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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]

Are You A Rebel Without A Cause?

I spend a good deal of therapy time talking with clients about being stuck in rebellion. Not adolescents, but adults—people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are still wasting precious time and energy fighting imaginary powers that be. Mind you, our discussions aren’t about them getting out and protesting for civic or global causes. They’re about how they continue to rebel against “authority” and “shoulds” in the food and other arenas and how this behavior, more than any other, keeps them stuck in overeating. Let me be frank: If you want to become a “normal” eater, you have to/must/need to ditch your rebellious attitude. Got to do it. Unless you’re living with someone who is trying to control your eating (and, why, as an adult with free choice, would you choose to live with this kind of person?), your thoughts of, “He can’t make me eat healthy,” “I’ll show her,...
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Yet More on Legalizing Food

If you’re still struggling with food legalization, I hope you’ve read my blogs on the subject. This one builds on the previous two. Frankly, I’ve found that the concept works for some people but not for others, and it’s difficult to know in which category you fall. Finding the best path for you is yet another facet of healing from eating problems. A reminder that legalization is a concept: food is neither good nor bad and there is no imperative that one food is morally better than another. Nutritiously better, yes; morally, no. That perspective frees you up to make choices based on food preference (enjoyment) and health. However, and it’s a big caveat, you need a healthy belief system to use the concept of food legalization effectively. You have to believe 100% that there are no good or bad foods—no uncertainties allowed! Most people who jump into legalizing food still...
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More on Legalizing Food

As a first step in healing eating problems, legalizing food is a tricky and complicated business, based as much on biology as psychology. Many disregulated eaters get stuck in the effort to widen food horizons and don’t move beyond it. This blog and future ones can’t tell you exactly how to manage legalization, but will help you sort out the issues. When the concept of legalizing foods surfaced in the late 1970s/early 1980s, it was positively revolutionary. I know, I was one of those eaters who was revolutionized by it. Eat whatever you want whenever you want in whatever quantities you want—what an astounding idea! It worked for a lot of us. Merely thinking that we could eat the foods we’d forbidden ourselves enabled us not to. It took many months and years of practice to convince ourselves that all foods were fair game. I used to think, I can eat...
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Legalizing Food

When the idea of "legalizing" food was introduced some three decades ago, I was just starting to work through my own dieting/binge-eating struggles. By the time I began to treat and write about disregulated eating, I was pretty much a “normal” eater and no longer thought about food as good or bad, legal or illegal. Now, I’m concerned with how much trouble disregulated eaters have with the term legalization. For too many of you, it seems to provide license to go hog wild with food which, of course, creates more problems than solutions. My ideas on legalizing food may differ from other experts, and hopefully will help those of you who are trying to expand food options constructively. Here's what legalization means (and has always meant) to me: I have the right to and, therefore, can eat anything I want any time in any quantity. For me, legalization is a belief...
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Thoughts on Fat

I’m always thrilled when the media catches up to enlightened thinking. Sadly, it’s a rare occurrence, which makes it worth mentioning because, to greater or lesser degree, what we read, hear and see often shapes our thinking. A NYTimes article by Roni Caryn Rabin, “Fat Wasn’t Always a Bad Thing,” jumped off the page at me. It’s one of the few I’ve read for public consumption that views fat from a logical, realistic perspective. The article explains the purpose of fat in evolutionary terms: folks who had the most meat on them survived times of food scarcity and famine (which was most of human history), while those who were lean died. Fat was a good thing! In fact, fat was just about the best thing you could be if you wanted to live long and prosper. The heavy people who survived, of course, passed on their genes to subsequent generations who...
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Nice Guys May Finish Fat Too

Now that my new book, NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT—PUT YOURSELF FIRST AND CHANGE YOUR EATING FOREVER, is out, I’m often asked whether nice guys have the same problems as nice gals. The answer is yes and no. There are many excessively nice guys out there who have the same traits and use food in much the same way as “nice girls,” but they don’t have the double whammy of family dysfunction and cultural expectations shaping their personalities and relationship with food. When I think about the overweight “nice” men I’ve known and treated, their unhealthy family histories jump right out at me. Many had mothers who were narcissistic, frail, dependent, or entitled. As boys, they lived to serve and take care of their mothers because that’s how they received love and affection and avoided rejection. They often had to back-burner their own needs in order to please Mom or Dad. These...
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The 90-Second Emotion Rule

In her amazing book, MY STROKE OF INSIGHT: A BRAIN SCIENTIST’S PERSONAL JOURNEY, Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., maintains that it takes about 90 seconds to pass through the physical phase of experiencing an emotion. Aside from recommending the book as a terrific read, I found her knowledge of and insights into the workings of the brain useful in thinking about behavioral change, in this case about emotional eating. Taylor says it takes “less than 90 seconds” for an emotion to get triggered, surge chemically through the blood stream, then get flushed out. She goes on to assert that within this brief period of time, the automatic emotional response is complete, so that whatever we feel after that is our choosing. Stunning information! Her take is that we need to be present and open to the feeling at whatever intensity it comes. If we short-circuit it, we won’t receive the full impact...
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What’s It Going to Take?

A new Associated Press/iVillage survey concludes that American women are shedding pounds for the wrong reason. Want to guess what, according to research, the primary motivation should be to successfully keep weight off? Want to guess what the most common motivation is? If your first answer was “for good health” and your second was “to look good,” you’re right in line with the AP survey results. The poll of 1,000 women found that half are unhappy about their weight, including women who were not even overweight! The main reason for unhappiness was because of how weight, or their perception of it, affected their appearance. Only one-third had concern for their physical condition. Okay, if you’re in that one-third, nice going. Not only do you have the right motivation to lose weight, but you have the right one to keep it off. Now you other two-thirds, please take a moment to stop...
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Weight and Relationships

If you’re a plus-size woman, this blog could be a downer—but only if you let it be one. An article in ScienceDaily (6/23/09), “Heavy Women Have Lower Quality Relationships, But Same Is Not True for Men, Study Finds,” is far from heartening, but, remember, research is about statistics and doesn’t dictate your romantic choices or situation. The research, coming out of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, focused on body image, weight, romantic relationships, and the perceptions between males and females in 57 New Zealand couples who were studied to see if there was an association among their body mass index (BMI), the quality of their relationships, and perceptions about their partners. The finding was that “heavier women had lower quality relationships, which they predicted were more likely to end. They partnered with less desirable men and thought their partners would rate them as less warm/trustworthy.” Not surprisingly, “male partners of...
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Undereating and Food Obsession

A blog reader recently asked me to write more about undereating and the fear of becoming overweight. There are many similarities between undereaters and overeaters—using food as an emotional distraction or crutch, allowing weight to determine self-worth, dependence on inadequate life skills, and disconnection from appetite signals. However, there are also differences. Many undereaters believe they need to be in perfect control around food 24/7and obsess about it and their weight. I know, I used to be one myself. These thoughts fill up your head and dictate your life. You can’t go here or there because there might be edible temptation, food is the hollow center of your life, and the accursed enemy which must be battled daily. Societal reinforcement keeps behavior in place. Unless you’re walking skin and bones, everyone thinks it’s mahvelous how much control over food you have. After all, you are the American ideal, having vanquished your...
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