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. 

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Stop Following the Herd

Maybe because I’m an only child and didn’t have siblings to influence me, I’ve found myself generally averse to the herd mentality. You know, when you feel a need to do or not do something because of what others are doing. I’m quite happy with this facet of my personality, as it led me to stopping dieting in my late twenties when it was all the rage with friends while putting me on the path to “normal” eating. For example, I’ve always been slow to take up the latest fashions and, when at last I do, they’re often long gone by. By the time I finally decided I did like bell bottom pants after all, they were out of style and tapered legs were in. By the time I got around to having my hair cut a la Sassoon, my friends were all growing their hair long again. I’m struck with...
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Really Free Up Your Time

It’s ironic how so many dysregulated eaters rush around and complain about how much they have to do, but always make time for a binge. I hadn’t realized how ironic this phenomenon is until I was talking to a client who was wildly excited that giving up binge-eating had freed up her time to do activities she enjoyed. She said, “I can’t believe all the free time I have now that I don’t spend all those hours scouring my kitchen cabinets for something to eat—and then eating and beating myself up afterward.” I understand: I’m a recovered binge-eater. It’s true how our lives and minds get filled up with what we’ll eat, shopping for it, cooking it, spending hours gorging until we’re sick—not to mention the clean up and precious minutes post-binge raking ourselves over the coals for “being bad.” Did you ever try adding up the precious time you’ve wasted...
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Hurry Up and Wait

My mother had a saying, “hurry up and wait,” which I’m reminded of working with my dysregulated eating clients. I confess I looked the phrase up recently and chuckled at how true it is. Humans spend an inordinate amount of time pushing ourselves to move quickly to get something done, only to find that when it is, we’re still stuck waiting. The best example is rushing to get to the doctor’s office, only to find yourself sitting in the aptly named waiting room for a good long time before being escorted into their office. This phenomenon happens on the road to any kind of recovery: alcohol, drugs, food, etc. In the case of eating disorders, people place an undue amount of pressure on themselves to get where they want to go, which is, more often than not, to a number on the scale. Occasionally, it’s a clothing size, but generally clients...
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What Is Splitting and How It Can Hurt You

Reading an article on maladaptive behaviors due to early abuse, I came across the term splitting. It’s used a great deal when talking about Borderline Personality Disorder, but most folks have never heard of it, which is too bad, because it’s a useful concept. Splitting happens when someone has difficulty integrating aspects of themselves or others. For example, how you’ve felt after a binge—like an entirely bad and disgusting person. In splitting, you forget all the other wonderful qualities you have, all the behaviors that make you valuable and lovable, and see only the negative ones.  Or, you meet a potential romantic partner and only see their best qualities, ignoring that they sometimes treat you poorly. You don’t see them as fully human. This happens with people who are different from us ethnically, religiously, etc. as well. We see us as good and them as bad. Or when you put someone...
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Weight Loss versus Weight Maintenance

When clients tell me they’re desperate to lose weight, they usually mean to go on some sort of diet and restrict calories. When I ask them what happened after they dropped pounds in the past, they often think a moment and restate their goal: they don’t want to lose weight; they want to lose it and keep it off. Ah, I tell them, no wonder they’ve had trouble in the past, because the latter is a different skill set than shedding pounds. To lose weight, clients tell me they need to exert self-control, deprive themselves of foods they love, say no to food more often than they say yes to it, constantly monitor their weight, never overeat, consume only healthy foods, obsess about what goes into their mouths, and constantly think about food. This process likely sounds familiar to you.  The problem is that most people (about 95% of us) can...
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How We Learn to Trust Others

Do you trust people in general or are you wary that others won’t have your best interest at heart? Do you believe the world is a caring place or do you see it as fraught with dangers so that you need to remain on guard? Simplified, is the world safe or scary? A more relevant question may be whether you recognize that your view isn’t a matter of fact or fiction but simply what you learned from experience growing up. How else can we explain that Holocaust survivors still believe in the human capacity to be and do good or that some people will go to their graves believing that a dark cloud hangs over them although they’ve lived reasonably normal, uneventful lives?  Whether you view people as trustworthy or not and the world as safe or scary depends on what your family of origin was like. Here are some questions...
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Replace Judgments with Emotions

It’s probably no surprise to you that dysregulated eaters tend to be highly judgmental of themselves. This is usually out of sheer habit. If you listen to yourselves, you’ll know I’m right. When things don’t go your way, you often judge yourself rather than identify the emotions you’re experiencing. And the judgments make you feel worse about whatever happened rather than helping you move on. So rather than make a moral issue out of something, simply identify what you’re feeling. Here's an example of what I’m talking about. A client of mine, Tisha, always comes down hard on herself when she doesn’t like the outcome of her best efforts to eat better. We were talking about how she really wanted french toast for lunch one day and grabbed a few pieces, intending to eat one and save the other slices for later. As it turned out, she so enjoyed the first...
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Stay Safe by Being Alert, Not Anxious

I was watching the new CSI Las Vegas when someone asked a retired CSI being hunted down if they were being hypervigilant. His answer was no, that he wasn’t going to live in fear, but he strongly intended to stay alert. This seemed like a vital distinction to both stay safe and not make yourself crazy doing it. Hypervigilance is when you live in fear 24/7, when you’re constantly—consciously or unconsciously—scanning the horizon for new threats even when you’re safe and when you’re unable to turn off the threat sensor in your brain. As it turns out, hypervigilance doesn’t work very well because it produces too many false positives. For example, my client George always expects people to reject or abandon him because he grew up in foster homes. You can’t blame George for wanting to brace himself against suffering and avoid it, but he’s so on guard that he misinterprets...
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Book Review of the Expectation Effect

Book Review
This book review was originally published at New York Journal of Books on 2/14/22.  In The Expectation Effect, award-winning science writer David Robson answers these questions: “What are the beliefs and expectations that rule our physical and mental well-being? How do the body, brain, and culture interact so potently to produce these self-fulfilling prophecies? And how can we use these fascinating findings to our own benefit?” He explains how beliefs “shape your health and well-being in profound ways, and that learning to reset our expectations . . . can have truly remarkable effects on our health, happiness and productivity.” He also shares how he reset his own expectations regarding his anxiety and depression and how much better he feels and is faring since changing his assumptions about them and himself. The book is replete with studies and stories from around the world about how expectations affect us physically, mentally, and emotionally....
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The Good Enough Parent

Those of you who read my blogs know that I’m all about “good enough.” No one needs to strive for perfection in parenting. Parents can be imperfect and still do a great job with their kids. In fact, The Good Enough Parent Is the Best Parent. The term “good enough mother” was coined by British psychoanalyst and pediatrician Donald Winnicott. Psychologist, scholar, public intellectual and author Bruno Bettelheim later expanded the concept to “good enough parents.” Here are some tips:  Don’t strive to be a perfect  parent or expect perfection from your children. Cut yourself and others slack and have compassion for yourself and others. Mistakes and failures are learning experiences, not character defects or self-worth arbiters. Respect your children and try to understand them for who they are. Good enough parents “see their children as complete human beings right now, and their job as that of getting to know those...
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