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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]

One Story of Recovery

Being in Recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder A guest blog by Dustin LindenSmith   I’m a 47-year-old married man with three kids living in Atlantic Canada and I self-diagnosed with Binge-Eating Disorder about five years ago. I first discovered how to use food for emotional comfort as a young child, but an alcoholic and abusive step-parent pushed me to turn towards heavy binge-eating in my early teens. I would consume vast quantities of food in secret—I could never seem to get “enough”—and then I’d go on a diet to lose the weight I had gained. In this way, I “dieted my way up” to over 300 pounds in college, and I repeated that cycle several more times in my life. I estimate that I’ve gained and lost over 850 pounds since the age of 10. Binge-Eating Disorder is often described as a chronic and compulsive binge-diet cycle, but to me, it felt...
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Do You Have Adult Post-bullying Syndrome

Many clients with eating disorders report that they were bullied in childhood. Are you one of them? Are you sure you even know what bullying is? Truth is that many people minimize the mistreatment they had at the hands of peers or family members and don’t realize that what they endured is bona fide bullying.  Kate Baggaley in “How Being Bullied Affects Your Adulthood,” says this about adult post-bullying syndrome, or APBS (not a clinical diagnosis): “Bullying is corrosive to children’s mental health and well-being, with consequences ranging from trouble sleeping and skipping school to psychiatric problems, such as depression or psychosis, self-harm, and suicide.” She says that “roughly 1 in 3 students in the United States are bullied at school” and that “Years after being mistreated, people with adult post-bullying syndrome commonly struggle with trust and self-esteem, and develop psychiatric problems . . . Some become people-pleasers, or rely on...
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How Structure Gives You Freedom

Working with dysregulated eaters (and clients with other self-regulation problems), I talk a great deal about structure versus freedom. I’ve always thought about them as being opposite ends of a continuum, but recently was struck by something jazz musician Branford Marsalis said about music in a radio interview: “There’s only freedom in structure, my man. There’s no freedom in freedom.” That’s one to ponder, eh?  Although I don’t know that he meant what I’m going to suggest about structure and freedom applied to music, here’s my take on what he’s saying in general. By structuring some things in life, you get the physical freedom to enjoy other things. Say you abhor the same old same old and love change. All well and good, except you might think, “Gee, I’d love to go to the gym now, but I might want to work on my novel later or go visit grandma, so...
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How to Know If People Are Keepers or Not

It may be difficult to know whether or not to keep someone in your life—significant other, spouse, friend, or relative. Do you want to remain close to them or with them at all? Many clients entertain this dilemma and unwisely rely on self-trust or intuition to make decisions rather than rational thinking. Worse, they decide out of fear and anxiety. Here are some examples. A client is deciding if he wants to divorce his wife. Another wonders if she can continue to live with her emotionally stunted sister. A third is trying to figure out if an alcoholic friend is worth the trouble. If we live long enough, we’ll all face similar dilemmas, some of which will stress us out enough to trigger emotional eating.  One way to know whether someone is a keeper or not is to make a list of what they need to do over time to stay...
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Optimism Can Be Learned

Within one hour I received emails from two friends about the Corona Virus. One expressed great fear and described giving up many social and volunteer activities, while the other lamented the hysteria gripping the country. You can pretty much guess which friend is the optimist and which is the pessimist.  “Researchers from the School of Medicine, the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System, and Harvard University’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health have found that . . . individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live longer.” They define optimism as “a general expectation that good things will happen, or believing that the future will be favorable because we can control important outcomes.” (Bostonia, “Never Underestimate the Power of Positive Thinking,” winter-spring 2020, p. 63) What does optimism have to do with dysregulated eating? For one thing, “research suggests that more optimistic people may be able...
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The Empowerment of Attention

Want to know what the key to recovery is? After 30-plus years of treating people with eating disorders, I can tell you that it’s in large part paying attention to what you say to yourself and changing your thinking and self-talk. On a more basic level, we might call it changing your neuronal connections. Although it may not be as easy as flipping an on-off switch, it’s also not nearly as difficult as you might think. This process is described by Daniel Siegel, MD, author of Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence—The Groundbreaking Meditation Practice (TarcherPerigee: NY, 8/18, p. 39): “Where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connections grow.” Another way of saying this is that the areas of your lawn which you water will sprout green, while the parts you don’t will go brown and die. Or consider this: If you had two hypothetical children and you paid...
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What Makes for Mentally Healthy Friends?

It’s easy to understand why we’d have problems with parents whom we didn’t pick and bosses or colleagues about whom we had limited choice, as they usually come with the job. But ongoing problems with friends, people we freely elect to have in our lives? It’s not even one-offs that clients complain about. Rather they vent about the same one or two “buddies” who drive them crazy or why they can’t seem to find the kinds of friends they want. Here are some patterns I’ve observed from my caseload over the decades. Picking friends who are victims and complain constantly about being treated unfairly, taken advantage of and how they’re put upon. Clients tending toward victim-think feel right at home. Surrounded by a Woe Is Me Club that does little actual problem solving and are poor role models for empowerment, clients avoid being accountable. They only ditch this mentality when they realize...
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Weight, Eating and Microaggressions

Ever have someone say to you, “You’re not really going to eat that, are you, when you said you were trying to slim down?,” “You’re so handsome/pretty and you’d look even better if you lost some weight,” or “Whatever happened to that diet you were on a few weeks ago?” These are hardly unusual comments for higher weight people to hear. Many come into therapy sessions depressed or incensed about remarks that friends, family, co-workers or complete strangers have made about their eating or their weight.  Rather than being obvious attacks, these microaggressions can be just as hurtful and damaging to you. They’re sneaky devils that sound as if they’re not meaning to twist the knife and the people who utter them can be equally adept in feigning innocence and blaming others for their unkind utterances. Some great advice comes from an enlightening article about racism and microaggressions that explains the...
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Relapse and Resume

Want to guess my most common client complaint? It’s “How come I was doing so well for a while and then I just went back to eating like I used to?” Unfortunately, there’s no short and breezy explanation to that crucial question except to say that changing unhealthy habits generally involves a repetition of the pattern of relapse and resume. I usually feel resistance to using the word relapse and for many years I wouldn’t use it at all. But it feels right when we associate it with a lapse of better judgment or a lapse of doing what you know is best for yourself—like eating three pieces of leftover pizza when you come home from a dinner out or finishing off the pint of ice cream you’re saving for another night. Relapse means to lapse again, but implies the state isn’t permanent. The good news is that relapse is usually...
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What Self Are You Trying to Curate?

I’ve been hearing the word curate a lot lately and, though I got the gist of it, I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant until I looked it up. It’s close enough to say it means to collect or arrange things to project a certain image. While essays lament how people are “curating” their images on social media to look a certain way or to create an online identity that has a particular luminous aura, the curation I worry most about is when we create a specific idealization of who we want to be and believe we’re nothing without it.  Rather than let ourselves evolve into who we might be, we grab onto an image and fashion ourselves around it. The process, of course, begins in childhood when the shaping is primarily done by our parents, relatives, teachers and culture taking a smidgen off here and adding a lot more on...
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