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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. 

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Focus on Change, Not Your Problem

A colleague sent me this quote I hadn’t heard before which was allegedly said by Socrates. When I checked, it actually wasn’t his, but I love the idea behind it: The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. If you want to know one small way to succeed in recovery, there it is. I spend too much time listening to people talk about their problems and how much they want to overcome them. Then, when I share solutions, they often give a perfunctory nod to them and go right back to talking about what’s wrong. This is a bad habit, nothing more. I know clients want me to understand how difficult their eating problems are. I know they’re frustrated and disappointed in their inability to change to date. But how can complaining about a problem do anything to...
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How Your Brain Can Change for the Better

An enlightening book I read, 7-½ Lessons about the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett, explains how our brains are sadly mismatched for current times. Remember, Homo sapien brains evolved to be as they are 35,000-100,000 years ago. Living in caves, we were hunters and gatherers suffering constant physical and mental stress from the elements, starvation, and other humans. I’m sure it had its moments, but for the most part, life was neither life nor pleasant and we had little control over it. In order to survive, we had to be exquisitely attuned and reactive to threats in our environment.  That’s why our brains developed as predictors. If we could predict what would happen, we could have power over our lives and a better shot at surviving. In fact, the premise of Dr. Barrett’s book is that the function of thinking is to predict and that we do this through learning. She...
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Book Review: Good Morning, Monster

If the title of Catherine Gildiner’s Good Morning, Monster: A Therapist Shares Five Heroic Stories of Emotional Recovery does not imply that the real-life psychological horror stories within it actually had happy endings, it might be almost unbearable to read. Oddly enough, quite the opposite is true.  Gildiner, a seasoned clinical psychologist and acclaimed author, knows how to provide readers with just enough detail to get them hooked into rooting for each patient, but not so much to make them recoil from their gut-wrenching histories. With gentle humor and welcome candor about her own therapeutic shortcomings, she draws us into patients’ lives, then helps us let them go, both of which she had to do as their therapist. Good Morning, Monster functions on several levels. Readers with a general interest in psychology and human development will appreciate well-told stories of five pseudonymously named patients over the span of many years as...
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Social Phobia May Contribute to Your Eating Disorder

Some dysregulated eaters suffer from social phobia, which escalates anxiety in certain relationships or socializing in general. Someone who has it is at risk in social settings, especially where they may feel judged, and it may cause them to eat unhealthfully before, during or after being in these situations. Criteria include:  "Marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others.The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the social situation and to the sociocultural context.The social situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety.The social situations are avoided or endured with intense fear or anxiety.The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.The fear, anxiety or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for 6 months or more.The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is not attributable...
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Book Review: Delivered from Distraction

When a client newly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)— formerly known as ADD—asked me to read Delivered from Distraction—Getting the Most Out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder, I thought I’d do it for my own edification. The book is a sequel to Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Ratey, M.D.’s landmark book, Driven to Distraction, which I read when it first came out many years ago.  The book has important things to say about state-of-the-art treatment for ADHD, and for the authors’ reckoning of what constitutes mental health. For example, you might have a bright child doing poorly in school or might have had a parent who was so disorganized that they regularly lost jobs or “forgot” to attend your school events. Maybe your marital or relationship frictions are due, in part, to the other person having ADHD. I have at least one client with a rocky...
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Two Practices to Stop to Become a “Normal” Eater

Dysregulated eaters have some unhealthy habits, and I don’t mean just with food. I’m talking about how you habitually speak to your selves. Two particular no-no’s stand out above the rest: finger-pointing and finger-wagging. Finger-pointing, aka blaming, is when you constantly accuse yourself of doing wrong, making mistakes, failing. It’s different than being accountable and taking responsibility for your eating or other actions. Finger-pointing is mean-spirited. It assumes that nothing bad can simply randomly occur in life. It doesn’t allow that people can lose track, slip up or even do their best and still fail. Its aim is to make someone at fault and assign blame for whatever is happening. An example is something a client we’ll call Fred does all the time. In his job as a manager, he’s always looking for who did what wrong. He ferrets out mistakes, then goes up and down the food chain to see...
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Healing from Parental Abuse

Here are excerpts from a client’s letter showing her triumph over trauma from a highly abusive father. I hope her growth inspires you to continue on your path to healing. “I finally get it. I get that my father is incapable of loving me, feeling empathy by putting himself in my shoes, caring about my feelings, etc. I see that he is sociopathic and a malignant narcissist and it feels so very painful. I see that I have believed the lie that I am not worthy of being loved as he continues to put others needs over mine. I see that I have believed that I was crazy, wrong, a trouble maker, too sensitive, etc. I see that I have been abused. That my mother was abused and afraid and numb and couldn’t protect me. I see how I have been codependent in my relationships with men and friendships with women...
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What Love Is and Isn’t

Love is one of the mysteries of the ages. It’s a term bandied about so much that most of us have lost sight of what it means and, more important, what it doesn’t mean. We also assume that when a person says they love us, their actions will automatically align with this message. Unless we fully understand what love means, we’re bound to fall into trouble in our interpersonal relationships.  To consider its meaning, let’s go back to 1956 and the publication of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s seminal work, The Art of Loving (which I highly recommend reading). He says that “What matters is that we know what kind of union we are talking about when we speak of love. Do we refer to love as the mature answer to the problem of existence, or do we speak of those immature forms of love which may be called symbiotic union?”  “Infantile love...
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Look for Answers to Today’s Problems in Yesterday

“Boy,” said a client, “this childhood stuff really can mess you up!” I couldn’t help but chuckle. In fact, we had a long, shared laugh about the validity of this statement. What’s as true is that you might not realize in which ways and to what degree your upbringing is messing with you. The good news is that it’s never too late to learn. To do this, you must first erase blame from your brain. Your parents may have caused your problems, but they too had childhoods and parents, so it’s useless to point fingers at them. Who else is there, you might wonder, to blame, so you fault yourself for not realizing earlier in life that you’ve been barreling through it ill-equipped. Once you get blame out of your system, you can look objectively at how “this childhood stuff” might have messed with your head and heart. Here are some...
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Stop Eating Away Your Cognitive Dissonance

I’d wager that one of the major unrecognized causes of runaway eating is cognitive dissonance. You may not know the term, but you sure know the feeling. We all do.    David Denniston, CFA describes cognitive dissonance in 7 Signs You Exhibit Cognitive Dissonance as “the distressing mental state people often feel when they find themselves behaving in ways which don't fit with their self-image, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold.” Here are some examples from my practice: mixed feelings about whether to leave a spouse or partner, how to set boundaries with children, parents or adult siblings, choosing to change jobs, and deciding to retire. Of course, these are the big internal conflicts we encounter. Smaller ones include what precautions and risks to take during a pandemic, exposing emotional vulnerability, and how to spend your money. Denniston explains that one reason for cognitive dissonance...
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