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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]

Early Family Stress May Cause Eating Problems

It came as no surprise to me to run across an article entitled “Constant family arguing can lead to childhood obesity” by Herb Scribner (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 4/24/15). I had that kind of experience and know that it had a huge effect on my eating, especially when the arguing happened at the dinner table. Although I never became obese, I had eating problems and weight concerns from my teens through my thirties. A study published in Preventive Medicine concludes that “The effects of too many family arguments can have a lasting impact on a person’s health” and “that constant family conflict can lead a child toward obesity.” Dr. Daphne Hernandez cites the main causes of stress in families as: “arguments, what happens after a family member gets divorced, remarried or incarcerated, financial stresses, and poor maternal health.” The study conclusion is shocking: “girls from families who had constant arguments—independent of the...
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Hurdles on the Road to “Normal” Eating

People often come to see me individually or attend my “Quit Fighting with Food” workshops unconvinced that dieting isn’t the answer to their eating and weight problems. They’re scared to give up structure and being told what to eat. The first hurdle they need to leap over is understanding that dieting is an unrealistic way to eat for life and, therefore, a weight loss dead end. I know there’s been an attitudinal shift when they stop talking about whether or not to embark on another diet and start grumbling about the hard work of becoming a “normal” eater. The second hurdle, related to dieting, is coming to terms with the fact that there are no good and bad foods. We usually have to bat this issue around for a quite while before they get it. While sympathizing with their yearning to label what’s okay and what’s not, I encourage them to...
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Seeking New Understandings

While watching the annual Kennedy Awards presentations last year, one of the recipients, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, commented (and I’m paraphrasing here) that every day he seeks new understanding. Part of his greatness is learning new musical styles and ways of making music, and seeking understanding obviously contributes to that process. It may even be one of the factors that makes it possible. How can a mindset of seeking understanding help you resolve your eating problems, that is the question? Do you awaken every day without judgment about yourself, eat without self-condemnation, engage in self-reflection as naturally as breathing, lead with curiosity about yourself and the world? Or do you keep a closed mind and mull around only what’s in it—often negative thoughts about your relationship with food? Imagine awakening every day like Yo-Yo Ma and making it a priority to seek new understanding. You’d look at your family/neighbors/co-workers differently. You’d...
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Use Your Teeth and Tongue

As you endeavor to become a “normal” eater, you’ll most certainly want to get your teeth and tongue working for you. They’re probably not organs you think much about, except at brushing time or when you have an appointment with your dentist or hygienist. But, they’re key body parts in regulating appetite (along with your brain) and play a major role in registering pleasure and satisfaction. It’s pretty easy to figure out what part your teeth play in the eating process. Chewing not only grinds food into small enough pieces for your stomach to digest it, it also releases flavor. Many rapid eaters don’t chew food long enough and swallow oversized bites. Not only is this unhealthy for digestion, but it prevents flavor from being released. Although you say you love food, do you really love it enough to chew at a slow rate so that flavor bursts out of every bite? Conversely,...
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Feeling Bad Before You Feel Good

As an overeater or undereater struggling to become a “normal” eater, you’re in for a bumpy ride. Things are going to get worse before they get better. Oh, no, I can hear you say, Things are already terrible. How could they get worse? Here’s how. By stopping old behaviors and ways of thinking and trying on new ones, you’re entering unchartered territory which is scary and strange. Plan on feeling frightened, frustrated, hopeless, overwhelmed, helpless, and impatient. Plan on wanting to give up and go back to your old ways. Plan on feeling like a stranger to yourself and thinking and acting in unpredictable ways. There is no way to achieve “normal” eating without going through this process. It is impossible. Everyone who has worked through their eating problems has felt similar to the way you do. No one had a good time, no one was thrilled with the process. But...
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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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