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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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Co-regulation Is a Game Changer

One reason psychotherapy vastly improves clients’ emotional health is due to the implicit process of co-regulation or, simply put, someone helping you regulate your emotions. Many people miss out on this crucial childhood experience due to parents or care-givers who weren’t around enough to comfort their children when they were in distress. Or parents themselves had difficulty with emotional regulation, making them poor role models for their progeny and unable to provide them with the consistent safety, comfort, nurturance, modulation, and guidance they needed. According to Complex Trauma Resources, co-regulation is “The process through which children develop the ability to soothe and manage distressing emotions and sensations from the beginning of life through connection with nurturing and reliable primary caregivers. [It] involves various types of responses, including but not limited to: a warm, calming presence and tone of voice, verbal acknowledgement of distress, modeling of behaviors that can modulate arousal, and the...

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Connection and Commitment

Many people don’t know the difference between connection and commitment, but there’s a huge distinction—big enough that you could fall into the chasm separating the two and really hurt yourself. The confusion between them most often surfaces in relationships, be they platonic or romantic, but the dynamics remain the same. My client Ruthie is a prime example. A lovely, attractive person with a tendency toward low self-esteem and co-dependence, she always found what she called “the wrong men” when she was searching for Mr. Right. “Why do they always pick me?” she’d wail. “I can’t seem to shake them.” My job was to teach her that these men will always be out in the dating world, but that she didn’t have to establish any kind of relationship with them. “But” she’d respond, “We have such an awesome connection, I can’t say no.” Which is where I began to lay out her...

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Are You Desperate to Be Liked or Loved?

Are you desperate to be liked or loved? I feel a frisson of discomfort even posing the question, aware that it will pain some of you to accept this truth. However, I also know that if you don’t relinquish this desperate yearning which shapes and consumes your life, you’re bound to seek love in all the wrong places and end up miserable. So, please take a deep breath and read on knowing I have your interest at heart. Humans are hard-wired to want to be liked and loved; there’s nothing wrong with this desire in itself. However, the downside of an insatiable quest for love, connection or approval that colors your every decision is that people will sense and react to it. For example, narcissists and sociopaths who are abusers and master manipulators will consciously or unconsciously take advantage of this dire need by showering you with faux love—the only kind their...

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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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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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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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How to Make Friends

I’ve blogged a good deal about making, choosing and keeping friends and the red flags to pick up on in relationships. Friendships require close attention which starts before you become friends and continues during the span of connection—because either of you may change for better or worse at any time, calling for relational recalibration. As an only child, I learned early on to be on the lookout for potential friendships. At 76, it’s deep-seated habit. Whenever I meet new colleagues, neighbors, friends of friends, strangers or whatevers, I automatically think about whether they’re friendship material. The only place I don’t look for friendship is with clients, though it doesn’t stop me from considering whether I’d wish to be friends with them if such relationships weren’t taboo. If you’re looking to make friends, keep your eyes wide open at all times. Think of people you interact with regularly in the office, at...

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Why Boundary Setting Can Be Difficult

It’s not surprising that the topic of boundaries surfaces often in therapy—and in life. In one day, three sessions dealt with the subject. The situations varied greatly, illustrating the importance of attending to boundary issues wherever they crop up. This starts with having healthy beliefs about your ability to set and maintain boundaries while understanding that nuanced circumstances dictate nuanced responses. The first example is a client in her early twenties, a victim of emotional abuse and neglect in her family, who sometimes gets frozen in a victim mentality. We were discussing how she occasionally chooses toxic friends and her difficulty finding mentally healthy ones. At one point, she described people habitually asking her to do things for them, her complying, their never reciprocating and, therefore, not knowing how to respond to requests. I mentioned that she consider whether someone would do the same (or had done it) for her before...

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Connectedness versus Closeness

Talking with a client about a session we’d had with her mom, I realized how often we use the terms “feel close” and “feel connected” nearly interchangeably when discussing relationships, especially those with family members. While the terms are both a felt sense, they’re not the same. Here are some examples to help you through the holidays. Middle-age Nico is radically different from his family who are straight, highly religious, ultra-conservatives. He’s an out gay atheist and LGBTIQA+ activist. You might assume he’d steer clear of family and vice versa. But you’d be wrong. Way back in his teens, Nico knew he’d always be an outsider in his family, but felt connected to them because of their history: His parents brought him and his two brothers to the U.S. from Greece when he was a toddler and other relatives soon followed. His deep family connection is from shared homeland rituals, adoration...

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How to Have Your Best Family Visits

It’s that time of year again, you know, the time of increased contact with relatives. That thought puts a smile on some folks’ faces. To others, it brings a frown or an eye roll. In truth, managing family visits (you to them or them to you), is all about expectations and accepting family members as they are and not who you want them to be.  The first step is to decide how long you want the visit to last and how much time you want to spend with family during the visit. If you have a terrific relationship with relatives, then the sky’s the limit time-wise. Maybe a month wouldn’t be long enough! At the other extreme, when you’re visiting out of obligation, a day may be too much time to spend with your highly dysfunctional tribe. In between are families in which you adore and can’t wait to see some...

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Surround Yourself with Emotionally Healthy People

Too often when clients describe their friends, lovers or mates, I shudder. Not outwardly, of course, but inwardly because I sense the relationship is not beneficial for my client long-term. Am I psychic? Of course not. I simply know from personal and professional experience what makes for healthy associations—and, moreover, what doesn’t. My beliefs were reinforced reading Brad Stulberg’s article on how unconsciously picking up on people’s moods can make us feel better or worse. And it got me thinking about my own history. Most of my friends throughout life have been topnotch, not that they all came from highly functional families. The keepers worked hard on getting whole-self healthier, while I had to leave other friends behind as I got more together.  I read Stulberg’s article after a week of listening to clients complain about relationships. So many of them sought friends or lovers who suffered similar horrors to theirs...

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Equal and Easy Relationships Are the Best

Talking about making new friends, a client and I determined that the best relationships are “equal and easy.” Of course, there are many other qualities you may look for, but these two are essential for any kind of meaningful, ongoing connection. Think of folks you’ve known—not just friends, family, lovers, or co-workers, but everyone you’ve ever had even a brief relationship with. Which people stand out in your mind as easy-going? Those who are comfortable with themselves don’t leave their opinions and differences at home when they’re with others, but often put them aside and tone them down. Wanting to get along with people, they go out of their way to do so without losing their sense of identity or conviction, are respectful even when disagreeing with you, and value you as much as you value them. How about folks you’ve met who are looking for an equal relationship, as in...

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Why We Push Others to Do Things We Don’t Do Ourselves

Clients often tell me about conversations they have with friends, relatives and co-workers in which they encourage them to leave abusive partners, stand up to bosses and bossy colleagues, and say goodbye to people who hurt them. They become angry when they hear someone is being mistreated and are generally spot on about the healthy actions someone needs to take to get out of unhealthy situations. However, these same advice-givers are often in similar situations. They’re mistreated by their partners, let friends take advantage of them, and continue to tolerate behavior from parents or other relatives that belittles and hurts them. Are you one of these people who make waves on behalf of others, but fears rocking your own boat? Why this happens is an excellent question and I don’t know that I have all the answers, but I’ll give you a few. This reaction of doing on behalf of others...

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Are You an Enabler (and Don’t Know It)?

In therapy, I talk with clients about enabling—how they enable others and how others enable them. Many are shocked to discover they’re involved in enabling patterns they weren’t aware of. According to the American Psychological Association, these are “patterns within close relationships that support any harmful or problematic behavior and make it easier for that behavior to continue.” If this describes your actions toward anyone, it’s time to face the music. Understand first that enablers often mean well. They want to help, can’t stand to see someone suffer, and believe people will change given time and support. Almost always, however, those who enable others to continue harmful behavior also are avoiding facing painful feelings of their own. They don’t want to believe their son is addicted to heroin or their sister is cutting herself. They don’t want to hurt Mom and tell her that Dad lost his job last month or...

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Do You Have Enough Emotional Intimacy in Your Life?

Talking about her marriage, a client said her couple’s therapist told her she and her husband lacked emotional intimacy. My client told me how they worked well together in their real estate business and how much fun they had when they went on vacation, with or without the kids. I responded that they seemed to have “work” and “play” intimacy but not the emotional kind the therapist was talking about. She reluctantly agreed. Emotional intimacy is something you never may have thought about or maybe it’s something you crave and long for, but never feel you have with anyone. It’s “a feeling of closeness and connection with someone . . . a sense of being deeply seen, known, and understood. It requires vulnerability, empathy, a high level of trust, and finely-attuned communication skills.” Sadly, many of my clients have never found or enjoyed true emotional intimacy. Some consistently choose friends or...

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What Do You Really Want from Your Parents?

As an adult, what exactly are you looking for from your parents? I don’t ask this question idly, as not a day goes by without at least one client lamenting problems they’re having with Mom or Dad (or both). Occasionally clients know just what they want from them, but much of the time, they’re kind of vague. So, here are some possibilities. You want: Attention: Mom and/or Dad never seem to want to spend quality time with you. She only calls you when she’s driving and he makes dinner plans with you but cancels about half the time because “something’s come up.”Approval: You want them to value what you do and to support your efforts. Say, you’re an adventure-seeker and your widowed mom is a homebody who can’t fathom why you’re dying to see New Zealand. Or you dropped out of business school because you want to be a school teacher,...

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When People Lie to You

Like most therapists, I’ve had many clients come to harm because they believed someone else’s lies over what they knew to be the truth. The term for when someone intentionally tries to invalidate or undermine our beliefs or feelings is gaslighting. This subtle power grab to make us mistrust ourselves is manipulation meant to convince us we don’t or shouldn’t think or feel a certain way and are wrong about our facts. Here’s an example. My client Dawson was planning to take his family to visit his parents in another state. Dawson had a strained relationship with them and hadn’t seen them in a long time, but his children were excited to see their grandparents. Speaking to his mother the day before their journey, she confessed she and his father felt “a little sick,” but she swore they’d tested negative for Covid so it was safe for the visit to proceed....

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How to Act Like An Adult Around Your Parents

Day in and day out I explain to clients that, as adults, they have the ability (and duty to self) to live without their parents’ love and approval. And day in and day out they have difficulty internalizing this truth. Granted that yearning for parental approbation and attention is different than yearning for these things from anyone else. However, adulthood means detaching from believing you need parents emotionally and interacting with them in a way that serves you. For example, my client Bella’s widowed mother constantly wants to spend time with her, ignoring the fact that her daughter is married, works full-time and has a toddler. When Bella declines invitations to get together, her mother either cries or gives her the cold shoulder and won’t speak to her for weeks. Now, please stop and consider what you think and feel about her mom. My thoughts (in no particular order) are as...

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Someone Else’s Anxiety Is Not Your Problem

My client Benito, a successful businessman and only child, wouldn’t stand up to his mom, shrunk to feeling like a little boy around her. Domineering and fretful, her anxiety had skyrocketed after the death of Benito’s father and she lived in terror of something happening to Benito which would leave her alone. He even hid the little dating he did from her because she always told him his dates weren’t good enough for him.  Benito, too, suffered from anxiety. How could he not? His mother tried to make him feel responsible for her happiness and guilt-tripped him at every turn. Fearing to upset her, he cut short business trips and rarely shared his true feelings with her about anything but trivial subjects. He entered therapy when his mother broke her hip and refused home health care, which he offered to pay for, after she left rehab. Another client, Cammy, a seasoned...

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