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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]

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 exist in...
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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 addictive...
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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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How Often Are You Triggered by Memories?

memories
Clients spend most of their time telling me about situations which have been or might be very upsetting to them, what I call recall or memory triggers. My job is to teach them how to recognize triggers before, during or after the fact. I’ve blogged often about how to identify slipping into recall, but that’s not enough. You need to know what your triggers are. Remember, you can identify them because they are your emotional reactions that are out of proportion to or in excess of whatever is occurring in reality. Here’s a paragraph from one of my previous blogs. “To stop recall triggers, make a list of troubling memories regarding how you were hurt in childhood: being shamed, abandoned, neglected, compared unfavorably to others, fiercely competed with, ignored, teased, undermined, invalidated, feeling unheard or  invisible, regularly being forced to do things against your will, being manipulated, etc. Recognize that similar...
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Why It’s Hard for People to Give Up Weight Shaming

Why It’s Hard for People to Give Up Weight Shaming
Although I usually enjoy comedian Bill Maher’s humor on his show Real Time, I was appalled and disgusted at his misinformed fat shaming monologue in September. Just like “obesity,” fat shaming is a complicated subject and there’s no simple answer for it. But there are five reasons that it occurs.  Lack of civility People fat shame because we live in a highly uncivil culture where everyone thinks they have the right to say whatever they want to everyone else. Due to the advent of social media, very little is kept private anymore. There was a time (younger folks will need to trust me on this) that people, for the most part, kept their religious and political opinions to themselves. Of course, humans always have gossiped, but that was the point—it was done privately, one-to-one or in a small group, not blabbing our judgments to hundreds or millions of people. We say...
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Co-dependence and Dysregulated Eating

Co-dependence and Dysregulated Eating
Can it be that in all my blogs, I’ve never written specifically about co-dependence? I think that is the case, which is odd considering that it’s a prevailing trait among my clients—dysregulated eaters and otherwise.  According to “6 Signs of a Codependent Relationship: Research explains why the ties that bind are practically unbreakable” by Linda Esposito, LCSW (Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-zen/201609/6-signs-codependent-relationship, 9/19/16, retrieved 9/6/19), co-dependency is “when two people with dysfunctional personality traits become worse together.” Suffice it to say that co-dependence involves poor boundary setting and maintenance, enabling unhealthy behavior, not taking responsibility for oneself, over-focusing on others’ needs to the exclusion of your own, and a general life imbalance around caretaking of self and other. You can read more about it online or in two classics books, Co-dependent No More by Beattie or Facing Co-dependence by Mellody.  For now, I want to talk about how co-dependence and eating disorders go...
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Book Review – My Body’s Superpower

Book Review – My Body’s Superpower
How I wish I’d had a copy of Maryann Jacobsen’s book, My Body’s Superpower: The Girl’s Guide to Growing Up Healthy During Puberty, in my pre-adolescent and adolescent years. Although many decades have gone by since then, I still vividly remember how difficult it was to manage my feelings, my changing body and the world I lived in. If you have a female child who’s approaching or going through the changes of puberty, you’ll want to purchase a copy of this book to help guide her through it. The premise of My Body’s Superpower is that we all have secret powers that become superpowers once we discover, practice, and start using them regularly. The book begins with Jacobsen, a dietician, mother and author who writes about effective parenting, explaining what puberty is and describing its five stages. She describes early and late puberty and even has a short section for boys...
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My Interview from Eating Enlightenment

food
“30 Years and 7 Books of Eating Disorder Recovery Wisdom,” is an interview of me by Jared Levenson. Below is a bit about my crazy eating days. To hear more of my story and recovery, listen to this podcast at https://eatingenlightenment.com/2019/12/01/eating-disorder-recovery-interview/.  I talk some in my books and more in my sessions with clients about how I went from being a chronic dieter and world-class overeater to a “normal” eater. They are often amazed when I tell them that I’ve been recovered for half a lifetime which, at 72, sometimes seems like it was just yesterday and sometimes seems like my warped relationship with food happened to another me and not the one I am today. I was a deprivational eater who weighed myself several times a day. I counted calories to know what and how much to eat. You could have slapped on me any other label that applied to...
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What’s the Difference Between Constructive and Destructive Emotional Discomfort?

What’s the Difference Between Constructive and Destructive Emotional Discomfort?
Emotional discomfort is a complicated subject. Is it a feeling to take seriously, to ignore or to overcome? Does it serve or hinder us from growth? How can we learn to distinguish constructive from destructive emotional discomfort? After two sessions in a row discussing emotional discomfort with clients, I began thinking more about it. In the first session, a client said that she overate because “I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable stopping.” This led to discussion of why and whether she could have managed her uncomfortable feelings in order to avoid experiencing a different kind of discomfort, that is, over-fullness. In my next session, a client expressed pride that when she’s with certain kinds of people—mostly narcissists like her father—she’s now able to see them for what they are (from her emotional reaction to them) and either distance herself from them or manage being in their company. For certain, emotions are...
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