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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]

To Carb or Not to Carb

Once more, a session with a client has got me thinking: if you don’t know whether or not you have difficulty metabolizing particular foods such as wheat or sugar, do you try to eat them “normally” or avoid them completely? Obviously, if you’ve been tested and diagnosed with a food allergy, you’ll want to steer clear. Remember, testing is the only way to know for certain that you have a bona fide food allergy (see my blog archive). Craving and having difficulty staying away from a food does not constitute a food allergy or addiction, so please don’t convince yourself that the problem is physical when it could be mental/emotional. That said, it’s difficult to know how to proceed if you react badly to a food. You could give it—sugar, fats, wheat or even most carbohydrates—up completely. However: OA members avoid food for decades, then sometimes try a bite and succumb...
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Dealing with Hurtful Relatives

One of the great stresses of the holiday season is dealing with relatives who are hurtful, difficult or, perhaps, even emotionally abusive. Maybe you rarely see them and try to be nice when you do or are stuck with them all year long. There is no easy answer for how to deal with these kinds of family members, but you do have options. None will feel just right, but often you have to choose the best of the lot and live with the consequences. Newspaper advice columns often tell readers to ignore the bad things troublesome relatives do or say and look for the good in them. This is a viable option with a relative who is basically a decent person and only mildly annoying. You can usually tell if a remark is made with a benign or loving intent. Maybe your well-meaning, sweet aunt always asks when you’re going to...
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Getting Past “The Past”

We can’t help, at times, getting stuck in “the past” and sometimes end up abusing food because of it—a new friend fails to invite you to a birthday bash and you feel slighted, a co-worker claims credit for a job you busted a gut doing and you lose it, or your child screams she hates you after a time out and you burst into tears. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again!) that the bulk of our hurt is rooted in the past. Let’s look at the examples above. First, the birthday bash. If your reaction was overwhelming hurt that you weren’t invited, you may have had too many experiences in childhood—in your family, school or neighborhood—in which you felt left out and excluded. Maybe you often felt as if you were on the outside looking in. So, naturally, when you’re not included now, you feel stung....
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Eating When and What You Want

When you begin to work on eating “normally,” especially giving up the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” of when and what is appropriate, you may find yourself eating food in times and places that surprise you. And you’ll begin to notice that this society has arbitrary rules about food which unconsciously govern eating. Most people go along with those rules without thinking, but you may need to break them for a while—or forever—to improve your relationship with food. For example, in this culture we’re told that there are breakfast, lunch and dinner foods. Advertisements and restaurant menus reinforce this message—cereal in the morning, a sandwich at lunch, and some kind of meat and vegetable for dinner (hurray for breakfast-all-day eateries). Soup comes before the meal and dessert after. Candy and sweets are snacks. Perhaps there was some sense to how these ideas originated and why they have lasted, but it’s important to question...
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Nuances of Fullness

Eating a quantity of food that is just right is as much art as science. Using a number scale can teach over- and undereaters the nuances of hunger and fullness by making you aware of body sensations and allowing you to notice the subtle gradations of satiation. Think of 0 as hungry, 1 as no longer hungry, 2 as full, and 3 as beyond full. Zero means you have hunger pains and sensations that signal an empty stomach—growling belly, spaciness, lightheadedness, irritability, fatigue, or headache, to name several. An empty stomach is screaming for fuel. Because it takes about 20 minutes for food to move through your digestive system and register in your brain, you may feel hungry for a while as you eat. Eating slowly is a must so that you can notice when hunger goes away, but you don’t want to eat so slowly that you fail to get...
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Dwelling on Emotion

Many of my clients and students grumble about “dwelling” on painful feelings or traumatic memories, asking, “What’s the point?” Perhaps you’ve said or thought this yourself. Well, here’s the answer. According to the dictionary, to dwell means “to fix attention on” and “think about for a long time.” When you fear dwelling on things, my guess is that you’re not thinking of the first definition but of the words “for a long time” in the second one. You’re afraid that touching on or stirring up painful emotions will suck you down into them and that you’ll get stuck and won’t be able to climb out. However, your fear (due to experience or false anticipation) must be overcome to grow emotionally and overcome disordered eating. There are two ways to dwell on pain, one healthy and one unhealthy. The goals of healthy dwelling are understanding and releasing of emotion; unhealthy dwelling has...
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Giving Thanks

Okay, now, it’s done, over, finito. You got through Thanksgiving—through all the delicious foods, your anxieties about eating too much or too little, your fears about what people might say about your weight, and the dread of being with relatives that make you want to divorce your family. If you weren’t Ms. or Mr. Perfect on Thanksgiving, you may be in a remorseful, beat-yourself-up state of mind today, so here’s a chance to leap frog back over to mental health where you belong. Rather than focus on what you did wrong, stick with the Thanksgiving theme of gratefulness. What do you have to be thankful for regarding food? If you can’t think of anything, here are some general thoughts. Be thankful that food is abundant because you are not poor, that you live in a country that is not torn by war so that you can eat in peace, that you...
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Believing You’re Entitled to Eat

The first step in intuitive eating is to believe that you’re entitled to any food that will not harm you physically—those to which you aren’t allergic or sensitive and which don’t give you indigestion or heartburn. Entitlement is key to because believing you aren’t entitled makes it impossible to follow the rules of “normal” eating. If you don’t accept that you can eat whatever you want, you won’t be able to follow Rule #1, eating when you’re hungry. You might be starving and crave a tuna melt, but deny your desire and refuse to “give in.” You might eat mostly salads because any other food is taboo. Alternately, believing that certain foods are off limits, you might yearn for them so desperately that you end up eating them when you’re not hungry in pure rebellion. Again, remember, “normal” eaters believe that they can have any food they want whenever they want...
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Eating—In the News

A recent Tufts University Health and Nutrition Newsletter (10/07) had a few illuminating stories that relate to eating and weight. The first maintained that because food cravings are natural, we should stop feeling guilty about them. The study on cravings was part of the Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy trial conducted at the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts’ Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center (boy, was that a mouthful). It said that when we restrict calories, our cravings may increase for the foods we avoid, so that when we think we are yearning for carbohydrates, we’re really craving calorie-density. Makes sense. Another story highlighted a “nutritional” supplement called CLA that is supposed to help people lose weight. The report said that CLA or conjugated linoleic acid—called a miracle pill that helps shed pounds and build muscle—may aid weight loss but also has serious side effects,...
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Thinness and Gender

As if we don’t have enough gender disparities in this society, I’ve been noticing lately how thin men and women are viewed and treated differently. Skinny men, whether they perceive their physique as unmanly or not, are basically left alone. Perhaps they’re not adored as hunks or hotties, maybe they’re covertly envied or even laughed at, but no one has all that much to say about or to them regarding their bodies. Thin women, on the other hand, are too much talked about and talked at, on constant display. They are perceived as having it all together and often are the recipient of envy and resentment. One day I overheard a store cashier say to a slender woman, “Oh, lucky you. You can eat anything. I wish I looked like you.” Another day I heard a trim woman mention to her friend that she’d gone to a spa. Her friend laughed...
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