, while certainty based on insufficient doubt often leads to false information and practices. Doubt is usually viewed negatively when it is actually valued neutral. We need some, but not too much of it. Here are (some) ideas on the subject from a presentation by David Allison, psychologist and Dean of Indiana University’s School of Public Health, to graduating students in June 2018. (IU School of Public Health-Bloomington (http://blogs.iu.edu/iusph/2018/06/07/doubt-and-truth-take-center-stage-in-dean-allisons-remarks-to-iusph-graduating-students/, retrieved 6/23/18) Allison says that: “It takes courage to admit doubt. It takes intelligence. It takes humility. Some of the greatest minds have...
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No Need to Need

How often do you tell yourself that you need to eat more healthfully, consume less fat, read labels on food items, lose weight, find better ways to comfort yourself than eating, dine out less frequently, or plan better meals? How often do you use the word need to prod yourself to do tasks such as clean your domicile, find nicer friends, get a more interesting job, go out more often, or complete projects? Most dysregulated eaters insist they “need” to do something in order to motivate themselves. But it fails every time. I’ve blogged on this topic often: How we tell ourselves what we should or ought to be doing, then do the opposite. Honestly, I spend half my time talking with clients about their use of words like need and should and have to. If you’re still telling yourself what you need to do, it’s time to give it...
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Stop Rebelling and Take Better Care of Yourself

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (Wikipedia, retrieved 5/4/18, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1_Corinthians_13) Although I’m a secular person, this bible quote (in reality, an afterthought to this blog) aptly describes what I want to say. I know I’m taking a more direct tack here than I usually do but, honestly, I’m not sure how to awaken clients and other dysregulated eaters to the fact that time’s a wastin’. I can only do my best to speak to you as mature people, which includes laying out some unavoidable and perhaps harsh truths. You can rebel against eating rules and how others want you to look or eat, or you can be an adult and take effective care of yourself no matter what others think or say—but you can’t be...
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The (Very Big) Difference Between Worry and Problem-solving

After two sessions in a row with clients discussing problem-solving versus worrying, I realized that they’d been confusing the two activities and, therefore, were making themselves more anxious by worrying when they thought that what they were doing would reduce it. If you’re a worrier, this blog will help you understand its false promise. Worrying, a misguided attempt to reduce anxiety which generally produces more of it, takes place in a closed looped within the mind. It’s an internal process, an intra-psychic phenomenon. Like a dog chasing its tail, thoughts race around in repeating circles without getting anywhere. We imagine various scenarios and outcomes, but our fears remain, so we return to generating more or better solutions. It’s like trying to know what the weather is like when you’re indoors. You can’t. You need to step outside to find out. Problem-solving, on the other hand, takes place outside of your...
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When Self-care Tells You What and What Not to Eat

In a local pharmacy, I passed through the “nut” aisle and found myself tumbling back in time to 40 years ago in my local food mart searching for WheatNuts®. They “were originally developed by Pillsbury in the late 1970s and had been on the marketplace for 35 years before being pulled off the market by Anacon Foods in late 2013,” and “are a cult classic snack product that has a nationwide following of die hard Wheat Nutters.” (nadanut.com) I had been such a die-hard, and now I fear that if I’d continued to wolf them down as I did then, I would have died hard—and sooner rather than later. I remember downing a jar of them on my way to meet friends for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Arriving early, sitting in my car and enjoying their uniquely amazing crunch and nutty flavor, I was whisked away to Planet Ecstasy...
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Develop Rational Thinking to Improve Your Life

I often tell clients that if they want what other people have—lasting love, meaningful work, supportive friends, tolerable family relations, and good health—they need to think and act as others do. By that, I mean people whom they respect and think well of. They can’t keep being reactive, making foolish choices, and following their hearts rather than their heads if they want what others have achieved through rational thinking. Reading an article about inventor Elon Musk, though I’ve disliked some of his recent public comments, I found value in his description of rational decision-making. He’s a complicated, controversial, brilliant man who appears to use his critical thinking skills at work, but not with love. Want to guess in which arena he’s most successful? (“Elon Musk: The Architect of Tomorrow” by Neil Strauss, Rolling Stone, 11/15/17, http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/elon-musk-inventors-plans-for-outer-space-cars-finding-love-w511747?mc_cid=52dfe44621 , accessed 11/21/17). Here’s the “scientific method” Musk uses in problem-solving at work: 1....
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3 Keys to Achieve Success

One of the major reasons—if not the one—that people fail to achieve success is that they focus on exactly the wrong things to make it happen. According to success psychology, there are three ways of thinking to help you attain and maintain your goals. I bet they’re just the opposite of what you’ve been doing! Here they are. Focus on what you’re doing well Most dysregulated eaters focus almost exclusively on what they’re doing or have done wrong. They obsess over their food failures—binges and mindless eating—and minimize their successes—stopping occasionally when full or making healthier food choices—if they acknowledge them at all. In fact, I usually need to drag their successes out of them. Successful people feel good about what they’re doing well, focus on it, and enjoy the pride they experience from their achievements. Learn from, then stop focusing on, what you didn’t do well Errors are a...
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Try Intentionally Adapting to a New Normal

I was watching the news when there was a shot of a man in a hospital bed. I don’t recall what had happened to him—Had he broken bones, lost a leg, or been badly burnt in a fire?—but his words were instantly etched in my mind, “I’m going to get used to a new normal.” I’d heard the phrase before (it’s around for a long time), but this time it hit me how we all need to do that because there’s really no other way to live well.   I specifically think of this man’s determination when I sit with clients who fight change. They’re in there mad as hell and come out swinging with both arms, as if by struggling hard enough against change, they can stop it from happening. Well, good luck with that. Heaven knows, we’ve all put up this fight at one point or another. I...
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Setting Firm Boundaries with People to Improve Your Relationship With Food

A major problem I run into in treating dysregulated eaters is an inability to set firm boundaries with people. They get taken advantage of, walked on like doormats, ignored and neglected. And, then, when they feel hurt, they turn to food for comfort.   Make no mistake, setting and maintaining firm boundaries is a skill. I’ve written about it in many of my books, including Outsmarting Overeating and Nice Girls Finish Fat . It’s a learned behavior, like most of our life skills, from childhood. Either we learn that it’s okay to have needs and say no, or we learn that it’s unacceptable through love or approval being withdrawn when we assert ourselves. Often our same gender parent role models poor boundaries—Dad can’t refuse a request for help no matter what else is going on in his life or Mom keeps on doing for others until she’s depleted and depressed....
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Selfish Versus Self-Care

Many people confuse selfishness and self-care. This mix up crops up often among dysregulated eaters. Is saying no to visiting a sick friend selfish or self-care? Is not answering your phone after a long day self-care or selfishness?   This dilemma arises often with clients because distinguishing between the two is far from clear cut. My thoughts on the subject are not meant to give you rules for making a determination between selfish and self-care, but are to get you to think before you say yes or no to anyone so that you don’t do it automatically and are making an intentional choice. My goal is to get you to stop flagellating yourself (and eating to quash misplaced guilt), when you feel selfish but are actually engaging in self-care. Knowing dysregulated eaters as well as I do, my hunch is that much of what feels selfish to you might actually...
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Why We Need Both Intelligence and Knowledge to Make Healthy Choices

An author I enjoy noted in passing the difference between knowledge and intelligence. Though I recognized this truth, the statement stuck in my head because I’d just had a session with a distraught father who was struggling with his teenage son. Several times during the session, I’d suggested that the father read books on child development and, specifically, on parenting an adolescent but, each time I raised the subject, this client more or less let me know that he wasn’t interested.   This client is a good provider and passionately loves his son, wanting the best for him. I’ve assumed that this father is fairly intelligent, yet was struck by his determination to avoid the knowledge that he desperately needed to get along better with and help his son. I’ve come across other people like him in my professional and personal life who absolutely refuse to acquire fairly easily accessible...
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Anger is an Essential Part of Self-Care

Many of my clients have difficulty tolerating their anger and, not surprisingly, with self-care. That’s why I write about anger a good deal. They get into relationships or take jobs in which they’re mistreated. They’re all about forgiveness and compassion and shy away from feeling wronged—even when they are. Sadly, one of the major reasons that they get into unhealthy situations is that they are not in touch with and fear their anger.   Here’s an example. I was talking with a client about standing up to people and she said that she kept feeling badly for others and didn’t want to be angry at them. I hear this a lot, as if anger is a bad thing. We feel anger automatically when we’re being, were or will be harmed. That’s healthy. That’s how things are supposed to work because recognizing that we feel endangered is vital to surviving and...
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What’s Wrong With Being Wrong?

Whether I’m working with couples or families, I find that too many people absolutely hate being wrong. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that any relationship you’re in, including those at work, will improve dramatically when both parties become more comfortable with being in the wrong. This improvement will automatically decrease stress and the urge to comfort yourself with food, so you’re getting a two-fer with it.   What is it about being wrong that makes people feel so uncomfortable and defensive? It’s a strange phenomenon, this attachment to a state of correctness. Do you recognize what upsets you when you’re wrong? Is it the actual experience of it or is it what others say to or about you when blame is being thrown around?   Here’s my take on the subject based on working with (most) couples who are all hung up on who’s...
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Wanting To Be Normal Or Healthy

Many people confuse what’s normal with what’s healthy. I hear from clients frequently that they don’t know what’s normal or have always wanted to be normal. Taking a closer look at these terms can help you figure out what you really want to be.   As children, especially those who are raised in dysfunctional families, we often wish to be like other children. We want to fit in and being like others is one way to do it. If our parents are different from other parents—that is, they don’t take good care of us, they drink or do drugs, they can’t keep their jobs, or they abuse or neglect us—we are aware of this consciously or unconsciously and naturally yearn for normalcy. We want a father who helps us with our homework rather than one who shuts himself in the den drinking and watching TV or a mother who attends...
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Why Do You Lie To Yourself?

I came across an aphorism by social and moral philosopher Eric Hoffer, which speaks to a truth that we all need to be aware of: “We lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves.”   Now, before, you insist that you never fib to yourself and always attempt to be honest, consider if that might be a lie in itself. Read this blog and, then, see if your assessment changes. Moreover, see if you can accept the truth that we all lie to ourselves without any self-judgment and, especially, without self-condemnation.   To understand our behavior, the question we might ask is why we would lie to ourselves. Aren’t we taught from toddlerhood that lying is bad and wrong? Aren’t we often shamed and punished when we tell falsehoods intentionally or inadvertently? The major reason that we lie is because, in the moment, it brings more emotional comfort than telling...
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Manage Your Focus and Better Manage Your Eating and Your Life

Recently, a 70-something, highly successful, charming client came to his first session with me and talked non-stop about how his father regularly had berated him for both over-eating and under-exercising in childhood. Not surprisingly, these “problems” had become the focus of his life. Perhaps, you, too, have difficulty focusing your brain on positive things in life and would like to learn how to manage your thoughts effectively.   If so, world-famous coach Tony Robbins, has some sound advice for you to follow. (“An Interview with Tony Robbins” by Rich Simon, PhD, Psychotherapy Networker , Nov-Dec 2017, p. 47) He maintains that there are three tests of focus: “First, do you tend to focus more on what you can control or can’t control? If you’re always focused on what you can’t control, you’re going to be stressed.” “Do you focus on what you have or what’s missing? The vast majority of...
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How to Manage Your Control Issues

Let’s face it: We all want control over our lives. It’s encoded into our DNA and hardwired into our brains. We want it because we believe it will help us survive and thrive, although that’s not what’s foremost in our minds when we try to shape life to our liking and get other people to change so that we don’t need to.   In those moments, we’re thinking why the heck our spouse won’t lay off the booze, our neighbor won’t quit playing that awful loud music, and our parents won’t stop treating us like children even though we have grown kids of our own. We have no interest in surrendering our desires, and see nothing wrong with asking others to make major and minor alterations in themselves so that we can go along on our merry way exactly as we are. It doesn’t even occur to us that we...
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Go-To Self-Talk That Gets Me Through Everything

Clients sometimes ask me what I say to myself to reduce stress and distress. I use three major phrases, which are based on truths I firmly believe in. It’s crucial to have a set of phrases or mantras, because you want self-soothing self-talk to kick in as soon as you need it and don’t want to be wondering what’s going to work to settle you down or set you straight. Occasionally, I’ll say something else to myself to suit a particular situation, but these are my routine go-to messages:   I’m doing the best I can : I say this to myself often, as a quick-fix antidote to perfectionist tendencies, which I have on occasion. Many of us keep pushing ourselves until we’re hurt or exhausted and for what? Usually to come close to or reach some abstract ideal. However, what if, due to inborn limits, our best isn’t going...
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More Benefits From Meditation

I confess that it took me a while to see the value of meditation. When it was first touted as a stress reducer, there weren’t a whole lot of studies to back it up. But now, the more I read about it, the bigger fan I’m becoming—especially since so many anxious clients ask me, “Can we really change our thinking? Is it truly possible to change our brains?” Science tells us that the answers to these questions are yes and yes.   According to “Meditate on this: a mindfulness practice promotes better health” (Healthy Years, vol. HY16H p. 5), a practice of meditation has health benefits beyond simply reducing anxiety and stress, not that that’s any small feat, particularly for emotional and stress eaters. The article states that “Science is still not clear how meditation influences the brain,” but that it helps in “decision-making, planning, abstract thinking, and regulating emotions.”...
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