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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]

What’s On Your Radar?

When you see another person, a friend or a stranger, is their weight or appearance the first thing (perhaps the only thing) you notice? Do you automatically assess how they look or calculate their weight? Perhaps you have such a knee-jerk reaction that you’re unaware that you judge each and every person’s size, clothes, posture, or hair. Or maybe you know you give them the eye test and assume that’s what everyone does. The truth is that what we notice about others (and ourselves) is unique to us. Although you might flinch at a clothing faux pas, someone else might either be unaware of or fail to think much of it. We see what we are programmed to see. For example, you and your friends might be gazing at a ship full of passengers on deck steaming into dock. One of you might wistfully think of a romantic cruise she wants...
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How Culture Affects Eating and Weight

Although growing up in a family that contributes to or reinforces unhealthy attitudes toward eating and weight is enough to set you on the path of destructive eating, cultural factors also play a part in shaping you. Understanding these values is part of the process of changing how you think and feel about food and your body. By culture, I mean not only American society, but also the specific ethnic culture in which you were raised. We live in a highly competitive society in which the norm is to look around and compare yourself to everyone else. If you fall into the trap of constantly evaluating your body according to others, it seems natural to buy into society’s judgment that you’re bad for being fat and good for being thin. Americans also prize individualism, pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, toughing it alone, and succeeding on your own. Adhering to that...
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What Are You Willing To Give Up to End Your Eating Disorder?

In this fix-it-quick, make-it-happen-overnight culture, it’s hard to grasp the fact that in order to overcome your eating disorder, you will have to give up doing things (often many things) the way you are doing them now. Some of the surrender will involve thinking, that is, letting go of unhealthy perceptions and assumptions and replacing them with healthier ones. Other kinds of giving up relate to behaviors, food- and otherwise. It’s natural to want to hold on to what is familiar, but you won’t recover from dysfunctional eating by clinging to the same old same old. What are you willing to give up to get healthy? You may be able to get away with small sacrifices—eating while watching TV, weighing yourself daily, checking out a colleagues’ candy dish every day on the way to the bathroom, or browsing through magazines looking at skinny models and celebrities. But it’s highly unlikely that...
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The Big Event

Attending an event when you’re feeling crummy about your body can be highly stressful. You may refuse to go, waver back and forth on a decision, engage in a shopping frenzy to find the exact right thing to wear, or say yes and be filled with dread. The occasion might be a wedding, anniversary, birthday party, or some other family gathering that’s bound to include all the relatives. Or a high school or college reunion or get together with a group of colleagues or old friends. The big worry is how you’ll be judged if you’re above average size or if you’ve lost a major amount of weight regained it. You feel badly about yourself because you believe that people with think badly of you because of your largeness. This belief is partially accurate in that there may be people at the event who are judgmental or obsessed with thinness who...
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Change Is In the Moment

Most people who contact me through my books, workshops or therapy practice have no idea what they will have to go through to become “normal” eaters. I hate giving them the news that it’s a Herculean job to heal dysfunctional eating and that for many folks it will require lifelong effort because of their genetics, biology, and previous experience. However, I’ve never met anyone who’s done the work and succeeded who isn’t happier and who doesn’t strongly believe it’s been worth the work. Which brings me to the topic of change in the moment. Too often I hear of elaborate plans that disordered eaters have to modify their behavior. They make lists of things to do instead of eating or obsessing about food, read constantly on the subject, join groups and message boards, and take workshops. Perhaps they believe that the more input they get, they faster they’ll heal. While I...
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Putting Yourself First

I just returned from a wonderful time (professionally and personally) at the Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas where I’d been invited to do two workshops on eating. Although the resort caters to both genders, unsurprisingly, only females showed up to hear me. During the workshops, it became clear that many women believed they had to be away from work and family to take care of themselves, and I was struck (once again) by how hard it is for women to put themselves first. I got the impression that many of these women felt they could do so only when they were out of their home environment. For example, discussion arose over what and when to eat if you have a husband to feed. Eyes rolled when I suggested that women ask their spouses to be more flexible about eating times; snickers erupted when I proposed that husbands consider making...
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Sweet Silence

Many posts on the message boards I advise on ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dietsurvivors ) lament situations in which family members insist they are being caring and supportive, but instead are unsympathetic, critical, and even unkind to the person with an eating or weight problem. You can recognize when people are being hurtful by paying attention to your emotional reaction to their words, not to their stated intentions. In such instances, it’s all too easy to get into an argument or abuse food. The truth is that sometimes the only way to stay sane is to keep silent, a difficult task. When we are silent, inner turmoil builds, others up the ante to provoke us into responding, and we feel an intense desire to defend ourselves. The choice seems to be engaging in unhealthy dialogue or swallowing our misery and taking it on the chin. There is another kind of reaction that...
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Being Fat and Feeling Fat

Once again, I’m grateful for the messages boards of Diet Survivors ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dietsurvivors ) and Food and Feelings ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings ) for giving me ideas for my blogs, this time on the difference between feeling fat and being fat. As a person with dysregulated eating and/or distorted body image, when you feel fat, you’re describing eating or believing you’ve eaten too much, being bloated or stuffed, and/or experiencing your clothes as tight, making it seem as if you are too large for them. Feeling fat does not necessarily correspond with weight or being fat. At 102 pounds, you can feel fat from “normal” eating, overeating or wearing clothes that are too small. Yes, feeling fat, a subjective, internal experience, can be associated with being fat, an external one. However, as a nonfat person, you don’t have the actual sensations of carrying around excess weight, being judged, stared at, stigmatized, or discriminated...
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What is “Normal” Eating?

When I talk to “normal” eaters, I find it fascinating to hear them tell me about the times they over- or undereat and how comfortable they are around food. I can tell you that they don’t always make the best decisions. One major difference between them and someone with eating problems is that they don’t put much attention on what they’ve done “wrong.” In fact, they often pay no attention to it whatsoever. Using the analogy of making a mistake while writing, I’d say that disordered eaters try to erase a food mistake, wildly scribble across it, trying to make it disappear, or toss out the paper they’re using and start again. A “normal” eater just keeps on writing. They have little interest in what they’ve done and it may not even register on their radar screen. They don’t have strong feelings about food decisions one way or the other—that they’ve...
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Rational Eating Beliefs

I’ve noticed over and over that disordered eaters frequently go right to trying to change their behavior before doing the requisite work of transforming their beliefs about food, eating, weight, and body. Although you might be able to alter a few, minor behaviors, without working on beliefs, on the whole, you will need to examine—and perhaps revamp—your entire belief system regarding food if you wish to eat “normally.” For example, if you believe that you shouldn’t eat when you’re hungry because food is the enemy and will make you fat, you’re going to struggle over the issue. It won’t get easier to respond to your body’s hunger until you’ve developed beliefs such as, “I can eat whenever I’m hungry,” or “Eating when I’m hungry won’t make me fat.” Another instance of forcing behavioral change when you don’t have a belief underpinning it is trying to stop eating when you’re full and/or...
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