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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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If I’m Not Dead, I Will…

As Geneen Roth says, “It’s easy to want to change, but it’s hard to actually change.” Disregulated eaters often have difficulty sticking to self-care commitments, so here’s an excuse-proof way to stop wiggling out of them: An “If I’m not dead, I will…” edict which means just what it says. Sound a bit extreme? Perhaps, but it works. Do you have trouble following through on waiting to eat ‘til you’re hungry, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, meditating, practicing yoga, making time to socialize, or taking time for yourself? You may know these activities help you feel better physically and emotionally, but not do them consistently because there are pressing reasons to not do them: you’re a busy person, you’re exhausted, doing for yourself feels indulgent and unfamiliar, you want to be productive 24/7, or you hate to disappoint others. In short, you’re ambivalent, and more often than not, your desire to...
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Marketing and Cooking

Over the years I’ve encountered a number of disregulated eaters who blame their poor eating habits on hating to food shop, plan meals, and cook. Unlike foodies, they enjoy eating, but abhor the activities that get the food on the table. If that describes you, you’ll have to change your thinking on the subject if you want to overcome your food problems and eat healthfully. I understand. Although I enjoy creating a fine feast for occasional dinner guests, I’m not a huge fan of fussing over food for myself. Luckily, due to divergent eating schedules and food preferences, my husband (Mr. Macrobiotic) and I usually fend for ourselves in the kitchen. Between clients, writing, and other commitments, I eat plain, small, real-food “meals” (sometimes too small to actually be called a meal) that are usually broiled, microwaved, or made in a rice cooker. Tasty and satisfying but no muss, no fuss....
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How Do You Know?

When people make assertions that are flimsy or invalid, I have a friend who asks them, How do you know that? Deceptively simple, this question challenges intellectual laziness and uncritical adherence to falsehood and demands that opinions be backed up by facts. I strongly encourage you to use it to challenge your own irrational thinking. The counseling I do requires that I constantly push people to think critically and act rationally if they intend to become emotionally healthy “normal” eaters. That means finding evidence to support all of their beliefs. It doesn’t wash to say, “I just know it,” “I’ve always thought this way,” “I have no idea,” or but “Mom/Dad/whomever says so.” You need to back up every assertion, especially the ones you use to guide your eating and shape your view of yourself, with rock solid evidence. Moreover, training yourself to think with this kind of rigorous analysis around...
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Why Your Brain Shuts Down

We all experience brain freeze at one time or another. But did you know you may be exacerbating the problem by overloading yourself with information, and that cognitive overload makes non-anxious people anxious, and anxious folks even more so? Not what any of us need, and certainly detrimental when making decisions about food. Here’s an example. Ever sit down with a menu—a really large one with a dizzying array of items—and draw a blank on what you want to eat? How much easier when the menu has variety but not so many choices that your head begins to spin. According to a March 7, 2011 NEWSWEEK article entitled “I Can’t Think” by one of my very favorite writers, Sharon Begley, “The booming science of decision making has shown that more information can lead to objectively poorer choices, and to choices that people come to regret.” The problem is that the brain’s...
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Purity and Purging

In my work, I’ve met many women who are relentlessly driven toward purity. To be sure, there are men out there as well who yearn to be flawless or perfect, but the need seems to come with the cultural territory of being female. It’s a compulsion that can take over your life, ruin your chance for happiness, and make being a “normal” eater impossible. Purity isn’t quite the same as perfection. Without heading for the dictionary, let’s say that purity makes us want to be sparkly clean inside. We never want to have an untoward thought or an unkind feeling. We want to be holy and better than, to rise above it all—whatever “it” is—and be a flesh-and-blood ideal of humanity, a contradiction if there ever was one. As you read this description, does it seem natural and healthy to you? Moreover, does it seem doable? If so, at what cost...
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Rationality

How rational are you about your eating and weight? Perhaps you haven’t given much thought to the subject. If so, you won’t get far in changing your beliefs or behaviors. Some thoughts from a winter lecture I attended on rationality and intelligence. The American Heritage Dictionary defines rational as “based upon reason; logical,” and irrational as “contrary to reason; illogical.” Being human, we have the capacity to be both rational and irrational; it’s part of our genetic make-up, coded into our DNA. An interesting note: you might assume that there’s a correlation between being intelligent and being rational. In fact, IQ does not equal RA (rational quotient)! Ironically, highly intelligent people are more likely to cloak illogic and false assumptions in sophisticated illusions to shield themselves from seeing the truth. There are two causes of what’s called disrationale. One is that our brain relies on short cuts to take care of...
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Weight and Menopause

An article on weight gain during and after menopause in Environmental Nutrition (April 2011, vol. 34, no. 4) caught my attention because it contains important—and surprising—information for all women, whether they’ve reached menopause or not. The article states that “The transition through menopause is typically burdened with significant weight gain—about 1.5 pounds per year during the middle years, regardless of initial age, initial body size, or ethnicity, according to data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), a multi-ethnic, community-based, longitudinal study of more than 3,000 women. However, there is broad debate among scientists over why and how this weight gain occurs.” According to one researcher, fat cells are protective because they produce estrogen. As it declines in a woman’s body, fat cells take over the process of helping her get through what may be a difficult transition. Another researcher challenges this conclusion by saying that the estrogen...
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Competence and Self-esteem

At a dinner meeting I attended, the topic of self-esteem arose and generated quite a lively debate on what it is and how it develops. The answer to these questions are highly relevant to troubled eaters who generally exhibit low self-esteem and are looking for ways to raise it. Here’s a how-to from the so-called “father of self-esteem.” According to Nathaniel Branden, author of THE SIX PILLARS OF SELF-ESTEEM, “Self-esteem is the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness.” Self-esteem isn’t about feeling good arbitrarily nor is it about loving yourself unconditionally. It comes from achieving competence which gives you confidence which, in turn, reinforces competence. To raise your self-esteem in the eating arena, you have to achieve competence which means learning and practicing skills until you are very, very good at them. Competence evolves from hard work, repetition, and tolerating...
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The Basics of Leptin

Some of you may have heard of leptin and some of you may be hearing the word for the first time. Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells that signals your brain that you’ve had enough food. If you’re serious about understanding appetite and weight-related body chemistry, here’s the quick-and-dirty on leptin. According to an ENVIRONMENTAL NUTRITION (February 2011) article, Lessons About Leptin, Weight and Your Eating Environment, when you eat more calories than your body needs, they are stored in fat cells as fat. As fat is socked away, your leptin levels elevate and are released into your bloodstream, alerting your brain that you’ve consumed enough nutrients. Conversely, by losing weight through reducing fat stores, your leptin levels plummet, signaling your brain to believe that your body is in starvation mode which increases food-seeking behavior. Throughout history, this balance of stored calories evolved to help us take in the...
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When Is It Going to Click

When is it all going to click? I hear this question a lot. Clients and message board members want to know when they’re going to consistently and automatically engage in “normal” eating behaviors—stop eating when satisfied, prevent a binge, feel full but not purge, keep going to the gym even when they’re busy, or not regain weight they struggled hard to lose. The answer to this question may not be what you want to hear. It’s natural to want the effort you put into “normal” eating and growing mentally healthy around food and the scale to pay off. But, in my experience, troubled eaters can get so hyper-focused on when things are going to get easier and “click,” that they become distracted from the hard work that leads to this eventual transformation. The fact is that the click comes at the end of a long, nose-to-the grindstone process. It doesn’t happen...
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