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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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What Are You Looking for in Friends?

Friends can be a wonderful addition to your life, but you must know what you want in friendship for it to be beneficial. Because so many dysregulated eaters didn’t have great relational role models or healthy parental attachments when they were younger, they may seek attributes in friends that are not realistic. Moreover, not everyone wants the same thing in friends. It works best when you know what you’re looking for. Activity friends. I know people who have little capacity for deep intimacy but are loads of fun to do things with. They have a vibrant interest in what’s going on around them and like nothing better than an adventure. They love to go to shows, movies, museums, lectures, and events that immerse them in and teach them about the world.  These may not be the folks to complain to when you’ve had a bad day or turn to when you...

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Assimilation versus Accommodation

Knowing the difference between the processes of assimilation and accommodation will help you make conscious, healthy choices rather than act on what might be your impulse to stay with old ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. For example, a client had a cousin who’d recently changed sex from female to male. Sadly, my client was the only person in the family who supported and accepted this change. Her description of how she managed to get another relative to be more open-minded and accepting of their (now) nephew is a perfect example of how these psychological processes work. According to Kendra Cherry, MSEd in What is Assimilation in Psychology?, “Assimilation is the cognitive process of making new information fit in with your existing understanding of the world. Essentially, when you encounter something new, you process and make sense of it by relating it to things that you already know. Through assimilation, we...

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Why People Don’t Like Anyone Feeling Bad for Them

On the same day I was thinking about a client who always said he was fine because he “didn’t want anyone to feel bad for him,” another client said she felt very uncomfortable when people treated her with compassion and caring, especially after she messed up. Both examples reminded me of a kindness I’ll never forget. Working as an office manager for a small non-profit in Cambridge, MA back in the 1970s, I was in charge of putting together our training flyers. One day, I inadvertently switched the dates and  facilitators’ names under the descriptions of two seminars. Imagine my horror when I saw my error in print by the thousands and realized the magnitude of what I’d done.  Fortunately, I worked with two wonderful women who reacted to my acute distress and unending mea culpas by closing the office (it was a Friday) and taking me for a drink. Those...

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Dangers of the Diet Cult(ure)

Last fall I was interviewed by the National Eating Disorders Association in conjunction with an article I wrote for them about holiday eating. It was a brief interview and there wasn’t time for everything I wanted to say. Hence this blog to add to the many other anti-diet blogs I’ve written.  Diet culture is a cult. It’s a society-approved and encouraged distortion of the purpose of eating primarily for nourishment to survive and secondarily for pleasure. It provides rigid rules to keep people in line and to see food, bodies and themselves as either “good” or “bad.” It exclusively values thin, lean and toned bodies and eating restrictively.  If you follow diet culture rules, it promises good health, happiness, lovability, cultural approval, and self-worth. If you don’t follow the rules, it suggests you’ll end up with poor health, no control over your eating, unworthiness, and being an outcast in society. It...

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Do You Have a Can-Do Mindset?

Decades ago, I heard the Henry Ford quote “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right.” It’s true because our thoughts propel our actions, that is, what we think and tell ourselves is exactly what we do. Not a week goes by without a client insisting they can’t do something: get to work on time, say no to their children, sit with feelings, attend AA meetings, etc. And each time I hear them say “I can’t,” I know they won’t, no matter how much they yearn to change. For example, Portia tells me she can’t stop fuming at her husband who has a very different temperament than she does. She’s Type A and he marches to his own inner drum, getting things done when he feels like it. Every session, she comes in and complains she “simply cannot accept his scattered behavior.” How could repeating these...

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Where Did You Learn That Suffering Is Good?

I’ve had several clients over the years with the daft idea that suffering for its own sake is a beneficial experience. I say daft because I thought so myself in my early days. I remember as a child refusing my father’s offer of a window air conditioner (a big deal in the 1950s!) to show how strong I was. But all I ever did was sweat and lose sleep and wish I’d said yes. I was too ashamed to tell my father I’d changed my mind and, luckily, somewhere down the line, he simply installed the unit. Ah, sweet relief. Another example occurred when I was skiing with a (so-called) friend. We agreed that he’d drive up to the mountain and I’d drive back. But on our last run, I fell and badly hurt my hand (which later turned out to be broken), yet I insisted on driving home as per...

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How to Stand Your Ground Around Food with Other People

Do you know people who seem totally comfortable in their own skin around food? They eat whatever they want whenever they want in whatever quantity they feel like. If people comment on their feeding habits, you can tell they couldn’t care less. My guess is that these folks are this “self-focused” in many (if not all) areas of their lives. Let’s talk about how they tune out what others think and tune into themselves. Before going down this path, however, I need to point out that never caring what people think is not a healthy trait. Humans evolved to live in harmony with others and take their opinions and feelings seriously. We’re designed to live in community, which means not always following our own needs and wants.  That said, we’re also individuals meant to think for ourselves, especially when making decisions about how to feed ourselves. Just because your friends are...

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Were You Emotionally Abused as a Child?

Many people are surprised when they learn they were emotionally abused as children. Maybe they kind of knew it but didn’t want to believe it or maybe they truly had no idea that what was done to them is considered maltreatment. It’s important to recognize if you were emotionally abused growing up because that understanding will help you resolve your current emotional issues, not to mention your eating problems. An article on how adults shouting can be harmful to children’s development really hit home for me. My parents frequently argued and it wasn’t so much their loudness that got to me but the upset behind their disagreements. It felt like they were shouting even when they weren’t because I could feel the anger gushing out of them. Raised voices are disconcerting and make children feel frightened. Even today, I feel myself immediately emotionally dysregulate when people are arguing loudly around me. ...

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Struggling with food, we seek ideas from others on what and how to eat. On the merry-go-round of eating disorders, every diet is the brass ring, every person who seems to eat “right” is a model to imitate—both of which are exactly the wrong approaches. To have a positive relationship with food, instead look inward at your “eat-iosyncracies.”  My client Pru knew restrictive eating regimes weren’t the answer yet didn’t trust herself with food after decades of overeating and weight gain. To point her toward the path of “normal” eating, I shared some anecdotes about my evolution to enjoying a healthy relationship with food and my body along with my idiosyncratic ways of eating.  When I was first reading about appetite-driven eating, I took the concept of figuring out what I wanted to eat very seriously. One night in Boston, I threw on my down parka over my pj’s and headed...

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What You Need to Know About Friends and Friendship

What do friends have to do with eating? Well, friends help you turn to people, not food, when you want to celebrate or have fun, pour your heart out, or share your deepest confidences. They provide unconditional love and support. Friendships are essential to first-rate mental health—assuming the friends you pick are mentally healthy themselves and add to, rather than detract from, living your best life.  According to How Many Friends Do Americans Have?, social connections not only benefit your mental health, but can “change your cardiovascular system, your immune system, how you sleep, your cognitive health. . . It's about this mix. It's about connecting with people who are close to you, who are maybe less close to you, who connect you with other people, who provide different kinds of support. Essentially, the idea is that the more diverse your social portfolio, the happier you are and the higher your...

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When People Lean Away from You

It happens to all of us: a relationship is merrily rolling along and suddenly we’re ghosted, someone doesn’t return our calls or texts, or they’re unavailable for lunch, dinner, a walk, or a drink. When you first realize there’s a shift in the relationship, it’s natural to think you might have done something to offend someone, so you wrack your brain for having failed them in some way or a remark you may have made that came off wrong.  If you think you’re responsible for a relational breach or can’t pinpoint a specific instance but wonder if you hurt someone without knowing it, speak up. Say, “I notice you’re not returning my texts. Is there something I did to hurt you?” or “Did I do something wrong that you don’t want to take our Saturday morning walks any more?” Warning: do not sit and stew. Instead, initiate discussion if you feel...

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You Don’t Have to Live in Shame

I often write about shame because it’s such a misunderstood, potentially debilitating emotion. Recently, I took a webinar on shame resilience through the Relational Life Foundation, an outstanding presentation about both personal and cultural shame.  What increases shame’s insidiousness is well framed by therapist and author Terry Real as a view of the world in which people are either one up or one down from each other. From this perspective, people lack the same innate worth and are valued only by societally agreed upon standards of beauty, achievement, courage, self-discipline, talent, wealth, etc. This view is so ingrained in us by our families, educational systems, and the media (especially social media nowadays), that we grow up thinking it is the only (and undeniably correct) way to measure ourselves and others. This invalid one-up/one-down construct is both rooted in and results in shame. Clients routinely come to therapy overly focused on their...

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Not Everyone Is as Highly Sensitive as You Are

We all want to be sensitive to other people. Sensitivity greases the wheels of relationships as you empathize with what others are feeling because you’ve felt similarly yourself. Ditto compassion which makes you hurt for people’s suffering. Where some dysregulated eaters get into trouble, however, is when they assume everyone is as sensitive as they are. There is no universal sensitivity standard. Instead, it runs the gamut from highly sensitive to highly insensitive with mentally healthy in the middle. My client Coz, a musician, assumed that everyone got hurt as easily as he did, which put him at a disadvantage in relationships. He couldn’t throw a party without inviting everyone he’d ever met, even briefly, in fear of hurting someone’s feelings, though many invitees were surprised to receive an invitation and told him so. Raised in a family where abuse and neglect were rampant, he was easily wounded and projected this...

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See Your Family with an Adult Mindset

The most common topic raised by clients in sessions after eating, weight and body image, is the insulting and outrageous behaviors of their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, and grandfathers. I’ve blogged a lot about unhealthy, dysfunctional family connections and want to make sure I’m not soft pedaling the damage they can do to you as an adult if you let them.  The truth: If you want to be emotionally healthy, you cannot let family members emotionally abuse you. If they’re only mildly mentally unhealthy or only slightly annoying, you can turn a deaf ear and ignore their bad behavior. They talk and you hear blah, blah blah because you have no interest in what they’re saying, especially if they’re complaining or blaming you unless there’s a legitimate reason for it. If they’re insulting, humiliating, controlling, demanding, demeaning, invalidating, mean, or refuse to listen to you—or engage in...

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Book Review: ADHD for Smart Ass Women

(originally written for and posted on NYJB) Whether you have ADHD or are close to someone who has it, are female or male, young or old, this book will brighten your outlook on it. Rather than focus solely on how to remedy its disadvantages, certified ADHD coach, attorney, and podcast host, Tracy Otsuka—who carries the diagnosis herself—offers an upbeat view of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and shows how understanding its brain-based causes and managing them effectively will set and keep you on the road to success.   Otsuka’s goal is to make this book for women with ADHD “fun and easy so that you feel good reading about it—and keep reading it.” Encouraging curiosity rather than judgment about what she views as this spectrum condition, she advises that those with it find their own unique ways of managing it rather than copying what works for others. She writes from the stance...

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Movie Review: The Whale

The Whale is one powerful movie, yet I’m unsure whether to recommend it to people with eating disorders and weight concerns. As I’ve avoided reading any reviews about it, this blog is purely my reactions to a film about Charlie, (spoiler alert!) a man who literally eats himself to death, masterfully played by Brendan Fraser. If this film was disturbing to me, an ED therapist who’s fully recovered from decades of emotional and binge-eating, I wonder what it will be like for people in the throes of runaway eating. I worry it will be so upsetting they’ll head right for the cookie jar or feel revulsion for Charlie, or intense shame toward themselves for their eating or their size. My wish is that they’d feel so filled with compassion for him that they’d begin to soften and feel compassion for themselves. The film is about an online writing teacher carrying such...

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A Healthy View of the Past

Here are situations you might find all too uncomfortably familiar. My long divorced client Philip is frustrated that he can’t catapult himself back into the past and change it. Filled with regret about things he did and didn’t do in his marriage, he feels a need to atone for his perceived transgressions. A personable and attractive man, Philip could be dating other women. Instead, he cedes the present to the past, immersed in a shoulda, woulda, coulda reverie he’s likely to regret in the future. Middle-aged Moa has convinced herself she ought to have been able to save her younger brother from going down a self-destructive path which led him to being in hospice care today. She and her three siblings all suffered in various ways in their highly dysfunctional family, but her rebellious brother got the worst of it. Now, she keeps thinking that, though he abused her when they...

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Why Choice is Consequence

Within every choice, every decision, every intention are the seeds of consequence. You might not wish it to be so, but it makes the statement no less true. If you smoke cigarettes, you might not get lung cancer or you might. If you refuse to wear a seat belt, you might be uninjured in an accident or thrown from the car and killed. If you yell at your boss, you might be forgiven or fired.  Many of us think of consequence as divorced from choice, that choice is now and consequence is later. That false perception keeps the two unnaturally detached and makes it easy to forget that potential consequence is embedded in every choice. Sure, life’s a crapshoot, but we improve it exponentially when we play the odds.  When I asked my client Stella if she worried that her heavy drinking would damage her liver, she snickered in her typical...

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How to Eradicate Bedeviling Thoughts

All 8.1 billion of us on the planet struggle with bedeviling thoughts to greater or lesser extent. Effective management depends on your view of them and the effort you put into governing them. What’s your take on thoughts? What’s their purpose? Are they facts or truths? Are they all created equal? You must seriously consider and answer these questions in order to be in charge of your thoughts rather than the other way around.  Neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett author of the groundbreaking book, How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, calls the brain a prediction machine which works nonstop to keep us out of harm’s way. Emotions and thoughts are constantly interacting with each other, surfacing as considerations that either float in and out of awareness or bombard us. Some are automatic reactions to the present (wow, they’re hot) and others are memories that intrude because...

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How to Love Your Highly Flawed Self

To be mentally healthy is to know yourself extremely well and still manage to like yourself. These are two distinct but strongly related feats. In truth, some people are so afraid they won’t like themselves if they dig too deeply into their psyche that they barely scratch the surface of self-knowledge before making a fast retreat. These are people who insist they don’t need therapy and it’s a bunch of hooey, anyway, and who pretend to have enormous self-knowledge when it’s obvious to anyone who’s been with them for five minutes that they’re clueless about themselves. The first part of the equation, knowing yourself, is easier than the second. Self-examination begins with recognizing your challenges and weaknesses as well as your strengths. The goal is to hold both at once. One would think it’s more likely that positives would shoot to the surface and we’d need to reach deeper inside to...

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