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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Yawn…Excuse Me, I’m Tired

An issue that crops up occasionally on two eating-related message boards I post on (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/group/dietsurvivors) is confusion between fatigue and hunger or desire for food. Maybe you too abuse food when you should be putting up your feet or counting Zs. If you regularly wonder if you’re tired or hungry, you may be missing out on their physical/mental signals or mistaking one signal for another; in fact, you may also have difficulty discerning other physical cues. Perhaps your parents were confused about their physical needs and couldn’t teach you how to identify, distinguish among, and respond to physical needs. Maybe you distance yourself from your body because trying to meet its needs overwhelms you. Or you respond to your body’s desire to shut off consciousness (fatigue) by abusing food until you’re zoned out. You may also mix up fatigue and hunger or food obsession because you don’t want to rest...
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What to Do with Feelings

A comment on one of my previous blogs raised a good question: Once you know what you’re feeling, what are your options? Unfortunately, there’s no magic or singular way to handle them. Being human is very trying, in part, because of our need to deal with painful emotions. There’s only trial-and-error and some general wisdoms to guide us. Of course, you already know that eating or obsessing about food won’t help you in the long run. That said, on to effective alternatives. When you’re slammed with emotions, you can choose from two basic reactions—either change yourself or your situation. Of course, many circumstances require that you do both. When there’s absolutely nothing you can do to alter what’s going on, you’re stuck with changing yourself, which generally means modulating feelings. This does not mean denying or minimizing them, but placing them into rational perspective and reducing their intensity so that you...
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What Does Fullness Mean to You?

Among people who struggle with under- and overeating, there’s quite a bit of confusion about the word “full.” Is it that blissful instant of eating just enough or does it connote going beyond comfort? More important than the definition is knowing when you are still in an eating pleasure zone and when you’ve moved on to physical discomfort. Rather than pinpoint one exact moment when you’re full, think of the process on a continuum, going from empty to enough food. Sometimes one more bite (if it’s large and the food is dense and high fat) will put you over the edge; more likely, one bite more or less won’t make much of a difference. Knowing when you’ve eaten to sufficiency is a judgment call, a combination of being tuned in to appetite signals, using body memory of previous eating experiences to recognize about how much food to enjoy in a sitting,...
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What Should We Look Like?

What weight should you be and what kind of body should you have? Time- and culture-bound as we are, women especially can’t help but unconsciously model ourselves after the images we see, the bodies we’re told either to have or avoid. From medicine to the media, we’re focused on two extremes: those who are fat or overweight and those who are ultra-thin or gym-sculpted. We notice these folks, rather than average-looking Jills and Joes, because, for the most part, that’s where the “in the know” fingers are pointing. Three recent images I recently encountered are perfect examples. Two are from a comedy club. Before the first act, the audience was “entertained” by an oversized TV screen flashing images of some current young diva and her female dance entourage, none of whom looked remotely like anyone I know and few that I see in my daily comings and goings. It was hard...
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How Therapy Helps

Every time a client alters how they think about and behave around food, I realize all over again what a difference therapy can make in the life of someone with eating problems. Of course, as a therapist for nearly 30 years, I’m naturally biased. Yet, I don’t believe I’d keep on meeting with clients day after day, year after year, if I didn’t see people transform their lives before my eyes. I know that the idea of going to therapy scares people—it’s a frightening process to open up to a stranger, hope that life could be better, and work hard to make it happen—but it’s essential if you’ve never been to therapy (or haven’t stayed long enough to benefit) to understand how it helps. On a concrete level, a therapist offers a new view of yourself through eyes which are compassionate and hopeful. Her job is to listen non-judgmentally and empathize...
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Romance and Body Image

I hear the same story over and over from clients: I want or wanted to lose weight to meet a man. Although I haven’t heard this exact sentiment from male clients, they have said that they felt if they were to divorce, at their current high weight, they feared no woman would want them. Ironically, in the case of the women, their problem with romance was never really their weight; it was that they were consistently choosing the wrong men, which is a statement about their self-esteem, not their size. These clients were so preoccupied with looking attractive, looking thin, and looking for love and approval, that they never stopped to ask themselves how they managed to unerringly find dates and mates who treated them poorly, showed little ability or desire for emotional intimacy, and who, to a person, ended up causing them to feel inadequate and rejected. They were paying...
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Trauma and Food

Those of you who have suffered trauma in childhood may find yourself having problems regulating your food intake. Psychology used to lump together all trauma, but now distinguishes between what is called Big T trauma and Small t trauma. The former includes rape, sexual/physical abuse and continual/excessive emotional abuse, severe neglect, living through war, and major catastrophe striking at a young age. Being badly injured in childhood, losing your family, or having to abandon your home through abrupt dislocation are all examples of Big T trauma. They are the stories that make headlines. However, Small t trauma can affect you as strongly as (maybe more than) Big T trauma precisely because you probably underestimate its impact. Examples of Small t trauma include frequently living in fear, suffering low level but continual emotional abuse, growing up in a home in which there is drug and/or alcohol abuse or other kinds of destructive...
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Emotional Undercurrents

We live in a larger-than-life culture—over-the-top celebrities, high drama on the big or small screen, and screaming headlines. All this excess may make you think that emotions, too, must be huge and pack a wallop to merit attention. Not true. It’s not always the mega stars that shanghai you into abusing food; sometimes it’s the minor characters that lurk right your proverbial nose. In fact, if you’re constantly searching for emotional divas like dread, rage, jealousy, intense shame or the like, you may be missing out on some mighty important bit players playing around with your heart. The best way to interact with emotions is to keep a loose, running tab on them. Stay closely tuned to your emotional channel 24/7, then turn up the volume when you feel some static. Your emotions are as accessible and as identifiable as your thoughts if you remain aware of what you’re feeling on...
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When Feeling Deprived Makes You Depraved

Narry a week goes by when I don’t hear a mention from clients or students about feeing deprived around food: they didn’t eat something they wanted and spent the rest of the day angry and resentful or, fearing they’d feel deprived, they caved in and ate when they weren’t hungry. Concerns about deprivation run rampant through struggles to eat “normally.” Or they fought feeling deprived by pretending they didn’t care about the food in the first place. Feeling deprived around food is generally about far more than eating. However, sometimes it does come from a childhood in which you were often hungry or had little food choice. Maybe your family couldn’t afford large amounts of food or lacked the time or resources to vary meals very much. Fewer choices (or none at all) may have left you feeling deprived of options and perhaps nutrients as well. Or maybe family members were...
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The Price of Success

Some of you might be fairly close to eating “normally,” and wonder why you still have bouts of bingeing or rigid restrictive eating when most of the time you do pretty well around food. You might recognize that you’re sabotaging your success, but can’t imagine why. This phenomenon is not as unusual as it sounds. After all, there is a price to pay when you give up an eating disorder and become a “normal” eater.The price is subtle: recovery means giving up suffering and struggling which may be all you ever have known eating-wise. Because being disorder-free may have been your goal for years or decades, perhaps you can’t imagine a downside to having a peaceable relationship with food. Growing up, you may have been taught that it’s wrong to rest on your laurels, be content with success, feel satisfied with your achievements, and not keep pushing your limits. When you...
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