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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]

Needing to Be Sure

Many disregulated eaters hold dysfunctional beliefs about needing to be sure and dong things right. They must be absolutely certain a choice is correct before making it, or need assurance that previous action was what they should have taken. Although it’s important to make well informed choices and refrain from regularly acting impulsively, we can’t know that what we do or have done will work out the way we hoped. What are you afraid of when you relentlessly seek certainty, especially by asking others’ opinions—pain, making mistakes, failure, or being thrown off course by the zigs and zags of life? If things go wrong, do you believe you’ll be punished by someone or overwhelmed with shame and remorse? Don’t get me wrong. It’s essential to know how to ask for help and to feel comfortable taking in the wisdom people have to offer. But none of that can give you a...

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What Are You Really Ashamed About?

I was talking with a client last month about her history with multiple aspects of shame regarding eating and weight. She’d initially thought that what she felt most strongly was shame about being fat, but it turned out that her feelings were more complicated (they usually are!). I bet there’s more to your story of shame as well. For those of you who as children were fat or average weight but made to feel fat by family members, there’s a long trail of shame behind you—being different, lacking acceptance, suffering exclusion, not understanding what’s wrong with carrying around extra pounds, and feeling powerlessness to change your body. Being teased, shamed, bullied, degraded, or humiliated leaves lasting psychological scars. You weren’t, as your parents may have insisted (for their own reasons), being “too” sensitive about your size. Growing up with non-body-based shame can haunt you as well. Maybe you were shamed for...

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Healing Old Wounds

When people come to me for therapy, it’s most often about eating and weight problems (although I treat the gamut of mental health and relational issues). Clients generally recognize that their poor relationship with food is rooted in childhood dysfunction, but may not know what to do with that information. In fact, understanding the dysfunctional events in one’s history and connecting to the emotions they evoke are two different animals. Clients frequently become stuck because they have difficulty facing the past or doing whatever is needed to heal from it. Don’t let that be you. If specific people—Mom, Dad, a sibling, boss, neighbor—or certain types of people—authority figures, competitors, manipulators, victims—continue to trigger your abuse of food, it’s time to turn back the clock and discover why you’re locked into such intense reactions. That means exploring your early emotional relationship with parents and other family members. Does anyone in the present...

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Focus on One Change

Changing longstanding eating patterns can feel like an overwhelming job. Sometimes there’s so much to pay attention to and get a handle on—hunger, food selection, nutrition, mindfulness, satisfaction, fullness, emotions—that you don’t know where to start. It helps to find one focus and stick to it for a while until you make progress. What you pick doesn’t matter very much, only that you make a commitment to that choice. Here are a list of behaviors that lend themselves well to a productive focus. For a whole month, put your energies into developing positive habits in one of these areas. If you succeed, great, move on to another behavior. If not, figure out what’s not working (like you’re not really trying or a more specific reason), and refocus for another month.Hunger: Use a scale of 1-10 and eat only when you’re moderately hungry.Diet Mentality: Purge your mind of thoughts about “good” and...

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When You Eat

Safe to say that most of us have a typical eating schedule whether we realize it or not. Hopefully, it’s an intentional, mindful pattern, but it may also develop without much thought—when the ice cream truck rings its bell or when you stroll by Starbucks. Do you set your own schedule with an eye toward hunger, health, and satisfaction, or have you simply fallen into eating at certain times, well, just because? The answer to this question may help determine your weight. According to Prevention Magazine (March 2009), not only what or why you eat, but when you eat has a strong impact on healthy weight maintenance. Want to guess which kinds of people do better at keeping the number on the scale steady? Through a study of 3,607 women and men, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden determined that people who eat consistently at the same time every day without missing...

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Confirmed, Diets Don’t Work Long Term

A Los Angeles Times article confirms what research has been saying for decades. In “In War on Waist, Any Diet’s A Winner,” writer Shari Roan talks about the diet wars and which diet comes out on top, then concludes (the envelope, please) that the answer is “any diet.” The article’s take away message—that it doesn’t matter what you call your eating as long as it reduces calories. No surprises there. Roan goes on to say that, “any diet that is low in calories and saturated fats and high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and that an individual can stick with, is a reasonable choice for people who need to lose weight.” This conclusion is from a study—the biggest, longest and “most rigorous” of popular weight loss alternatives— published in February, 2009 by The New England Journal of Medicine. Although I’m thrilled folks are being encouraged to trust common sense, reduce...

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Regret and Guilt

So many troubled eaters suffer from excessive guilt, about eating and other behaviors. If you are overwhelmed with guilt when you think you’ve done something wrong, consider replacing it with regret. In fact, what you feel, more often than not, actually may be regret and not guilt to begin with. Chapter 5 of my FOOD AND FEELINGS WORKBOOK is all about guilt. The goal of this emotion is to signal that you’ve done something wrong so that you won’t repeat the behavior. Here are things you may feel guilty about: hurting a friend’s feelings, playing hooky because you hate your job, telling your roommate or partner you’ll do something for them and purposely not doing it, eating when you aren’t hungry or eating beyond full when you are, lying in a self-serving way. Well, I could go on and on. Dysregulated eaters are all too familiar with guilt and need no...

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Eating Frequency

I’m often asked, “How often should I eat?” and this is a subject that frequently crops up on my message board ( It’s an important question lacking a one-size-fits-all answer. When people ask me how often they should eat, I know immediately that they are looking for an answer in the wrong place—outside themselves—rather than reflecting internally on what is right for them because the only person I can answer for is me! How often you want to (not should) eat depends on your lifestyle, hunger and activity level, interest in food, and its availability. Some people love having three meals and three snacks a day. Other folks (like me) don’t like to be hungry or full and have multiple food encounters during the day without counting. As a writer and therapist with a home office, I can take frequent breaks and have foods I love readily available. My husband generally...

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Stable Sense of Self

Many disregulated eaters lack a stable sense of self—an ongoing, permanent self-reflection of being okay and a good person all the time. Internal stability helps you tolerate negatives feelings about yourself because you view yourself as basically good enough. Because people with food problems often eat when they aren’t happy with themselves or to punish themselves, a stable sense of self reduces unwanted eating.   Here are some questions to help you assess your sense of self. When you do something you deem worthwhile, do you think of yourself as a “good” person? Alternately, when you do something you view as hurtful to yourself or others, do you believe you’re a “bad” person? Does your judgment about your self-worth depend on how others view (read, approve or disapprove of) you? Do you base your self-esteem on how much or how well you’ve done or are doing? Does your view of self...

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Pre-eating Meditation

If you want to put yourself in the right frame of mind for eating, try a meditation beforehand. Don’t let the word scare you. A meditation can be anything you focus your physical and mental attention on. By saying aloud the message you want to program into yourself right before eating, you increase your potential for responding to it while you’re eating, thereby heightening your awareness to better connect to appetite signals. Here are a few ideas but, please, feel free to create what suits you, because your own words will speak most passionately to your heart. “I am relaxed and peaceful and anticipate enjoying a glorious meal. I will choose foods to enjoy, then savor them. I will honor my body by giving it as much nourishment as it needs and as much pleasure as I want. I will listen to my appetite and trust it to tell me when...

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