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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]

Intuitive Eating Works

Sometimes when I hear about someone going on yet another diet or notice a “revolutionary” new weight-loss book topping the best-seller list, frankly, I feel a little blue. I’ve been teaching the “normal” eating model for 30 years and it often seems as if very little has changed in our culture in all that time regarding sensible eating (in spite of Weight Watchers new no-diet spin). I wonder and wonder when people are going to wake up and smell the coffee. Then I have an experience like one I had recently with a teletherapy client I’ve worked with for nearly a year. After decades of dieting and bingeing, he’s finally turned the corner and started to “get” what he needs to do to become a “normal” eater. He always thought weight loss was just about food and that he was a failure because he fell off the OA wagon repeatedly over...
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A report in Prevention magazine (5/10/08, page 10) has got me going—“Research shows that typically half of all women drop out of exercise programs within the first 6 weeks of starting one. Most women say having little free time, a lack of confidence when exercising, and supportive friends and family are the main reasons they stop short of achieving their goals.” Superficially reasonable answers, sure, but based on my years of professional experience, researchers need to dig deeper to get at the real issues. Yes, many women are pressed for time. Working in and out of the home, trying to live up to cultural expectations, they’re overworked, overextended, and exhausted. But women with an all-or-nothing mentality generate an inner pressure to do everything and do it perfectly which prevents them from exercising—if they can’t do it all, they do nothing, if they can’t do it well, they don’t even try. So...
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Weight and Mating

According to Amy Alkon, Sarasota Herald-Tribune “Advice Goddess,” men are hard-wired to assess women’s looks. From an evolutionary standpoint, they’ve used body weight to select mates to ensure survival of the species, hoping that someone who looked healthy was healthy. Alkon adds that “…research suggests that the body size men look for in a woman is inverse to the availability of food. Where eats are scarce, like in the Sahara, Lane Bryant ladies are in. Where there’s food-a-plenty, men go for slimmer women.” (When I emailed her, Alkon quoted the source as Shackleforth and Buss and I will try to track down their work and get more information on the theory). An interesting and unsettling observation. What the quote is saying is that at least one explanation for the fat phobia epidemic in the U.S. (and elsewhere) and males rejecting females for being overweight is due to a lethal combo of...
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Weighing Weight

A client of mine lost about 30 pounds by stopping dieting and bingeing and learning to eat more “normally.” Like many of the people I treat, she’d previously been hyper-focused on her weight rather than on her eating. This mindset must shift for intuitive eating to start taking hold: losing weight needs to take a back seat to gaining skills in eating and emotional management. I knew the shift had occurred for this client when she said she wasn’t sure if she could lose more weight or if she even wanted to, but that she’d decided, for now, to continue trying to eat “normally” and see where her weight stabilized. How many of you agonize over losing under 10 pounds: or 7 or 3 or 1? In your head the amount is huge—the difference between night and day. But in reality, what would change if you lost it? Go through every...
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Move Your Body

An article in the April issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter on the correlation between moving your body more and weight loss intrigued me. James Levin, professor and researcher in the Division of Endocrinology at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, heads something called the NEAT lab which studies the effect of body movement and expending energy on weight. NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, which is any movement that is not exertion for the sake of physical fitness. Levin’s studies conclude that by keeping moving we can burn off calories without formal exercise. Not that he eschews the activity; rather he encourages people to use NEAT along with exercise, saying, “If you look at an average sedentary person, 60% of total daily energy expenditure is basal metabolic rate, 30% is NEAT, and 10% is the thermal effect of food—the calories you burn to digest, absorb, and store the food you...
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Eating with Others

Most of us can’t avoid eating with others and may harbor beliefs and feelings which negatively affect the experience. Whether we’re sharing a meal with family or friends, our history of and reaction to social eating can produce an enjoyable time or complete dysregulation of appetite. Understanding our responses to people-and-food situations can help adjust our perspective and make social eating occasions more comfortable. How do you feel when you know you’re going to be eating with people? Do you immediately feel excited about catching up with old chums or family members or are you filled with anxiety about food? If you don’t eat out much, do you find that scheduling dinner dates is difficult because you’re torn between enjoying social contact and fearing eating too much or “the wrong thing? No matter what your anxieties, you can address your distress beforehand by reframing irrational beliefs and practicing self-soothing behaviors. For...
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Opening Up and Letting Go

Here’s a powerful quote, “There is no controlling life. Try corralling a lightning bolt. Dam a stream and it will create a new channel. Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet. Allow and grace will carry you to a higher ground. The only safety lies in letting it all in...the wild with the weak; fear fantasies, failures and successes. When loss rips off the doors of the heart, or sadness veils your vision with despair, practice becomes simply bearing the truth. In the choice to let go of your own way of being, the whole world is revealed to your new eyes." (From Allow by Danna Faulds). This quote is so enlightening, it bears a second reading, so read it again, slowly this time, and notice how it speaks you. What images or memories come to mind? What emotions surface? What is your most vivid experience of trying...
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Body Shame

Body shame is an interesting phenomenon. Some people have way too much of it, so much that if they’re three pounds up and can’t fit into their jeans, they’re miserable and abhor their own flesh. Other people who are overweight, don’t view themselves that way. When they look in the mirror, they don’t see extra-large, but instead see the thin or average-size body they used to have. In both cases, shame has gone awry and is not being used effectively to foster physical and mental health. Let’s take the first scenario when you really aren’t fat, but have put on a few pounds due to vacation, holidays, or simple bloating. You (hopefully) know that your life won’t go down the tubes because of a couple of extra pounds, yet you feel intense hatred for your body and enormous shame about its appearance. Remember, shame is meant to signal that you’ve done...
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Mind Like Water

Here’s something to chew on, the phrase “mind like water,“ a Zen concept. Understanding this metaphor and practicing its message is a useful approach for those of you who abuse food when you get anxious. Think of it as another tool in your toolbox. “Mind like water” means letting your mind react to life’s problems as if it were water. When thrown into water, large objects, say a boulder or even a person diving into a pool, make a big splash. The bigger the object, the larger the displacement of water, the greater the number of ripples, and the longer the water’s surface takes to return to placid. On the other hand, if an insect lands on water, there are only a few tiny ripples, and the water becalms calm again quite quickly. The point is that there’s a clear, logical, noticeable correlation between the size of an object and its...
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Friends and Food

Sometimes when I’m around food with others, I sit back and listen to what they have to say. Occasionally they’ll feel self-conscious in my presence, as if they should censor their comments because I’m an “eating expert,” but, honestly, most of the time they just go about their business. It’s the nature of being a therapist that I’m almost always processing and interpreting behavior (my own and everyone else’s!) and, like a photographer who sees all life as if through the lens of a camera, I can’t help but observe how people act around food. The “good/bad” issue usually rears its ugly head. No matter how many times I insist that food has nutritional—but not moral—value, friends still think in polarized terms and talk about how good or bad food is and they are for eating it. I try to let remarks slide by, but feel sorry friends who are stuck...
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