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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Blacks and Food Advertising

Of interest is a Sarasota Herald-Tribune article (9/16/08) about black Americans being targeted by advertisers to eat less healthy foods than white Americans. Unfortunately, the article was intended for my “Blog” folder, but ended up somewhere else until I recently discovered it. Hence, my blogging about it two years late! My apologies. The article is a real eye opener, stating that overweight and obesity rates are higher among blacks than among whites—68.9% to 59.5%—and that one of the culprits is food marketers. These statistics come from research reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation. “In a review of 22 studies published in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that advertisers specifically target blacks with unhealthy food messages.” The kinds of food that are advertised—sweets and treats, of course. Obviously, these foods are aggressively marketed to all Americans. However, “TV shows that are popular among black audiences...
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Weight Loss and Vulnerability

If you’re like some of my clients who feel vulnerable at a smaller size, you might be confusing “physical” with “emotional” vulnerability and find it difficult to shed pounds or remain at a healthy weight because of it. Do vulnerability and thinness necessarily go together? Do all thin individuals feel emotionally at risk? Does being overweight ensure that someone won’t feel vulnerable? People who’ve been physically abused, molested, raped, or who otherwise have been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances, often feel threatened bodily when they’re thinner. This pairing makes sense because they may not have had the might and muscle to fend off a perpetrator in the past. They might even have been chosen as prey because of their physical vulnerability. Additionally, when people are thinner, they really may receive more unwanted sexual attention, and more weight can keep them from having to handle it. They also may...
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Will New Behavior Last?

When disregulated eaters with long histories of dieting and bingeing begin to engage in new behavior for a few days or weeks, they often panic that it won’t last. Along with this fear is a fierce desire to know that the future will be better. Paradoxically, focusing on whether new habits will continue or not, may end up ensuring they won’t. While the months and years ahead look foggy, memories of our painful eating histories are all too sharp and clear. We recall how we’ve struggled with food, deprived ourselves, obsessed about weight, binged our hearts out, and let food rule our lives. These memories become a problem, however, when we cannot imagine that our future will take a different course than our past. The minute we consider that we might repeat the past, we’re already merging with it and failing to be present to the only moment that counts—the one...
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Weight Discrimination

I don’t know if you’ll find it good news or bad that weight discrimination is not all in your head. To be sure, many overweight people are needlessly self-conscious about their size, and many thin or normal weight folks fear facing prejudice if they grow fat. Whatever people imagine, the truth is that experts tell us that weight discrimination is alive and well and living—no, make that thriving—in our culture. An article entitled “Battle Workplace Weight Bias” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 6/13/10) reports on research from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity that says “Weight discrimination increased 66% from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s” and is “now more prevalent than bias based on ethnicity, sexual orientation and physical disability.” The article goes on to say that, “In an era when nearly every imaginable form of prejudice is no longer socially tolerated, the rise of anti-fat sentiment is a curious—and, confounding—phenomenon,”...
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A message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nicegirlsfinishfat) member asked an interesting question about confidence: “From what I understand, confidence comes from success. But if someone like me hasn't had success in the eating department, how am I supposed to build up confidence to get it sorted out once and for all?” This is one of those chicken-and-egg dilemmas: Does confidence lead to success or does success lead to confidence? The answer is that both are true. When you’re able to eat “normally” for a day or a week, you gain confidence, that is, the feeling that you are competent at feeding yourself well and may be able to continue in the future. In this way, successful repetition of functional behavior leads to increasing faith in self and self-assurance. As well, when you feel positive about your ability to feed and nourish yourself effectively, you are more likely to do so, increasing behavioral sticking power....
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Borderline Personality Disorder

Here’s something you may not know about. There is a strong correlation (an association, not a cause and effect) between the clinical diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and eating disorders. For me, diagnosing is a helpful tool in understanding clusters of symptoms and guiding treatment. On the other hand, I understand how a diagnosis can feel like an unwanted label and a stigma if misused. Criteria outlined in the fourth edition of the DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDERS, aka the DSM-IV-TR, for BPD are as follows: 1) frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment; 2) a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation; 3) identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self; 4) impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (eg, spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating); 5) recurrent suicidal...
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Feel, Then Think

Lucky us! We’re born with the ability to feel and think, and we need to use both wisely to manage life’s problems and resolve our eating issues. Some people get stuck in emotions and rarely call upon good judgment. Others think ‘til their brain hurts, but hardly ever experience authentic emotion. Are you one of these types? Maybe you intellectualize—live in your head—to avoid experiencing painful emotions. You research, make lists, and weigh pros and cons. You chunk down problems and come up with well-oiled solutions. Yet you rarely know what you’re feeling. If you focus on emotions at all, it’s to brush them aside. When you experience them, you generally describe them with vague words like upset or stressed. Due to a childhood in which your emotions weren’t heard or validated adequately, you’ve closeted them away and that’s where they’ve stayed. Instead you rely on thinking exclusively to guide your...
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Reinforcing Beliefs

I cringe mentally when disregulated eaters reinforce their negative, limiting beliefs over and over and don’t even realize it. The worst offender is the word “can’t,” but many other words, phrases and ideas deter growth and prevent healthy thinking and “normal” eating skills from taking hold. Everything you think and say, especially about what you can and cannot do, impacts your ability to do it. When you recognize that, do you imagine that you’ll never be able to keep track of everything that runs through your mind or slips out of your mouth? If so, you prove my point: You limit your growth when you think you “can’t” pay attention to what’s going on inside you most of the time when the fact is, you can, you can, you can. People who practice mindfulness do precisely that—observe what’s going through their heads and their hearts—as a matter of course. Are they...
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Why Change Takes Time

Here’s a piece of wisdom which really resonates: You can only move ahead as fast as the slowest part of you can go. It was said by a friend struggling with a thorny personal decision who heard it from her therapist and I’m happy to pass it on. Try reading the statement again and let it sink in before continuing with this blog. Thinking about how to describe this truism, I picture a group of children waiting to be admitted to an event, but only when all of them, including the stragglers, are up at the entrance. No matter how quickly some of them get there, the fastest walkers will have to wait for the slowest walkers. Which leads to me recalling having gone out to dinner with a group of friends recently, some of whom were present at reservation time and some of whom weren’t. The hostess insisted that she...
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Stop Replaying Bad Memories

One of my goals as a therapist is to help clients unearth childhood memories so they can better understand themselves in the present. With other clients, especially those who’ve experienced trauma, my goal is to help them let go of powerful, hurtful memories. My focus depends on where they are in the emotional healing process Events which we perceive as bad make an indelible mark in our memory bank. Our brains are built to recall them with special clarity and intensity to avoid similar harm in the future. Speed down the hill on your bike, then fall and break your arm often enough, and one hopes experience will teach you to slow down. In this way, recalling events which have hurt us is a beneficial process that leads to prevention. However, continuing to replay a distressing incident or period in your life over and over long after you’ve squeezed out every...
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