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. 

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Beware of Corrupt Power

If you frequently turn to food for comfort because you have a boss, parent, partner or someone close to you who abuses power, you may wonder why he or she acts that way. Or you, a nice person, may be shocked that others can be so mean and cruel. Either way, it pays to understand what power can do to some (but not all) people. A Columbia University experiment helps us comprehend “how power corrupts the minds of those who possess it, more specifically noting how power changes the way people visually perceive others. According to the study, the most powerful people tend to perceive those who are less powerful as smaller in stature. In another series of studies, researchers observed how power increased moral hypocrisy. They found that powerful individuals tend to judge the powerless more harshly when caught in the act of cheating than when more powerful people are caught...
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Not Everyone is as Nice as You Are

Some dysregulated eaters set themselves up for disappointment and heartbreak and turn to eating for comfort because they believe that everyone is as good, kind, nice, caring, trustworthy, reliable and honest as they are. This perception often leads to emotional eating. If this is an issue for you, it’s time to recognize and accept that there are malicious, callous, cruel people in the world who are very invested in staying that way. Here’s are some of the reasons you might not be able to see them clearly.Maybe you were raised to see only the good in people and told never to be judgmental. As a child, when you said something critical about someone, you were told that, “You need to be understanding” or “You shouldn’t say things like that.” In this way, you came to believe that you were wrong or bad if you acknowledged traits in people that were hurtful...
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When Parenting is a Foreign Language

If your emotional and mindless eating is often caused by the stress of parenting, you’ll want to read "When Parenting Is A Foreign Language: A Child Therapist’s Guide to Speaking Your Child’s Language" by Diane Ross-Glazer, PhD. This gem of a book provides a quick study that gets right to the heart of effective parenting and is written in a casual, humorous style to engage and enlighten any frustrated mother or father who is ready to learn some simple guidelines for improving their relationship with their children. Whereas most child-rearing books focus on what to do to prevent and respond to misbehavior, "When Parenting Is A Foreign Language" addresses the missing connection between many mothers and fathers and their children, one that is felt from and made with the heart. The book gets you to put aside your thinking and zero in on what you and your child are feeling in order to...
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Beware of People Who Work Too Hard to Take Care of You

How could it be a problem when people wish to take really good care of you? Isn’t that a positive trait in a person? Doesn’t that make them ideal as a partner or friend? How could care-taking ever be something to be wary of? Let me explain. Some people are looking to take care of you because they’re natural caregivers and others do it because they love you and want the best for you. But, there’s another aspect of a care-taker who has motives, albeit generally unconscious, that are neither benign nor healthy. That is the person who needs you to be sick or stuck because then you can be accountable to them and needed by them. These kinds of people create in you an unhealthy dependence on them that only keeps you from becoming healthy and empowered. Here are some examples. One of my clients was seeing a nutritionist who was, to...
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Beware of Unhealthy Advice

We can’t be expected or expect ourselves to always know what’s best for us. That’s what family and friends are for, right? Well, not exactly. Sometimes their input is useful and sometimes it’s just about the worst baloney that we can hear. The key is to figure out when it’s right on and when it’s way off base. Here are three examples I heard recently of clients asking family or friends for help and getting advice. See what you think of what they were told. Case #1: A client who’s been trying to become a “normal” eater, yet hasn’t lost the weight she’d like to asks her mother how she just lost 90 pounds. Her mother tends toward narcissism, is known for her all-or-nothing thinking, and has suffered from serious depression. Since she’s been on anti-depressants she takes much better care of herself and is easier to get along with. My client has...
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People Who’ll Drive You to Eat – And How to Handle Them

During the holidays, you’re likely to be around difficult people more than usual. If so, remember that they’re not going to change and that, if you’re not prepared, interacting with them will drive you to unwanted eating. Beware of people like these: Controllers want complete power over you and everyone else—what to wear, eat, cook, buy, etc. They pressure you into doing things their way because they’ve never considered that anyone else’s way is right or acceptable. Around them, you feel unheard, silenced, invalidated, and easily may end up doing what they want rather than what you want. You want to take a walk after the holiday meal, and they insist that you sit and chat with Uncle George. You politely decline seconds of pumpkin pie, and they shove a slice onto your plate anyway. Critiquers will judge you and everyone else by focusing on what’s wrong. A party may be a grand...
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How Critical Parents Hurt Their Children

Most, if not all, of my eating dysregulated clients had at least one parent who was highly critical of them. The majority often don’t make the connection between how critical a parent was and their negative self put downs. In some cases, grandparents and aunts and uncles, too, frequently criticized one another or other people, so, for my clients, this type of behavior was simply the norm, that is, what people do. They’ll say, “Yeah, Dad was hard on me but I know he loved me” or “Mom always expected so much of me because she loved me so much.” These statements may hold truth, but they’re hardly the entire story. Loving a child leads to wanting the best for them and wanting them to succeed and be happy (whatever happiness means to the parent or caregiver). However, it’s confusing for a child to feel hurt or stung by a constant stream...
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How Having a Parent with Alcoholism Can Impact You and Your Eating

Many of my clients who are dysregulated eaters are children of parents who had problems with drugs or alcohol. A few are savvy about being an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACOA), and some even attend their group meetings. But many are unfamiliar with how this type of upbringing might effect them—and their relationship with food. According to “Adult Children of Alcoholics: Healing Lifelong Scars” by Batya Swift Yasgur, MA, LSW (Psychiatric Advisor, 5/30/17, accessed 6/6/17, http://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/addiction/adult-children-of-alcoholics-select-alcoholic-partners/article/664832/), “It is estimated that there are 28.6 million children of alcoholics (COAs) in the U.S… Compared with individuals who were not raised by an alcoholic parent, adult COAs are more likely to experience depression and engage in behavioral disengagement, denial, and substance abuse…and are 3-4 time more likely than non-ACOAs to select partners who are alcoholic.” It is crucial to understand the profound impact that being raised by someone with alcohol (or drug) problems has on...
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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...
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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...
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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,...
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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...
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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...
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