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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. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

How to Reduce Anxiety about Getting Tasks Done

Many of my clients describe seeking food when they’re not hungry to put off doing tasks or because they feel anxious that they haven’t done them. This is a habituated response to emotional discomfort, nothing more, nothing less. The way to break the habit is to attack the problem from both ends: do the tasks and not feel anxious if they’re not accomplished.  “The psychology behind to-do lists and how they can make you feel less anxious” explains how to-do lists can help you stop putting off tasks and actually get them done. Says its author, Lauren Kent, “The trick is to reframe your to-do list as a set of miniature goals for the day and to think of your checklist items as steps in a plan.”  E.J. Masicampo, associate psychology professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, adds, “Goals are interesting as they are almost these autonomous agents...
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Do You Need to Have Problems to Feel Cared For?

Wouldn’t it be awful if you were holding onto having an eating problem—or any other kind, for that matter—as a way to get people to pay attention to and care about you? As I explained in my secondary gain blog, this dynamic isn’t as strange or uncommon as it sounds. Here’s why you might be clinging to problems to feel loved or cared about. If you were physically neglected in childhood, you might feel starved for someone to do things for you now. Let’s say you were the third of five children and always felt kind of lost in the shuffle. Dad worked three jobs and Mom expected you to be independent because she was overwhelmed. Living in the country, you often wandered the woods alone and managed on your own. Mom had you dress and feed yourself early on, was too busy to help much with homework, and once forgot...
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The World Wasn’t Always This Fat Phobic

Once upon a time, the world didn’t hate fat or fat people and dieting wasn’t a $72 billion US industry. Take yourself to an art museum or thumb through an art book (not modern) and see for yourself. Or read Ken Mondschein’s article, “Fatness and Thinness in the Middle Ages.”  To be sure, fat has been associated with greed, gluttony, excess, and other negative traits. However, he says, there were times when fat was viewed more positively: “So, too with foreign lands—the fictionalized John of Mandeville tells of how foreigners ate inordinate amounts, and the romancier Rusticello has Marco Polo report on the prodigious appetites of the mighty men of Zanzibar.”“There was no shortage of defenses of largeness, or even positive depictions, in the less well-born. Peasants rarely got enough to eat, so positive associations between fat and plenty—‘fat’ soil, the ‘fat’ of the land, and the pre-Lenten ‘fat Tuesday’ feast—are not surprising...
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One Story of Recovery

Being in Recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder A guest blog by Dustin LindenSmith   I’m a 47-year-old married man with three kids living in Atlantic Canada and I self-diagnosed with Binge-Eating Disorder about five years ago. I first discovered how to use food for emotional comfort as a young child, but an alcoholic and abusive step-parent pushed me to turn towards heavy binge-eating in my early teens. I would consume vast quantities of food in secret—I could never seem to get “enough”—and then I’d go on a diet to lose the weight I had gained. In this way, I “dieted my way up” to over 300 pounds in college, and I repeated that cycle several more times in my life. I estimate that I’ve gained and lost over 850 pounds since the age of 10. Binge-Eating Disorder is often described as a chronic and compulsive binge-diet cycle, but to me, it felt...
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Do You Have Adult Post-bullying Syndrome

Many clients with eating disorders report that they were bullied in childhood. Are you one of them? Are you sure you even know what bullying is? Truth is that many people minimize the mistreatment they had at the hands of peers or family members and don’t realize that what they endured is bona fide bullying.  Kate Baggaley in “How Being Bullied Affects Your Adulthood,” says this about adult post-bullying syndrome, or APBS (not a clinical diagnosis): “Bullying is corrosive to children’s mental health and well-being, with consequences ranging from trouble sleeping and skipping school to psychiatric problems, such as depression or psychosis, self-harm, and suicide.” She says that “roughly 1 in 3 students in the United States are bullied at school” and that “Years after being mistreated, people with adult post-bullying syndrome commonly struggle with trust and self-esteem, and develop psychiatric problems . . . Some become people-pleasers, or rely on...
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How Structure Gives You Freedom

Working with dysregulated eaters (and clients with other self-regulation problems), I talk a great deal about structure versus freedom. I’ve always thought about them as being opposite ends of a continuum, but recently was struck by something jazz musician Branford Marsalis said about music in a radio interview: “There’s only freedom in structure, my man. There’s no freedom in freedom.” That’s one to ponder, eh?  Although I don’t know that he meant what I’m going to suggest about structure and freedom applied to music, here’s my take on what he’s saying in general. By structuring some things in life, you get the physical freedom to enjoy other things. Say you abhor the same old same old and love change. All well and good, except you might think, “Gee, I’d love to go to the gym now, but I might want to work on my novel later or go visit grandma, so...
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How to Know If People Are Keepers or Not

It may be difficult to know whether or not to keep someone in your life—significant other, spouse, friend, or relative. Do you want to remain close to them or with them at all? Many clients entertain this dilemma and unwisely rely on self-trust or intuition to make decisions rather than rational thinking. Worse, they decide out of fear and anxiety. Here are some examples. A client is deciding if he wants to divorce his wife. Another wonders if she can continue to live with her emotionally stunted sister. A third is trying to figure out if an alcoholic friend is worth the trouble. If we live long enough, we’ll all face similar dilemmas, some of which will stress us out enough to trigger emotional eating.  One way to know whether someone is a keeper or not is to make a list of what they need to do over time to stay...
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Optimism Can Be Learned

Within one hour I received emails from two friends about the Corona Virus. One expressed great fear and described giving up many social and volunteer activities, while the other lamented the hysteria gripping the country. You can pretty much guess which friend is the optimist and which is the pessimist.  “Researchers from the School of Medicine, the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System, and Harvard University’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health have found that . . . individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live longer.” They define optimism as “a general expectation that good things will happen, or believing that the future will be favorable because we can control important outcomes.” (Bostonia, “Never Underestimate the Power of Positive Thinking,” winter-spring 2020, p. 63) What does optimism have to do with dysregulated eating? For one thing, “research suggests that more optimistic people may be able...
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The Empowerment of Attention

Want to know what the key to recovery is? After 30-plus years of treating people with eating disorders, I can tell you that it’s in large part paying attention to what you say to yourself and changing your thinking and self-talk. On a more basic level, we might call it changing your neuronal connections. Although it may not be as easy as flipping an on-off switch, it’s also not nearly as difficult as you might think. This process is described by Daniel Siegel, MD, author of Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence—The Groundbreaking Meditation Practice (TarcherPerigee: NY, 8/18, p. 39): “Where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connections grow.” Another way of saying this is that the areas of your lawn which you water will sprout green, while the parts you don’t will go brown and die. Or consider this: If you had two hypothetical children and you paid...
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What Makes for Mentally Healthy Friends?

It’s easy to understand why we’d have problems with parents whom we didn’t pick and bosses or colleagues about whom we had limited choice, as they usually come with the job. But ongoing problems with friends, people we freely elect to have in our lives? It’s not even one-offs that clients complain about. Rather they vent about the same one or two “buddies” who drive them crazy or why they can’t seem to find the kinds of friends they want. Here are some patterns I’ve observed from my caseload over the decades. Picking friends who are victims and complain constantly about being treated unfairly, taken advantage of and how they’re put upon. Clients tending toward victim-think feel right at home. Surrounded by a Woe Is Me Club that does little actual problem solving and are poor role models for empowerment, clients avoid being accountable. They only ditch this mentality when they realize...
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