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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. 

Are You Stuck Between Blame and Shame?

Unfortunately, most women I talk to have been victims of sexual assault or harassment at some point in their lives. I’m sure many men have been as well. These events occur on a continuum from minor to major and can do lasting psychological damage. For survivors of such incidents, it’s important that you don’t simply push them out of memory or take on the shame that you are in any way to blame. How you view what happened to you is part of how you relate to your body. Here are some do’s and don’ts for survivors that also need to be understood by those who are close to them. I speak as someone who has encountered sexual assault in various forms over my life-time—an attempted rape in college, in my 20s narrowly escaping being forced into my apartment building by a man who was trying to assault me, a doctor...
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Loving Without Desiring

When I first came across the concept of loving, but not desiring something, I thought it brilliant. It’s from in A Child In Time (page 255), a book by one of my favorite fiction authors, Ian McEwan. Referencing feeling stuck mourning his beloved young daughter several years after her kidnapping, a character in the novel says, “I had to go on loving her, but I had to stop desiring her.” This concept could apply to almost anything. Especially food. The phrase hit home because I’d been out to dinner with a good friend the evening before coming across it and we’d been discussing how to handle her food cravings. She insisted that she loved the chocolate cake in this particular restaurant which, she explained, made it impossible to resist it. As I’d learned to love certain foods without desiring them in order to become a “normal” eater, I wish I’d had...
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Eating from Emotional Depletion

Although we’ve evolved to eat when our internal food gauge dips to empty, instead, many dysregulated eaters mistakenly turn to food when they’re emotionally depleted. Sometimes our ability to take care of things or people can simply drain us to the point of having nothing left to give. Then, rather than rejuvenate ourselves with sleep, relaxation, joy or rest, we turn to food and can’t get enough of what we didn’t need in the first place. There are a number of ways that we may become emotionally depleted. What they all have in common is putting out more emotional energy than we’re taking in. * Being the go to person. If you’re all things to all people, you’re going to be running on empty far too often. If you say yes to every request—from your kids, partner, friends, parents, siblings, boss, co-workers or neighbors—you’re going to feel exhausted most of the...
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Struggles with Siblings

In therapy, clients sometimes discuss their struggles with siblings. From them, I’ve learned that siblings (for which this only child yearned in childhood) can be both a blessing and a curse, in youth and adulthood. Here’s are some of the problems I see. A common issue is competitiveness. Maybe you were the “golden” child or perhaps it was your sibling. If you were the favorite, your siblings might have felt neglected and treated unfairly. If one of your siblings was the favorite, you might have struggled with feeling you never measure up. Or maybe your parents didn’t have much inclination or time to shower you with attention, so that you all ended up vying for it then—and now. Another problem is when one sibling in the family gets all (or most) of the attention in childhood due to having had a medical or mental condition which generates a need for trips...
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When Self-care Tells You What and What Not to Eat

In a local pharmacy, I passed through the “nut” aisle and found myself tumbling back in time to 40 years ago in my local food mart searching for WheatNuts®. They “were originally developed by Pillsbury in the late 1970s and had been on the marketplace for 35 years before being pulled off the market by Anacon Foods in late 2013,” and “are a cult classic snack product that has a nationwide following of die hard Wheat Nutters.” (nadanut.com) I had been such a die-hard, and now I fear that if I’d continued to wolf them down as I did then, I would have died hard—and sooner rather than later. I remember downing a jar of them on my way to meet friends for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Arriving early, sitting in my car and enjoying their uniquely amazing crunch and nutty flavor, I was whisked away to Planet Ecstasy until...
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Resist Pressure to Be What You Are Not

How many of your problems are due to not being true to yourself? Not being authentic and knowing exactly who you are, recognizing your preferences and distastes. Many of my clients with eating dysregulation tell me they’ve been people-pleasers for so long that they’ve become disconnected from their own needs and desires. And you? I was reminded of authenticity by two dinners with friends. First was the night my husband and I dined out with a couple who are wine connoisseurs who spent a good deal of time discussing what wine to order. I, on the other hand, ordered a low-priced Chardonnay because I always joke that I’m a Ripple girl at heart—someone who lacks a sensitive palate for the taste of high quality alcohol. Since that’s the case, I don’t bother to fuss about wine and can live with my ignorance. Then the next week we dined out with neighbors,...
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Using Probability to Counter Anxiety and Decrease Emotional Eating

Anxious people tend to lump all their anxieties together—running out of gas on a road trip, their spouse leaving them for someone younger, failing an exam, dying in a plane crash, or losing their wallet. The truth is that all of these things are possible, but each has a different probability. By looking at the likelihood of events that frighten us, we can reduce anxiety, live more comfortably in the world, and reduce emotional eating. Remember, just because it’s possible for something to happen, does not mean that it will. Stop and think if you confuse or equate possibility with absolute certainty. Do you automatically fear and believe that whatever is causing your worry is a definite? By that, I mean do you take all of your fears seriously and give them equal weight? If so, you will be anxious a great deal of the time. While it is true that...
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What Higher Weight Adult Children Want Their Parents to Know About Them

Some of my most heart-breaking work is with higher weight adults and their parents, usually mothers. The pain of both child and parent is evident, as is their frustration, confusion and helplessness about how to discuss matters of weight. I write this blog to give guidance to both parties partaking in this family therapy experience. Generally parents (usually Mom) and adult children (usually Daughter) haven’t been in therapy together, but sometimes times they have a long, unhappy history of family therapy. In either case, here’s what each typically feels as therapy begins. My higher weight client feels highly vulnerable speaking directly with her mother about such a tender subject, for the first or umpteenth time, expecting to be blamed and shamed. Equally, Mom (or Dad, or Dad and Mom) come in feeling frustrated, helpless and guilty. Most often Mom is also worried about her child’s health which adds to the difficulty...
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Develop Rational Thinking to Improve Your Life

I often tell clients that if they want what other people have—lasting love, meaningful work, supportive friends, tolerable family relations, and good health—they need to think and act as others do. By that, I mean people whom they respect and think well of. They can’t keep being reactive, making foolish choices, and following their hearts rather than their heads if they want what others have achieved through rational thinking. Reading an article about inventor Elon Musk, though I’ve disliked some of his recent public comments, I found value in his description of rational decision-making. He’s a complicated, controversial, brilliant man who appears to use his critical thinking skills at work, but not with love. Want to guess in which arena he’s most successful? (“Elon Musk: The Architect of Tomorrow” by Neil Strauss, Rolling Stone, 11/15/17, http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/elon-musk-inventors-plans-for-outer-space-cars-finding-love-w511747?mc_cid=52dfe44621 , accessed 11/21/17). Here’s the “scientific method” Musk uses in problem-solving at work: 1. “Ask...
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How Our Minds Are Like Our Homes

Our minds are like our homes. Create a hostile, unsafe, chaotic environment in your living space and few folks will want to visit or, if they do, they’ll soon be unhappy, uncomfortable and wanting to leave. Provide a comfortable, hospitable, inviting, safe, environment and they’re likely to want to relax there and return frequently. What kind of “home” is your mind: warm and friendly, cold and intimidating, an utter mess?   Because we spend a huge amount of time in our minds, it pays to create a mental and emotional landscape that’s hospitable to and supportive of growth and well-being. That can’t happen if we’re highly critical of ourselves or others, frequently confuse memory with reality, regularly make invalid meanings of events, or wall off parts of ourselves from our consciousness while stuffing our minds with grievances and misery.   If this is what you do, no wonder it’s difficult for...
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