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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]

Don’t Call It Exercise

Don’t Call It Exercise
Many people balk at what they call exercise. I was recently talking with a client who felt she “should” exercise but mentioned that she was excited about a new line-dancing class that was starting in her community. That same week I had a conversation with a friend who, due to being a child of higher weight who was pushed to be fit to slim down, dislikes the concept of aiming for fitness rather than health. Many people seem to have feelings about words that have to do with moving our bodies, so it’s worth taking a look at what you’re telling yourself to do and how you’re feeling about it. The concept of “exercise” can be a turn off to people, especially if they’ve never been particularly active yet have felt pressured by intimates or society to be so. Exercise has both the denotation and connotation of being active to attain...
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Committing to the 100% Rule

Committing to the 100% Rule
Both Jack Canfield, author and motivational speaker, and life coach Susie Moore, (https://www.jackcanfield.com/blog/take-100-responsibility-for-your-life-starting-today/) (https://susie-moore.com/writer/best-advice-have-ever-received/) write about “The 100% Rule” to achieve success. Talking with clients about this “rule,” important questions arise about what’s enough effort to put in to reach goals. So, some clarifications on it.   Here's what Canfield writes: “Take no less than 100% responsibility. Successful people take full responsibility for the thoughts they think, the images they visualize, and the actions they take. They don’t waste their time and energy blaming and complaining. They evaluate their experiences and decide if they need to change them or not. They face the uncomfortable and take risks in order to create the life they want to live.”  Canfield is talking specifically about taking responsibility. He’s not saying that you can’t ever make mistakes or fail or that you need to be right 100% of the time. This is the error in thinking...
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Eating and Mental Health Disorders

Eating and Mental Health Disorders
Certainly not all, but many people with dysregulated eating suffer with underlying Depressive and Anxiety Disorders. Even if they don’t have full-blown disorders, they experience sub-clinical distress that is enough to contribute to eating problems. It’s not uncommon for me to hear about panic attacks, excessive worrying, isolation due to social angst, low energy, apathy toward beneficial activities, low self-esteem, a shame-based mindset, and over-focusing on controlling life.  What is of interest here is how clients are much more likely to be aware of and wish to talk about their eating problems than the emotional distress which drives them. I am not saying that depressive or anxiety disorders (or any other mental health problems) cause dysregulated eating. All three are biopsychosocial conditions concurrent with eating disorders. But focusing solely on eating better, without attending to underlying issues of anxiety and depression, will derail even the best therapeutic efforts. Here’s why this...
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Why Updating the Meaning of Old Events is Crucial to Mental Health

Why Updating the Meaning of Old Events is Crucial to Mental Health
Until you make correct meanings of old, distressing events, you’ll be stuck in a mental time warp and at risk for emotional eating because you won’t feel in control when you’re triggered by them. Triggers are no more than old perceptions that something is wrong. Nothing need actually be wrong, but we think it is. Here are two examples. You were the middle child among five siblings. Your older brothers were close in age  and hung around together, your younger sisters were bubbly extroverts, and you were and remain an introvert. Your siblings teased you (though lovingly) about your shyness and mostly left you alone, and you grew up feeling invisible as if you weren’t interesting or important. When you socialize now, you view every rebuff as proof that people don’t want to talk to you or find you likable. You mostly do things alone but yearn for friends.  You could...
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Book Review – Brain Over Binge

Book Review – Brain Over Binge
A client recommended that I read Kathryn Hansen’s 2011 book Brain Over Binge: Why I Was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn’t Work, and How I Recovered for Good. She marveled that reading it had 100% stopped her 30-year habit of binge-eating and compensatory over-exercising. Another client who’d begun reading it feared that I wouldn’t care for it (I was waiting for my copy to arrive) because it was vehemently anti-therapy for treating eating disorders. By this point, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Now that I’ve read it, my feelings about it are wildly mixed. I think it has extremely valuable ideas for troubled eaters and people who are inclined to fall back into weight-loss dieting when harmful eating patterns are feeling too hard to give up. But Hansen is neither therapist nor ED researcher. She’s a long-recovered dieter, binge-eater, and over-exerciser who wrote a “recovery memoir” which...
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Watch Where You’re Going and Don’t Get on the Wrong Train

Watch Where You’re Going and Don’t Get on the Wrong Train
Most of my clients have heard my train analogy for changing thinking, but I haven’t blogged about it specifically and it’s time to do so. The concept is not original and I no longer recall where I first heard it. It’s about knowing your intent, or said another way, always being clear about where you’re going, and keeping your thoughts in line with moving closer to your destination.  Say you’re in a train station and that you regularly take one from there to a particular destination. If you’ve never been to a train station, think about the buses you’ve taken to regularly go from one place to another. You don’t get on a train for the Bronx if you want to go to Brooklyn; you don’t hop on a bus for Peoria if you want to end up in Toledo. You let all the wrong trains or buses pass by no...
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Is There Such a Thing as Hangry?

Is There Such a Thing as Hangry?
I can’t recall when I first heard the word “hangry.” I admit that I never actually looked up the definition, as it seemed cleverly obvious. Then I came upon an article explaining it. According to “Don’t get mad, but ‘hangry’ isn’t really angry” by Benedict Carey (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 12/17/19, p. E8), Although “Hangriness is a distinct sensation of urgency and growing impatience . . . psychologists are now trying to parse how, exactly, ‘hanger’ differs from the furious, simmering or righteous varieties.” Jennifer K. MacCormack, a University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill doctoral candidate in psychology and neuro-science, “found that people describe themselves, when hungry, as more annoyed than usual and less in control of their emotions.” Studying groups of people testing emotional awareness, she found that “Only the individuals in the second group, presumably less self-aware of their growing agitation, showed clear signs of stress and annoyance…” Her conclusion is...
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Personality Descriptors Are Value Neutral

Personality Descriptors Are Value Neutral
If you’ve read my book, Nice Girls Finish Fat—yes, “boys” can learn from it, too—you’d know that dysregulated eaters share many personality traits. Not every dysregulated eater has all of them, but most possess the majority of these attributes: perfectionism, all-nothing thinking, approval-seeking and people-pleasing, poor self-regulation and self-care, fear of confrontation, being hard on yourself, and being shame- not pride-based.   You may see yourself in this description and think, “Sure, I’d like to change and be different,” but you must understand that different doesn’t mean the opposite of how you currently think, feel and act. This view would be binary, a primary cause of eating and other dysregulation. Examples would be dieting or bingeing, holding in your feelings until you explode or being overly nice even when you dislike someone. Personality traits fall on a continuum and are value-neutral. Nice may be at one end and mean at the other,...
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Really, You’re Allowed to Hurt Other People’s Feelings

Really, You’re Allowed to Hurt Other People’s Feelings
The theme of not wanting to hurt other people’s feelings runs rampant through therapy sessions. In fact, I doubt I’ve met a dysregulated eater without this mindset which goes along with people-pleasing and approval-seeking. When I tell clients that being emotionally healthy means sometimes hurting other folks’ feelings, they’ll often say something like, “Well, I know it’s okay, but” and then describe why they believe, deep down, that it isn’t. Occasionally, they’re gobsmacked, as if they’d never heard such an off-the-wall idea or considered it an option.  Bulletin: It’s okay to hurt someone’s feelings. Emotionally healthy people know this and expect it to happen. They do it when necessary as appropriately as possible and may feel bad but not guilty and they don’t freak out when someone hurts their feelings.  Many dysregulated eaters have learned to stifle their needs and desires or tolerate emotional hurt because they believe they deserve what’s...
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The Importance of a Sense of Self

The Importance of a Sense of Self
What is your sense of self and how might it affect your eating and body image? Do you know what a sense of self means or what yours is? Do you understand what having a healthy one entails? Research by Christopher Basten, Ph.D. and Stephen Touyz, Ph.D. “lends some empirical support for the often-cited observation that eating disorders (EDs) occur in those whose sense of self and identity is weak.” (EDRS Post Presentation Summary 2018 Manual, “The relationship between sense of self and pathology in eating and body image,” Basten and Touyz, accessed 10/20/19). According to them, a weak sense of self includes “lacking a sense of wholeness, authenticity, continuity, and vitality.”  Many eating disordered clients hold a view of themselves that is fragmented, That is, they see themselves as parts that are unintegrated with other parts to form a sense of wholeness. For example, they view their work value as...
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