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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]

Taste and Your Other Senses

Eating problems can be exacerbated by a lack of sensory stimulation in general, that is, by using food as your primary outlet for sensual delight. Unwittingly, you may rely on taste, only one of your five senses, rather than using them all to increase intensity and joy in life. If so, by engaging all five senses, you may reduce unwanted eating. If you eat from boredom or to de-stress, you’re ignoring ways in which your other senses—smell, sight, hearing, and touch—could better help you amp up or chill out. One reason for this dependence is that you’ve fallen into a rut: food is cheap, accessible, and requires no thinking or creativity. With a little inventiveness and energy, however, you can learn to get all your senses working for you at maximum efficiency. Let’s start with smell. There may be no scientific evidence that aromatherapy promotes relaxation, but certain aromas seem to...
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Faith and Recovery

I rarely blog about religion, but here’s a dilemma a client encountered which those of you who are using faith and prayer to heal yourself may run into. Because dilemmas, aka unresolved internal conflicts, impede recovery, it’s important to identify and work through them all. Although resolution involves a great deal of self-honesty and emotional discomfort, it will free you up to pursue other recovery issues. Let’s say you believe there is a God and, beyond that, also believe in miracles which, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, are defined as “events that appear unexplainable by the laws of nature and so are held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God.” By entertaining the possibility of God performing a miracle to cure your eating disorder—anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating—you hold out hope of one day being a “normal” eater and maintaining a healthy, comfortable weight for life. This hope...
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The Last Word

We all know that there’s a rational part of ourselves and another part that’s got its own silly, and sometimes harmful, ideas. These aspects of self often battle with each other over food and other decisions: rationality asserts one thing while irrationality says quite another. This is a natural and inevitable process that we go through in making choices. What determines health over lack of it is which thought we let win each skirmish. Clients often confess that they did think about stopping eating when full, going to the gym, saying no to an unreasonable demand, standing up for themselves when they’ve been hurt, etc., but then this “little voice” told them to finish what’s on their plate, let the gym slide for another day, cave to the demand, or remain silent to avoid an argument. If we think of the first voice as the rational one and the second as...
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Your Brain’s Reward Center

The idea for this blog came from a syndicated column in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune by Amy Alkon, “Advice Goddess.” If you’re not acquainted with her, she offers a witty take on relationships and romance along with some darned good practical advice. In a March column, she shares her wisdom about obsession and the brain’s reward center. Her explanation for how we become entrenched in unwanted behavior is enlightening. Responding to a reader infatuated with an unattainable lover, Alkon writes, “Every time you moon over this woman, you’re giving your brain’s motivation and reward centers a hit of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. In doing that, you’re repeatedly engaging your brain in reward-seeking without reward-satisfaction, and revving an attraction into an obsession.” She goes on to quote anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love: “When a reward is delayed, dopamine-producing cells in the brain increase their work, pumping out more of this...
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Are You Hindering Evolution

Here’s a question I bet you’ve never asked yourself: Am I hindering the progress of human evolution? You are if you’re an adult who has trouble standing up to and emotionally separating from your parents. “Individuation” will not only make it easier for you to become a “normal” eater, but it’s crucial to enhancing the gene pool! One of the developmental tasks of becoming an adult is growing into a person who is different than your parents. Whether they make it easy or hard to do so is beside the point. As an adult, your goal is to reach the milestone in human development of thinking for and being accountable to yourself. This process occurs everywhere in the animal kingdom: Mom and Dad take care of Baby until Baby can fend for itself. In terms of humans, we might say that parents should give children roots to grow, then wings to...
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Maslow’s Self-actualizing Attributes

A friend and colleague, psychotherapist/life coach Dr. Karma Kitaj, sent me psychologist Abraham Maslow's list of self-actualizing qualities. They speak to the life skills and attitudes that troubled eaters need to acquire in their quest to become “normal” eaters. As you read them over, think, “Which ones do I have? Which ones do I need to learn?”

To be what Maslow calls self-actualized, you need to do the following:See problems in terms of challenges and situations requiring solutions, rather than as personal complaints or excuses.  Respect your need for privacy and be comfortable being alone.  Be reliant on your own experiences and judgment—be independent—not on culture and environment to form your opinions and views.  Not be susceptible to social pressures—be comfortable being a non-conformist.Be democratic, fair and non-discriminating, which means embracing and enjoying all cultures, races and individual styles.Be socially compassionate, possessing humanity.  Accept others as they are and not try to...
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How Food Makes You Feel

At a workshop I taught in Asheville, NC, a clinician raised an important question to ask yourself after eating: How does food make me feel? Here’s why. Because the experience of eating extends beyond laying down your fork or spoon, a fifth rule of “normal” eating might be to ask yourself, “How did what, how much, and when I ate make me feel?” To process your answer fully, you’ll have to ask this three-part question more than once—immediately after your meal, a few hours later, then many hours later, maybe even the next day. Your answers can then be used to determine whether you want to repeat the eating experience again as is or not. Part one of the question is about what you eat. How does your body respond to meat, vegetables, fruits, processed foods, fried foods, spicy dishes, sugar, fat, dairy or wheat products? Does it feel pleasant or...
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Two Science-based Keys to Eating Success

In terms of proving why it’s important to eat mindfully and without distractions, this blog may be the most important one you’ll ever read. For years, experts have been telling you to eat with focused attention, which means, at least while you’re learning to become a “normal” eater, not doing anything else while you’re eating. Now we know why failing to do so hinders behavioral change and why following that advice generates success. In Grow your mind: the truth about how to boost your brain’s performance (NEWSWEEK, 1/10-1/17/11), science reporter Sharon Begley explains how the brain grows. She begins by stating that “…attention is almost magical in its ability to physically alter the brain and enlarge functional circuits,” then details the results of an experiment in which one set of monkeys focuses exclusively on learning a task and the other half learns the task while receiving other sensory input. No surprise—only...
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Dissatisfaction About Weight

A few months ago, a client and I had a discussion about her changing feelings about the largeness of her body. For years, her reflection in the mirror didn’t even register; then one day she realized that she couldn’t stand to look at herself. She’d gone from one extreme to the other: from denial about her growing size to being disgusted by it. Many people view their larger-than-they-wish bodies either by exclusively denying or exclusively hating themselves for their size, or yo-yoing between denial and contempt. Makes sense, as disregulated eaters often possess an all-or-nothing mentality about food and weight—and most things in life. If they’re not thin, they must be fat; if they’re not dieting, they have no use for rules about eating. If they’re not perfect, they’re horrid. Moreover, our culture reinforces engaging in both sets of unhealthy attitudes and lifestyles, as well as obsessing about thinness and living...
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Sex and Food

At dinner with friends, a widow made a comment on the connection between sex and food, a subject that’s not often (or openly) discussed. The rest of us perked right up and had quite a chat, and I’m passing on our thoughts—and my musings—to you. The woman who raised the topic, a “normal” eater, said that when she’s dating, she doesn’t focus much on food. Though I don’t know her well, I will say that she’s a passionate person—she loves music, dancing, the arts, decorating. This led to talking about how much intensity women want in our lives—a lot! More to the point, we acknowledged how strongly we yearn for lives of passion, which got me thinking about how women often ignore or tamp down their desires and simply accept their lot. And end up turning to food to ignite whatever spark of joie de vivre is left in them. Then...
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