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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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Genes and Your Sweet Tooth

Ever wonder how some people easily pass up sweets while you can’t seem to say no? Part of your response is from the way you were raised and your beliefs about food, eating and weight, but there also may be a physiological component to your problem. Nothing about food is ever simple, is it? An article entitled “Sweet Tooth” from February 2009 on Self.com explains: “Some of us really can’t have just one sugary treat. A gene that tells our brain when we’ve had enough is less sensitive to glucose in certain people, so they may overindulge, a study from the University of Toronto reveals. People with this gene variation are more likely to have a higher body-mass index than those without it, but they aren’t doomed to be overweight. ‘Factors you can control, like the snacks you eat, have a bigger impact on eating habits,’ says study author Ahmed El-Sohemy....
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More on Sugar Addiction

There’s always new information coming out on eating and weight. Here’s recent evidence which indicates that sugar might very well might be addictive. Study Suggests Sugar May Be Addictive, by Amanda Gardner. WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10, 2008 (Health Day News) -- Science is verifying what many overeaters have suspected for a long time: sugar can be addictive. In fact, the sweetener seems to prompt the same chemical changes in the brain seen in people who abuse drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The findings were to be presented Wednesday at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology's annual meeting, in Nashville.  “Evidence from an animal model suggests that bingeing on sugar can act in the brain in ways similar to drugs of abuse,” lead researcher Bart Hoebel, professor of psychology at Princeton University, said during a December 4 teleconference. "Drinking large amounts of sugar water when hungry can cause behavioral changes and even neurochemical...
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Healthy Eating As Hardship

On occasion when I’m dining with people and happen to be eating something nutritious such as salad, brown rice or a plate of veggies, someone will tut tut about what a terrible hardship it must be to eat healthily all the time. Huh? Generally, I first correct them and tell them that every morsel of food that enters my mouth is by no means super nutritious. Then I (tactfully) ask where they got the erroneous idea that treating your body to wholesome food is some kind of hardship. This is one of those times I recognize right off that someone else’s words are more about them than about me. For people who wish to take care of their bodies, remain relatively disease free, and increase life expectancy, eating for health is, well, hardly a hardship. It’s natural, it’s essential, it’s a given. It’s the way to get from here to there....
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Toxins in Food

When you’re overeating, you’re often caught up in rebellion, emotional avoidance, denial, or all-or-nothing thinking, so how often do you consider what food is doing to your body? Never mind how many calories it has—or hasn’t. Calorie-free or not, the point is whether a food is a healthy or unhealthy option because of how its ingredients will affect you in the long run. Focusing on the nasty things that toxins can do to your health is one way to help you make better choices. For example, I was recently at dinner with a friend who was eating chicken salad nestled in a crispy taco shell. Near the end of the meal, she started to break off pieces of the shell, set them aside, but continue to nibble at them. At one point, she covered the entire shell with her napkin, but soon she was back nibbling at them again. Finally, she...
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Stress and Carbs

Just when we think we have our heads on straight about the dangers of carbs, we get thrown a curve ball. Like the September 2008 article in Mind, Mood, & Memory published by Massachusetts General Hospital entitled “A Carbohydrate Cure for Stress.” Carbs a cure for stress? Hmm. That’s sure food for thought! I thought that carbs in response to stress were the devil in disguise. According to the article, “…a healthy carbohydrate snack may be among the most effective stress-busters for individuals who do not suffer from abnormal glucose metabolism, such as diabetes.” Well, duh, we’ve known all along that carbs do the trick. The article explains why: healthy carbohydrates (whole grain snacks, sweet potatoes, etc.) trigger a cascade of biochemical brain changes that increase serotonin. Low stores of serotonin make you anxious, depressed, and irritable and high stores contribute to feeling happy, in control, and at ease. Judith Wurtman,...
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Microbes and Obesity

Because people with food disorders are so hard on themselves about their eating, it heartens me to read about biological underpinnings of weight issues. The 4/5/08 edition of Science News shares some fascinating insights about intestinal microbes and overweight children. Microbes are small organisms like bacteria that inhabit the gut. A new study from Finland concludes that overweight and normal weight children have different kinds and amounts of intestinal microbes, and that while some of these microbes may actually protect children against developing obesity, others are linked to chronic low-grade inflammation which is associated with it. Normal weight kids in the study had twice the number of one specific bacterium and fewer of another than overweight kids. Moreover, the microbe which was more abundant in the normal weight children is also associated with an effectively functioning immune system. How does this information relate to your struggles with eating, weight and health?...
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Unnatural Foods

Recent research once more confirms that dieting as a lifestyle is fruitless (no pun intended!) and that “normal” eating is the way to go. A study in Behavioral Neuroscience reports that low-calorie sweeteners can actually promote weight gain. The study focuses on one sweetener in particular, saccharin, and supports research on how “diet” foods (low/no sugar/fat) may actually be making us fatter. I’m no scientist, but these conclusions make sense to me. These days we’re messing around with everything: the environment, our bodies, our minds. Yet it seems that the more we do, the worse things get. We’ve been polluting our air and water and through artificial food, our appetite. Without going on a rant, this shift away from what’s natural makes me wonder who benefits, especially related to food. Certainly not my clients or the people who read my blogs. Or the folks out there buying into the “chemicals are...
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To Carb or Not to Carb

Once more, a session with a client has got me thinking: if you don’t know whether or not you have difficulty metabolizing particular foods such as wheat or sugar, do you try to eat them “normally” or avoid them completely? Obviously, if you’ve been tested and diagnosed with a food allergy, you’ll want to steer clear. Remember, testing is the only way to know for certain that you have a bona fide food allergy (see my blog archive). Craving and having difficulty staying away from a food does not constitute a food allergy or addiction, so please don’t convince yourself that the problem is physical when it could be mental/emotional. That said, it’s difficult to know how to proceed if you react badly to a food. You could give it—sugar, fats, wheat or even most carbohydrates—up completely. However: OA members avoid food for decades, then sometimes try a bite and succumb...
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Sugar Addiction

Recently I did some internet research on sugar addiction when the subject cropped up in a workshop. Can a person really be addicted to sugar? If so, does that mean she can never eat it and/or that if she does, she’s bound to go overboard and binge? How do you know if you’re addicted or if you only believe you are? I encourage you all to do your own research on sugar addiction, although the jury appears to be out on the subject. Some evidence indicates that rats seem to become addicted to sugar water based on specific criteria related to increased tolerance, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms, while other studies conclude that the problem is better defined in terms of psychological dependence than physical addiction. Perhaps some day we’ll have a definitive answer and a better understanding of how sugar affects our biochemistry. For now, each of us has to assess...
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