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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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Three Ways to Find Pleasure and Joy

After years spent relying on food for pleasure and joy, many clients have difficulty boosting their spirits in other ways. They look for quick, easy highs from shopping, flirting or even sex. Not that there’s anything wrong with enjoying any of these activities. But, in the long run, there are better ways to enjoy healthy pleasure on a regular basis.  While talking with several clients about this subject, I started thinking about a method to find pleasure that many dysregulated eaters would never have thought of. Whether you’re learning a new craft or skill—alone or with others—or resuming a hobby from years ago, it helps to seek enjoyment three ways: during the process of engagement, through the progress you make while doing something, and via the finished product. For example, my client Nona decided to take a pottery class. She’s a creative type but working with clay was new to her....

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Short- versus Long-term Stress

To become more resilient, you’ll want to think about stress differently, starting with recognizing that not all stress is created equal. If we treat every stressor as major, we’ll either spend our lives being anxious or burn out (or both) If we view stress in a more nuanced way, we have a chance to maintain our sanity while moving through it. Think of stress as either short- or long-term and accept that we have both in our lives. During the same week, as my client Taylor’s parents were visiting from out of town, her car suddenly needed new brakes and she chipped a tooth. She expected she’d be stressed by her parents’ desire to be catered to and feel like they were on vacation, but when the brakes on her car went after she’d made a dental appointment, she felt as if she’d lost any and all control of her life. ...

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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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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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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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Do You Need to Care for Others to Be Loved?

  Many dysregulated eaters believe they must take care of others to be loved, along with its corollary that they won’t be lovable unless they take care of others. This puts them in caretaking overdrive and living in a world of daily maxi-stress. Moreover, it deprives them of the joy and comfort of being taken care of by others so that they feel protected and cherished. For mental health, the flow of emotional energy should look like this: dysregulated eater ↔ others. It should not look like this: dysregulated eater → others. Think of words like interdependence and mutuality to describe the dynamics. Notice that I use the term emotional energy. It’s not enough that someone does tasks for you to show their love, although this is an excellent way of expressing caring. For emotional health, there must be an easy exchange of empathy, active listening, compassion and support to and...

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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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Guilt versus Guiltiness

I never thought of there being a difference between the words “guilt” and “guiltiness” until I read an article distinguishing the two which made a big impression on me. In it, psychotherapist Orna Guralnik explains: “Guilt entails feeling bad for having harmed another; guiltiness is the preoccupation with yourself—whether you are or aren’t guilty. This preoccupation is all about warding off shame, which blocks concern for others.”  If I’m understanding Guralnik correctly (what reader can ever really know the mind of the writer?), guilt is your heartfelt pain for having harmed another, that is, you hurt because you hurt someone, as in “I feel your pain.” Guiltiness is getting hung up on having caused someone pain, which ends up being self-referential and self-serving. Whereas guilt is all about what the other person feels, guiltiness is about what you feel.  An example of this distinction is former clients Kendra and Mikhail who...

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Overcoming Fear Leads to Reparative Experiences

Is your fear preventing you from having reparative experiences? I hope not, because fear not only keeps you stuck in victim mode, but also ensures that you stay there. On the other hand, you could do what some of my clients have chosen to do: face your fears, push past them, and improve your future along with your view of yourself.  Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. A client, Andra, a veteran with PTSD, found it hard being social after suffering a military sexual assault. Since then, she’s had two abusive relationships, but also has been determined to overcome her fear of men. Recently she was at a social event where a male vet was sexually inappropriate with her. This time, instead of ignoring his mistreatment and freezing or fleeing in fear, she stood up for herself and told him off. After sharing with other male vets what happened,...

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What Is a Felt Sense?

Here are some of my recent musings on noticing enoughness or feeling something isn’t enough. With food, we talk about the terms and sensations of fullness and emptiness. Sometimes our stomachs growl and we recognize we’re hungry or feel sickeningly full when it’s uncomfortably distended. Of course, sometimes we sense but ignore signals of hunger and satiation. And, what of the times we don’t even realize our body is giving off cues about wanting food or being done with it?  These last two reactions indicate a disconnection from self. I remember binge-eating and feeling stuffed only after the fact. Where was my attention when I was fast approaching and had reached fullness? How could I miss this major body event?  Here's how. I was aware and also unaware, unplugged from my appetite cues during the binge. I’d also unplugged myself from whatever was making me want to consume so much food...

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Do You Eat Due to Social Anxiety?

Ever go to a social event and find yourself so anxious you can’t imagine having a good time? Or feel so worried about what you’ll say and who’ll talk to you that you decide not to go at all? Many people who are socially anxious choose food over socializing because it feels more predictable and safe.  If any of the above describes you or your situation, “How to overcome social anxiety” by Fallon Goodman will help you understand and manage your distress more effectively. She covers a great deal of ground in the article, starting with what social anxiety is: “At its core,” she says, “social anxiety is a fear of negative evaluation and rejection. When you feel socially anxious, you worry about what others think of you and hope you are making a good impression.” This mindset is very common in dysregulated eaters who are often more concerned with what...

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How Early Attachment Shapes Relationships

Adapted from Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—And Keep—Friends by Marisa Franco (The Atlantic Magazine, 8/25/22). To learn more about attachment, read:,,       “ For many of us, making friends as an adult is intimidating, and sometimes embarrassing or a bit baffling. But we all know those people who appear to be naturals: They balance bustling social calendars, glide easily into conversations with strangers, and seem to get invited to everybody’s wedding. Research shows that these super friends, as I like to call them, really exist: Not only are they better at initiating new friendships, but they also view their friendships as closer and more enduring.      So what is the distinguishing quality of super friends? It’s secure attachment.      Attachment is the “gut feeling” we project onto ambiguity in our interactions. It’s driven not by a cool assessment of events but by the collapsing...

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Expand Your Emotional Repertoire

I can often predict how clients will react to something emotionally because I know their usual pattern. I’m not always right and wish many would have a wider range of responses for their own good. Remember, humans are programmed to react but not the way to react. Here are some possible responses to various situations.  A Massachusetts relative of mine was all set to go on vacation to Bermuda with her husband for two weeks, but a hurricane kicked up in the Atlantic and the cruise-line cancelled the trip. I sympathized with what I thought would be her disappointment, but she surprised me by saying brightly, “Oh, we’ll go another time. Now we’ll be home to enjoy the start of spring.” At a summer party I attended, raucously loud music was playing outside the building which reverberated through the apartment, nearly drowning out all conversation. It annoyed me so much, I...

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Time to Let Your Feelings Out

A client and I had a fun session brainstorming types of communication used to express emotions to others. The discussion began when she mentioned complaining to someone and we began delving into the meanings of that word versus, say, unburdening to or sharing with others. If you think of yourself as a complainer rather than a venter, you’ll likely have different views about being one rather than the other.  Here are the verbs we came up with—and some additions from writing this blog: vent, complain, whine, gripe, unburden, share, get feedback from, reach out to, vomit out, seek solace, solicit advice, or have verbal diarrhea. Reread this list and pay attention to how you feel about doing each one. Refrain from being judgmental and simply observe your reactions. My guess is that these words might make you wince: complain, whine (note my different take on it), gripe, vomit out, and have...

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Why You Feel Worse than Other People Do

Many dysregulated eaters are very good at feeling bad. In an exhausting effort to avoid hurting people, they often make themselves miserable. I only wish they’d be as fearful of hurting themselves as they are of causing pain to others. Two client examples:  Cal decided to leave his job as board president of a local non-profit and was dreading telling his board of directors. He’d discussed his desire to leave (for healthy reasons) in many therapy sessions and the deadline of his two-year term was fast approaching. To say he agonized over writing his resignation letter is no exaggeration. He feared letting down the agency, whose mission he was passionate about, and that board members would be upset with him for moving on. This led him to procrastinate resigning and setting himself up for not giving as much notice as he could have. Then there’s Renata who couldn’t bring herself to...

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Bouncing Between Emotional Extremes

If you’re a trauma survivor, you may ping-pong back and forth between a mindset of what my client Hua calls “poor me or screw you,” feeling like a total victim or ready to come out  swinging in response to perceived emotional harm. A Coast Guardsman (“Coastie”) for 20 years, Hua risks her life daily. She admits to “holding it together” all day then coming home feeling raw and taken advantage of by the rigid, high-pressure military system, or furious that it doesn’t have her interest at heart.  She reported a typical ying-yang experience when she was called into her superior’s office and was told she wouldn’t get the time off she’d put in for. The meeting was held the day after she’d been up all night dealing with a boat fire which involved multiple injuries. The moment her superior said she wasn’t getting the schedule she’d requested, she burst into tears,...

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AI’s Take on Co-dependence

Here’s a checklist devised by ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched in November 2022, to help you decide if you’re co-dependent and what emotional healthy relationships look like. Thanks to my client for sending it to me!   “Distinguishing between codependent and healthy behavior can be challenging, as some behaviors may seem supportive or caring on the surface. However, there are key differences that can help you identify whether a behavior is codependent or healthy. Here are some guidelines to consider: Boundaries: Codependent: Poor or nonexistent boundaries between individuals, leading to a loss of personal identity and constant involvement in each other's lives. Healthy: Well-established boundaries that allow for individuality, personal growth, and autonomy while still maintaining a strong and supportive relationship. Self-esteem: Codependent: Self-worth is largely derived from the approval of others or the ability to "fix" or "rescue" someone else. Healthy: Self-esteem is based on...

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Time to Solidify Yourself

I don’t know why the concept of working to “solidify” oneself suddenly popped into my head, but it seems like the right term to describe what I wish for clients. Due to trauma and dysfunctional childhoods, so many of them seem to lack a solid core or center—without which it’s hard to negotiate life successfully.  My musings on the subject: Solidifying involves pulling all the parts of you together to make a coherent whole, one that makes sense to you. You can be a tough as nails parole officer and still fawn all over the grandkids or be a cautious banker who adores rock climbing. When you’re solidified, you embrace all parts of yourself. You want to be solid like the steel girders that hold up buildings, but also have flexibility to withstand stress and not crack. You don’t want to have a squishy center because then no one, especially you,...

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The Difference Between Feeling Helpless and Choosing to Do Nothing

We’ve all experienced the feeling of helplessness. Getting a flat tire in the middle of a snowstorm on the way to catch a plane. Arriving drenched for a job interview. Losing a loved one. Being jilted. Having your wallet or phone stolen. I could go on and on with examples. Life is full of these “oh no” instances with which we’re all too familiar. The main difference between feeling helpless and choosing to do nothing about a situation is that emotion is a purely internal affective process. Thinking or cognition is also internal but is also a cognitive process which is likely to translate into behavior that is external. Feeling and choosing how to act occur in different parts of the brain. Here’s what happened to my client, Sami. Her sister, Tess, whom she loves is very difficult to have a relationship with due to her mood swings, temper, self-centeredness, and...

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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...

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