Skip to main content


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. 

No unsolicited guest blogs are accepted, thank you!


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...

Continue reading


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...

Continue reading


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...

Continue reading


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,...

Continue reading


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...

Continue reading


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,...

Continue reading


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...

Continue reading


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...

Continue reading


How Loneliness Hurts Us

Elvis Presley famously sang “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” but what if loneliness is a chronic condition for you, one that is harming your physical and mental health? How Loneliness Reshapes the Brain offers some surprising scientific truths about the origins of chronic loneliness and how to manage it. “Neuroscience suggests that loneliness doesn’t necessarily result from a lack of opportunity to meet others or a fear of social interactions. Instead, circuits in our brain and changes in our behavior can trap us in a Catch-22 situation: While we desire connection with others, we view them as unreliable, judgmental and unfriendly. Consequently, we keep our distance, consciously or unconsciously spurning potential opportunities for connections.”  “The problem with loneliness seems to be that it biases our thinking. In behavioral studies, lonely people picked up on negative social signals, such as images of rejection, within 120 milliseconds —twice as quickly as people with satisfying...

Continue reading


Managing Memories

Many people are haunted by upsetting memories and don’t realize it. When someone flies into a rage over the slightest thing or is terrified of rejection, they likely don’t recognize that what’s causing their over-reaction is memory, not necessarily the current situation. This is what happens when we’re not conscious of memory triggers. At it’s extreme, this is what causes Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  To understand why this happen, we need to understand the connection between events past and present and how memories form: “Groups of neurons in the neocortex encode [these] memories of objects and past events. Remembering a thing or an episode reactivates the same neurons that initially encoded it.”  These neocortical neurons automatically encode whatever happens to us, registering the facts of events as well as our emotional reactions, for better or worse. Dad whacking you on the head when you were 11 because you were texting during...

Continue reading


What to Do with Thoughts and Feelings

Many people don’t know what to do with thoughts and feelings. A thought pops up and produces a reaction—aka a feeling—and they’re off and running. But what if we were to think about these internal processes differently: as sensations which are simply there for us to give meaning to and tell us what, if anything, to do?  For example, what if you were to consider thoughts and feelings as gifts? When someone gives you one, do you automatically know what to do with it, or do you sometimes need to ponder and decide: keep it, give it to someone, or toss it away?  There was a time back in the seventies when I loved wearing neck scarves and, because of my obvious craze for them, I received many as gifts. At first I wore them all, but when I accumulated too many and as my life and fashion taste changed, I...

Continue reading


Causes of and Treatment for Emotional Dysregulation

Ever wonder how we regulate our emotions—or in some cases, why we aren’t able to regulate them? Professor Tim Dalgleish at the University of Cambridge’s MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit has some answers. He maintains that “successful emotion regulation relies on cognitive control . . . our ability to attend to information that is relevant to our goals, while ignoring distracting information (italics mine).” He adds that “cognitive control capacity is reduced in individuals who suffer from mental health problems.” This could be in part because the regions in our brains which manage cognitive control and emotional regulation overlap. His research tested people doing cognitive problem solving in both emotional and neutral contexts. Unsurprisingly, certain people had more difficulty solving problems in emotional contexts than neutral ones. And “the more difficulty adolescents [had] performing working memory tasks in emotional relative to neutral contexts, the more mental health difficulties they experience...

Continue reading


Stop Acting Like Britain’s Prince Harry

If you pay any attention to the news, you can’t have missed the rivalry between Great Britain’s Princes William and Harry. I used to think that Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, were the victims and got a raw deal from the monarchy, but now I’m thinking that Harry doth, as the saying goes, protest too much, and can’t snap himself out of victimhood, which reminds me of clients mired in a done-me-wrong mentality.  We all have grievances from the past, ways that family members, friends, bosses or institutions have hurt us. The idea is to problem solve a way to resolve the grievances—if that’s possible—or tuck them away and stop thinking about them. Sure, try to figure out what happened by yourself, with friends or with the alleged grievance perpetrator. But remember, this is a time-limited process and not meant to go on forever.  For example, if Sam didn’t invite...

Continue reading


What Are You Seeking When You Binge?

A client was talking about bingeing and suddenly I had vivid memories about losing myself in food and not being able to stop eating. How I felt that first heady urge to eat wildly and then the compulsion taking over. I remember the excitement, the giddiness that turned into euphoria: Ha! I’m eating whatever I want and I’m going to eat as much of it as I want. Yippee! Hurray! The feeling was so private, though somewhere deep down I was making a public statement: You can’t stop me, so don’t even try.  People who haven’t binge eaten or engaged in any other kind of compulsive behavior cannot imagine why a person would want to stuff themselves silly, way beyond hunger or satiation. Understandably, the idea repulses them. They’d hate the physical feeling and would view gobbling down food as fast as one can as debilitating and downright unnatural. And, of...

Continue reading


How to View Isms

Last summer, my husband and I got on the wrong check-in line at Boston’s Logan airport (having been directed there by an airport employee). Later, at the gate, we sat down just as a twenty-something woman mentioned something to her friends about, “this old couple getting in the wrong line.” Assuming it was us, I stood up and said, “You mean us?” and we all had a good laugh about it.  I described this (to me) humorous incident to a friend who smirked and said, “How could you laugh? What she said was so ageist!” I hadn’t thought of it that way. To me the term “old” was descriptive, especially since the young woman wasn’t saying anything unkind about us. After my friend’s comment, however, I realized that this whole “isms” thing may be a lot more complicated than it first appeared. I’ve on rare occasion had someone say something negative...

Continue reading


Stay Safe by Being Alert, Not Anxious

I was watching the new CSI Las Vegas when someone asked a retired CSI character being hunted down if they were being hypervigilant. His answer was no, that he wasn’t going to live in fear, but that he strongly intended to stay alert. This seemed like a vital distinction to both stay safe and not make yourself crazy doing it. Hypervigilance is when you live in fear 24/7, when you’re constantly—consciously or unconsciously—scanning the horizon for new threats even when you’re safe and when you’re unable to turn off the threat sensor in your brain. As it turns out, hypervigilance doesn’t work very well because it produces too many false positives. For example, my client George always expects people to reject or abandon him because he grew up in several foster homes. You can’t blame George for wanting to brace himself against hurt and avoid it, but he’s so on guard...

Continue reading


Feeling Understood

There are two ways clients let me know or at least cause me to suspect that they weren’t listened to and validated in childhood. They exhibit habits they’ve picked up unconsciously and don’t realize how they come across to others now.  The first is when clients frequently ask, “Does that make sense?” Or, alternately, “Do you know what I mean?” We all ask these questions occasionally, but when people regularly or often make these inquiries, there’s something else going on. My client Taylor had a dysfunctional childhood in which she was strictly raised, rarely got to do her thing, and had parents who were demanding and narcissistic. In session, she’ll explain something to me that’s clear as can be, then ask, “Does that make sense?” I recently commented on her repeatedly asking this question and we discussed how she’d always felt a need to clarify herself and use overkill to be...

Continue reading


How Envy Hurts You

In these days when it’s hard to avoid knowing everyone else’s business, especially if you spend time on social media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of envy. The goal is not to avoid envy, which is a natural, human feeling, but to avoid immersing yourself in it and being swept away by yearning for something someone else has and hurting yourself in the process.  Envy comes in all shapes and sizes: desiring others’ appearance, success, talents, status, brains, or popularity. It’s no surprise that the envy I hear about most often in my practice is of people’s thinner bodies and smaller appetites. What I’ve observed is that the habit of being envious when you see something someone else has that you don’t does nothing to make anyone healthier or happier. In fact, the clients I serve who are most envious, are also the most unhappy. This point is underscored...

Continue reading


From Busy to Bored to Binge-eating

If you go from bored or bustling to binge-eating, it’s time to understand and address the root of the problem and respond effectively. Boredom and busy-ness are normal emotional states that may be trying to tell you something, but sometimes they’re pure habit. The goal is to manage them.  I see us as having four emotional/physical energy states: 1) nothing to do, 2) some stuff to do, 3) lots to do, and 4) more than you want to do. Having nothing or something to do is just that—neither good nor bad, just a description of being.  Every situation is unique and, therefore, our environment dictates the general energy level required of demands and available options. If you’re a recently widowed person living alone in a new city, you might feel bored a lot. Or, as a single parent working full-time and raising three children, you may rarely have a spare minute. ...

Continue reading


Which Childhood Feelings Are You Haunted By?

It’s long past Halloween but many of us are haunted by childhood feelings. They may not visit us every day or even every week, but we may sense them lurking behind the scenes ready to jump out and unnerve us at any moment. Here are emotions I’ve found commonly distressing in my practice and from my years of living on the planet. Vulnerability/fear. If you grew up, say, in a military type of household, you might not have been able to show fear or vulnerability without being shamed or reprimanded. Yet, these are every day, normal emotions all humans have. Maybe Dad made fun of you when you got scared going out in a canoe for the first time or Mom yelled at you when you shared with your first-grade class that you didn’t like to be alone in the house. What you learned from the tiny sampling of your family...

Continue reading