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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. 

Seeing Yourself Clearly

I start my “Quit Fighting with Food” workshops by asking each group member to say one thing they like about themselves. Often, members are stumped or mumble something like, “I’m nice,” or “I’m good to others.” The reasons for beginning the workshop this way are three-fold: to help break the ice, to establish a mindset that members are more than just people with eating problems, and to get a sense of members’ ability to assess themselves accurately. In all my 30 years of teaching, it’s rare for a workshop member to come up with something really unique about themselves, and I can’t remember when I last heard a positive assessment strongly asserted. Usually group members look pained and embarrassed and appear to feel they need to come up with something that won’t make them sound as if they’re boasting. What, you may wonder, does asserting something positive about yourself have to...
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Chart Your Hunger

Although it goes against my non-diet sensibilities to keep a journal in which you write down everything you eat (unless it’s for a specific purpose and time-limited), maintaining a hunger log can help you recognize patterns of food focus and eating in relation to hunger. In this log, you write down every time you’re hungry or think you are—when food is on your mind—by charting the day/time your thoughts turn to food, your hunger level (0=not hungry…10=famished), the setting, and the activity you’re doing. Your log might go something like this: 6:15 a.m., hunger at a 9, at home, getting ready for work 10:30 a.m., hunger at a 2, at work, in a boring meeting 10:52 a.m., hunger at a 2, at work, still in a boring meeting 1:36 p.m., hunger at a 7, at work, time for lunch at desk 3:26 p.m., hunger at a 1, in my office, about...
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Ying and Yang

As a dysregulated eater, you be convinced that instead of eating one way, you’ll recover by doing its opposite. So, instead of eating impulsively, you straight-jacket yourself with perfect self-discipline. Or instead of being hyper-vigilant around food, you make no judgments at all. Both extremes are based on compulsivity and rigidity, which are antithetical to “normal” eating. Flip flopping is not growth: instead of undergoing authentic change, you’re simply bouncing from one end of the spectrum to another. Eating problems are exacerbated by trying to be one way or another. Both endpoints boil down to the same fears about food and a similar lack of self-trust and body confidence. Although some people never move out of overeating or undereating, many yo-yo back and forth between the two. Of course, the chronic nay sayer might be “acceptably” thin in this culture so that her eating habits are positively reinforced, while the habitual...
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On Giving Up Perfect

We don’t start out life trying to be perfect. Sure, we have an innate need to perform well and correctly to please parents or caretakers; yes, we enjoy the feeling of competence when we win, complete tasks, and things turns out just right. That feeling is called pride. It can be thrilling and intoxicating to come up with an elegant solution to a difficult problem; doing something to perfection can bring enormous satisfaction and appreciation of self. However, fairly early on, we learn that we can’t do everything just so. Consider a child painstakingly building a tower of blocks and carefully putting the last block on top only to have the entire structure come tumbling down. Or think about the process of learning to walk. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if we could pull ourselves up that very first time, take a few steps, and keep going without falling down? It might...
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Identifying Beliefs

Thanks, readers, for your comments which often give me ideas to blog about. In fact, a question came up recently about how to identify beliefs and prompted me to write this blog, so keep those comments coming! I also get ideas from two message boards I hope you’ll check out (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dietsurvivors and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings). Beliefs, also called cognitions, are your assumptions, theories, ideas, values, attitudes, hypotheses about life and how you fit into it. They’re your operating instructions, just as your computer’s program is what guides it and makes it function. Beliefs are subjective, not objective, neither fact nor truth. Unlike the latter, beliefs can change. In fact, one of the unhealthiest beliefs you can have is that you’re stuck with your beliefs and that you can’t change them. That kind of thinking leads to rigid behavior which keeps you mentally and emotionally stunted and perceiving yourself as a victim of cruel...
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Yawn…Excuse Me, I’m Tired

An issue that crops up occasionally on two eating-related message boards I post on ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings , http://groups.yahoo.com/group/group/dietsurvivors) is confusion between fatigue and hunger or desire for food. Maybe you too abuse food when you should be putting up your feet or counting Zs. If you regularly wonder if you’re tired or hungry, you may be missing out on their physical/mental signals or mistaking one signal for another; in fact, you may also have difficulty discerning other physical cues. Perhaps your parents were confused about their physical needs and couldn’t teach you how to identify, distinguish among, and respond to physical needs. Maybe you distance yourself from your body because trying to meet its needs overwhelms you. Or you respond to your body’s desire to shut off consciousness (fatigue) by abusing food until you’re zoned out. You may also mix up fatigue and hunger or food obsession because you don’t want...
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What to Do with Feelings

A comment on one of my previous blogs raised a good question: Once you know what you’re feeling, what are your options? Unfortunately, there’s no magic or singular way to handle them. Being human is very trying, in part, because of our need to deal with painful emotions. There’s only trial-and-error and some general wisdoms to guide us. Of course, you already know that eating or obsessing about food won’t help you in the long run. That said, on to effective alternatives. When you’re slammed with emotions, you can choose from two basic reactions—either change yourself or your situation. Of course, many circumstances require that you do both. When there’s absolutely nothing you can do to alter what’s going on, you’re stuck with changing yourself, which generally means modulating feelings. This does not mean denying or minimizing them, but placing them into rational perspective and reducing their intensity so that you...
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What Does Fullness Mean to You?

Among people who struggle with under- and overeating, there’s quite a bit of confusion about the word “full.” Is it that blissful instant of eating just enough or does it connote going beyond comfort? More important than the definition is knowing when you are still in an eating pleasure zone and when you’ve moved on to physical discomfort. Rather than pinpoint one exact moment when you’re full, think of the process on a continuum, going from empty to enough food. Sometimes one more bite (if it’s large and the food is dense and high fat) will put you over the edge; more likely, one bite more or less won’t make much of a difference. Knowing when you’ve eaten to sufficiency is a judgment call, a combination of being tuned in to appetite signals, using body memory of previous eating experiences to recognize about how much food to enjoy in a sitting,...
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What Should We Look Like?

What weight should you be and what kind of body should you have? Time- and culture-bound as we are, women especially can’t help but unconsciously model ourselves after the images we see, the bodies we’re told either to have or avoid. From medicine to the media, we’re focused on two extremes: those who are fat or overweight and those who are ultra-thin or gym-sculpted. We notice these folks, rather than average-looking Jills and Joes, because, for the most part, that’s where the “in the know” fingers are pointing. Three recent images I recently encountered are perfect examples. Two are from a comedy club. Before the first act, the audience was “entertained” by an oversized TV screen flashing images of some current young diva and her female dance entourage, none of whom looked remotely like anyone I know and few that I see in my daily comings and goings. It was hard...
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How Therapy Helps

Every time a client alters how they think about and behave around food, I realize all over again what a difference therapy can make in the life of someone with eating problems. Of course, as a therapist for nearly 30 years, I’m naturally biased. Yet, I don’t believe I’d keep on meeting with clients day after day, year after year, if I didn’t see people transform their lives before my eyes. I know that the idea of going to therapy scares people—it’s a frightening process to open up to a stranger, hope that life could be better, and work hard to make it happen—but it’s essential if you’ve never been to therapy (or haven’t stayed long enough to benefit) to understand how it helps. On a concrete level, a therapist offers a new view of yourself through eyes which are compassionate and hopeful. Her job is to listen non-judgmentally and empathize...
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