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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Thinness and Gender

As if we don’t have enough gender disparities in this society, I’ve been noticing lately how thin men and women are viewed and treated differently. Skinny men, whether they perceive their physique as unmanly or not, are basically left alone. Perhaps they’re not adored as hunks or hotties, maybe they’re covertly envied or even laughed at, but no one has all that much to say about or to them regarding their bodies.Thin women, on the other hand, are too much talked about and talked at, on constant display. They are perceived as having it all together and often are the recipient of envy and resentment. One day I overheard a store cashier say to a slender woman, “Oh, lucky you. You can eat anything. I wish I looked like you.” Another day I heard a trim woman mention to her friend that she’d gone to a spa. Her friend laughed and...
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Helpful Food Rituals

Many of you might have food rituals which do not serve your recovery—logging calories for every morsel that goes into your mouth, always eating items in a particular order, weighing yourself after eating, or finishing whatever you started eating just because. These rituals are unhealthy because they are rigid, often occur outside your awareness, and their purpose is to reduce anxiety. They hurt you because they feed your obsessions about food and weight. There are other rituals which actually can improve your relationship with food, ones that will remind you about and guide you toward following the rules of “normal” eating. Performing these rites repeatedly will help you acquire new habits—just as you learned the unhealthy rituals mentioned above—so that you automatically respond in a healthier way to food. For example, every time you think about eating, ask yourself, “How hungry am I?” If the answer is that you’re hungry enough...
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All or Nothing Behavior

Coming in contact with a range of dysregulated eaters on a near daily basis, I can’t help but notice the part that all-or-nothing thinking and behavior plays in dysfunctional patterns. Either you won’t allow yourself to miss a day of exercise (whether you’re sick or over-committed) or can’t get yourself to start or regularly engage in an exercise program. You rationalize why you have to take that run or why you can’t possibly make it over to the health club. The work for both you under-doers and over-doers is to move toward more functional behavior that avoids an all-or-nothing mindset. Basically, you each have to tolerate discomfort in order to become healthier. The goal is to modulate and moderate behavior so that it is healthy and serves your rational goals. As an over-doer, you need to endure the anxiety of not doing. That means sitting with the distress of wanting to...
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The Big Ds

Talking with a client recently, I realized that there are a trio of emotions (that all happen to start with D) which may be felt about an eating problem that can get in the way of recovery: disgust, denial, and despair. Understanding how they inhibit progress can go a long way toward helping you reach your eating and weight goals. When you feel disgust at your body or your eating, you are turning against yourself—thinking less of yourself because you are sick of how you look or how you act. You may believe that if you’re disgusted enough (or disgusting enough), you’ll change. Well, if that transformation strategy was going to work, wouldn’t it have happened already? Instead, being disgusted causes you to feel worse about yourself (and may drive you to abuse food more). The opposite of disgust is compassion which is a loving emotion that says I don’t necessarily...
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Sharing versus Burdening

Many people fear sharing hurt or upset because they don’t want to “burden” others. If you are one of these people, it’s time to let go of that dysfunctional way of thinking and behaving. Remember, the more you can rely on others (plus your own emotional resources, of course!), the more likely it is that you won’t turn to abusing food whenever you are in emotional distress. We become fearful of burdening others when in childhood (yes, we have to travel back there again) our care-takers give us the overt or covert, intentional or unintentional message that our problems are too big and our feelings are too intense. That belief is underscored if they reject, humiliate, or turn away from us when we try to express normal emotion or if they compete with us for emotional airspace. Does that mean that as a child you had too many problems, were over-sensitive,...
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What If?

What if you could make all the changes in your life you need to become a “normal” eater? What if you had in your power the ability to reach your eating and realistic weight goals? There is an expression that says, “If you believe you can’t, you can’t,” illustrating that belief is the bedrock of behavioral change. Although transforming beliefs from irrational to rational is an arduous task, it can be made easier when you take away the pressure and think in terms of “What if?”. There are a number of questions that stimulate thinking (and hopefully change) in the eating and weight arena. What if you stop trying to make everyone else happy and put yourself first? What do you believe will happen? You may imagine that your world will fall apart, that intimates will be angry at or disappointed in you, or that your value to the universe will...
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Eating Message Boards

If you discovered my “normal” eating blogs through an eating message board, then you know what a support they can be for recovery. If you have never been on one, you are missing out on a terrific tool for education and self-discovery. A message board is a cyber space where people can talk about their eating and weight concerns. You can read other people’s messages or post one yourself. You can remain anonymous or identify yourself. There is no pressure to “speak,” and you can say as much—or little—as you’d like. You can bring up a topic or follow a thread which someone else raised. One rule of thumb is to avoid hurting other people intentionally. You can use message boards in various ways. You can ask questions about people’s experience with food, hunger, diets, nutritionists, or how they react to medications. You can post your own experiences with any of...
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Are You Getting Better?

I often hear people working hard at recovering from eating problems say that they feel as if they’re getting worse, not better. More often than not, this complaint is based on subjective experience rather than objective evidence. When people say they’re feeling worse, it usually means that the behavior they’re trying to reduce or eliminate has increased in frequency, duration or intensity, that they haven’t noticed sufficient change, feel hopeless, or that they are in more emotional distress. First off, people with eating issues often don’t recognize their progress. Problems—they see ‘em all; progress they miss. So I honestly don’t consider their assessment of “worse” as necessarily valid. They could be making strides in many areas that seem trivial and not worth noting—bingeing less often, speaking up, catching themselves in their stinkin’ thinkin’, learning more about their motivations and internal conflicts—and so they miss the fact that they are actually getting...
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Balancing Praise and Criticism

Ideally all of us would be able to take in compliments and criticism in a balanced way. When someone remarks that we did an outstanding job on a project or looked smashing, we’d feel proud and glow inside. When someone expresses disappointment that we hurt their feelings or left chores undone, we’d feel badly that we let them down or failed to live up to reasonable standards. We wouldn’t expect to never make mistakes, nor assume we’re always in the wrong and can’t do anything right. In my work, I use an analogy which seems to help people envision what I’m talking about. I imagine that emotionally balanced people have two equal strips of Velcro inside them: one each for positive and negative comments they receive. Whichever comes their way, praise or criticism, it sticks to the appropriate Velcro strip. In this way, we’d get to learn about ourselves and how...
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Greener Grass

One of the ways we become dissatisfied with ourselves is by believing that the grass is greener in other pastures. We imagine how happy others must be, observe couples and assume they have fairy tale relationships, envision the lives of certain—rich, thin, wealthy, famous—folks as flowing from one flawless moment to the next. And, sadly, we view bodies the same way: this one looks just perfect, that one’s the American ideal. We see a person with a “perfect” body and assume she achieved it effortlessly, naturally, whereas she may suffer from anorexia or bulimia, have had plastic surgery, may spend hours at the gym body sculpting, or may put excessive amounts of time and money into getting clothes to look just right. Just as we aren’t privy to all the snags in relationships—the fights and nights couples go to bed angry, their disappointments and regrets—and can’t know about the enormous job...
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