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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. 

Why We Need Both Intelligence and Knowledge to Make Healthy Choices

An author I enjoy noted in passing the difference between knowledge and intelligence. Though I recognized this truth, the statement stuck in my head because I’d just had a session with a distraught father who was struggling with his teenage son. Several times during the session, I’d suggested that the father read books on child development and, specifically, on parenting an adolescent but, each time I raised the subject, this client more or less let me know that he wasn’t interested.   This client is a good provider and passionately loves his son, wanting the best for him. I’ve assumed that this father is fairly intelligent, yet was struck by his determination to avoid the knowledge that he desperately needed to get along better with and help his son. I’ve come across other people like him in my professional and personal life who absolutely refuse to acquire fairly easily accessible...
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Adverse Childhood Experiences May Affect Your Life and Eating Today

Many dysregulated eaters are affected by traumatic events and may not realize it. These events, called “adverse childhood experiences” or ACEs, are, unfortunately, so commonplace in some families and sub-cultures of society that it may not occur to you that they could have a huge, negative impact on your life—or your eating. Though these events happened long ago and you may have minimized, suppressed, rationalized, or repressed (unconsciously forgotten) them, by recognizing them, you can better understand your emotional (and eating) dysregulation and reactivity today.   ACEs include: “being sworn at, insulted, or humiliated by parents; being pushed, grabbed, or having something thrown at you; feeling that your family didn’t support each other; having parents who were separated or divorced; living with an alcoholic or drug user; living with someone who was depressed or attempted suicide; watching a loved one be physically abused.” (Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family...
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Which Type of Happiness Makes People Happiest

Josh Humi, author of “Life Guide”, asserts that there are two kinds of happiness: experiential and reflective (“A Living Humanist Document,” The Humanist.com, 9/28/17, accessed 9/29/17, https://thehumanist.com/ ). He explains the former as “the enjoyment of a present-moment experience (for example, eating a tasty meal or sharing a laugh with friends),” and the latter…”as one’s belief that he or she has lived a valuable life, to the extent that one reasonably believes he or she could have lived a valuable life (for example, via personally meaningful accomplishments).” He describes reflective happiness as having a “long-lasting ‘background’ impact on one’s happiness,” that is, that “all else being equal, pursuing the latter will likely have a greater positive impact on one’s happiness over the long run.” I would add that reflective happiness adds depth and breadth to who we are, while experiential happiness is limited to what we did.   I’m blogging...
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Anger is an Essential Part of Self-Care

Many of my clients have difficulty tolerating their anger and, not surprisingly, with self-care. That’s why I write about anger a good deal. They get into relationships or take jobs in which they’re mistreated. They’re all about forgiveness and compassion and shy away from feeling wronged—even when they are. Sadly, one of the major reasons that they get into unhealthy situations is that they are not in touch with and fear their anger.   Here’s an example. I was talking with a client about standing up to people and she said that she kept feeling badly for others and didn’t want to be angry at them. I hear this a lot, as if anger is a bad thing. We feel anger automatically when we’re being, were or will be harmed. That’s healthy. That’s how things are supposed to work because recognizing that we feel endangered is vital to surviving and...
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What’s Wrong With Being Wrong?

Whether I’m working with couples or families, I find that too many people absolutely hate being wrong. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that any relationship you’re in, including those at work, will improve dramatically when both parties become more comfortable with being in the wrong. This improvement will automatically decrease stress and the urge to comfort yourself with food, so you’re getting a two-fer with it.   What is it about being wrong that makes people feel so uncomfortable and defensive? It’s a strange phenomenon, this attachment to a state of correctness. Do you recognize what upsets you when you’re wrong? Is it the actual experience of it or is it what others say to or about you when blame is being thrown around?   Here’s my take on the subject based on working with (most) couples who are all hung up on who’s...
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Wanting To Be Normal Or Healthy

Many people confuse what’s normal with what’s healthy. I hear from clients frequently that they don’t know what’s normal or have always wanted to be normal. Taking a closer look at these terms can help you figure out what you really want to be.   As children, especially those who are raised in dysfunctional families, we often wish to be like other children. We want to fit in and being like others is one way to do it. If our parents are different from other parents—that is, they don’t take good care of us, they drink or do drugs, they can’t keep their jobs, or they abuse or neglect us—we are aware of this consciously or unconsciously and naturally yearn for normalcy. We want a father who helps us with our homework rather than one who shuts himself in the den drinking and watching TV or a mother who attends...
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Wanting to Belong is Not the Same as Wanting to Fit In

Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, TED talker, and author of four bestselling books, can’t help opening her mouth and spouting wisdom. Being interviewed on NPR, she shared some interesting insights about a topic that often arises in treating dysregulated eaters: the need to belong. For more on this subject, read her interviews at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/author-brene-brown-social-scientist-new-book-braving-the-wilderness/ and at http://www.oprah.com/spirit/life-lessons-we-all-need-to-learn-brene-brown .   In both discussions, she talks about the difference between wishing to belong and wishing to fit in. You might think that they are the same or that in order to experience the former, the latter must happen. Not true. Instead, she maintains that people who have the truest sense of belonging are not those who try to blend in with others, but those who can stand up for their authentic selves and who are comfortable in their own skin.     Somewhere along the way (okay, in...
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Why Do You Lie To Yourself?

I came across an aphorism by social and moral philosopher Eric Hoffer, which speaks to a truth that we all need to be aware of: “We lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves.”   Now, before, you insist that you never fib to yourself and always attempt to be honest, consider if that might be a lie in itself. Read this blog and, then, see if your assessment changes. Moreover, see if you can accept the truth that we all lie to ourselves without any self-judgment and, especially, without self-condemnation.   To understand our behavior, the question we might ask is why we would lie to ourselves. Aren’t we taught from toddlerhood that lying is bad and wrong? Aren’t we often shamed and punished when we tell falsehoods intentionally or inadvertently? The major reason that we lie is because, in the moment, it brings more emotional comfort than telling...
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Fatalism Versus Irrational Hope Regarding Eating Disorders

A client mentioned seeing parts of her childhood reflected in Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, a book I recently read at her suggestion. What struck her was Vance describing how people may respond to childhood dysfunction in an unhealthy, polarized way through either fatalism or irrational hope or a mix of the two. This is a perfect description of the mindset of many dysregulated eaters, especially regarding their relationship with food.   Fatalism is a belief in a fixed destiny that we are powerless to change or escape. An example is believing that what was said of you as a child—no one will ever love you, you’re not good enough, or you won’t amount to anything—is true. Fatalist thinking then leads to you act in such a way that you end up not living up to your potential, failing to follow...
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Manage Your Focus and Better Manage Your Eating and Your Life

Recently, a 70-something, highly successful, charming client came to his first session with me and talked non-stop about how his father regularly had berated him for both over-eating and under-exercising in childhood. Not surprisingly, these “problems” had become the focus of his life. Perhaps, you, too, have difficulty focusing your brain on positive things in life and would like to learn how to manage your thoughts effectively.   If so, world-famous coach Tony Robbins, has some sound advice for you to follow. (“An Interview with Tony Robbins” by Rich Simon, PhD, Psychotherapy Networker , Nov-Dec 2017, p. 47) He maintains that there are three tests of focus: “First, do you tend to focus more on what you can control or can’t control? If you’re always focused on what you can’t control, you’re going to be stressed.” “Do you focus on what you have or what’s missing? The vast majority of...
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