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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]

What Is Secondary Gain and How It Can Hurt You

I’m often struck by the fact that psychological concepts that I recognize like the back of my hand are unknown to many clients. I don’t know why I’m surprised, considering that the education of a therapist is based on possessing a thorough knowledge of psychology. One of these concepts that people don’t readily see and often need a therapist to point out to them is called secondary gain. To put it simply, a primary gain is one we’re conscious of and a secondary gain is one that is generally unconscious. The term is often applied in relation to poor health. The primary gain from going to the doctor would include getting proper diagnosis and treatment. The primary gain from telling people about your sickness might include informing friends about why you’ve been isolating or even finding out if they’ve gone through what you’re experiencing. With primary gain, we have an intentional,...
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Time to Raise the Bar on Deservedness

I feel sad for my clients who settle for so little in relationships and in other aspects of life. You may do the same thing if you compare what you have now to what you had growing up and think this is the best you can do—with friends, romance or work. In childhood, you may have been neglected or physically or sexually abused. Now you put up with emotional abuse or indifference thinking, “At least I’m not being hurt physically.” You may have suffered emotional abuse at the hands of your parents and now accept romantic or friend relationships with people who are sometimes nice to you but mistreat you at other times. You stay because this is the best you’ve been treated to date and are grateful that at least someone isn’t awful to you all the time. You stay because life has improved. But you’re still not getting the...
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Fake News—In Your Head

What happens when we believe fake news and what happens when we take as truth the random irrational thoughts floating through our minds day in and day out is pretty much the same thing. When we stop even trying to distinguish fact from fiction—within or without— and go with how we “feel,” we surrender rationality and suffer grave consequences. When our eating behaviors are the product of mental flotsam—denial, fantasy, pretzel logic, and irrational fears—we can forget about growing healthier or wiser. The fake news being generated by our brains (aka eating disordered thinking) will keep us chained to the merry-go-round of emotional and mindless eating forever. The only way off this very unmerry go-round is to take charge of our minds and start separating fact from fiction, fake news from real news. Here are the top 10 hits being broadcast 24/7 on the fake news channel of dysregulated eaters: I...
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How Approval-seeking Distorts Relationships

I have too many clients who worry about what others think of them and, therefore, get themselves into trouble in various situations. There are several ways that approval-seeking can harm you and shape your decision-making in self-destructive ways. Here are the key problem areas. Undermining self-trust. Clients often ask how they can develop self-trust. Every time you overvalue what someone else thinks, you automatically devalue what you think. One of the major ways to develop self-trust is to know what you’re thinking and why you’re thinking it, recognize that you know yourself better than others do, and act on your own healthy and irrational thoughts and feelings. This doesn’t mean eschewing others’ opinions. It does mean making up your own mind to acting deliberately in your self-interest and others be damned. Becoming dependent on others’ approval. Sometimes I’ll ask a client what she thinks, and she’ll say something like this, “Well,...
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Why Food Planning Goes Awry

A reader of my books and blogs wrote with a question that many of you might have: “Why,” he asked, “do I buy foods I think I’ll enjoy and bring them with me to eat, then find I don’t want them and crave something ‘quick and easy’ and eat that instead?” Here are my ideas on why this might happen and how to change the pattern. Remember that intuitive eating isn’t a science. Sometimes we’ll nail a craving and sometimes we won’t. This occurs in other realms of life as well, but we probably don’t think much of it. We get excited about going to a movie because of all wonderful things we’ve heard about it but, when the time comes to go and see it, we’re more in the mood to stay home and read a book. Or we go to the movie and end up not caring for it....
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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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