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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]

What Happens When You Have Too Much Pleasure?

What Happens When You Have Too Much Pleasure?
What kinds of pleasure do you seek? How do you know when you’ve had enough pleasure? What happens when you have too much pleasure? Pleasure is different for different people. Because you’re reading this blog, I’ll assume that food is pleasure to you. But I bet you know people who find food low on their list of delights. Instead they relish swimming laps, reading a novel, watching the NCAA finals, planting flowers or touring Paris. Whatever your choice, you likely anticipate doing it and get a buzz of dopamine thinking about it. Then while you’re engaged in the pleasurable experience, you’re anywhere from happy to ecstatic. And either later that day or sometime in the future, you look back on your enjoyment and smile and smile.  Does the above happen to you when you’re eating mindlessly or overeating? Perhaps in the first few moments pleasure soars but, as quickly, it wanes....
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Automaticity

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If you’re looking for answers to how to develop eating consistency, Brooke Mathewes and Scott Miller have some great answers. (“Meet You in McGinnis Meadows” (Psychotherapy Networker, Jan-Feb 2020, pp. 46-57) Miller describes what people are looking for as automaticity, or “…doing without having to think about everything we’re doing. Whatever we’re engaged in becomes smoother and with that, our comfort, confidence, and efficiency grows.” It’s performing actions automatically, naturally. Based on their experience training people in attunement, here’s their assessment of who succeeds: “What we can say for sure is that desire explains nothing. Everyone wants to improve their attunement, responsiveness, and outcomes.” I do think that desire is important—The more wholeheartedly and less ambivalently one wants something, the better they will do in achieving it—but I totally agree that simply wanting something, even really badly, won’t get you anywhere unless you follow Mathewes’ and Miller’s assessment of the “qualities...
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The (Paradoxical) Attraction to People Who Are Controlling

Attraction-to-Controlling-People
Ever wonder why you or people you know choose controlling, demanding, full of themselves bullies, particularly for mates? The answer is more complicated and paradoxical than you might think. The people who make these choices generally grew up with a parent or parents who dominated their lives. The parent had to always be in charge, brooked no arguments, was critical, and dominated the relationship. One might think that children who endured this behavior would have had enough of it growing up and be turned off and shy away from controlling intimates in adulthood. Instead, they often seem drawn to them. This attraction goes beyond the behavior simply being familiar or clients disbelieving they deserve better, beyond being used to people treating them poorly and expecting this will always happen because there’s something defective about them.  Another reason is that being cared for by domineering people, particularly coupling up with them, makes...
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Don’t Call It Exercise

Don’t Call It Exercise
Many people balk at what they call exercise. I was recently talking with a client who felt she “should” exercise but mentioned that she was excited about a new line-dancing class that was starting in her community. That same week I had a conversation with a friend who, due to being a child of higher weight who was pushed to be fit to slim down, dislikes the concept of aiming for fitness rather than health. Many people seem to have feelings about words that have to do with moving our bodies, so it’s worth taking a look at what you’re telling yourself to do and how you’re feeling about it. The concept of “exercise” can be a turn off to people, especially if they’ve never been particularly active yet have felt pressured by intimates or society to be so. Exercise has both the denotation and connotation of being active to attain...
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Committing to the 100% Rule

Committing to the 100% Rule
Both Jack Canfield, author and motivational speaker, and life coach Susie Moore, (https://www.jackcanfield.com/blog/take-100-responsibility-for-your-life-starting-today/) (https://susie-moore.com/writer/best-advice-have-ever-received/) write about “The 100% Rule” to achieve success. Talking with clients about this “rule,” important questions arise about what’s enough effort to put in to reach goals. So, some clarifications on it.   Here's what Canfield writes: “Take no less than 100% responsibility. Successful people take full responsibility for the thoughts they think, the images they visualize, and the actions they take. They don’t waste their time and energy blaming and complaining. They evaluate their experiences and decide if they need to change them or not. They face the uncomfortable and take risks in order to create the life they want to live.”  Canfield is talking specifically about taking responsibility. He’s not saying that you can’t ever make mistakes or fail or that you need to be right 100% of the time. This is the error in thinking...
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Eating and Mental Health Disorders

Eating and Mental Health Disorders
Certainly not all, but many people with dysregulated eating suffer with underlying Depressive and Anxiety Disorders. Even if they don’t have full-blown disorders, they experience sub-clinical distress that is enough to contribute to eating problems. It’s not uncommon for me to hear about panic attacks, excessive worrying, isolation due to social angst, low energy, apathy toward beneficial activities, low self-esteem, a shame-based mindset, and over-focusing on controlling life.  What is of interest here is how clients are much more likely to be aware of and wish to talk about their eating problems than the emotional distress which drives them. I am not saying that depressive or anxiety disorders (or any other mental health problems) cause dysregulated eating. All three are biopsychosocial conditions concurrent with eating disorders. But focusing solely on eating better, without attending to underlying issues of anxiety and depression, will derail even the best therapeutic efforts. Here’s why this...
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Why Updating the Meaning of Old Events is Crucial to Mental Health

Why Updating the Meaning of Old Events is Crucial to Mental Health
Until you make correct meanings of old, distressing events, you’ll be stuck in a mental time warp and at risk for emotional eating because you won’t feel in control when you’re triggered by them. Triggers are no more than old perceptions that something is wrong. Nothing need actually be wrong, but we think it is. Here are two examples. You were the middle child among five siblings. Your older brothers were close in age  and hung around together, your younger sisters were bubbly extroverts, and you were and remain an introvert. Your siblings teased you (though lovingly) about your shyness and mostly left you alone, and you grew up feeling invisible as if you weren’t interesting or important. When you socialize now, you view every rebuff as proof that people don’t want to talk to you or find you likable. You mostly do things alone but yearn for friends.  You could...
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Book Review – Brain Over Binge

Book Review – Brain Over Binge
A client recommended that I read Kathryn Hansen’s 2011 book Brain Over Binge: Why I Was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn’t Work, and How I Recovered for Good. She marveled that reading it had 100% stopped her 30-year habit of binge-eating and compensatory over-exercising. Another client who’d begun reading it feared that I wouldn’t care for it (I was waiting for my copy to arrive) because it was vehemently anti-therapy for treating eating disorders. By this point, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Now that I’ve read it, my feelings about it are wildly mixed. I think it has extremely valuable ideas for troubled eaters and people who are inclined to fall back into weight-loss dieting when harmful eating patterns are feeling too hard to give up. But Hansen is neither therapist nor ED researcher. She’s a long-recovered dieter, binge-eater, and over-exerciser who wrote a “recovery memoir” which...
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Watch Where You’re Going and Don’t Get on the Wrong Train

Watch Where You’re Going and Don’t Get on the Wrong Train
Most of my clients have heard my train analogy for changing thinking, but I haven’t blogged about it specifically and it’s time to do so. The concept is not original and I no longer recall where I first heard it. It’s about knowing your intent, or said another way, always being clear about where you’re going, and keeping your thoughts in line with moving closer to your destination.  Say you’re in a train station and that you regularly take one from there to a particular destination. If you’ve never been to a train station, think about the buses you’ve taken to regularly go from one place to another. You don’t get on a train for the Bronx if you want to go to Brooklyn; you don’t hop on a bus for Peoria if you want to end up in Toledo. You let all the wrong trains or buses pass by no...
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Is There Such a Thing as Hangry?

Is There Such a Thing as Hangry?
I can’t recall when I first heard the word “hangry.” I admit that I never actually looked up the definition, as it seemed cleverly obvious. Then I came upon an article explaining it. According to “Don’t get mad, but ‘hangry’ isn’t really angry” by Benedict Carey (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 12/17/19, p. E8), Although “Hangriness is a distinct sensation of urgency and growing impatience . . . psychologists are now trying to parse how, exactly, ‘hanger’ differs from the furious, simmering or righteous varieties.” Jennifer K. MacCormack, a University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill doctoral candidate in psychology and neuro-science, “found that people describe themselves, when hungry, as more annoyed than usual and less in control of their emotions.” Studying groups of people testing emotional awareness, she found that “Only the individuals in the second group, presumably less self-aware of their growing agitation, showed clear signs of stress and annoyance…” Her conclusion is...
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