Skip to main content

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]

Why We Push Others to Do Things We Don’t Do Ourselves


Clients often tell me about conversations they have with friends, relatives and co-workers in which they encourage them to leave abusive partners, stand up to bosses and bossy colleagues, and say goodbye to people who hurt them. They become angry when they hear someone is being mistreated and are generally spot on about the healthy actions someone needs to take to get out of unhealthy situations. However, these same advice-givers are often in similar situations. They’re mistreated by their partners, let friends take advantage of them, and continue to tolerate behavior from parents or other relatives that belittles and hurts them. Are you one of these people who make waves on behalf of others, but fears rocking your own boat? Why this happens is an excellent question and I don’t know that I have all the answers, but I’ll give you a few. This reaction of doing on behalf of others...

Continue reading

Are You Causing Your Own Stress?


Are you envious of others to the point that you strive and strive to have what they have or be how they are? Are you a perfectionist or overachiever? Are you always pushing yourself to do more or better? If you answer yes to any of these questions you’re probably guilty of causing your own stress. In Do You Cause Your Own Stress? How To Stop a “Toxic Cycle” tells us that there are two kinds of stress. Fallon Goodman, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Emotion and Resilience Laboratory at George Washington University, describes how stress is generated and “posits that people can create stressful moments as a result of their behavior. These instances of stress are known in psychology research as ‘dependent stressful life events.’ Basically, these are stressful experiences driven by your choices—like instigating a blow-out argument with your partner or putting off a challenging work...

Continue reading

How Loneliness Hurts Us


Elvis Presley famously sang “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” but what if loneliness is a chronic condition for you, one that is harming your physical and mental health? How Loneliness Reshapes the Brain offers some surprising scientific truths about the origins of chronic loneliness and how to manage it. “Neuroscience suggests that loneliness doesn’t necessarily result from a lack of opportunity to meet others or a fear of social interactions. Instead, circuits in our brain and changes in our behavior can trap us in a Catch-22 situation: While we desire connection with others, we view them as unreliable, judgmental and unfriendly. Consequently, we keep our distance, consciously or unconsciously spurning potential opportunities for connections.”  “The problem with loneliness seems to be that it biases our thinking. In behavioral studies, lonely people picked up on negative social signals, such as images of rejection, within 120 milliseconds —twice as quickly as people with satisfying...

Continue reading

Are You an Enabler (and Don’t Know It)?


In therapy, I talk with clients about enabling—how they enable others and how others enable them. Many are shocked to discover they’re involved in enabling patterns they weren’t aware of. According to the American Psychological Association, these are “patterns within close relationships that support any harmful or problematic behavior and make it easier for that behavior to continue.” If this describes your actions toward anyone, it’s time to face the music. Understand first that enablers often mean well. They want to help, can’t stand to see someone suffer, and believe people will change given time and support. Almost always, however, those who enable others to continue harmful behavior also are avoiding facing painful feelings of their own. They don’t want to believe their son is addicted to heroin or their sister is cutting herself. They don’t want to hurt Mom and tell her that Dad lost his job last month or...

Continue reading

Grief Eating


Grief eating is a term used when people over-rely on food to cope with loss of a loved one, even a pet. Of course, some people lose their appetite when they’re upset or sad, but many others turn to food—mostly those with fats and carbohydrates—to deal with distressing feelings. As my colleague and friend Mary Anne Cohen, director of the New York Center for Eating Disorders, says: “Emotional eaters are prone to derail, detour, and divert difficult feelings through food. And grief is the most difficult of feelings.” Grief is one of the most difficult feelings because of its permanence: What was will never be again. Grief can be due to the death of someone (or something) dear to you, losing a well-loved job or home, or leaving behind what you dearly loved. We grieve over lost youth and health, diminishing abilities, and irrevocable changes in our lives. All overeating due...

Continue reading

Managing Memories


Many people are haunted by upsetting memories and don’t realize it. When someone flies into a rage over the slightest thing or is terrified of rejection, they likely don’t recognize that what’s causing their over-reaction is memory, not necessarily the current situation. This is what happens when we’re not conscious of memory triggers. At it’s extreme, this is what causes Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  To understand why this happen, we need to understand the connection between events past and present and how memories form: “Groups of neurons in the neocortex encode [these] memories of objects and past events. Remembering a thing or an episode reactivates the same neurons that initially encoded it.”  These neocortical neurons automatically encode whatever happens to us, registering the facts of events as well as our emotional reactions, for better or worse. Dad whacking you on the head when you were 11 because you were texting during...

Continue reading

How to End Victim Think


Many clients were victimized in their dysfunctional families when they were children or adolescents. They had no choice. Even if they wanted to run away, they lacked the means or ability. Children and other powerless people are true victims. Though the Oxford Language Dictionary defines victim as someone “harmed, injured, tricked or duped,” are you really a victim as an adult when you can avoid something happening?  Perhaps that’s where the confusion comes in. Some people put themselves in situations where they’ll more than likely get “harmed, injured, tricked or duped” and choose to do so repeatedly. There’s a difference between a car veering off the road and hitting you and standing squarely in front of the car so it can’t miss you. In the former case, you’re not choosing to put yourself in harm’s way by standing at the bus stop with everyone else, while in the second you’re going...

Continue reading

The New Science Behind Changing Habits


Some people assume they can’t change habits because they’re lazy, unmotivated, undisciplined or lack will power. This assumption is dead wrong, and if you want to change behavioral patterns, you must give up these inaccurate beliefs and be open to learning about what works to rid yourself of old habits and develop new ones. Ready? “How to Conquer Your Primitive Brain” by Adam Piore (Newsweek, 2/17/23, pp 22-31) debunks myths about destructive habit formation and advocates scientifically proven strategies for constructive habit replacement. Some of the article’s major points: “Research suggests that habits, which operate below conscious awareness, usually cannot be tamed simply by resolving to resist them . . . we need to reverse engineer the chain of behavior that precedes them, and then either remove the cures that set us off altogether, or take the time to build new habits that will replace them.”“Habits are an essential tool of...

Continue reading

What to Do with Thoughts and Feelings


Many people don’t know what to do with thoughts and feelings. A thought pops up and produces a reaction—aka a feeling—and they’re off and running. But what if we were to think about these internal processes differently: as sensations which are simply there for us to give meaning to and tell us what, if anything, to do?  For example, what if you were to consider thoughts and feelings as gifts? When someone gives you one, do you automatically know what to do with it, or do you sometimes need to ponder and decide: keep it, give it to someone, or toss it away?  There was a time back in the seventies when I loved wearing neck scarves and, because of my obvious craze for them, I received many as gifts. At first I wore them all, but when I accumulated too many and as my life and fashion taste changed, I...

Continue reading

Do You Have Enough Emotional Intimacy in Your Life?


Talking about her marriage, a client said her couple’s therapist told her she and her husband lacked emotional intimacy. My client told me how they worked well together in their real estate business and how much fun they had when they went on vacation, with or without the kids. I responded that they seemed to have “work” and “play” intimacy but not the emotional kind the therapist was talking about. She reluctantly agreed. Emotional intimacy is something you never may have thought about or maybe it’s something you crave and long for, but never feel you have with anyone. It’s “a feeling of closeness and connection with someone . . . a sense of being deeply seen, known, and understood. It requires vulnerability, empathy, a high level of trust, and finely-attuned communication skills.” Sadly, many of my clients have never found or enjoyed true emotional intimacy. Some consistently choose friends or...

Continue reading