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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. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

What’s More Important – What People Say or What They Do?

One of the easiest traps to fall into is to put more faith and hope into what someone says rather than what they do. This is virtually how most victims of abuse remain mired in hurtful relationships. If you’re paying more attention to how people say they’ll be than to how they really are, these scenarios may be (sadly) familiar to you.You repeatedly believe the excuses that people give for their behavior: You just happen to catch them smoking their only cigarette of the day; They’re late because the alarm clock didn’t go off again; They couldn’t say no to having a drink though they’d promised to give up alcohol; They keep texting with a former lover because he or she keeps emailing them and they don’t want to be rude and not respond.They make the same promises repeatedly for months, or worse, years and you want to believe them when...
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What to Look for in a Lover or Mate

I often talk with clients about what they’re looking for in a long-term romantic partner. More often than not, they will share only a list of attributes rather than say what kind of relationship qualities they’re looking for. And these are two quite different animals. Here’s what you might consider for attributes. You might assess the interests someone has or activities he or she enjoys: biking, reading poetry, opera, or travel. You might look for someone whose passions have a good deal of overlap with yours or prefer someone who would bring new and interesting learning into your life. Maybe you’re seeking a potential beau who enjoys exploring new countries, when the farthest you’ve ever gone is across your home state. This difference between the two of you may be a plus or a minus in your book. You certainly would want to have enough common interests to share, but you don’t...
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When There’s Too Much Closeness to Your Parents

Occasionally clients come to see me because they’re estranged from their parents or aren’t as close as they’d like to be. More often than not, they feel trapped in too tight a relationship with parents and don’t know how to create more distance without their parents’ feelings getting hurt. Instead of challenging the status quo between parent and (adult) child, they eat themselves sick. I am all for parents and their grown children getting along and enjoying each other’s company. But, often parents wish for more than their adult progeny can or should give. This intimacy overload is called enmeshment and it’s no good for either party. Sometimes parents want too much of their child’s time because they have issues with abandonment and loneliness. Other times they want to be best friends with their children, rather than having their own peers with whom they share details of their lives. “Too much parental closeness...
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Can Fixing a Bad Marriage Heal Your Eating Problems?

Many clients and readers insist that if they were happier in their marriage or love relationship, they’d be less stressed and enjoy a better relationship with food. Indeed, they probably would. I will say with certainty, however, that some marriages can be fixed and some can’t be. Even I don’t always know what the outcome of counseling (individual or couples) will be. Here’s my view on what’s fixable and what isn’t. There are personalities that will never change. If you’re partnered with a Sociopath or Psychopath (now clinically labeled Anti-social Personality Disorder), the chance that he or she will change is minus zero. Unlike you, these folks lack empathy and compassion for others and don’t genuinely care about people. They are exclusively self-serving and manipulate and abuse others brazenly or covertly—lying, lying about their lies, and intentionally trying to make you think you’re crazy (called Gaslighting). Some are extremely vengeful and calculating,...
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Balanced Dealings With Others will Improve Your Eating

We all know people who are so full of complaints and criticism that you can’t be with them for more than five minutes before they start to spew their litany of grievances. We also know people who endure the most egregious insults and emotional abuse in silence, and never or rarely vent their hurt or anger about it. Both ends of this continuum are dangerous places to be in terms of managing emotional eating. Here’s why. Complainers and relentless critics generally are all worked up over something. If it’s not the school bus being late, it’s the plumber leaving a mess after fixing the toilet. If they’re not railing against high prices, they’re finding fault with their loved ones not seeing enough of them. The question is: Are you one of these people? Moreover, if you are, what does this do to your general mood and to your eating? My take is...
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How to Cut Back on Hurting Yourself

MARCH 30 CUT BACK HURTING SELF
Image by Debbie Digioia For a while there, I had a spate of clients who were eating up a storm because they were trying too hard not to hurt the feelings of people they loved — parents, friends, adult children, spouses, colleagues, or siblings. Being hell-bent on food-seeking was a way to stuff down anger, frustration, disappointment, and helplessness. As these emotions were their default setting, there was a whole lot of emotional eating going on. One client’s sister was taking serious advantage of her largesse and had become desperately dependent on her. Another client’s father often threatened to have nothing to do with his grandchildren whenever my client tried to buck or duck his unreasonable demands. Yet another client’s adult child was rude and bullied her though he was living with Mom all expenses paid. One more had a mother who was petulant, explosive, and cared nothing about her daughter’s welfare, though...
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How Your Choice of Mate May Affect Your Health - and Your Eating

Clients often complain about stress eating and their problems with their mates in the same breath, but fail to recognize a possible correlation between the two. According to “9 ways your mate can affect your health” by Candon Sagon (AARP Bulletin, 10/16, p. 32-34), the man or woman you live with may impact your health—for better or for worse. Moreover, says sociologist Hui Liu of Michigan State University: “For men, the quality of marriage seems less important. But only a good marriage is good for a woman’s health.” Here are the negative impacts described in the article:“Your spouse’s depression could raise your own risk of chronic pain.” This conclusion includes the caretaking of a depressed mate.Although a female nagging her male partner may improve his health, this isn’t true the other way around. For women, “nagging is just nagging.”It can enhance your health as a female, if your partner is optimistic....
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Family Is Everything Except When It Isn’t

Especially around this time of the year, we hear the virtues of family repeatedly extolled. This sentiment abounds in the lyrics of holiday songs, springs from the mouths of relatives, and abounds in the messages promoted by advertising. But is family really all that it’s cracked up to be? Let’s put on our critical-thinking caps and think about that.I’ve heard from many clients that the message they received from their mothers, fathers, grandmothers or grandfathers growing up was that “family is everything”—more important than their own desires and needs, more sacred than their jobs or friends, to be revered above all else in their lives. Ironically, these are the very same clients who grew up with enough abuse or neglect to be sitting on my therapy couch. Is it possible that these same family members who heartily endorsed the virtues of family didn’t practice what they preached? Could it be that...
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Pick Only Intimates Who Celebrate You

While talking with a client, we began exploring what kind of people she wanted out of her life and what kind she wanted to keep in and attract more of. She said, “I seem to pick people who I have to work to get to like and approve of me. I’d rather have friends who want to celebrate me as I am.” We both gave a loud whoopee after she said that.That’s the type of statement that takes a stand boldly and proudly and bursts with self- empowerment. It proclaims, “I’m tired of people who can’t decide if I’m good enough for them, who are hot to be my friend one day and the next day give me the cold shoulder.” It says that you’re done with folks who are only happy when you’re unhappy or who can’t be happy for you. You know, folks who are competitive, jealous and think...
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Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

Has this ever happened to you? In feverish pursuit of happiness, you continue on a path which totally fails to make you happy. Refusing to give up because you believe it’s the “right” path, you redouble your efforts and push harder to make things work. This is the kind of thing that clients tell me all the time with disappointment written all over their faces. What’s usually necessary is to try different not harder and scrub the idea that life (or you) are supposed to be any one particular way. Did you ever consider that you might not have eating problems if you weren’t so attached to specific outcomes in life?Consider the messages you may have received in childhood from family, religion or culture. There are oodles to choose from. You must be financially successful, a winner, wealthy, smart, sophisticated, athletic, always at the top of your game, thin, beautiful, kind,...
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Binge-eating, Intimacy and Sex

Clients hardly ever bring up sex in my office and even more rarely do those of high weight or binge-eaters bring up the subject. Many still have Puritanical values about sex, and it can be especially tough if you are ashamed of your body to speak about this special kind of intimacy. Well, time to break the taboo.Intimacy is different than sex says Deanna James, LPC, R-DMT, writing about the subject in “When binge-eating disorder interferes with intimacy” (Eating Disorder Hope, No. 32). “Intimacy in a personal relationship involves both physical and emotional closeness with another person, which is very difficult to sustain in either emotional or physical isolation that is typical with BED.” The fact is that sometimes people of high weight feel comfortable having sexual, but not emotional, intimacy which means letting their guard down or feeling vulnerable. The opposite is also true. Sometimes they’re comfortable with emotional closeness,...
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Compassion for Others Doesn’t Mean Mistreatment of You

I hear many clients speak with great compassion of their spouses or partners who mistreat them. They say, “Oh, but he had such a horrible life. I need to show him I love him to make up for what his parents did to him.” Or, insist, “She really suffered and I’m strong and can take whatever she dishes out.” Where is it written that just because someone has suffered that they have the right to hurt us? Nowhere, that’s where.The problem occurs when compassion only flows one way—outward—when it needs to be bi-directional. We want to feel empathy and kindness towards others, of course, but we also want to feel it equally toward ourselves. How can we feel kindly toward ourselves when we are letting others hurt and take advantage of us? How about feeling as compassionate to ourselves as we do to others?Perhaps we got confused about compassion in childhood....
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Trust But Verify in Relationships

Not a week goes by that I don’t come across clients or Food and Feelings message board members lamenting about not knowing whether to trust someone. When they meet someone—a potential friend, romantic partner, colleague, or new boss—they want to know instantly whether or not to trust them. If they watched their dogs or cats (or pet ferrets or rabbits) for any length of time, they’d understand that trust doesn’t occur instantly out of the blue. Animals check each other out and they certainly check us out. My cat sniffs everyone she meets, no matter how often she’s met them. Sometimes we need to do the human version of sniffing for a bit to know what someone’s really like.In international affairs, the process of putting a bit of faith in someone and then keeping an eye on them is called “trust but verify.” You cannot trust people without their continuing to...
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Choosing Friends and Lovers or Being Chosen by Them

Do you choose friends and lovers or let yourself be chosen by them? Many people fall into unhealthy relationships because they’re not proactive in picking people who are emotionally healthy. Instead, they let themselves be chosen and are so happy and relieved that someone wants them, that their neediness carries the day. Think about your romantic and platonic relationships. How did they come about? Do you generally meet people and focus only on whether or not they like you or do you lead with considering whether you like them and why?Some friendships and romances wither over time. You grow healthier, the other person changes, or circumstances alter. That’s natural and normal. Relationships which weather the test of time are generally ones in which you’ve selected someone because they have certain admirable traits or have great value to you, and you think of them as someone who will add something positive to...
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Keep Narcissists on Your Radar

A while back I was talking with a client about how to deal with her narcissistic father and why she kept attracting narcissistic people in her life. This was after a session with a client who commented about how her narcissistic mother had shaped her obsession with pleasing people rather than pleasing herself. When I stopped to think about it, I figured that about 90% of my clients over the decades have had at least one narcissistic parent and how sad that was both for the parents and my clients. My client with the narcissistic dad and I started talking about how to sense and identify narcissistic people and she said she wanted to improve her “nardar.” I loved the term and we went on to brainstorm what traits to look out for. Here’s what we came up with:Narcissists are self-centered and have difficulty sharing space in a relationship. They talk...
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The Importance of Mirroring in Connecting to Self

Many disregulated eaters don’t trust themselves, have difficulty holding onto a stable identity, and need external validation to feel okay about themselves. This may be due, in part, to their not receiving adequate mirroring as a child. Mirroring is one of the most crucial experiences we can have to build a solid, positive sense of self.According to Wikepedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirroring_(psychology)], mirroring happens when parents mimic the infant’s expressions, vocalizations, behaviors and moods to help the infant associate the emotion he or she is feeling with the expression of it. This parental imitation validates and shows approval of the emotion the infant is experiencing. Mirroring is a key part of infant and child development. Individuals need a sense of validation and belonging in order to establish a concept of self. Parental mirroring enables infants to develop a greater sense of self-awareness and self-control by seeing the emotion they feel reflected in the voice...
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Accepting Your Parents as Highly Flawed

One challenging task of adulthood can be accepting your parents as highly flawed individuals. If they’re generally wonderful, mentally healthy people and occasionally exhibit a fragile, irrational, quirky, or upsetting aspect of themselves, that’s one thing. It’s another to accept them being considerably mentally unhealthy. Yet, acceptance is essential for your own emotional health and, often, for becoming a “normal” eater.Most clients, over time, come to see that their emotional problems today are due in major part to their upbringing. However, it can be far more difficult for them to view their parents today as highly toxic and people to protect themselves from. This is due to the residual childhood, hope-driven wish to see parents in a rosier light, the unattainable yearning for their love and approval, and because many adult children of dysfunctional parents continue to see themselves as defective and powerless, rather than recognizing that their parents’ behavior is...
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Not Everyone Is As Reflective As You Are

If your partner, parent, friend or co-worker is abusive or neglectful, you might be unable to fathom how this person manages to feel okay about his or her behavior. How can people so not get what they’re doing wrong? Can’t they understand that the way they act and the things they say hurt people? How is it possible that they don’t recognize what’s acceptable and appropriate versus what’s unacceptable or inappropriate?It’s entirely possible—because they’re not reflective like you probably are. I’ve blogged about the process of reflection before (http://eatingdisordersblogs.com/?p=4488 and http://eatingdisordersblogs.com/?p=4894), so this may not be a new topic to you. Reflecting means you think about what you say and do without judging it. Judgment has no part in reflection. It is a neutral observation: “Oh, I did this and positive things happened. Hey, I didn’t do that and things didn’t go so well.” By reflecting, you learn how what you...
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When Parents Want More Than Children Can Give

Many parents are not emotionally healthy enough to have children but do anyway, which puts their progeny at serious disadvantage. If you are one of those children whose parents were not emotionally mature when they raised you (and may still not be!), you may have low self-esteem because you couldn’t meet your parents’ excessive, irrational needs—and therefore turned to food mindlessly or compulsively for comfort. You may still feel you don’t measure up today and food seek for the wrong reasons.Here’s what happens. Some parents yearn for your love or attention; what they are actually looking for is to be mothered by you. But you’re only three or seven or twelve and require and deserve mothering yourself. Or they feel insecure but may not show it and look to you to be a reflection of all that is good or perfect so they can feel like stellar parents. Or their self-esteem...
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Why Online Support Improves Your Relationship with Food

I’ve always believed that my Yahoo Food and Feelings message board and Facebook "Normal" Eating page help troubled eaters feel better about themselves and their relationship with food. Now an article entitled “A burden shared” in the 1/31/15 issue of The Economist (page 72) gives me hope that what I’ve assumed might be true. Although the article is about weight loss, as opposed to becoming a “normal” eater, I’m taking a leap of faith that its conclusions are equally applicable.There has already been substantial scientific evidence published proving that friendships and support networks help people get healthier physically and mentally. In this study by scientists at Northwestern University, a correlation between weight loss and staying connected to a website was found. Of course, correlation does not mean cause and effect, but this conclusion does get one thinking about how online support might be useful in reducing food-related problems.A few reasons come...
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