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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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Color, Mood and Food

An interesting article on how colors affect the brain in the May 2009 issue of Mind, Mood & Memory (published by Massachusetts General Hospital) might help tweak your eating for the better. Scientists concluded that certain colors stimulate creativity, focus, attention to detail, problem-solving, and relaxation. This information is not earth-shattering, but I offer it in the hope that you can use it to make your kitchen and dining area the most supportive it can be for “normal” eating. Here’s what the article (“Color Me Creative: How Colors Affect the Brain”) has to say:RED is stimulating, increases blood pressure, pulse and respiration rate; energizes, increases attention and vigilance; promotes anxiety, improves memory; promotes interest in food and sex.ORANGE increases blood pressure, respiration, heart rate; increases appetite, reduces fatigue, fosters sociability.YELLOW stimulates memory, awareness, and perception; raises pulse and respiration rates; engenders hope and optimism.GREEN is soothing, relaxing, calming; reduces anxiety; fosters...
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Reflection

I’ve blogged about reacting versus responding, but recently have been reminded of another word that needs to be thrown into the mix: reflecting. Many people have scant idea what the word means and rarely, if ever, reflect upon their thoughts and actions. Other people confuse reflection with dwelling on or obsessing about issues or emotions. Reflection is an essential tool for living and recovering from food abuse. We all know what it means to react. Words fly out of your mouth before you even realize you’re speaking or know what you’re saying. You hit the brakes when a squirrel races across the street in front of your car. You reach for a slice of birthday cake at a party before asking yourself if you’re hungry or like this kind cake. It’s healthy to react quickly in certain life-threatening situations but, frankly, most of life is hardly made up of events in...
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More on Self-love

Part of being an emotionally healthy, mature adult means achieving permanent self-love so that you don’t channel energy into looking to others for approval, validation and love. I blog away on this subject because it’s essential to eradicating food abuse and establishing healthy body attitudes and because self-love is difficult to come by if you’re a disregulated eater who had a childhood in which you were emotionally mistreated. If you had parents who were highly critical and frequently mistreated you by invalidating your feelings or by putting their emotional needs before yours—never mind being cruel and abusive—you couldn’t learn to love yourself because we learn self-love through being loved by our care-takers. If you are loved well, you’re likely to grow into someone who loves her/himself well. If you are loved poorly or unloved, you’re likely develop into a person who loves her/himself poorly. In too many cases, parents don’t focus...
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Thwarting Fat Phobia

I was watching CSI NEW YORK recently and one of the characters, a black doctor, was confronted with slurs from a racist skinhead. The doctor didn’t fly off the handle, hurl an insult back at the skinhead, nor seem the least bit perturbed. Rather, he shrugged off the insult, explaining to another character that someone’s racist attitude wasn’t his problem but theirs. My first thought was, How can overweight people learn to respond in a similar fashion? Granted being born black and becoming fat are not the same thing. I get that. However, many blacks (and other people who’ve been stigmatized) have learned over time to handle hurtful comments well, and that makes their attitude instructive. Some may say that our culture is now what’s being called post-racist, but throughout history, people have had to contend with being picked on, excluded from the mainstream, and abused in various ways because of...
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More on Trauma

As we learn more about the workings of the brain, it’s evident that childhood trauma often plays a crucial role in the development of lifelong emotional—and emotional management—problems. They manifest themselves not only through eating, mood, and anxiety disorders, but in addictions and unhealthy relationships. The greater your understanding of how trauma affects your sense of self, the better your chance of making changes in adulthood to overcome early dysfunctional influences. In Children of Trauma: Rediscovering Your Discarded Self, author Jane Middleton-Moz makes a powerful point: “Children live out what they see reflected in their parents’ eyes. If what is reflected is the disdain and unacceptability of the developing self, that self will be discarded in order to meet the image in the reflective mirror of the world.” This means that if your parents regularly mistreated you, you may have come to believe that there was something intrinsically wrong with you...
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Book Review: Beating Ana

BOOK REVIEW: Beating Ana: How to Outsmart Your Eating Disorder and Take Your Life Back by Shannon Cutts (HCI, 2009) Author Shannon Cutts has created a smart little book in Beating Ana for anyone struggling with eating issues. The theme of the book, which I whole-heartedly endorse, is developing relationships to replace eating disorders. Cutts couldn’t be more on target when she says that we need to “feed our minds and hearts with the empowering stories of others.” To extend the metaphor, the book is a most satisfying meal. The focus of Beating Ana is on mentoring. Cutts defines a mentor as “one who is recovering who understands and can give hope and support from an insiders’ perspective.” This concept is the foundation of the “Anonymous” organizations and works well for recovering from a host of problems and addictions. As Cutts underscores, it is precisely our isolation and shame that keep...
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Book Review: Nice Girls Finish Fat

My fourth book, NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT—PUT YOURSELF FIRST AND CHANGE YOUR EATING FOREVER (Fireside Books, a division of Simon and Schuster), hits the shelves tomorrow, June 2! It’s the first book to link up doing too much and eating too much, and was written for all of you women who take care of others with your warm hearts and generous natures and take care of yourselves through multiple trips to the refrigerator. “Nice” men who abuse food will benefit from reading the book as well. NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT developed from my gradual realizations about the excessive niceness of the women I treat for food problems—smiling all the time, dutiful about keeping appointments, guilt stricken when they can’t pay me on time, apologizing for half the session for coming a few minutes late, and spending much of our time wailing about how much they have to do, how imperfect they...
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Are We How We Look?

A Newsweek article (4/6/09), “Tales of a Modern Diva,” made me sick to heart how women will ever shake societal pressure to be thin and beautiful. It describes how younger and younger girls are obsessively focused—moreover, being focused by the media and their parents—on their appearance. I’m not saying that men don’t have pressures to look good, too. They do, but nowhere near the burden that women feel. The article quotes Susie Orbach (former therapist to Princess Diana!), author of ON EATING and FAT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE (which gave a generation of women—including me—permission to stop dieting and listen to their appetite). In her new book (which I’ve yet to read), BODIES, Orbach maintains that, “…good looks and peak fitness are no longer a biological gift but a ceaseless pursuit. And obsession at an early age fosters a belief that these are essential components of who we are (ital mine).”...
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Challenging Hurtful Remarks

One of the hardest parts of being over- or underweight and recovering from eating problems is figuring out how to deal with unkind or merely unhelpful remarks. While some assertive folks never put up with inappropriate commentary directed toward them on any subject, others stand up for themselves in every aspect of life except eating or weight. Learning how to handle improper comments is an essential life skill. Assuming that someone has the cognitive ability to change, it’s reasonable to expect that people who say they love you and with whom you are on an intimate basis (friends, partners, and family members) will be able to learn to treat you appropriately. It’s all in what you say and how you say it. The biggest problems I see with clients is either that they sit with hurt feelings so long that they eventually blow up and become ineffective communicators, or that they...
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Pain Is Unique to Individuals

It’s time for another reminder that we are highly unique individuals. Although we have a great deal in common physically and emotionally, each of us has a different emotional pain threshold that may promote or encourage tolerating discomfort in the eating arena. This is why it’s so dangerous to compare your progress to that of others. Remember, your psychological pain may be greater or less than someone else’s. Folks who have a healthy balance of neurotransmitters, particularly natural brain opioids and neuromodulators such as dopamine may feel less emotional distress than others. If you have a history of trauma or abuse, you will likely be far more sensitive to emotional upset than a person who had a more functional childhood. That’s why some individuals can fairly easily tolerate the discomfort of saying no to foods and others have a tougher time. That’s also why many disregulated eaters turn to food at...
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