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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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Books on Eating

There are many wonderful new books and websites to help disregulated eaters and the people who treat them. Although I haven’t read the titles listed below, I recommend them based on what I know about them and their authors. If you’ve read any of them, feel free to comment in the space below this blog and please encourage others to visit these websites and read these books. Look for them at http://www.bulimia.com/.   When I was recovering, I tried to read as much as I could about how to move beyond my eating problems and what I needed to do to recover. An insight here, a new perspective there, it all adds up and moves you forward. And, remember, as each of us recovers, we’re reshaping cultural norms about eating and weight and working toward building a society that has a more natural, saner, comfortable relationship with food.   JUST TELL...
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Inclusion and Belonging

Many disregulated eaters long for inclusion. They are lonely, by themselves and even with others, but also feel social anxiety. So they eat—at home by their lonesome or in social situations—which only makes them feel more estranged from others and more of an outsider. And more convinced that they’ll never belong anywhere or with anyone. To greater or lesser extent, the desire to belong is universal. Some people are avid connectors and group joiners, while others have one or two intimates or a small circle of friends they know care about them. A sense of belonging springs from the part of us that knows we can’t go it alone, an innate hankering for human contact, and a desire to be part of something greater than ourselves. Mostly, it comes from a need to be seen, heard, validated, valued and loved. It is natural and normal to want to belong. Because the...
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Failing Better

When I read this quote by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better,” I was struck by the power of his words. Though few, they tell an inspiring story. Reading them carefully, you’ll see that the only word missing is the conclusion of the story: “succeed.” Not to bore you with an English lesson, but let’s dissect what Beckett is saying. “Ever tried.” I hear from clients all the time how hard they’ve tried…and how long they’ve been trying. By the time they reach me, they’re often at the end of their rope, having lost 100 pounds or more two or three times and regained it all and then some. Which brings us to “Ever failed.” All of them feel like utter and complete failures, never realizing that it’s diets which have failed them. Diets do work for some people—about 5% of...
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Feeling Okay about Food Choices

Often I speak with clients who are beginning to make food choices which feel right to them, except that they’re severely self-conscious and uncomfortable about them. If this happens to you, it’s important to learn how to stand up for your food decisions and not cave to external pressure, real or perceived. Remember, if you’re not eating foods you enjoy, you’re going to have a heap of trouble following the rules of “normal” eating. This problem plays out in three ways. The first is in the when of eating which might seem inappropriate to others. When I began trying to eat “normally,” I carried around food everywhere to assure myself that it would be available whenever I felt I needed it. I once ate an apple at intermission in the lobby of a Broadway show and a tuna fish sandwich in the bathroom of a bar in Vermont. Though I still...
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Getting Somewhere

I can’t recall who said the following, but this sentiment speaks volumes: “I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere until I got somewhere.” When we overfocus on a goal, we lose connection to the process of getting there. Nowhere is this truer than on the road to “normal” eating. How many of you have had this experience? You have a goal—say, not yelling at your kids, increasing sales for your company, exercising three days a week, or becoming conversant in Spanish. You know in your head that this is exactly what you want to do, while another part of you is saying that this objective is ridiculously impossible and that you can’t possibly achieve it. Inching along, you feel as if you’re standing still, making no progress. But with persistence, step by baby step, you continue to move forward until suddenly, voilá, you’re there—you’ve achieved what you set out to do....
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How We View Others

While reading a book I’ll soon blog about, a quote nearly knocked my socks off: “…The inside of you is always looking at the outside of everybody else. So the inside of you feels inadequate, insecure, anxious and looks at the outside of people…and thinks, I wish I had my act together like she does. But then you realize that the inside of her is probably looking at the outside of everyone else and thinking the same thing” (quote from Jane Savoie in WOMEN RIDERS WHO COULD…AND DID by Karma Kitaj). What a powerful description of what goes on for us all. I say all because many disregulated eaters don’t realize that everyone’s insides are looking at everyone else’s outsides. I know Savoie’s quote is true because I’ve experienced how it works. In my 40s, one night I received an out-of-the-blue call from a woman I’d known since junior high school...
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Emotional Separation from Parents

As a first-year grad student, I was stunned when Sophie Freud, granddaughter of Sigmund and one of my social work professors, boldly proclaimed that "We never finish emotionally separating from our parents." Decades later, I understand how we spend our lives sifting through parental messages to crystallize what we really think and feel. Separation is a life-long process filled with plateaus, milestones and, mostly, itsy bitsy baby steps. We’re taking part in separation or emotional disengagement even when we don’t realize it—as pre-teens by not making our beds or sneaking a peek at our folks’ personal items though we’ve been forbidden to do so, as adolescents by staying out beyond curfew or hanging with friends our parents dislike, as young adults by moving to another city for college or work, and as more mature adults by raising our children differently than we were raised. Each of these acts increases emotional separation....
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Intrapsychic versus Interpersonal Conflicts

A common issue for disregulated eaters is how parental and cultural messages to be a certain weight or eat “right” can actually backfire miserably and create mixed feelings about whether or not to be that weight or eat healthfully. You even may be vaguely aware of feeling conflicted but, more likely, you’re mired in contradictory emotions and don’t know it! The only way out is to discover the origin of the polarity and resolve it.   In psych parlance, this type of conflict is termed intrapsychic and happens when we’re at odds with ourselves in an ongoing, persistent way that’s difficult to break out of. We feel opposing sets of emotions or have mutually exclusive wishes which create a tug of war or stalemate within us. When parents pressure us to be a certain way (with weight, food or otherwise), when they’re regularly rigid, controlling, demanding, or non-validating and exert pressure...
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Chocolate and Depression

Most of us agree that chocolate is a special food. Sure, occasionally we find people who can take it or leave it, but they’re the exception. Delicious as it is, what do we make of the link between depression and craving chocolate? Does it relieve symptoms or worsen them? What do we really know about the effect chocolate has on us? According to a July 2010 article in the TUFTS UNIVERSITY HEALTH AND NUTRITION LETTER, although people who have depression generally crave chocolate, it might make the condition worse. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine says the jury is still out on whether chocolate eases or exacerbates symptoms of depression. Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD of the University of California-San Diego and the studies’ other authors are unable to discern the effects of chocolate on depression. They do tell us, however, that “people who are clinically depressed are more likely...
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Living, Not Self-evaluating

One of the tendencies of people with eating disorders is to constantly evaluate how they’re doing—not only with eating, but in many aspects of life. Whenever clients frequently comment that they’re “doing good” or “had a bad week,” I know that they likely need to back off from a harmful habit of self-evaluation. We all need to assess our behavior. But there’s a world of difference between reflecting on how you manage an occasional crisis or celebrating a personal triumph and putting every action you take under a microscope. Maybe a judgmental mindset comes from years of living with the good/bad diet mentality, or perhaps folks who need to constantly know if they’re doing well are drawn to the all-or-nothing, angel/devil rigidity of diets. Although it’s useful to observe and monitor your behavior, it’s unhealthy to keep on judging it. Mental health does not mean walking around thinking you’ve had a...
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