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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. 

Four Essentials for Becoming a “Normal” Eater

Four proficiencies are essential for becoming a “normal” eater. In one way or another, I’ve blogged and written about them all before, but here they are together so that you can see which of them you might be missing. These proficiencies are skills in coping with stress, practicing self-comfort, finding purpose and enjoying pleasure. None of us was raised to excel in all these areas, yet they are crucial for having a positive relationship with food and living your best life. Coping with stress: We all have stress in our lives, but it need not overwhelm us nor drive us to eat mindlessly. First off, we need to accept that no matter what we do, there will be times when life is not in our control and this can cause us to feel crummy. By accepting this truth, we go a long way toward reducing stress. Stress management skills include ending...
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Are You Stuck Between Blame and Shame?

One dysfunctional pattern you may be stuck in is cycling between blame and shame—being unhappy and wanting to blame someone else (or lots of people) alternating with blaming yourself and feeling deeply ashamed of your deficits, mistakes, etc. Nothing good can come out of ping-ponging between these two effects which both may trigger emotional eating. Here are two examples of this dynamic. You, an adult, have an alcoholic father whom you take care of more often than you’d like to. You often blame him for keeping you stuck living at home making sure he stays alive or gets to work and you feel angry that he’s dependent on you. Or you blame your mom who divorced Dad a long time ago. Alternately, you blame yourself for staying in the situation which makes you feel terrible about yourself. With blame comes deep disappointment and shame that you don’t do anything to help...
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When a Breakdown Might Actually Be a Breakthrough

While meeting with a new client who’d been abused by her husband for many years, she explained that she’d finally had a breakdown several years before and ended up in therapy in another state. She said she’d sought help because she was crying almost all the time, had little energy left over to take care of her children, and barely wanted to get out of bed in the morning. I told her that instead of having had a breakdown, she’d had a breakthrough and what a grand thing it was that it happened. When we stop trying to hold bad family situations together at all cost, give up making excuses for people who don’t deserve it, start feeling authentic emotions, trust ourselves and let reality sink in, we often have breakthroughs which may feel like breakdowns. Initially, it’s true that what we experience may feel unfamiliar, awful and as if we’re...
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Experiencing Political News Overload?

Many clients complain that political news overload these days is a major current eating stressor. They feel angry, helpless, despairing and frightened about the future. They don’t know whether to laugh, scream or cry. So they eat. Here’s how to avoid political news overload and retain your sanity: Taking in news: Recognize that though the news is available 24/7/365, we don’t have to partake of it in all forms all those times. I have a friend who listens to podcasts while she runs and when the podcasts are over and she’s returned home, that’s it. She relies on certain sites to keep her informed, is very choosy about what she listens to, and doesn’t tend to listen to an endless array of podcasts on the same subject. It’s not great to focus on the news while you’re eating if it’s likely to trigger overeating because you get anxious or angry hearing...
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Is Compassion Always Necessary?

For several months, I’ve wondered if I was suffering from compassion fatigue, common to many therapists. Then I realized that I didn’t lack compassion with clients who make me feel alive and who bring great joy to my life. As I thought more about what I was experiencing, I realized that I was feeling less and less for abusers in clients’ lives and in the world. I began to feel that it was okay to not feel compassion for people who cause suffering but weren’t themselves suffering. I know we want to aim for understanding and forgiveness, especially those of us with clinical credentials after our names. The therapist’s job is to feel the pain of and with others rather than shrug it off or react to it. But, the fact is that compassion, defined by Dr. Kristen Neff, author of Self-compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, is...
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The Scientific Reasons that Weight-loss Diets Fail You

I’ve blogged about psychology professor Dr. Traci Mann’s well-researched book, Secrets from the Eating Lab, and recently came across an article summarizing her findings. Honestly, though, she writes so well and with such laugh-out-loud humor, that I recommend reading her entire book. I read it cover to cover when I was delayed at an airport and couldn’t believe how quickly the time past. Her article is entitled “Why do dieters regain weight? Calorie deprivation alters body and mind, overwhelming willpower” (Psychological Science, May 2018, accessed 5/29/18, http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2018/05/calorie-deprivation.aspx). Here are some excerpts from it. I refer you to the article itself for citations. • “…weight regain is the typical long-term response to dieting, rather than the exception.” • “…calorie deprivation leads to changes in hormones, metabolism, and cognitive/attentional functions that make it difficult to enact the behaviors needed to keep weight off.” • “…after sufficient calorie deprivation, weight is lost, and therefore...
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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 up...
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The Importance of Early Attachments

On a flight during my vacation, I was reminded of the importance of our earliest attachments in shaping our lives for better or worse. A girl of four or five was sitting across the aisle from me next to her slightly older brother. Although she was securely buckled into her aisle seat, shortly after takeoff, she started squirming around, twisting to look behind her, and making mewing noises. Her brother was ignoring her and, even after the seatbelt light went off, no one came to attend to her. While I was wondering where her parents were, she gave one final mew, unbuckled her seatbelt, and raced, crying, toward the back of the plane to where I assume her parents were. I never saw nor heard her again, but she remained on my mind, as I considered the feelings of a frightened young child. In the best of worlds at that age,...
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What If You Didn’t Care So Much about Your Appearance?

What if you didn’t care so much about your appearance? What if you could flip to the other side of the continuum about your looks and feel a decreased sense of their importance to you? What if you could expend less time thinking about your face, body, and hair because you hate how it eats up so much effort and energy and simply don’t want to live with such a spirit-killing pre-occupation. Before you insist that this metamorphosis could never happen to you, take a deep breath and just consider “What if?” Ask yourself: What if I could care less about my appearance? What if I could change? You know how to do it: You used to adore certain friends and now don’t, were wild about particular songs and no longer listen to them, or were fiercely wedded to political or philosophical ideas and now wouldn’t be caught dead believing in...
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How Cognitive Overload Hampers “Normal” Eating and Rational Decision Making

On one of my favorite TV shows about politics, I heard an enlightening explanation of the term cognitive overload when a panelist described how constantly being lied to affects our brains. She said that ideas “land” on us and that we need time to process them to decide to believe if they are rational or not. However, when lies fly at us at too rapid a pace, one after another, we don’t have the focused ability to analyze their veracity, and so they remain “landed,” that is, we simply accept them. Politics aside, this analysis seemed applicable to two client situations. Says Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D.: “Information or cognitive overload can lead to indecisiveness, bad decisions and stress. Indecisiveness or analysis paralysis occurs when you’re overwhelmed by too many choices, your brain mildly freezes and by default, [and] you passively wait and see. Or you make a hasty decision because vital...
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