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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Looking Beyond Anxiety

When anxiety strikes, it may feel natural to get caught up in the “what ifs” of the future. Unfortunately, those “what ifs” can also drive you to eat or distract yourself with obsessing about food and weight. Rather than abuse food to deal with your angst, why not learn an easy technique called leap-frogging that will calm you down and help you sail through difficult circumstances which ordinarily might upset you. Generally, when you’re anxious, it’s because you’re concentrating on the event—a job interview, a visit from a difficult relative, or an upcoming colonoscopy. The more you think about the situation, the more anxious you get. You engage in this imagining or event rehearsal in an attempt to feel better, but end up feeling worse. That’s because you’re putting energy into the wrong aspect of the future. Instead of focusing on the event, which escalates anxiety, visualize how you’re going to...
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A fascinating discussion about sexuality and body size is occurring on my message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings). Even though we live in a culture that’s considered out there with sex, the sad truth is that sexuality and intimacy get talked about very little among women. The subject gets raised even less frequently by women who are ashamed of their bodies because of their size. Hats off to those of you who are willing to take the plunge and think and talk about sex and weight. No matter what their weight, most women have lots of conflicting feelings about sex, sexuality, and intimacy. After all, we’re supposed to be demur yet seductive and other mutually exclusive traits all at once. Then there’s the bombardment of cultural messages telling us that fat is repulsive and thin is alluring. Women who feel comfortable in their bodies at any weight are few and far between. I don’t...
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The Down Side of the Up Side

I sometimes run into delightful clients who are always straining to look on the bright side of life. They’re upbeat, positive, and prefer to see the good rather than the bad in people and situations. They’re the opposite of gloom and doomers who are certain to find the one cloud in an otherwise blue sky. Although you might think that being upbeat and seeing the good while ignoring the bad is a great way to be, it’s not. Both perspectives have pluses and minuses, but neither is a healthy way to be all the time. Disregarding what’s negative can be as unhealthy as discounting what’s positive because it creates stress, and stress can lead to abusing food. Here are two examples. Suppose you meet a person who’s often rude, controlling, and critical of you. You might like the fact that this person is intellectually gifted, has a wry sense of humor,...
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Educating About “Normal” Eating

Because I’m petite and people know me as a specialist in eating disorders, when I dine with others, they often eye and comment upon my food consumption. After decades of eating under a microscope, I’m used to it, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy being scrutinized or having my food habits be the talk of the table. When you’re just starting down the road toward ”normal” eating and don’t yet have the self-trust or confidence—or the words—to respond effectively, the situation can be even harder.Recently, I was at a party and passed on having what looked like a piece of very uninspiring, unexceptional birthday cake. Immediately, people misinterpreted my decision as self-denial, assuming that I was rejecting something deliciously fattening in order to stay slim. I took the opportunity to explain that I love sweets and generally eat small amounts daily, but that this particular cake had zero appeal to me....
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The Wild Child

In a previous blog I used the term “wild child” to refer to the part of us that eats or has the urge to eat in an unruly way. A member of my Food and Feelings message board http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings commented on the term and I’ve been thinking about this “wild child” ever since. If you’re a habitual undereater or overeater (or both), there’s a wild child within you who needs to be understood and cared for. For the chronic undereater, the wild child is the aspect of self you fear will break out and make you fat. She’s the one you’d like to lock in a cage or beat the daylights out of. You see her as the enemy, the part that must be purged from you (sometimes literally). For the overeater, the wild child is the one who runs your eating show—rebelliously flinging open kitchen cabinets, mindlessly grabbing whatever she...
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When Things Don’t Work Out

I had a recent conversation with a client about her general fearfulness about “things not working out” and how she spends her life trying to prevent bad stuff from happening to herself and her family. This is a common anxiety among dysregulated eaters, especially those with troubled childhoods. Lacking an internal conviction that they can handle whatever comes their way, they instead focus on controlling externals, ie, manipulating situations to assure themselves that no harm will befall them and that they’ll be all right. You may recognize these thoughts—I couldn’t bear losing a child, I’ll fall apart when Mom or Dad dies, I can’t stand thinking about getting a fatal disease, I’d be lost without my husband/wife/partner, What if this, what if that. If you repeatedly tell yourself that you won’t be okay, you program yourself to not be. However, if you know—deep in your heart with a fierce certainty—that you’ll...
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More on Self Trust

Many people with eating problems don’t trust themselves, not only around food, but to make wise decisions for themselves in numerous arenas. Self-distrust is learned in childhood and is often confused with not knowing what you think or feel. Difficulty identifying thoughts and emotions is different from distrusting what you experience. Think of self-knowledge as the precursor to self-confidence. Trusting yourself comes after knowing what’s going on inside you. Labeling emotions in the most specific way possible provides this information. Yes, you have to trust that the label you put on feelings is accurate, but emotions are only a piece of the information puzzle. Assuming that you are able to identify affective states all or most of the time, you possess the major skill for developing self-trust. Of course, if you’re uncertain about what you feel or suffer from self-doubt, particularly when you’re in emotional distress, you’ll have to work on...
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Honesty About Eating

It’s scary how easily we can fool ourselves. Take people who consume a great many unhealthy foods while insisting that they’d rather eat whatever they want than feel condemned to deny themselves pleasurable, high-fat, high-calorie foods in order to tack a few extra years onto life. Can you hear the faux wisdom in this distorted thinking which we often use to justify doing what we want in spite of real consequences? Although the above remark may be comforting, it’s irrational and self-destructive because it’s based on the false assumption that we control our destiny. For who can foresee the spectrum of consequences of chronic, unhealthy eating which may cause debilitating, lingering disease or conditions that cut life short prematurely? The faulty assumption is that a person will die peacefully and painlessly, albeit a few years “before their time.” But might they not equally develop colon cancer, diabetes, or suffer a stroke...
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Counting Calories and Fat

A while ago a question came up on my Food and Feelings Workbook message board about whether counting calories and fat grams makes a person a dieter. Do “normal” eaters never count calories? Do they ever think about the amount of fat contained in food in making choices? Merely because a person considers caloric or fat content, does that automatically make them a dieter rather than a “normal” eater? Does eating intuitively preclude eating intelligently? This subject is complex and requires letting go of black-and-white thinking. Attending to nutritional information is not a question of always focusing on calories and fat or never noting them. The difference between dieters and “normal” eaters is how the information is used to make satisfying, healthy eating decisions. In a nutshell, dieters and restrictive eaters base food decisions exclusively on whether a food is high or low in calories or fat. If it’s high, they...
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Fear versus Self-loathing

Last week I was talking with a client about her sometimes poor self care, specifically an apparent lack of fear regarding negative consequences around food and health areas. Surprisingly, she reported feeling no fear of harmful consequences when she’s about to eat unhealthy food when she’s not even hungry, is “too lazy” to floss her teeth, or fails to sunscreen up though she’s had skin cancer. What she does feel is “self-loathing” because she’s not doing what she should. I got to wondering how many of you have a compromised fear response: not feeling or using fear to assess consequences before making choices, and, instead, berating yourself for not caring for yourself. Used appropriately, fear is a healthy, adaptive, survival-necessary response to potential or imagined emotional or physical threat to self. An automatic reaction, it occurs when we believe something bad might happen to us. However, if you spent childhood chronically...
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