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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Making Commitments, Not for You

A few months ago, a client was complaining about her fear of making a commitment to exercise. She realized that she was so terrified of failing (again), that she couldn’t even get started. In spite of what many self-help gurus say, if you’re a person with mixed feelings like my client, making a serious commitment to new behavior can be the worst thing you can do to recover from eating problems. Surprised to hear that? Well, read on. Commitment is the promise to adhere to long-term hard work. It’s one of those words like discipline, control, will power and all the “shoulds” that make some people just want to run out and do the opposite. Diet plans and exercise programs are based on the idea of commitment—identifying goals and going all out to reach them. To be sure, a multitude of people find setting, monitoring, and ardently pursuing health goals effective...
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Weekday and Weekend Eating

Recently I was chatting with a friend who complained that she was looking to lose weight, but was frustrated that she couldn’t shake off any more pounds. She reported cutting portions and making healthier food choices and paying more attention to her appetite. For a moment, there seemed like little she could do to improve her habits—until she mentioned being careful during the week, but eating junk food with her boyfriend which he brought over on the weekend. It’s easy to fall prey to this pattern. On work days, you may forced into a regular feeding schedule with limited food choices, whereas, on weekends, you have more free time at home and are surrounded by food. Or making your own food choices as a stay-home-alone parent on weekdays, you may be faced with a partner’s preferences on weekends. Even without kids, weekends generally include eating activities—dinners out, get-togethers, and parties—which may...
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Approval Seeking

One trait that many disregulated eaters have in common is the desire for the approval of others. Sadly, not receiving this hoped-for approval can provoke disappointment, frustration, rage—and a whopper of a binge. While practicing strategies to disconnect internal distress from unwanted eating, it’s also essential to let go of approval-seeking thoughts and behavior. Here’s what you can do. You’ve read it in books and heard from scores of experts: Self-approval is more important than other-approval, and the only approval you’ll ever need is from yourself. Yet you go on making others’ opinions matter more than they should and continue to fear that people in general or particular individuals will be unhappy with you if you assert your needs. When you’re desperate for your father, mother, lover, partner, friend, colleague, boss or spouse to like—or love—you, you forget that you’re fully grown and can function perfectly well without them being favorably...
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Love and Abuse

It’s not uncommon for people who have suffered emotional, physical or sexual abuse at the hands of their parents or other primary caretakers, to allow themselves to be abused in adult relationships. Although the idea appears to be paradoxical—wouldn’t abuse survivors go out of their way to be around people who are not abusive?—that is not how things often work out. Understanding why you’re drawn to or surround yourself with abusive people will help you unhook from them and from abusing yourself with food. When parents who are supposed to be loving are abusive or, alternately, are abusive and loving, a paradigm of “love wedded to abuse” is established. In a child’s mind, the two go hand in hand: love equals abuse or, at the least, is accompanied by it. This association occurs whether the abuse is constant or intermittent. The experience cuts deeply into a child’s psyche and forms the...
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Book Review: Creativity Workbook

Ever think that there must be another way to work on your eating problems? FINDING YOUR VOICE THROUGH CREATIVITY: THE ART AND JOURNALING WORKBOOK FOR DISORDERED EATING by Mindy Jacobson-Levy and Maureen Foy-Tornay (Gürze Books, 2010) offers an approach that encourages you to use creativity to access your innermost thoughts and feelings about your disregulated eating. As the authors, both art therapists and professional counselors, say, “Art bypasses the flow of thoughts and words that continually run through our heads. Although words can be meaningful…they can also serve as a façade that masks true feelings. This is particularly true for individuals with chaotic eating patterns whose negative self-talk has become a habit and focal point.” This workbook taps into the non-verbal part of your brain, using creativity to help you shut off those pesky thoughts and teach you to recognize exactly what you’re feeling. The authors maintain that disregulated eaters too...
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Women, Food and God—and Oprah!

Oprah says she’s seen the light—that diets don’t work, that punishing herself for being fat and overeating is exactly the wrong thing to do, that instead of hating her food problems, she needs to value them as a tool to teach her how to live her best life. Let’s hope that Geneen Roth’s May 12 appearance on Oprah helped switch on the light for Oprah’s entire viewing audience. And that it also gets Geneen Roth’s newest book, WOMEN, FOOD AND GOD, read and reread by disregulated eaters everywhere. Roth’s books were a turning point in my battles with food. How long had I been struggling, you ask. Since always. As a skinny kid, my mother had to trick me into eating by convincing me that my mouth was a tunnel and the food-on-a-spoon a choo choo train. However, not long after, there she was buying me clothes in the chubby department...
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Anger Instead of Anxiety

Many people get anxious around folks who don’t treat them well—a spouse, partner, friend, parent, child, neighbor, boss, or colleague. They’re anxious before seeing the person, while they’re with them, and after the fact. Well, there’s a better way than agita to respond to mistreatment! Some good, old-fashioned anger might just do the trick. Does this sound familiar? You feel anxious when…your date is rude to you, your partner walks in the front door and immediately comes down on you for a mistake you made earlier in the day, your best friend breaks a movie date last minute and calls you oversensitive for getting upset, your father insists you fly out to see him when he knows you’re in the middle of finals, your brother shows up drunk at your birthday party, your colleague misses work repeatedly and you end up picking up her slack, your adult child refuses to move...
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Emptiness is both a physical sensation and an emotion and is somewhat difficult to describe because of its nature—it’s easier to describe something than its absence. However, understanding underlying issues about and resolving discomfort with both types of emptiness will go a long way toward helping you recover from eating problems. Let’s tackle physical emptiness first, the sensation in your belly when you’re hungry—the gnawing, gurgling, and mild contractions telling you it’s time to fuel up. How you feel about this emptiness and how you respond to these sensations makes all the difference. If you perceive stomach emptiness as welcoming and as an invitation to feed your body pleasurably, you’re all set. For you, emptiness is a natural state which can be responded to with food and eating is a self-enhancing act. On the other hand, if you view physical emptiness as dangerous or scary, how will you move on to...
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So many disregulated eaters, especially you nice girls and guys, fear being self-centered—you know, selfish, egotistical, or self-absorbed. Instead, you turn yourself inside out to be self-effacing and other-oriented, as if focusing on you is a sin. In reaction to early care-takers who were too self-centered, you now fail to center on yourself nearly enough. Once again, all-or-nothing thinking rears its ugly head, as if people are totally self- or other-oriented. The healthy among us are both!   Here’s a question for you: If you are not centering on your life, who is? That is, if you are not the center of your own universe, who is? Who could be other than you? How can someone else be the center of your life? They can only be the center of their lives! Not to be redundant, but by a process of elimination, you must be the center of your own life....
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Fixed or Broken

A post on my message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings) a few months ago included the words, “Some of us are broken.” I hear often from clients that they’re “broken”—read as not fixable. However, there is no such thing as a totally “broken” person or a totally “fixed” one. This polarization is an example of unhealthy, all-or-nothing thinking that perpetuates the idea that anyone is wholly defective or entirely perfect. Needless to say, broken is not a good way to think of yourself. We all are lacking in some areas, and most of us excel in others. No one is a mess or completely okay. Each of us has our issues! Think of the most terrific, most together person you know, then consider their flaws. They have them, I assure you. Now think of the most dysfunctional person you know (not you!), then consider what they do well or have achieved. The problem isn’t...
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