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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]

Limits to Change

When you read books like mine and other authors trying to help you become a “normal” eater, do you wonder if everyone can become one or just some people? Ever think about whether you’re spinning your wheels with this intuitive eating stuff or how long you should try it before giving up? Based on posts I read on eating message boards and what clients and students say, my guess is that these are red hot questions for you. I’d like to tell you that I have definitive answers, but I don’t. Here’s what I do know. Biology plays a huge part—some 50-70%—in determining your weight. Genetic loading inclines you toward fat or thin. A traumatic childhood or stressful life may predispose you to food regulation problems or eating disorders. Depression and anxiety impact metabolism on a biochemical level and also may exacerbate appetite problems. Your eating habits begin in the womb...
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Change the World, Not Yourself

Women are taught to change themselves to fit into the world—get a new hairstyle, learn some tricks to dazzle your guy in bed, do what you can to make people comfortable, try an exotic recipe, forge a perfect body—but how often are we encouraged to create a better world, one in which we can be just ourselves? Rarely. We could do more with the Sixties mentality which prodded us to question authority, fight back, and be part of a revolution. In fact, one of the best antidotes to an eating disorder or problem is to practice saying yes to what’s right with the world and changing what’s wrong. Although disordered eating seems like a personal problem, it affects us all. It’s generated by unhealthy cultural attitudes towards women’s beauty and bodies (sorry, guys) and is a major cause of health problems—undernourishment and overweight. Not to mention how miserable women feel about...
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Failing Forward

An artist friend of mine used the term failing forward while talking about a student of hers who was making mistakes learning how to paint but was nevertheless progressing. I immediately fell in love with the term. It captured everything I believe about this thing we call failure. Working in the field of drug addiction for years, I avoided using the term relapse, with its connotation of back sliding. Clients were terrified of relapsing, as if it were a bad thing, but I never saw it that way. In my mind, relapse (see archived blogs on the subject) is a learning opportunity, a chance to stop and examine what is unknown and needs to be known in order to achieve recovery. The term failing forward captures the way I view returning to old behavior—be it starving, stuffing or picking up the crack pipe again. It’s an occasion to look at what...
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Stop Fixing on Food

In this culture, it’s hard not to get fixated on food (never mind weight), from ongoing bombardment of TV advertisements, supermarkets circulars, magazine recipes, and doctors’ advice. What really can get you hooked is how we seem to be talking food all the time (I know it really isn’t all the time, but it sometimes feels that way). Recently, I’ve started to pay extra attention to how often the subject comes up. Please don’t take this blog the wrong way. Some of you have had secrets about eating issues for decades and have finally come out of the closet and begun to talk about bingeing, starving, purging, and night eating. Please continue to share and learn from one another other. But I do think we’re influenced by culture and, to become healthy, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of spending our lives focused on food and eating....
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Addiction to Looking Good

Whether you grew from an adorable toddler into a knockout or morphed from an “ugly duckling” into a “swan,” you may have become addicted to looking good. Because this culture worships and rewards beauty, if you’re attractive (especially if you’re female), you may be so hooked on receiving admiring glances and gushing compliments on your appearance, that you may not realize how attached you are to them. You even may be greedy for praise and convinced you can’t live without it. If you were cute as a button as a child and blossomed into a striking adult—with classic or eye-catching looks—you may have been complimented and rewarded all your life for nature’s gifts. Receiving too much praise for appearance, especially if you get none or few compliments for other innate qualities and learned skills, may make you believe that you are nothing more than a pretty face or an ideal body....
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Feminism and Eating Problems

One of the things you must do to recover from an eating problem or disorder is to establish or take back power over your body. It is yours and no one else’s—not your mother’s, father’s, or spouse’s, and you need to understand this on a very deep level before you can move toward physical and emotional health. A book I read recently might help you reclaim what is rightfully yours. Written by Jessica Valenti, Full Frontal Feminism (Seal Press, CA, 2007) is aimed at assuring women that being a Feminist is a good thing for their own health and well-being. As I read it, I realized how being a Feminist could help women overcome eating and weight problems. Feminism is defined as “belief in the social, political, and economic quality of the sexes.” Although that sounds like an abstract definition and is perhaps hard to connect to eating, think about it....
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Wanting, But Not Food

When you’re caught up in the heat of the moment and feel desperate to eat (not out of hunger), you may not realize that it’s not food you crave. Food can be the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, the response to every impulse. You eat because you believe you can’t have what you want that isn’t food. Food is accessible, so it’s not surprising that you reach for it automatically thinking it will meet your needs. For example, say you want your spouse or partner to stop being critical of you, give you more attention, do more around the house, or that you even want him/her out of your life. Every time you connect to that desire, you may feel frightened, hopeless, overwhelmed, and conflicted. Rather than experience and deal with these authentic, uncomfortable feelings, your mind clicks on food. Maybe you’re single and want a companion,...
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Pretzel Logic

Sometimes as a dysregulated eater you just have to have a good laugh at what goes on in your mind. Maybe listening closely also will give you a new perspective on your irrational thinking. Here’s some stinkin’ thinkin’ I hear from clients and students—and friends and family—which seems logical on first hearing, but should give you a chuckle when you realize how truly illogical it is. I hear binge-eaters insist that they had to eat the whole whatever (fill in the food item) because they didn’t want to keep it in the house. What you’re really saying is that you felt compelled to eat the food at that moment so that you wouldn’t eat it later. Now, sad to say, any disordered eater would totally understand that logic, right? But I doubt it would make much sense to a “normal” eater who might innocently ask, “What’s the difference if you eat...
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Learning to Contain and Comfort Yourself

During a telephone therapy session, a client expressed frustration about what to do about his binges. He knew he needed to do something to stop them, but was at a loss regarding exactly what was needed. My response took him back to what we often require in childhood to thwart unwanted and wanton impulses: to be contained and comforted. We really do need both; either one is not quite enough. The goal of containing an impulse is to not let it move from thought or intention into out-in-the-real-world behavior. When driving, I might want to do something nasty to the driver of a car that has just cut me off, but I refrain. I contain or hold back the impulse because I know it is not in my best interest to convert my wish into action for good reasons. We learn containment in childhood when adults do it for us—they yank...
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One Change

Going against the grain of trying to change too many things at once, how about doing things differently this year and picking one thing about yourself to work on. I can hear the groans already—only one?…but I have so many…one won’t make a difference… etc. The problem with making a number of changes at once is that it can spread your energy too thin. Moreover, overdoing often contributes to an all-or-nothing mentality. You know, you have to change everything, but if you can’t, you won’t change anything. This year pick one behavior to work on. Maybe not even an action, but a particular thought which prevents you from getting healthy around food—or getting healthy period. We only change when we do the new behavior (thinking is a behavior) more than the old one and when that happens often enough, we create new neurobiological pathways which causes us to act differently. Remember,...
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