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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]

Feeling Overwhelmed

Clients often complain that they feel overwhelmed without really knowing what the word means. What do you actually mean when you say you’re “overwhelmed? More importantly, what can you do to feel better or change the situation? According to the World Book Dictionary, “overwhelm” is a verb that means, 1. “to overcome completely, to crush, 2. to cover completely, as a flood would; 3. to help, treat, or address with an excessive amount of anything.” When clients say they feel overwhelmed, they’re generally referring to the first definition—“overcome completely” or “crushed”—but nothing of the sort is going on. They’re not actually “overcome,” not “crushed.” In fact, they’re still functioning, still putting one food in front of the other, alive and kicking. In the language of definition #2, they’re still keeping their heads above water. In short, “feeling overwhelmed” is an internal perception, not external reality. When you say you’re “overwhelmed,” what...
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Why Resolutions Don’t Work

We’re not a month into the new year and I bet many of you are already breaking your well intended New Year’s resolutions. Don’t feel badly. Resolutions are like diets: they’re made to help you feel good in the moment, but don’t have the legs to take you the distance. Read on to find out how science explains why resolutions don’t work. Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an authority on the brain’s pleasure center, says, “We all as creatures are hard-wired…to give greater value to an immediate reward as opposed to something that’s delayed.” Get it? Our brains have evolved in such a way as to prefer instant gratification to delayed reward. You’re not crazy when you go for the chips rather than grab your coat to take a brisk walk, or when you swing by Wendy’s rather than head home to cook a nutritious...
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Understanding versus Accepting Behavior

I’ve noticed that sometimes when I comment to person A about person B’s bad behavior, “A” embarks on a lengthy explanation of how “B” might have come to be that way. In essence, person A is defending B’s behavior by detailing B’s dysfunctional childhood or the hard times B is going through, making it seem a natural consequence of their history. But does understanding bad behavior mean that we need to accept it? For example, I was having dinner with old friends when one woman started complaining about her elderly mother whom we all knew from an earlier time in our lives. The complainer was giving some pretty clear examples of the harsh treatment she was still receiving from her mother when another friend piped up with all the reasons Mom might be as she is. I kept my mouth shut for the most part and continued to observe the conversation,...
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To whom are you accountable? Accepting that you—and only you—are responsible for your thoughts, feelings and behavior makes a huge difference in whether or not you’ll overcome your eating problems. That is, do you take charge of yourself or do you give over responsibility for your eating to family, friends, or our culture? For example, I counsel a wife who overeats, just waiting for her husband to say something to stop her. And her husband falls right into the trap every time as if his spouse has absolutely no will of her own. Accountability for her eating is in the wrong hands. Only when hubby refuses to be responsible for his wife’s food consumption, will she have a fighting chance to pick up the gauntlet herself. As long as he’s willing to act as her conscience, she’ll continue her dysfunctional behavior. I also have clients who sneak eat, as if the...
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Book Review: The Self-compassion Diet

What a delight to blog about THE SELF-COMPASSION DIET: A STEP-BY-STEP PROGRAM TO LOSE WEIGHT WITH LOVING-KINDNESS by Jean Fain, LICSW, a colleague from the Boston area, where I lived and worked for decades. Although I rarely focus on weight loss, this book has such powerful strategies for becoming a “normal” eater (and shedding pounds), that I want to spread the word. The premise of the book and CD is simple: by using self-compassion or “a deep awareness of one’s own suffering,” you can radically go from being a dysfunctional eater to a functional one. Fain describes self-compassion as composed of mindful awareness (a basic technique of keeping attention on the present moment), self-kindness (treating yourself with caring, understanding and validation), and common humanity (the awareness that suffering is part of the human condition and that others suffer in a similar way). I love that Fain considers self-compassion both a personality...
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New Research on Weight Gain

The December 2010 Nutrition Action Healthletter provides some new and enlightening scientific evidence that establishing a healthy weight is even more complicated than previously thought. Forget what so-called experts say about calorie consumption and energy expenditure being the sole or major determinant of weight. Here’s the real deal. These research conclusions are from Eric Ravussin, head of the Division of Health and Performance Enhancement at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana:“When people lose weight, their leptin (the hormone produced by fat cells which lets the brain know when your body has stocked up enough fat) goes way down, and the body interprets that as a state of starvation. When the survival of an organism is at stake, the body has redundant systems to avoid starving.”“When people lose 10-20% of their body weight, their metabolic rate drops and becomes thrifty. So they need fewer calories to stay at their...
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Trusting Yourself and the Organic Process

As a disregulated eater, you likely doubt your ability to make wise decisions for yourself. Maybe lack of trust existed prior to your eating problems or maybe abusing food wore down your conviction that you can adequately care for yourself. If you’ve come to distrust your judgment, read on about a winning way to make decisions. To develop self-trust, you need to stop imposing answers on yourself and, instead, engage in self-discovery. This means tossing out what you or others think you should or shouldn’t do and waiting for answers that feel right to surface over time. Self-discovery is an organic process which is about patiently taking in information and, by doing so, having bits of wisdom unfold to you little by little to move you forward to a decision point. In this process, you don’t force an idea or decision on yourself prematurely, but allow time to discover how you...
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What’s So Hard About Being Alone?

What is it about being alone that frightens women so? I often hear them—married or partnered friends or clients—expressing great angst about being on their own. Their fear may keep them with people they don’t love and even actively dislike and could propel them to eat for comfort or pleasure. If you share this fear, it’s important to know exactly what you mean by it—to overcome it and stand on your own two feet. There are a few aspects of fearing being/living alone. One is the practical issue of financial security and earning a living. Many women, particularly those who’ve not been trained to support themselves or who’ve long been dependent on a spouse/partner, are afraid they won’t find work that will provide them with the lifestyle they’re accustomed to. They don’t want to give up their creature comforts, even for freedom from someone who is hurtful to and destructive of...
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Embracing Your Past

Giving credit where credit is due, the idea for this blog—letting go of shame from the past—came from a discussion on my Food and Feelings message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings). I’m talking about still feeling overwhelming distress thinking about something you did ages ago. Maybe you used to drink a lot or do drugs, were wildly indiscriminate in your sexual partners, were a real goof off or a prima donna, or took advantage of friends and family. Everyone has moments (okay, months or years) they’re not proud of. You know, those times you can’t believe you did what you did. How could you have been so cruel to your siblings? Why on earth would you have put your parents through such pain? Did you really do that to your best friend? What kind of parent were you who could do that to her children? How could you have cheated/lied/betrayed someone you loved like...
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Early Trauma and Eating Problems

It’s heartening to see my perceptions from 30 years of working with troubled eaters validated once in a while. This is the case with a recent article in Psychotherapy Networker entitled “As the Twig Is Bent: Understanding the health implications of early life trauma” by Mary Sykes Wylie. The article discusses the correlation between early trauma and health issues, including some related to obesity. The following conclusions come from research done by Vincent Felitti, founder of Kaiser Permanente’s Department of Preventive Medicine. “In a study of 286 obese people in the program…Felitti discovered that half had been sexually abused as children—more than 50% higher than the normal rate reported by women and 300% higher than the rate reported by men. In fact, for these people, overeating and obesity weren’t the central problems, but attempted solutions.” This research was followed by a joint study between Kaiser Permanent and the Centers for Disease...
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