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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. 

Treat Yourself Like You Treat Your Dog

Last week I was talking to someone with an eating problem who joked about treating her dogs better than herself. She described feeding them exactly what they wanted and her joy in loving them unconditionally. My first thought was how common her attitude is among dysregulated eaters who often treat family members, friends, and, yes, pets better than themselves. Maybe you’re one of these people who are caught in a vicious cycle of devaluing yourself which leads to disordered eating which erodes self-love which perpetuates more disordered eating. The process of putting all your good feelings into an “other” and holding all the bad ones inside yourself is called projection and stems from discomfort with feeling lovable and worthy. Think about it: Why would you treat an animal better than you? You’d only do it if you didn’t think you deserved as much as Fido or Whiskers. I’m not suggesting that...
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Legalizing Foods

The prospect of legalizing foods on the road to “normal” eating is scary and exciting. Although granting yourself permission to enjoy foods that were formerly forbidden is exhilarating and freeing, you will get into trouble if you think that because foods are now legal, you can eat them with abandon. Nothing could be further from the truth. The rules of “normal” eating apply to all foods, and you have to pay extra attention when eating newly legalized foods that are highly charged from your history of fearing and craving them. You’ll need to consider whether you’re hungry or hungry enough to eat. You’ll want to tune into your emotions around the food: Do you desire it, not with frantic, obsessive desperation (mouth hunger), but with a yearning that’s organically driven in term of taste, texture, and nutrients? Because a food is legal is not sole justification to eat it. If you...
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Quiet Place Inside

Do you know what makes you afraid to stop and feel? Dollars to donuts, whatever it is, you’ll be able to tolerate it. As children, we really do get easily overwhelmed with emotions and they rightfully terrify us. We don’t have the brain mechanics to handle emotional intensity. For the most part, as adults, what we feel is pain with much less terror. The irony about abusing food to avoid emotional hurt is that by tolerating the pain, you avoid future pain—recriminations which follow food abuse. You’re also listening to your heart to find out what you really need. When I ask clients and students to sit quietly to see what comes up, they often look at me as if I’ve spoken in tongues. Be still? Maybe their parents were in ongoing emotional chaos or walled off their emotions, so they have no idea how to be still. Perhaps they learned...
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If You Couldn’t Make Choices

Every time I see my neighbor who’s a quadriplegic, I think to myself, I bet she’d give anything to have a choice about whether to exercise or feed herself. We take so much for granted as we muddle along, especially using the easy way out and deciding by doing nothing and letting things happen. Letting the chips fall becomes a way of life. Think, what would life would be like if choices were taken away from you? As the saying goes, use it or lose it! Do you live as if you have forever to be different—unconsciously, blocking out how your food intake in (or lack thereof) might damage your future health? It’s one thing to be present to the moment; it’s another to be barricaded in it and act as if now is all you have. Consider this question: If you had to be in a wheelchair for the rest...
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Opaque versus Transparent

If you have difficulty regularly regulating your food intake, you probably have problems with the flow of your emotions as well. The goal is to become so emotionally flexible that you know, as the song says, when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. That doesn’t mean becoming perfect at handling emotions, just that, for the most part, you’ll be able to appropriately let go of or contain intense affect depending on what’s necessary. I think of people who don’t show feelings as opaque. They cut off emotions so quickly that they barely and rarely feel them. No matter what angle you use to try and connect with them, no feelings shine through. They are often cerebral and intellectual people or such busy bees that they (intentionally) never have time to stop and feel. At the opposite end of the spectrum are people I think of as emotionally transparent. You...
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No Such Thing as A Perfect Eater

It’s easy to understand how anyone who’s had under- or overeating problems for a long time would think that there are people out there who are perfect eaters. You know, the ones who never overeat or allow themselves to get too hungry, who always know exactly what food they want and don’t ever feel disappointed by a poor choice, who eat nutritiously 100% of the time and never struggle over food decisions. Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s no such thing as a perfect eater. “Normal” yes, perfect no. “Normal” eaters misjudge their hunger and get ravenous or end up eating when they’re not hungry. They make unsatisfying food decisions and get stuck eating foods they don’t like. Sometimes they lose track of what they’re doing and eat too much or get side-tracked and take in too little. Their clothes may hang a little loose when they’ve been too...
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Stopping Eating When Full or Satisfied

Sometimes it feels as if the worst thing in the world is to have to stop eating, never mind that you’re stuffed to the gills and your brain has gone numb. Of all the rules of “normal” eating, stopping when you’re full or satisfied is the hardest, hands down. However, it does grow organically and logically out of the previous rules. If you follow the first three, stopping is a lot easier. Well, actually, it won’t be easy for a long while, until you’ve done it so often that it’s become habit. It will be very, very hard at first. If you eat when you’re not hungry, you won’t know when to stop because it wasn’t food you wanted in the first place. On the other hand, if you’re too hungry, you’ll snarf down your food so quickly that you’ll have eaten too much before you know it. When possible, eat...
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Weighty Comments

In a recent workshop, members had a lively discussion about what to do when people comment—positively or negatively—on their weight. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are a number of winning responses, depending on the situation. The first step is to identify what bothers you about the comment: Is it a throwback to how some relative in your childhood used to chide you for being too fat or thin? Does it make you feel uncomfortable because it’s tinged with sexuality or a come on? Does it feel fake, competitive, downright hostile, or as if the person envies how you look? Has it been said thoughtlessly, with love, or with obvious mal intent? Is it from a stranger or an intimate? Your response needs to grow from what you’re feeling—angry, embarrassed, sort of pleased and sort of not, violated, scared, devalued, sexualized, self-conscious—and from the context of the situation. For many people...
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Males and Eating Disorders

Most of my clients, book and blog readers, and message board members are women, which is no big surprise considering that women bear the brunt of this society’s pressure to lose weight and be thin, which can be a factor leading to disregulated eating. Until recently, however, we thought that men with eating disorders were a small percentage of our population. It turns out that the number is higher than we thought. According to a Cox Newspaper article, Men Struggle with weight and eating disorders, too, a national study conducted by Harvard of nearly 3,000 adults concluded that one quarter of people with bulimia or anorexia nervosa and 40% of individuals who had binge-eating problems were men. The previous estimate had maintained that about 10% of people with anorexia and bulimia were males. One explanation of this 30% difference is likely under-reporting of the problem because health professionals are more likely...
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Thawing Your Feelings

Emotions are meant to be felt and valued. When they’re not encouraged, validated, supported and understood, we think they’re bad and that we’re bad/wrong to have them. We learn to conform to the family value: don’t think it, don’t say it, don’t feel it. If your parents or primary caretakers frequently demeaned, ignored, humiliated, invalidated, teased, or in any way squashed your feelings, you adapted by numbing out emotionally. Witnessing others suffer as a child can also induce a deadening reaction. Emotionally overwhelmed and lacking the internal resources to manage your pain, you tried not to feel hurt, pretended not to care, and covered your feelings so well that no one knew you had them (even you!). Eventually those feelings became stuck or frozen in time and you adapted to feeling as little as possible. Emotional numbness may have been a conscious goal, but more likely it was a state that...
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