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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 Scientific Reasons that Weight-loss Diets Fail You

I’ve blogged about psychology professor Dr. Traci Mann’s well-researched book, Secrets from the Eating Lab, and recently came across an article summarizing her findings. Honestly, though, she writes so well and with such laugh-out-loud humor, that I recommend reading her entire book. I read it cover to cover when I was delayed at an airport and couldn’t believe how quickly the time past. Her article is entitled “Why do dieters regain weight? Calorie deprivation alters body and mind, overwhelming willpower” (Psychological Science, May 2018, accessed 5/29/18, http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2018/05/calorie-deprivation.aspx). Here are some excerpts from it. I refer you to the article itself for citations. • “…weight regain is the typical long-term response to dieting, rather than the exception.” • “…calorie deprivation leads to changes in hormones, metabolism, and cognitive/attentional functions that make it difficult to enact the behaviors needed to keep weight off.” • “…after sufficient calorie deprivation, weight is lost, and therefore...
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No Need to Need

How often do you tell yourself that you need to eat more healthfully, consume less fat, read labels on food items, lose weight, find better ways to comfort yourself than eating, dine out less frequently, or plan better meals? How often do you use the word need to prod yourself to do tasks such as clean your domicile, find nicer friends, get a more interesting job, go out more often, or complete projects? Most dysregulated eaters insist they “need” to do something in order to motivate themselves. But it fails every time. I’ve blogged on this topic often: How we tell ourselves what we should or ought to be doing, then do the opposite. Honestly, I spend half my time talking with clients about their use of words like need and should and have to. If you’re still telling yourself what you need to do, it’s time to give it up...
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The Importance of Early Attachments

On a flight during my vacation, I was reminded of the importance of our earliest attachments in shaping our lives for better or worse. A girl of four or five was sitting across the aisle from me next to her slightly older brother. Although she was securely buckled into her aisle seat, shortly after takeoff, she started squirming around, twisting to look behind her, and making mewing noises. Her brother was ignoring her and, even after the seatbelt light went off, no one came to attend to her. While I was wondering where her parents were, she gave one final mew, unbuckled her seatbelt, and raced, crying, toward the back of the plane to where I assume her parents were. I never saw nor heard her again, but she remained on my mind, as I considered the feelings of a frightened young child. In the best of worlds at that age,...
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What If You Didn’t Care So Much about Your Appearance?

What if you didn’t care so much about your appearance? What if you could flip to the other side of the continuum about your looks and feel a decreased sense of their importance to you? What if you could expend less time thinking about your face, body, and hair because you hate how it eats up so much effort and energy and simply don’t want to live with such a spirit-killing pre-occupation. Before you insist that this metamorphosis could never happen to you, take a deep breath and just consider “What if?” Ask yourself: What if I could care less about my appearance? What if I could change? You know how to do it: You used to adore certain friends and now don’t, were wild about particular songs and no longer listen to them, or were fiercely wedded to political or philosophical ideas and now wouldn’t be caught dead believing in...
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How Cognitive Overload Hampers “Normal” Eating and Rational Decision Making

On one of my favorite TV shows about politics, I heard an enlightening explanation of the term cognitive overload when a panelist described how constantly being lied to affects our brains. She said that ideas “land” on us and that we need time to process them to decide to believe if they are rational or not. However, when lies fly at us at too rapid a pace, one after another, we don’t have the focused ability to analyze their veracity, and so they remain “landed,” that is, we simply accept them. Politics aside, this analysis seemed applicable to two client situations. Says Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D.: “Information or cognitive overload can lead to indecisiveness, bad decisions and stress. Indecisiveness or analysis paralysis occurs when you’re overwhelmed by too many choices, your brain mildly freezes and by default, [and] you passively wait and see. Or you make a hasty decision because vital...
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Stop Rebelling and Take Better Care of Yourself

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (Wikipedia, retrieved 5/4/18, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1_Corinthians_13) Although I’m a secular person, this bible quote (in reality, an afterthought to this blog) aptly describes what I want to say. I know I’m taking a more direct tack here than I usually do but, honestly, I’m not sure how to awaken clients and other dysregulated eaters to the fact that time’s a wastin’. I can only do my best to speak to you as mature people, which includes laying out some unavoidable and perhaps harsh truths. You can rebel against eating rules and how others want you to look or eat, or you can be an adult and take effective care of yourself no matter what others think or say—but you can’t be or...
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The (Very Big) Difference Between Worry and Problem-solving

After two sessions in a row with clients discussing problem-solving versus worrying, I realized that they’d been confusing the two activities and, therefore, were making themselves more anxious by worrying when they thought that what they were doing would reduce it. If you’re a worrier, this blog will help you understand its false promise. Worrying, a misguided attempt to reduce anxiety which generally produces more of it, takes place in a closed looped within the mind. It’s an internal process, an intra-psychic phenomenon. Like a dog chasing its tail, thoughts race around in repeating circles without getting anywhere. We imagine various scenarios and outcomes, but our fears remain, so we return to generating more or better solutions. It’s like trying to know what the weather is like when you’re indoors. You can’t. You need to step outside to find out. Problem-solving, on the other hand, takes place outside of your mind...
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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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