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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. 

Different Types of Dysregulated Eaters

While talking to a client about her dysregulated eating, it struck me how many ways we can get into trouble with food. Here are three categories I came up with. Of course, you may not engage with just one but two or all three. Not to worry, each has solutions. Emotional Eating: This type of eating may be intentional or unconscious. You may have a fight with your boss/friend/child/partner/parent/neighbor/colleague and be so irate that you feel justified in food-seeking because you tell yourself you can’t stand how you feel or think you’re entitled to a treat because you’ve been wronged. Alternately, you may not realize how much someone or a situation upset you and think you’re fine, but still be food-seeking to avoid or lessen your distress. Two ways to avoid emotional eating are to stay connected to your feelings and to find effective ways to comfort and cope. Mindless Eating:...
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Lessons from a Slice of Cake

I was at a dinner meeting at a restaurant when the focal point of discussion became the cake slices set out on the table. The meal had not been served, but there, diagonally to the side of every plate, sat a slice of cake. It was a real attention-grabber. Aside from wondering why it was out so early when we hadn’t even ordered drinks, we all seemed compelled to give voice to its appeal or lack thereof. It wasn’t even a particularly attractive slice of cake—kind of yellowish, double-layered with common white frosting on its sides and top, sitting in a pool of mustard-colored sauce drizzled around it. Nothing to write home about in my book (I was hoping for tiramisu or something equally exotic), but not everyone agreed. Here’s what was said about the cake as best as I recall and, at dessert time, how speech turned into action. •...
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How to Handle Difficult People

You know how certain people leave you tongue-tied or frequently seem to best you in arguments? They need to dominate or “win” every discussion—when you didn’t even know there was a battle going on. The more you go at it, the more your frustration grows, leaving you feeling helpless, frustrated and emotionally drained. The solution is to change the focus of your response and redirect the conversation by making a comment or asking a question about the process or dynamics occurring rather than by addressing content. To put yourself in the driver’s seat, instead of responding to a statement or question by responding to what a person is saying, address only what’s going on between you by questioning his or her motivation or the way he or she is coming across. Here’s an example. Note how a process response disrupts the pattern and shifts the power of the discussion. SOMEONE: I...
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Stop Asking Why People Won’t Change

Humans are meaning-making creatures with built-in curiosity about people and the world to help us survive and thrive by learning new behaviors and putting new ideas into practice. One kind of persistent answer-seeking that is regressive is wondering why someone doesn’t or won’t change. Though you may feel dismayed or dissatisfied because my explanation isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, it’s still the truth, one which you eventually will need to accept to become emotionally healthy. Let’s say that Mom regularly invalidates your thoughts and feelings, insisting that you think and feel as she does, or she becomes angry. You try hard to explain yourself over and over, but she still acts as if what your saying makes no sense or is wrong. So, you ask her repeatedly, “Why don’t you understand me?” or ask yourself, “What can I do to get her to understand me?” Nothing. Not a darn thing....
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Cultivating Doubt to Find the Truth

As I’ve written in my Food and Feelings Workbook, most of us feel uneasy with doubt and some people turn to food when it gnaws at them. We adore certainty because we believe it will lead us away from harm and towards safety and comfort. In reality, the opposite also can be true. Doubt helps us seek the truth, while certainty based on insufficient doubt often leads to false information and practices. Doubt is usually viewed negatively when it is actually valued neutral. We need some, but not too much of it. Here are (some) ideas on the subject from a presentation by David Allison, psychologist and Dean of Indiana University’s School of Public Health, to graduating students in June 2018. (IU School of Public Health-Bloomington (http://blogs.iu.edu/iusph/2018/06/07/doubt-and-truth-take-center-stage-in-dean-allisons-remarks-to-iusph-graduating-students/, retrieved 6/23/18) Allison says that: “It takes courage to admit doubt. It takes intelligence. It takes humility. Some of the greatest minds have embraced...
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Four Essentials for Becoming a “Normal” Eater

Four proficiencies are essential for becoming a “normal” eater. In one way or another, I’ve blogged and written about them all before, but here they are together so that you can see which of them you might be missing. These proficiencies are skills in coping with stress, practicing self-comfort, finding purpose and enjoying pleasure. None of us was raised to excel in all these areas, yet they are crucial for having a positive relationship with food and living your best life. Coping with stress: We all have stress in our lives, but it need not overwhelm us nor drive us to eat mindlessly. First off, we need to accept that no matter what we do, there will be times when life is not in our control and this can cause us to feel crummy. By accepting this truth, we go a long way toward reducing stress. Stress management skills include ending...
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Are You Stuck Between Blame and Shame?

One dysfunctional pattern you may be stuck in is cycling between blame and shame—being unhappy and wanting to blame someone else (or lots of people) alternating with blaming yourself and feeling deeply ashamed of your deficits, mistakes, etc. Nothing good can come out of ping-ponging between these two effects which both may trigger emotional eating. Here are two examples of this dynamic. You, an adult, have an alcoholic father whom you take care of more often than you’d like to. You often blame him for keeping you stuck living at home making sure he stays alive or gets to work and you feel angry that he’s dependent on you. Or you blame your mom who divorced Dad a long time ago. Alternately, you blame yourself for staying in the situation which makes you feel terrible about yourself. With blame comes deep disappointment and shame that you don’t do anything to help...
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When a Breakdown Might Actually Be a Breakthrough

While meeting with a new client who’d been abused by her husband for many years, she explained that she’d finally had a breakdown several years before and ended up in therapy in another state. She said she’d sought help because she was crying almost all the time, had little energy left over to take care of her children, and barely wanted to get out of bed in the morning. I told her that instead of having had a breakdown, she’d had a breakthrough and what a grand thing it was that it happened. When we stop trying to hold bad family situations together at all cost, give up making excuses for people who don’t deserve it, start feeling authentic emotions, trust ourselves and let reality sink in, we often have breakthroughs which may feel like breakdowns. Initially, it’s true that what we experience may feel unfamiliar, awful and as if we’re...
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Experiencing Political News Overload?

Many clients complain that political news overload these days is a major current eating stressor. They feel angry, helpless, despairing and frightened about the future. They don’t know whether to laugh, scream or cry. So they eat. Here’s how to avoid political news overload and retain your sanity: Taking in news: Recognize that though the news is available 24/7/365, we don’t have to partake of it in all forms all those times. I have a friend who listens to podcasts while she runs and when the podcasts are over and she’s returned home, that’s it. She relies on certain sites to keep her informed, is very choosy about what she listens to, and doesn’t tend to listen to an endless array of podcasts on the same subject. It’s not great to focus on the news while you’re eating if it’s likely to trigger overeating because you get anxious or angry hearing...
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Is Compassion Always Necessary?

For several months, I’ve wondered if I was suffering from compassion fatigue, common to many therapists. Then I realized that I didn’t lack compassion with clients who make me feel alive and who bring great joy to my life. As I thought more about what I was experiencing, I realized that I was feeling less and less for abusers in clients’ lives and in the world. I began to feel that it was okay to not feel compassion for people who cause suffering but weren’t themselves suffering. I know we want to aim for understanding and forgiveness, especially those of us with clinical credentials after our names. The therapist’s job is to feel the pain of and with others rather than shrug it off or react to it. But, the fact is that compassion, defined by Dr. Kristen Neff, author of Self-compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, is...
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