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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Teach Your Kids to Eat Better Than You Do

Over the years, I’ve watched clients with troubled childhoods intentionally parent their children the opposite of how they were raised, eating and otherwise. Sadly, this strategy doesn’t fare any better than mindlessly following the parental modeling they received. Of course, there’s an obvious difference between blindly doing what your parents did to you and considering their approach and finding it lacking. The problem is that too many parents don’t make decisions rationally and, instead, do so in reaction to how they felt being raised a certain way. While retreating from a parental style may avoid one set of problems, going to the opposite extreme creates another. Here's an example. One of my clients was forced to diet and eat the food her mother was into on her various fad diets. Her mother was very strict and, not surprisingly, my client developed an eating problem, including sneak eating and overeating due to...
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It’s Okay to Be a Quitter

Speaking with me about the wonderful changes she’s making in her life, a client mentioned that she took a job and realized after the first day that it was a poor match for her. She reasoned that she had a right to feel good about her work and immediately gave notice and apologized to her boss. After relating this story, she added, “I felt bad because I didn’t want them to think I was a quitter.” Her statement stuck in my craw. This isn’t the first time a client has taken care of themselves and felt a need to assure me (and likely themselves) they weren’t a quitter. As if being a quitter is a bad thing. Once again, this is confusing a situational trait, in this case, the ability to know when to give up on something or someone, with one’s entire personality or identity.  When people have an “I’m...
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Missteps Not Mistakes

I recently heard someone use the word “misstep” which sounded far better to my ears than what we usually call mistakes. Or than saying: I went off the rails, messed up, fell short or bombed. All these words sound dramatic and dreadful, as if the rest of our lives have been ruined. Or, worse, as if the world will never be the same. A misstep, on the other hand, sounds so minor, so insignificant, so oops. According to the Oxford Languages dictionary, it’s a step that is “clumsy or badly judged.” It implies you meant to do better, were slightly off balance, or made an error in perception. The great thing about misstep is that it doesn’t make you sound like the most ignorant, awful, defective person in the world. You were simply a bit off the mark or misguided.  There are many instances where you could use the term misstep...
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Authentic versus Hubristic Pride

A common discussion I get into with clients is about the nature of pride. That’s because many of them think of it as boasting and some never think about it at all. Actually, it’s a pretty versatile and topnotch emotion. Feeling proud helps decision-making and it’s a great motivator when you’re challenged by pleasure that’s not in your best interest. Clients have often argued that the pride they learned about growing up was not something to be sought after because it had a negative connotation. It involved boasting and sense of superiority over others. The pride I’m talking about is when we feel good about our achievements or the achievements of others. We’re happy with them or with ourselves and give credit where credit is due. It turns out my clients and I were both right according to Christian Jarrett, PhD, author of Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of...
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You Can Hate to Cook and Still Eat Healthfully

I make no bones about my disinterest in cooking and not being a foodie, often commiserating with clients who don’t enjoy meal preparation. Where we differ is that I value eating nutritiously. If you don’t like cooking—and therefore don’t do it—it’s important to recognize why and make sure that, in spite of your dislike, you eat in a way that serves your body. When I can get clients past saying, “Well, I just don’t like it” or “I hate it,” their reasons for not wishing to put forth effort in the kitchen usually fall into the following categories:  I don’t know what to eat. This generally means they’ve been dieting for so long that they have no idea what foods to choose or which they enjoy, that is, they’ve been brainwashed about foods being “good” or “bad” and truly don’t know what they like.I don’t have time to cook. I might (but...
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Are You Desensitized to Abuse?

When awful things are going on around you, do you ever feel disconnected from them, as if what’s happening has nothing to do with you? Do friends or family ever try to get you to see that you’re being grossly mistreated and you insist that everything is fine or will be? These are both cases of having become desensitized to your painful emotions.  Desensitization occurs when you suppress (consciously) or repress (unconsciously) feelings of fear, anxiety, hurt or anger which are meant to warn you that something in your life is very wrong. I often blog about the difficulties of feeling too much and being too reactive in situations. Desensitization is the opposite, when you don’t feel enough. For example, a client we’ll call Don, who’s separated from his wife, has two teenage sons who frequently act out, screaming at each other and cursing their parents. Once, son #1 threatened family...
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Let Pride Replace Pleasure to Get Things Done

If you’re basing your life on doing only what you like and what feels good and avoiding what you don’t like and doesn’t feel good, you’re not going to be very happy or successful for very long. So when I hear clients say they don’t enjoy or like eating healthy foods, exercising or going to the doctor, I know that my job is to help them find some other motivation for engaging in these essential activities. The first thing I focus on is the belief that they must like something to do it. Where does that assumption come from? Is that a belief their parents had and modeled or taught them? If so, how well did it serve them then and how well does it serve them today?  My client Rebecca was one of six children whose parents were rarely there to guide her through her childhood. When she put up...
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Victor or Victim?

While I’ve blogged about how to stop being a victim and how to deal with people who act like victims, I haven’t written about the competitive nature of relationships between victims. This happens when two (or more) people have been victimized in childhood by abuse or neglect and carry their victimhood into adulthood where they become locked into a struggle for the biggest loser prize. Take this couple for example. Gail comes from a large family with an alcoholic, abusive father and enabling mother. Gail never had the love and connection she yearned for from Dad and watched as her mother complained but allowed his drinking and abuse to continue. She never had enough of Mom’s attention either, even when she was sexually abused by a cousin. The children were left unfairly unprotected and poorly attended to and Gail adapted by staying under parental radar as much as possible. She had...
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Setting Up Rules for Family “Normal” Eating

I’ve been talking with a client about moving herself and her family away from unhealthy eating to a more “normal”, healthy lifestyle. As I told her, it’s quite simple but not quick and easy. What I mean is that there are concrete actions to take, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will be on board right away. Here are my suggestions for making the transition from a way of eating that doesn’t serve your family to one that does. Be clear on your goals: If you’re generating the transition, think long and hard about your goals and how you got to the place you’re in with food. Notice that I’m not using the word “switch” which implies going from here to there quickly. It’s better to think in terms of transition over time. Write down five goals for your family, for example: Eat together as a family X number of times/week,...
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Why We’re Afraid to Hurt Other People’s Feelings

A major problem for many dysregulated eaters is stressing themselves out to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. They try too hard or do too much, over-focus on others’ needs and under-focus on their own—and end up feeling angry and resentful. I’ve blogged before on why and when it’s okay and not okay to hurt people. This blog is to explain the reasons it’s so difficult for some of you to cause others pain. The first reason is that we recall how hurt we felt as children, forgetting that children and adults have very different nervous systems and abilities to regulate and cope with emotions. As children, our frontal lobes (used for clear thinking and problem-solving) are still developing and we cope poorly with hurt feelings because we lack the physiological components to do a better job. We can’t think rationally and put what’s happening to us into a larger, correct context. Although...
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