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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. 

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Learning to Let Loose

One pattern I’ve noticed over the decades is how many overeating problems there are among very successful women. You might even be one of them, an amazing, overachieving, talented female who holds a high-powered job, has an exciting, satisfying career, and/or is a leader in your field. You can’t help but impress people with how much you’ve achieved in your lifetime and what you get done in a day. Well respected and admired, you nevertheless frequently feel you’re not doing enough and have difficulty taking care of yourself as well as you take care of others. When I delve into the histories of women like you, I find first borns, only children, or sole females among brothers. Maybe you spent too much of your childhood taking care of parents who were physically or mentally ill or addicted, or being similarly responsible for siblings. The concept of putting your needs aside to...
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Why Do You Think You Won’t Recover?

Clients and class members often say they can’t believe they’ll ever eat “normally.” Sometimes they sound sorrowful and others times their words are accompanied by a chuckle; either way, I know that hopelessness is breaking their heart. Although it’s perfectly understandable that someone who’s been a dysregulated eater for decades would doubt their capacity to go the distance and become a functional eater, being convinced only ensures failure. Most people don’t examine why they’re sure they can’t recover, but remain stuck in hopelessness as if it were absolute truth. The only way you’ll fail to achieve your eating goals is if you give up pursuing them. The question is what would stop you—or anyone—from going from disturbed eating to “normal” eating. When you say, “Oh, I’ll never get there,” what exactly do you mean? Why won’t you? What will prevent it? Maybe you believe that the effort will be too hard...
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Book Reviews: Books for Healing

I know that many of you read books about eating (like mine!) to help you resolve your food problems. However, other books that don’t specifically target eating can work wonders in moving you toward recovery. For now, here’s a taste of the wisdom from my favorite “self-help” books. From time to time, I’ll provide you with more titles. Two books by Daniel Goleman offer highly readable descriptions of emotions from a biological and sociological perspective. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ focuses on temperament, the biology of emotions, and the importance of really knowing your “feeling” self. Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships provides a thorough education on the biopsychosocial chemistry of how and why we relate to others as we do. Another gem on the subject is The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life by Joseph LeDoux which tells explains how the brain...
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Psychological Markers

In the recovery process, there are markers—psychological shifts—that indicate making progress towards “normal” eating. Just as children must achieve development milestones, so must eaters who are journeying from dysfunction to function. If you’re wondering how you need to change to recover, here are some markers to look for. The first marker is true acceptance that your way of eating is unsound and unhealthy. If you’re ambivalent about how unhealthy your eating is, your internal conflicts will play out in your behavior. If you whole-heartedly believe that learning to eat “normally” is exactly what you need to do to get over your food problems, then you’ll be able to put 100% of your psychic energy into the process (though the journey will still be long and arduous). A second marker is accepting that diets and restriction are not the answer to disordered eating. Some problem eaters have known this for years and...
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When Your Clothes Are Too Tight

Whether you’re learning to legalize foods and enjoying them for the first time (or the first time in a long time) or are putting on weight because you’re not paying attention to your food intake, your clothes may be getting tighter. A waistband digging into your belly, a zipper that won’t quite close, or pant legs that bind your thighs all can lead to physical discomfort. And if you’re someone engaged in ongoing battle with food and weight, snug clothes can bring on feelings such as shame, disappointment, and panic as well. People put on weight for a variety of reasons, including inability to exercise, aging, food allergies, medication, vacation, “the holidays,” and hormonal changes. “Normal” eaters might be a bit frustrated, surprised or perplexed by putting on a few pounds, but most take it in stride without an intense reaction. They might try cutting back on treats, increasing exercise, talking...
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How to Approach Struggle

Too often dysregulated eaters miss the point when the fight to change their eating habits. I hear them say they know they “must battle with their urges,” and “should be ashamed if they fail.” I note the high standards they set for themselves and the do-or-die way they attack the subject. What if you didn’t have to think in terms of battling and fighting with food and, instead, could view it as a process that was opening yourself to new possibilities? Because of the dysfunctional way you learned to view the world—in black-and-white or all-or-nothing terms—you often get things backward. I don’t mean this as a criticism, but as an observation. One example is your approach to change. This is what I often hear. “I don’t struggle enough in the moment. I should struggle more. What’s wrong with me? I ought to be ashamed of myself.” From the outset, the goal...
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Who’s On Your Side with Eating?

Getting support for not dieting and ending bingeing and obsessing about food is essential to achieving ”normal” eating. Surrounding yourself with people (consciously or unconsciously) working against your intuitive eating goals will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for you to reach them. Although it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone you know should suddenly become enlightened and realize how unhealthy and destructive chronic dieting, rigid food restriction, bingeing, or obsessing about food are, you’ll benefit enormously from increasing the number of people around you who support your eating goals and decreasing the number of people who don’t. Discerning who is truly in your corner and who is not may not be easy. Some people say they’re behind what you’re doing, but their actions make you wonder. They tell you how wonderful it is that you’re trying a new approach to eating, then try and tempt you with food or try...
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Seeing Yourself Clearly

I start my “Quit Fighting with Food” workshops by asking each group member tosay one thing they like about themselves. Often, members are stumped or mumble something like, “I’m nice,” or “I’m good to others.” The reasons for beginning the workshop this way are three-fold: to help break the ice, to establish a mindset that members are more than just people with eating problems, and to get a sense of members’ ability to assess themselves accurately. In all my 30 years of teaching, it’s rare for a workshop member to come up with something really unique about themselves, and I can’t remember when I last heard a positive assessment strongly asserted. Usually group members look pained and embarrassed and appear to feel they need to come up with something that won’t make them sound as if they’re boasting. What, you may wonder, does asserting something positive about yourself have to do...
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Chart Your Hunger

Although it goes against my non-diet sensibilities to keep a journal in which you write down everything you eat (unless it’s for a specific purpose and time-limited), maintaining a hunger log can help you recognize patterns of food focus and eating in relation to hunger. In this log, you write down every time you’re hungry or think you are—when food is on your mind—by charting the day/time your thoughts turn to food, your hunger level (0=not hungry…10=famished), the setting, and the activity you’re doing. Your log might go something like this: 6:15 a.m., hunger at a 9, at home, getting ready for work10:30 a.m., hunger at a 2, at work, in a boring meeting10:52 a.m., hunger at a 2, at work, still in a boring meeting1:36 p.m., hunger at a 7, at work, time for lunch at desk3:26 p.m., hunger at a 1, in my office, about to start employee evaluations4:12...
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Ying and Yang

As a dysregulated eater, you be convinced that instead of eating one way, you’ll recover by doing its opposite. So, instead of eating impulsively, you straight-jacket yourself with perfect self-discipline. Or instead of being hyper-vigilant around food, you make no judgments at all. Both extremes are based on compulsivity and rigidity, which are antithetical to “normal” eating. Flip flopping is not growth: instead of undergoing authentic change, you’re simply bouncing from one end of the spectrum to another. Eating problems are exacerbated by trying to be one way or another. Both endpoints boil down to the same fears about food and a similar lack of self-trust and body confidence. Although some people never move out of overeating or undereating, many yo-yo back and forth between the two. Of course, the chronic nay sayer might be “acceptably” thin in this culture so that her eating habits are positively reinforced, while the habitual...
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