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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]

Do You See What I See

My job as a psychotherapist is to crawl inside someone’s head and look out at the world through their eyes. Through that process, I’ve learned that many people with eating problems are hyper-self-conscious and -self-critical about their food intake because they assume that others are as focused on and negative about it as they are. The same holds true for many overweight people and those who fear weight gain who, hating fat, assume that they’re being judged in the same pejorative way that they judge others. It usually comes as a surprise when I tell them that there are folks out there who don’t care very much about what others weigh, and that the majority of people don’t pay much attention to what others eat or don’t eat. Those kinds of things are not even on their radar screen! One of the limitations of life is the lens through which we...
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Recover = Cover Again

To re-cover means literally to go back over developmental ground that is lost to an eating disorder, especially if yours began in adolescence or young adulthood. In the normal course of maturing through your teens and early 20s, your work is to develop internal resources and practice effective interpersonal skills to be more independent, take risks, rebound from mistakes and failures, think for yourself, and make meaning of your life. Through dysfunctional eating, however, your emotional and social growth gets stunted as you substitute focusing on food for feeling and experiencing life. If you developed an eating problem in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, you’ll need to go back and acquire the life skills you missed the first time around. Don’t feel badly—no one reaches adulthood fully formed emotionally or socially. Everyone has to go back and re-cover what they missed. The point is to identify the gaps and not hesitate...
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Understanding Your Anger About Food

You may not realize how angry you are when it comes to food and eating. Although your feelings may be justified, they could be preventing you from becoming a “normal” eater. When you’re stressed or upset and insist that you deserve to eat, your struggle is with deservedness, not food. You’re fighting old battles when you adamantly maintain, “No one can tell me what I should or shouldn’t eat.” You’re stuck in old wounds when you declare, “I shouldn’t eat such and such” or “I know I should eat because I’m hungry” but don’t follow through. What are you really fighting for or against? Perhaps, as a child, one or both of your parents—intentionally or unintentionally, overtly or covertly—tried to control your natural, normal food choices to the extent that it made you angry, but you couldn’t do much about it because you were dependent on them. Instead, to please them...
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What’s Your Story?

Everyone has a story, even if they don’t realize they’re living it out. It’s our view of our history—the reasons we are as we are and why we cannot be who we want to be. A story may be that you’re the exceptional one in your family, the overachiever, the one who made it and must remain perfect so that others can enjoy your success. Or that you’re the black sheep, the one left behind when everyone else went on to fame and fortune. Or that you’re the rebel flaunting convention, the idealist tilting at windmills, the drummer marching to her own beat. When eating goes awry, we look to our stories to understand how we entered the dysfunctional food arena in the hopes of finding an exit. Sometimes the process helps us find out way out, but often, instead, we become invested in the telling of the tale as the...
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Why Is Thin In?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to start from scratch, without preconceived prejudices about what to think about fat and thin and make up our own minds? Unfortunately, we can’t completely erase our mental chalkboards or delete all our attitudes, but we can do a good deal to think clearly and for ourselves. First off, how ‘bout being conscious that we’re programmed to believe a certain way—that thin is better than fat? If you saw a dog or cat that was no meat and all bones what would your initial reaction be? If you’re honest, it would not be, “Gee, Fido or Whiskers is sure lookin’ good” or “What a fine looking animal!” Rather, you’d be alarmed that the poor scrawny thing might be undernourished and starve to death. And if you saw a slightly plump animal, I doubt you’d recoil in horror; you might even find it endearing and cuddly. So why...
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After a Binge or Purge

One of the worst feelings a dysregulated eater experiences comes after engaging in a behavior you know is self-destructive but you go ahead and do it anyway. No sooner have you swallowed the last bite of whatever you ate so fast you didn’t taste it, than in rush self-loathing and regrets. No sooner have you closed the bathroom door behind you after a purge, than here come the recriminations and remorse. If only you could turn back the clock and undo your acting out, everything would be all right. But, of course, you can’t, and things are anything but all right. In your mind, you’ve lost control again, ruining your day, your week—your life. Okay, let’s put your behavior into perspective. What you did may disappoint and upset you, but it’s changeable and you’ve hurt no one but yourself. The absolute worst thing you can do following a binge or a...
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Shame

In my counseling and workshops, I’m continually saddened by how much shame people with eating problems heap on themselves. No matter how fabulous, talented, bright, and caring they are, the fact that they don’t manage food well colors their entire view of their personality and achievements. I’m not even sure that people who are addicted to gambling, alcohol, or drugs feel such pervasive, corrosive, debilitating shame. Think about it: do you really need a self-trashing disorder on top of an eating disorder? You’ve gotten into the destructive habit of coming down hard on yourself when you act out with food, but you can change what you think and say to yourself. After all, if shame were going to do the trick and end your food problems, wouldn’t it have don’t it by now? What exactly makes you so ashamed? Right now you’re stuck with eating issues, but you are not stuck...
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Stop and Feel

Most of us have no idea that we can actually control what we’re afraid of, that is, we can decide which responses are appropriate to a situation and which are not. Many dysregulated eaters suffer from anxiety and negativity, and changing their response to fear is helps enormously to increase their quality of life and relationship with food. Toward that end, I’d like to pass on to you a strategy put forth by my friend Ernie, a retired psychology professor. Here’s what he says to do the next time you’re in a situation in which you feel anxiety. Once you recognize that you feel anxious, “STOP—and do nothing for 10 seconds except look and listen.” Move from feeling to observing. Ernie uses the example of walking into a room and thinking that everyone is staring at you and recommends using 10 seconds to carefully observe what you see and hear. He...
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Self-trust

Along with writing books about compulsive, emotional, and restrictive eating, I also teach “Quit Fighting with Food” workshops and provide psychotherapy. Between my individual and group work, I’ve recently been struck by the lack of trust people with eating problems have in themselves. They’re torn apart by wanting to look a certain way (thin!), their natural, normal appetites, and rebellion against childhood eating mandates and current bombardment with information about nutrition and what to eat. No wonder they’re confused. As the saying goes, “What’s a girl—or boy—to do?” Self-trust is a learned behavior, about food or anything else. Healthy parents act in your best interest by initially making beneficial decisions for you, then, age appropriately, guiding you toward them. When they make good choices for you and gently and fairly lead you toward them, you internalize the process (doing what’s good for me feels good). When they force you to do...
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New Year

New year, new you, right? Wrong. Most of us have the identical assumptions and attitudes about food and eating (and everything else!) on January 1st that we do on December 31st. That’s because, wish as we may, the stroke of a clock does nothing to change what we think, feel, and do. Only we can initiate that transformation and it won’t happen overnight. Truly fresh and innovative thinking about food and eating comes from the realization that there’s no magical makeover awaiting us and that change comes only from hard work and lessons learned from occasional hard knocks. Three cheers for everyone one of you who began this year by not going on another time-wasting, soul-crushing diet. Hats off to you each of you who began treatment this month (in- or outpatient, group or individual) for your eating problems. Hip hip hurray for every person who buried their scale in the...
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