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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Who Takes Care of You?

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The other day I read a phrase that virtually begged to be blogged about: “Okay, I’m over self-care. Everyone else can take care of me now.” How wonderful is that? We hear so much about self-care in the media (and in therapy) that the other half of the equation, having others take care of us, often gets lost in the shuffle. The truth is that life is exponentially better when we care well for ourselves and also have others care for us. You might be wondering what kind of care I mean. Most people think of doing things for people who are sick or have a disability and can’t fend for themselves. That’s one kind of caring, but there are more. I think of caring for people as falling into three categories: emotional, physical and social, but there may be other ways to think about the subject. In emotional care-taking, people...
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Emotions and Actions

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People who grow up in dysfunctional families often are highly reactive in situations. How can children learn what to feel and how to react appropriately in relationships if parents and family are emotionally unhealthy? We need healthy role models for that to happen. For example, my client Mona was insulted by something a co-worker drew on a “community” board in the lunch room at work. Mona thought they’d had a decent relationship, so she was hurt and angry that this woman would make fun of her publicly. The back story is that Mona and her co-worker had a brief interaction previously which had, unbeknownst to Mona, bothered the co-worker.  Mona was hurt by the drawing. Who wouldn’t be? With her history of emotional abuse in childhood and adulthood, her reactions ran unsurprisingly in two directions—either she felt full of rage and wanted to hurt someone back or she wanted to isolate...
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Why Do We Care What People Think of Our Appearance?

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I get having concerns about what people think of you. Mine have lessened with age, but I swear I’ll be heading into the cremation oven—still wondering, “Do I look alright?” Self-consciousness for me is second nature coming from very looks conscious parents.  Now that we’re no longer children, though, it’s time to move toward becoming more comfortable with how we look. One way to do that is to understand that our discomfort is not based in the past. There are actually folks out there who weren’t made to feel bad about their particular hair/thighs/stomach/nose/chin/etc. and are walking around today not thinking much, if at all, about these body parts. Or maybe their whole family was higher weight and no one made a big deal about it. Though we can’t restart our lives in another family that doesn’t have “bad-body” issues, we can make changes in the present by paying attention to...
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Mature Hurt

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There’s a world of difference between the emotional hurt of a child and that of an adult. Because the human brain doesn’t fully develop until the late 20s, children and adolescents have only partially formed brains whose final part is our frontal lobes which are responsible for cognitive functions such as problem solving, memory and judgment. Prior to that, we rely mostly on emotions to assess and react to situations. Think about the nearly unbearable hurt and pain you felt as a child. No matter how wonderful and functional your childhood was, you suffered. Maybe you got lost in a department store at age 5, frantic to find your parents. Or at age 9 you listened to them screaming at each other night after night and were terrified they’d hurt each other and you’d end up alone. Or at 16 Dad left you and mom and you were sure it was...
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Book Review: Codependency: Loves Me, Loves Me Not

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A client gave me a book on co-dependency which I’d never heard of, but it was full of wonderful insights and advice. A quick read, Co-dependency: Loves Me, Loves Me Not by Simeon Lindstrom, hits all the right notes on the subject.  It’s a must read if you: feel lost when you’re not in a romantic relationshipbelieve you’re responsible for others’ feelingsfeel pressure to rescue people who have problems or to make them feel betteroften are taken advantage of and are then outraged and feel like a victim tend to be attracted to and have relationships with people who end up hurting youhave difficulty ending relationships in which you’re hurt repeatedlyalways worry about what others think of youavoid hurting others’ feelings and end up hurting yourself This book explains the adult, mature, healthy mindset you want to have in relating to others: You’re independent, though sometimes you depend on people situationally. You...
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New You, New Thoughts

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Rather than start a diet at the beginning of this year, think about January as a good time to evaluate and improve not just your thoughts, but the way you think. Change it, and your feelings and behavior will be transformed, automatically shifting you in the direction you want to go for health, fitness and higher self-esteem. Let me explain a simple tool for measuring how take in and process information. I’ve been using it since I learned about it in social work school back in the late 1980s. Be careful not to judge yourself as you’re learning about this new concept. Just take note of your habits and how you might change them. Consider what you do with new information. When you’re presented with a different way of looking at something than your usual way—for example, trying intuitive or mindful eating versus dieting—how do you decide whether to hold onto...
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One Week Will Change Your Eating Habits

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Here’s a 7-day plan to connect with your appetite and emotions. For one week, follow the guidelines below to learn and practice a different aspect of connecting to yourself. Each day you’ll have one experience to focus on for that whole day. If you like what you learn in a week, try it for another. It will help move you closer to “normal” eating. Day 1: How do I feel in my body? Don’t critique your body. Just neutrally notice how you feel in it. Which parts move well and which don’t? Connect to your body, observing how it feels sitting, standing, walking, dancing, resting. Stay away from the mirror. Repeat, stay away from the mirror. You’re seeking a view from the inside out, not the outside in. Day 2: How hungry am I? When you think you want food, note your hunger level using a 0 (none) to 10 (very)...
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First Decide How You Want to Feel

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One way to transform yourself, is to name how you want to feel. Usually when I ask clients who are complaining about how they feel, how they would like to feel, they respond with either the reasons they feel as they do or what they think. This is especially true of clients who spend a lot of time in their heads to avoid experiencing feelings. Let me lay out a scenario to show you what I mean. Say, your brother is selfish, emotionally abusive and generally tries to bully you into doing whatever he wants. Occasionally you’ve had good times together—fishing or listening to music—but whatever fun you have is overshadowed by him reverting to character, narcissism in his case. You’ve spent most of your life trying to please him, but he still is critical and puts you down. Occasionally he belittles you in front of others, then pretends it was...
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Ways to Identify When You’re in Recall Not Reality

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It takes work to recognize when we’re in recall rather than reality. This happens when a painful memory echoes a current experience and we become mentally unmoored from the present and suffer what we felt then. Remember, memory is how we protect ourselves from bad things happening to us—the old “better safe than sorry” adage. As I’ve written before, recall memories co-opt the present and the best we can do is to realize when this is happening and mentally drag ourselves back to the present. To do so, you will need to be a keen, accurate observer of your thoughts and feelings.  Step 1: Notice the strength of your emotions. If someone cuts in front of you in line at the bank, you might be slightly annoyed. However, if you’re so enraged you want to shove them out of line or knock them to the ground, you’re being swept up an...
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Fear of Wasting Food

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A client and I had an interesting chat about wasting food. She was raised on a tight budget, with her grandmother insisting that everyone finish the food on their plates. I understood: My father would sit with me and read the NY Telegram until every morsel on my plate was socked away into my stomach. Many of us were raised to think that throwing out food was reason to call the major crimes unit to haul us away. Many of us would be wrong.  What we sensed and came to believe when people told us as children not to waste food was that we were bad if we did. Such an act was unacceptable, shameful, disapproved of by whoever was in authority. For whatever reasons, they were trying to make us feel the behavior was wrong because it never occurred to them that they weren’t right. If you’re serious about becoming...
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