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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. 

The Real Reasons You’re Not Becoming a “Normal” Eater

I’ve blogged on this subject before, which warrants a frequent revisit. Many of you are not reaching your “normal” eating or health goals because you’re not consistently following the guidelines for changing your thinking and behaving around food. You then become disappointed because you’re not making strides as quickly as you’d like to and feel like giving up. I don’t say this punitively, believe me, but facts are facts: The more you practice a behavior, the more it will stick as a habit. Doing a behavior inconsistently—one day, then not the next, or one week on and one week off, will get you exactly nowhere but frustrated. So, here are my suggestions: Eat without distraction. I stopped telling clients to do this at every meal because they insisted that doing so was impossible, so I dropped down to suggesting that they do it at least once a day. I found that...
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How to Use Therapy to Move Toward “Normal” Eating

Having been a therapist for more than 30 years, I have some ideas on how to get the most out of the process. As an eating disorders therapist, I also have advice on how to use therapy to help you move toward “normal” eating. Of course, if you’re not in therapy, you can still focus on the areas I highlight to promote psychological healing. Have an agenda. Clients often wait for me to bring up a topic to talk about, which may be hit or miss on my part. If a client doesn’t raise a subject, I generally ask, “How can I help you today?” This doesn’t mean that you always need to come in with a problem. It’s important for clients to share pride in their accomplishments or progress. Often my validating clients’ concerns or ideas is helpful. It’s fine to occasionally not come prepared with questions, but it doesn’t...
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Science Explains the Truth about Addiction

A debate about which behaviors are addictive and which aren’t has raged on for decades. Can food be addictive? Here’s the latest on what science thinks about addiction. (“Science Says: What makes something truly addictive?” by Lindsey Tanner, Sarasota Herald Tribune , 6/22/18, page A3, retrieved 6/23/18) Tanner says that “The strict definition of addiction refers to a disease resulting from changes in brain chemistry caused by compulsive use of drugs or alcohol. The definition includes excessive use that damages health, relationships, jobs and other parts of normal life.” According to UCLA psychiatrist, Dr. Walter Ling, it is ‘a disease of extreme behavior. Any behavior carried to an extreme that consumes you and keeps you from doing what you should be doing becomes an addiction as far as life is concerned.” Dr. Andrew Saxon, chairman of the American Psychiatric Association’s addiction psychiatry council, deems drugs addictive because they over-activate “the brain’s...
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Stop Trying to Change Your Parents and You’ll Have a Better Holiday

Want to improve your eating during the holidays? Then stop trying to change your parents’ views or their distress about your views. Heed the wisdom of New York City writer Joan Reisman-Brill, who responds to ethical questions for The Humanist.com in “The Humanist Dilemma”. Here’s her response to a letter writer asking how to get his views accepted by his parents who believe they’ve failed him because he doesn’t think as they do about religion (Issue 771, 8/10/18). “The first thing you have to do is recognize that you can’t control what your parents believe any more than they can control what you believe. You can wish they’d see things your way, just as they can wish you’d see things their way. But wishing doesn’t make it happen, and maybe nothing can. Regardless, you need to live your life, let them live theirs, and make the best of whatever intersection there...
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Growing a Strong Self That Withstands Rejection

Many people live in fear of rejection. They won’t change jobs, try to make friends, join groups or do anything which might put them in a position to be rebuffed. This deep-seated terror prevents them from being happy and emotionally healthy and is based on dysfunctional childhood experiences with rejection which haven’t been put to rest. Here are ways to rethink rejection so that it becomes tolerable and easily forgotten. No one likes to be rejected as a job applicant, but not everyone builds his or her life around avoiding the possibility of it happening. When we have a pattern of fearing and getting upset at rejection, we are not looking rationally at how the world works and have an immature sense of entitlement rather than view ourselves simply as one of many deserving people on the planet. Just because you don’t get a job that you believe you were perfect...
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How to Create Emotional Safety in a Relationship

How do you create emotional safety in a relationship? It’s not a 1-2-3 process, but it’s also not so complex that there aren’t guidelines for making it happen. Obviously, you want to avoid sarcasm, accusations, name-calling, defensiveness and offensive body language. Read on for guidelines on what makes for genuine emotional intimacy. Most couples come to see me and want to jump right into talking about major relationship problems: he doesn’t spend enough quality times with the kids, she’s negative and critical, she hoards every penny, he can’t spend money fast enough. But talking about differences can’t be done in a productive way without feeling safe enough to share your honest emotions and thoughts openly. That can happen only if you believe that no harm will come to you in doing so—not only physical harm (that goes without saying), but emotional harm as well. If there’s a fear of any type...
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Myths and Facts on How to Eat Less and Still Feel Nourished

Many people ask me how to eat just the right amount to feel nourished without experiencing over-fullness. There’s a good deal of information out there on the subject, all the way from flat out wrong to inconclusive to tentative but needing more research. “How to Eat Less: What Works, What Doesn’t” by Caitlin Dow (Nutrition Action Healthetter, Jul/Aug 2018, pp.6-8) provides some evidence-based answers. Are smaller plates the answer?: According to Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State University, “Focusing on plate size is a diversion” because studies tells us that people often don’t eat less when using smaller plates. They eat about the same quantity of food they’d eat on larger ones. However, if you mindfully choose to use a smaller plate as a reminder to eat less, they can be helpful. The goal is not to heap your plate with foods you love in order to feel as...
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The Scientific Reason That We Can’t Keep Weight Off by Dieting

For all of us who have dieted and for those of you who frequently or occasionally feel tempted to restart a diet, here’s a simple explanation of why most people cannot keep weight off by weight-loss dieting . It makes perfect sense. Your mind might want to be dieting (although most minds sensibly dislike giving up culinary pleasure), while your body inevitably starts to fight back when you deprive it of calories on a regular basis. It’s time to face facts and recognize that learning to be a “normal” eater is the only way to become healthy and fit, establish a comfortable weight for life, and enjoy a positive relationship with food and your body. Here’s the skinny on why diets don’t keep weight off long-term according to “How Did We Get Here? Explaining the obesity epidemic” by Kevin Hall ( Nutrition Action Healthletter , July/August 2018, pp. 3-5). Describing the...
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Family Fiction Can Teach Us A lot

I’m a huge fan of novels. Mostly I enjoy literary fiction and mysteries. Family dramas, in particular, are engaging because they’re generally so psychological: why characters act in certain ways, the loving and hateful dynamics common to us all, how childhood shapes without our realizing it, what gets passed on from parents consciously and unconsciously. Well written novels act as mirrors for us all, normalizing what we feel, as well as helping us see aspects of ourselves we’ve been fighting not to see. Celeste Ng, the author of Everything I Never Told You (and Little Fires Everywhere) is interviewed at the end of her book and has some profound comments on families that are as true as anything I’ve read written by psychotherapists. I want to share some of her remarks with you so that you can reflect on them in terms of your own life. On sibling relationships. “You have...
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The Dangers of Counter-dependence

I recently discovered that I’ve blogged about dependence and independence, but not about counter-dependence. I suspect that many of you don’t know what this dynamic entails, although it’s rampant in the eating disorder community. Read on to learn more. A simple definition of dependence is reliance on others, while independence means relying on oneself. Obviously, none of us can be completely one way or the other. As adults, we’re expected to do many things for ourselves, assuming we are able. Your spouse or friend might spoon some ice cream into your mouth for a taste, but it’s unlikely that anyone will take on the job of feeding you when you can feed yourself. Likewise, we can be highly accomplished and autonomous, but we can’t do everything ourselves (perform surgery, pilot an airplane, grow all our own food, fix our own cars). Counter-dependent people will do just about anything to avoid relying...
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