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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Facing Fear to Conquer It

You can only talk about something you’re afraid to do for so long in therapy before talk becomes superfluous and the only way to move past the fear is to push yourself into taking action. It’s one thing to discuss barriers to change and how to overcome them; it’s another to say you’re going to do something but do nothing to make that happen. Here are some examples of positive movement forward. You think you want to leave your partner and read up on your state’s divorce laws. You want to change jobs and use therapy to explore what work you might and might not be suited for. You’d like to become a “normal” eater and read books on how to eat mindfully. In each case, you still have the fear—of not knowing whether you want to be single again, will find a better job, or will ever learn to have...
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Why It Feels So Good to Feel So Bad

In one week during four sessions, I had discussions with clients about the difficulty of giving up self-pity and the victim mindset. It’s something that we generally feel icky about, yet there’s also something gratifying that draws us to it. Somehow to feel justified in being wronged brings us a weird kind of satisfaction.  One client told me, “Self-pity gives me a strange kind of comfort.” Another enjoyed how it was a kind of penance for things she did wrong in her life. She said she used to like how self-pity was so much easier than trying to change. All of these clients were, to greater or lesser extent, denied normal, healthy childhoods by their parents or families through abuse or neglect. None were effectively soothed or comforted by people who lacked these skills. So, these clients found comfort where they could: in rebelling and getting negative attention, in food/drink/drugs/sex which...
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Use, Don’t Lose, Your Temper

A client once said to me, “I hate losing my temper” which led to discussing exactly what she meant by the comment and what feelings and fears were behind it. To lose your temper means “failing to maintain composure.” Is that always a bad thing? Do we necessarily want to remain calm and self-possessed in all situations? I think not. There’s a difference between using your temper and losing it. For example, one of my former clients was married to a wonderful man whom she adored, except for his hoarding tendencies. For him, 10 packages of toilet paper were better than one and you never know when you’re going to run out of socks, so why not buy a set of three rather than a single pair. Worst of all, my client’s husband stored all the extras of everything he bought in his home office. One day, when he was out,...
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Book Review: Why Smart People Make Bad Food Choices

The goal of Why Smart People Make Bad Food Choices is to alter not only our individual eating habits, but to change society’s relationship with food. It is truly a book for our times and our appetites. (Originally published at New York Journal of Books) Author Jack A. Bobo, who has worked for 13 years as a senior adviser on global food policy and spent the last decade learning how behavioral science can improve our eating decisions, states at the get-go that his book is not about slimming down and confirms why weight-loss diets inevitably only make us fatter, saying, “The truth is that diets don’t work for most people . . . the research is pretty clear that a lack of self-control is not what’s making us fat . . . reducing obesity in America is not about diets or information. It’s not about reading labels or counting calories. Instead,...
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Getting Ready to Be a “Normal” Eater

Many clients have dieted and binged for so long that they can’t believe they could really eat “normally.” I don’t care how long you’ve had dysregulated eating; you can learn to eat according to appetite. In order to do this, you need to be ready for all the journey entails. Readiness doesn’t come in one fell swoop but grows gradually over time. Why is readiness important? If you’re not at the point where you really want to eat intuitively, you won’t be able to sustain motivation for the process this entails. Too many clients approach intuitive eating as they would a diet: I’ll do this for a while, and I’ll lose weight. That kind of thinking is antithetical to becoming a “normal” eater. It won’t work. Intuitive eating is nothing like a weight-loss diet which you feel rah rah about and do until you shed the pounds you want. It is...
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Something Better Than Hope

One of my clients was aghast when I suggested she might want to stop relying on hope as much as she did. Her initial reaction was, “If I give up hope, how will I move forward? There’s nothing left without it. I could never give it up.” This is an unfortunate mindset, because, as she now realizes, “Hope can be deceiving.” Hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen” (Oxford Languages Dictionary), and therein lies the problem. We think of hope as making something happen, causing it, when all it does is act as a space holder until other things we do, think and feel deliver a specific outcome. Hope makes us feel good and is fine if we understand that, in itself, it does not deliver results. Hope also has a substantial downside. Think of all the times you’ve hoped that someone...
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Biases Beyond Weight

I’m occasionally taken by surprise that in one breath clients complain about being stigmatized for their higher weight and in another show prejudice against a variety of human differences. They don’t see their biases based on skin color, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation, but complain about others being biased against their size.  Here's an example. One of my clients, whom I would describe as sweet and kind, went on an unexpected rant about “letting illegal aliens into this country.” Rather than get into a political debate on the subject of immigration, I was curious about her making negative judgments and lumping together all “illegal aliens” (the correct term is immigrants, not aliens, as they do not come from another planet, only another country!) and asked her if she knew any. She admitted she didn’t, but that she “didn’t like the looks of them,” at which point I asked if her...
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Put Attention on Your Intentions

I think I know why some of you don’t succeed, including in overcoming your eating problems: your intentions and where you put your attention are not a matched set. Not even close. That is, your stated intentions are heading you in one direction while what you focus on is pulling you in another direction completely. For example, I have a client who wants to eat better, be healthy, and lose weight. Although he makes sporadic attempts to do all the above, where he puts his energy is in getting ahead at work. I suggest he do a weekend workshop on mindful eating, and he says he can’t take time away from some big work project. Then he tells me the following session that he spent most of the weekend eating in front of the TV and barely got his work project done late Sunday night. See what I mean? His intentions...
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Still Looking for What You Didn’t Get in Childhood?

I had a middle-aged client decades ago in Boston who grew up smack in the middle of seven siblings. She never could get a word in edgewise and was trying to make up for lost time by talking nonstop as an adult. When she didn’t have the floor, she took it and when she did, she kept it. I understood her intense need to be heard and listened to, but her behavior only pushed others away, leaving her in the same boat as she was in childhood: no one wanted to listen to her, and this made her feel invisible. Here's another example. I have a lovely client who can’t recall a time when she didn’t have suffocating, overwhelming anxiety. Her grandmother and aunts who also suffered from it because it ran rampant through her family, would tell her not to make a big deal of it and that she was...
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Talking about Weight Loss in Therapy

Some of my most difficult moments as a therapist come from discussing weight with high-weight clients who continue to hold fast to yearning to shed pounds. It’s a touchy subject which I wrote about recently in the Gurze-Salucore newsletter in an article entitled “Navigating Weight-loss Discussions with Higher Weight Clients”:   “I confess: Although I’ve been an eating disorders therapist for 30-plus years, have written eight books on eating, weight and body image, posted more than 1,600 blogs, and am recovered from binge-eating disorder for half a lifetime, I still find it daunting to talk about weight-loss with higher weight clients. These discussions rarely seem to go well, no matter that I’ve had hundreds of them.  Here are two examples. When Leann, in her late fifties, called me for help managing her eating, she was in the midst of moving abroad where she’d also be deepening a serious romantic relationship. During...
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