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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. 

What Is Instead of What If

One of my clients said that she’s practicing staying focused on “what is” rather than on “what if,” and I thought that was a great phrase and way to live. Living according to this creed, she’s making changes in her current life rather than agonizing about the future. What if you stopped obsessing about “what if” and made “what is” your primary focus? There is, of course, nothing wrong with considering what might happen in the future in order to try to make better decisions in the present. In fact, this is the best way to problem solve. But, there’s a big difference between intentionally thinking about consequences and putting your life on hold or not experiencing it to the fullest. Here are some examples of how these major differences play out: Some people have little direction in life and only the broadest of goals such as wanting to be happy....
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Book Review: Meditation Is Not What You Think

How many minutes—or hours—do you miss in a day wishing that you were home when you’re out at work, yearning to do nothing when you’re busy doing something, feeling pressured to do something when you’re doing nothing, worrying about what you didn’t do yesterday or need to do tomorrow, wishing to sleep when you’re awake and staying frustratingly awake when you want to be sleeping. Your life doesn’t need to be this way. Since reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s classic, Wherever You Go, There You Are , in the late 1990s, I’ve attended a few meditation workshops and use deep-breathing to relax, mostly to fall asleep (an easy process that works like a charm). I picked up his newest book, Meditation Is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important , to see what more he had to say on the subject. The evidence is in: meditation has great value....
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Have a Love Affair with Yourself

If you read my blogs regularly, you know how adamantly I warn against using directives like should, need to, must, ought, have to and am supposed to. Unfortunately, you’ve probably been using them for years thinking that they’re going to get you to change your eating, exercises or other behaviors. And yet, here you are reading my blogs. These words are external motivators that get you exactly nowhere. There is another way. It’s called self-love. Think about what it would be like to have a love affair with yourself. Here’s how it would change your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. When you love someone, you care about and want to take care of them. No one has to urge you to do so. You do it automatically straight from the heart. You notice and value all the wonderful things they say and do. You can’t help it because you think they’re special....
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It’s a Lifestyle, Not a Diet

Here’s a newspaper headline that’s a prime example of why people have difficulty becoming “normal” eaters: “A party menu that won’t ruin your diet!” This makes it sound like a diet is something you’re on temporarily as if you might give up a diet someday, like an escalator on which you step on and off. Instead, lifestyle is a moving sidewalk you stay on to move forward and keep moving forward. The idea is not to think of eating a particular way as temporary, but as permanent. Let’s just get rid of the word diet or dieting, period, and talk about what we’re really looking at: a lifestyle change, a new habit. It’s ongoing, not on and off. It’s forever, not for the moment. This is an example of how diet (versus) lifestyle thinking goes: Say, your friends all order dessert after a restaurant dinner. Diet-think would go something like this:...
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The Best Decisions Are Based on Rationality

Reading a book about how strongly human nature inclines toward irrationality and the importance of fighting to be rational made me think about illogical beliefs that clients bring into therapy. Although their lives are problem-laden or they can’t reach their eating and other goals, they are often upset when I challenge these irrational beliefs. Because my job is neither to placate nor make them feel good in the moment, but to get and keep them mentally healthy, I challenge them anyway. If you want the health, happiness, and success that other people achieve, you can’t hold these beliefs:   That will never happen to me. It’s understandable how this thought takes root. How reassuring to believe that bad things happen to other people and not to us. Or that bad things may befall us, but they only protect us from worse things happening. If we believe that unfortunate things happen only...
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Tips for Dealing with Envy

I was talking with a client about envy—hers—but it also brought up the subject for me, as topics discussed in therapy often do. It’s so easy to fall into the envy trap and it can happen before we realize it. We may not even recognize that envy is what we’re feeling and, instead, experience it as anger at someone for something general or specific. Though I’ve blogged before on envy, here’s a reminder of what it is: a feeling between two people when you want something that the other person has. It’s different from a jealousy which generally involves three people and occurs when we fear that someone will take something we have. In envy, we want their boyfriend or girlfriend. In jealousy, we’re afraid they’ll take ours. Here are two approaches to banish envy, the second of which is a suggestion from a client. When you feel envious, try on...
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How Are Eating “Normally” and Therapy Similar?

Many people who seek therapy to resolve their eating problems become rapidly and easily disappointed and frustrated that the process takes longer than they expected. This is the exact same problem they have with food: the quick “fix” desire for whatever ails them. Fortunately, helping them respect and value the slow pace of therapy provides equal instruction on how to manage “gotta have it now” feelings around food.   Here are two problems and ways to deal with them that arise in both eating and therapy. Urge to control: Although some clients enter therapy without the desire to control the process, many dysregulated eaters come in wanting to focus exclusively on eating and weight loss. They could spend an entire session telling me everything they ate—and didn’t “allow” themselves to eat—since the last time they saw me. Whenever I veer off to inquire about other issues, such as how their life...
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Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

The saddest part of my job is treating people in or trying to extricate themselves from abusive romantic relationships. Many of them have been with abusive partners for decades and often question why they didn’t see the signs or get out earlier. Then they blame themselves for this oversight which often compounds the problem. In brief, we make decisions based upon what is familiar to us from childhood but generally make these decisions unconsciously. They just feel right. Suffice it to say that if we had parents (or caretakers) who were abusive to and neglectful of us, we are used to mistreatment which leads to lowered self-esteem and this dynamic becomes the template for future intimate relationships. This happens often to children whose parents are narcissistic, sociopathic, and/or have mental health or substance abuse problems. For more on how we get set up to pick abusive partners, browse my blog archives...
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Turning Insight into Action

Nearly all who come to therapy voluntarily are seeking enlightenment. They yearn for eureka moments, mental lightbulbs flashing, ah-ha insights that will rock their world. All well and good, as most behavioral changes begin with shifts in thinking. But insights are only the start of a process, not the end, which is purposeful, positive action. This shift from insight to action comes up frequently in therapy. One phone client shouted in exasperation, “I am so tired of asking why. I don’t care why I eat when I really don’t want food. I want to not do it.” Another lamented, “I understand my childhood, I so get why I’m like I am. Now how can I be different.” Another tearfully asked, “What am I doing wrong? Why aren’t I happy?” To use an automobile metaphor, insight is like shifting into first gear. It gets you out of your parking space or driveway....
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Why Facts Don’t Always Change Our Thinking

Those of us who aspire to be rational creatures generally believe ourselves to be whether we are or not. When asked, we insist that we base our decisions on facts and expect that others should do so as well. But, as explained in “The partisan brain” (The Economist, 12/8/18, p. 33, accessed 12/10/18), the evidence shows that facts aren’t the big persuaders that we wish them to be. This subject is highly relevant to dysregulated eaters who find it hard to believe that diets don’t work long-term or that certain foods will likely harm their health down the road. As many of you know, these truths don’t always change your thinking or behavior. Ever wonder why? Jeremy Frimer of the University of Winnipeg suggests that “people are willing to dismiss or deny facts and opinions that run counter to their beliefs.” According to the authors of The Enigma of Reason, Hugo...
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