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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]

Body Compassion

Body Compassion
Working on a new book, I’ve been struggling to find the best word to describe how I wish people with body shame would feel about their bodies. Helping clients feel better about their bodies is one of the most difficult parts of my job. As I’ve blogged previously, making peace with a body that you’ve hated for a long time takes some doing, but is crucial to becoming a “normal” eater and engaging in self-caring practices.  Many words are used to describe the positive feeling we want to have about our bodies and none seem quite right. One is “loving” your body. But, I understood when clients counter that saying they love something they don’t want feels inauthentic and like a lie. Another word is “accepting” your body. Clients’ objection has been not wanting to say “it’s okay” to something they want to change. Although I’ve tried to explain that we...
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Our Stories—for Better or for Worse

Our Stories—for Better or for Worse
Is the world a safe place? Are people trustworthy? Our answers to these and other crucial questions depend on our beliefs, even if we’re unaware of them and their impact on our lives. So says research by University of Pennsylvania’s Jeremy Clifton published in Psychological Assessment (“Beliefs about the world can shape a psyche” by Emily Esfahaui Smith, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 10/8/19, p. E22, accessed 10/10/19).  If you’re into self-help books or have been in therapy, you likely have heard this idea before: Our stories are just that—not truth, not fact—but nevertheless are the basis of our feelings and behaviors. Clifton’s research generated 26 primal world beliefs, including whether the world is “good, safe, changing, worth exploring, and intentional.” These beliefs beget the stories we tell ourselves which “predict how happy or depressed we are, how trusting we are in relationships, and the decisions we make.” Consider your beliefs about these...
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Personality Disorders and Dysregulated Eating

Personality Disorders and Dysregulated Eating
Many clients think that they’re mentally healthy because they don’t have depression,  anxiety or any combination of the two that would constitute a mood disorder. They don’t understand that there are other mental health conditions that might lead to mindless, binge or emotional eating. Welcome to learning about personality disorders. “A person’s personality typically stays the same over time. A personality disorder is a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.” (American Psychiatric Association, “What are personality disorders?,” https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/personality-disorders/what-are-personality-disorders , accessed 10/5/19)  It’s also described as “. . . a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social activities, work, and...
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Fear of Being Judged

Fear of Being Judged
A whopping 64.9% of women and 36.1% of men avoid going to the gym due to suffering from FOBJ or “fear of being judged.” (Newsweek, “Horizons,” 1/3-17/20, p. 36). That’s almost 2/3 of females in this country and more than 1/3 of males. If you suffer from FOBJ, here’s how to reduce your anxiety so you can get the exercise you want. Stop imagining. Where’s the evidence that you’re being judged? I’ve yet to find a client who can answer this question. I usually hear, “Well, I don’t really know, but they’re probably judging me” or “Sometimes people look at me funny like I don’t belong because I’m fat.” Be aware that what you assume or fantasize is not fact nor evidence.  Focus on facts. I recognize that you imagine you’re being judged and that you likely—actually, factually—have been judged by others which has badly hurt your feelings. But, unless someone...
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What Red Flags Are You Missing in your Life?

What Red Flags Are You Missing in your Life?
Many clients have a “red flag problem.” They don’t see the truth in front of their eyes, then get blindsided by it. Not seeing red flags is a human trait, especially when we’re young and naïve and learning what life is all about. By doing dumb things and getting hurt, we avoid doing them again. That’s how we survive and grow into mature adults.  But ignoring red flags as an adult will only do you in. Below are some possibilities. Feel free to add your own. Are there exceptions to them? Of course. But I wouldn’t chance finding out. Dysfunctional organizations. You go for a job interview and talk to employees who all say they’re unhappy. Your new boss seems demanding, controlling and to care little about his subordinates. You feel a sense of total disorganization and dysfunction that, you’re told, has been that way for a long time and isn’t...
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Do You Have Empathy for Others?

Do You Have Empathy for Others?
Many people I meet and treat engage in emotional eating because the people in their lives have little empathy for them or others. Empathy is a basic human feeling, perhaps the glue to holding us together as community. If you don’t have it from the people with whom you surround yourself, you might end up feeling more upset than you need to be and that may drive your emotional eating. So, consider this blog a primer on empathy. Here is what it is not, although you’d need to have empathy in order to feel the following emotions. It’s not compassion which is feeling kindness or kindly towards someone’s suffering. You need not feel kindness in order to have empathy, but you need empathy to feel kindness. It is also not sympathy which is feeling sorrow (we call it feeling sorry) that someone is experiencing pain.   According to nutritionist Ellen Glovsky, PhD,...
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Bouncing Between Dwelling and Denial

Bouncing Between Dwelling and Denial
When terrible things happen or even when we consider that they might, we tend to swing between two polar extremes: dwelling in distress or denial of it. Either we can’t stop thinking about a potential threat or we convince ourselves that it will never happen. Neither strategy is useful for problem-solving, but both are understandable, as they are our primitive responses to trying to protect ourselves from hurt and hurting. This pendulum swing happens in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many victims and survivors remain hyper-vigilant and excessively anxious about harm befalling them again and can think of nothing else. Wary of danger, being on the look out for it is their way of trying to ensure that it doesn’t re-occur. Intrusive memories become a warning of all the terrors that could resurface. Alternately, many survivors repress (unconsciously) or suppress (consciously) memories. Such denial makes them feel safe, as if nothing awful ever...
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Try Body Neutrality

Try Body Neutrality
One of areas in which I get the most push back from clients is when I talk about body positivity. The idea of loving a large body which everyone in the world seems to hate is just too much to take in for many higher weight clients. It’s also difficult for people who would like to stop dieting and eat more “normally,” because of their terror of gaining weight and becoming like the people, fat, that is, that they’ve learned to hate.  If you’re in either group, Sonalee Rashatward, social worker and activist, has a message for you about substituting the quest for body love and acceptance with body neutrality. (“What We Can All Learn From the Fat Sex Therapist” by Alexandra Jones , https://www.phillymag.com/be-well-philly/2019/09/18/fat-sex-therapist/ , Philadelphia, 9/18/19, accessed 9/20/19). While fighting fat phobia and weight stigma and many other prejudices, she makes the point that: “. . . those struggling to...
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What Kind of Overeater Are You?

What Kind of Overeater Are You?
I attended a workshop entitled “Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food” which had a section on Binge-eating Disorder or BED. (CE International, www.ceinternational.com , Ginger Schirmer, PhD, RD). It included a description of five types of overeaters that I found interesting, although I’m not sure I agree with them being all that different. I’m blogging about them because doing so may help you identify why you overdo with food and develop strategies to avoid doing so. First, consider what Dr. Schirmer had to say about food addiction: that no food is addictive, but that we can form an addiction-like relationship to foods that changes our brain and body chemistry much as it would if we were dependent on drugs or alcohol. I’ve heard others describe this dynamic as having an eating addiction. At any rate, when you read the categories below, remember that Dr. Schirmer isn’t talking about the food being...
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Alexithymia and Eating Disorders

As a social work intern in an outpatient clinic, I had a client who my supervisor diagnosed with alexithymia, a condition I’d never heard of. If I hadn’t gone into the mental health field, I probably never would have run across it. But, it turns out to be highly relevant to therapy and to eating disorders as well.  Here’s what it looked like in my client. My client had been extremely close with her father who died after a long illness. She coped by coming into each session talking about a dead bird she’d seen in the gutter. She was ripped apart by the plight of this poor bird and could talk of little else. To make grieving easier, she used the defense mechanism of displacement to shift her feelings about her father onto the dead bird.  Alexithymia means literally “no words for feelings” and “is prevalent in patients with psychosomatic...
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