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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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Failing Better

When I read this quote by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better,” I was struck by the power of his words. Though few, they tell an inspiring story. Reading them carefully, you’ll see that the only word missing is the conclusion of the story: “succeed.” Not to bore you with an English lesson, but let’s dissect what Beckett is saying. “Ever tried.” I hear from clients all the time how hard they’ve tried…and how long they’ve been trying. By the time they reach me, they’re often at the end of their rope, having lost 100 pounds or more two or three times and regained it all and then some. Which brings us to “Ever failed.” All of them feel like utter and complete failures, never realizing that it’s diets which have failed them. Diets do work for some people—about 5% of...

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Getting Somewhere

I can’t recall who said the following, but this sentiment speaks volumes: “I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere until I got somewhere.” When we overfocus on a goal, we lose connection to the process of getting there. Nowhere is this truer than on the road to “normal” eating. How many of you have had this experience? You have a goal—say, not yelling at your kids, increasing sales for your company, exercising three days a week, or becoming conversant in Spanish. You know in your head that this is exactly what you want to do, while another part of you is saying that this objective is ridiculously impossible and that you can’t possibly achieve it. Inching along, you feel as if you’re standing still, making no progress. But with persistence, step by baby step, you continue to move forward until suddenly, voilá, you’re there—you’ve achieved what you set out to do....

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Fear of Being Like Your Parent(s)

Occasionally, we all act like our parents. How can we not, as they are the ones whose genes we carry and who first taught us how to be in the world. A number of my clients are aghast that they will become too like their parents which colors how they choose to think and act—often to their detriment. Here are some examples of this dynamic:One client is very timid and works overly hard to be agreeable—the kind of woman I write about in Nice Girls Finish Fat. Her father spent most of her childhood raging at her and her sister after their mother died and he had to raise them himself. Afraid of his anger, people kept away and the family became quite isolated. My client vowed early on to put a damper on her temper and go along to get along. Now, middle-aged, she’s had two abusive husbands and is in...

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Eating, Fat and Punishment

How many of you self-punish to regulate your eating? Punishment starts with fear, self-judgment, and self-anger. Many disregulated eaters get stuck in this rigid, misguided approach and never move on to more enlightened, self-nurturing, self-loving ways of regulating eating. Here’s what self-punishment does: After you’ve done something you feel badly about, you use words or actions to make yourself feel worse. Double ouch! Fortunately, there is another way of changing behavior. The dictionary definition of punish is to “inflict a penalty.” We learn to punish in two major ways: By being punished a good deal as children and by internalizing the punishing attitude our role modeling parents exhibited when they tried to change their or our behavior. When we call ourselves “bad” or other derogatory words after overeating, we engage in verbal punishment. Punishing attitudes abound in society, especially with people who do not meet certain norms: eg, with food, drugs...

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Not Talking About Food and Weight

In response to one of my blogs, I was asked: “Is it possible to stop people from talking about eating and weight?” Hurray, I thought: “Am I the only one on the planet tired of yakking about this subject?” Short of duct-taping their mouths, we can’t actually prevent people from talking about it, but we can exert subtle and direct pressure on them. Even if our strategies fail, they will help us express our needs, an important skill to practice. There are four ways to handle people talking about eating or weight. First, ignore it. Nod pleasantly while channeling your thoughts elsewhere—to a book you’ve been enjoying, the great sex you had yesterday, resolving a family problem, or writing a grocery list in your head. Sometimes it’s distracting enough to simply take in the scenery or keep your mind blank. Better yet, use the moment to practice deep breathing or body...

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Process versus Goals

Are you so goal-oriented that you overfocus on the endpoint of an activity and miss the journey that gets you there? If so, I bet you’re wildly impatient with the seemingly endless baby-stepping of going from dysregulated to regulated or “normal” eating. Staying super tuned in to the journey can make all the difference between throwing in the towel in frustration and sticking to intuitive eating all the way to recovery. It’s an asset to be goal-oriented—you get things done, are the go-to person, receive compliments galore, and bask in the satisfaction of each new achievement. This talent is successful with work, chores, responsibilities, and for keeping on when others’ spirits flag. However, it is not the only way to get from here to there. Although it’s important to keep goals in mind—improved health, stronger energy, higher self-esteem, and more comfort around food—to become a “normal” eater, it’s equally essential to...

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Identity is How YOU Define Yourself

I’ve just spent the better part of an hour unsuccessfully digging through reading material trying to identify where I read (within the last week!) that “biography is not identity.” I had to wait to carve out time to blog about this subject and, in the interim, forgot where I found these four words which leapt off the page and tattooed themselves onto my brain. How often do I hear clients make a determination about who they are based on what happened to them as children? Every day. If they were poor and had to go to neighbors’ homes begging for food to feed their younger siblings, they still carry deprivation and shame with them. If their father left them and their mother when they were toddlers, they still think of themselves as fatherless, abandoned children. If their mother trashed them with her words when she got drunk, they can’t shake the belief...

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How You Wish To Be Perceived

It’s somewhat ironic that humans often worry a great deal about how people will view and judge them, but may behave unconsciously in ways that elicit judgment. It’s vital that we are all in touch with how we present ourselves—from our appearance to our words and tone to how we behave. We may not wish to be judged, but we will be, because that’s simple the way of humanity. Robert Parkinson talks about the impressions we make in “Being perceived as you want to be” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 6/24/17, D3). He maintains that, “People will assume many things about you. Help them make the correct ones.” I love this directive because it says that we get to play a big part in how others perceive us. On a related note, I recall a social work school instructor suggesting that we get clinical clues about how clients value themselves from their appearance. He said...

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Stay Socially Connected for Optimal Health

Much of the advice we get these days about becoming and staying healthy involves eating nutritiously and being active. However, one piece of advice doesn’t get as much play as it should, which is to stay socially connected for better health. As an eating disorders therapist, for decades I’ve encouraged clients to seek and maintain healthy attachments to increase emotional well-being—including reducing emotional eating. Research concludes that deep attachments bolster physical well-being as well. In “The socially connected live in a virtuous circle” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune 6/20/17, E25-26), Jane Brody tells us that “Social interaction is a critically important contributor to good health and longevity.” She cites a Harvard Women’s Health Watch report: “‘Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.’” Moreover, she gives us this surprising result from California researchers: “‘…those with close social ties...

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The Habit of Not Knowing

One of my clients really nailed her problem with emotions. “I have no idea what I’m feeling most of the time. It’s a habit not to know,” she said, as if not being aware of feelings were the most natural thing in the world. Do you have a habit of avoiding noting or exploring what’s going on inside you? If so, it’s time get and stay connected. Emotional health means knowing what you’re feeling most of the time—when you’re frustrated, anxious, hurt, disappointed, bored, confused or lonely, plus any other emotions which pay you a visit. You may not recognize exactly what you’re feeling every second of every day, but you want to keep a running connection to your affective world. Sure, sometimes you’ll miss what you’re feeling in the moment and need to wait a bit to figure it out. The point is to value emotions enough to want to...

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Changing Behavior Leads to Changing Beliefs

Not a month goes by when I don’t hear a client or HYPERLINK "Food and Feelings"  message board member insist that if they don’t believe something is true, they can’t possibly act as if it is. That belief is untrue and needs to change if you’re planning on recovering from your eating problems. Why? Because sometimes believing comes at the end of imagining and acting differently. You may tell yourself that you can’t act confidently interviewing for a job that you don’t feel totally qualified for or attending a wedding in your large-sized body feeling sexy and beautiful. You insist that you can’t do these things because they aren’t “true,” that the “truth” is that you’re highly insecure career-wise, feel silly pretending to be confident, and are certain that your interviewer will see right through you if you’re not honest. Or that you’re so ashamed of your body that sexy and...

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Problems Beyond Eating

When I started working on healing my own disregulated eating back in the late, I had no idea that my problems ran far beyond food. I began reading books and went into therapy thinking, Oh, it’s just eating, I can fix that. Boy, was I wrong and now I’m actually glad of it because I understand how clients feel when they walk in my door. Disregulated eaters have historical problems and dysfunctional patterns that trip them up and prevent them from living up to their potential as well as mucking up their eating. The problem is they often don’t realize it. We think we have problems with food; our food problems show us that we have problems with life. I recall one of my earliest clients coming to see me for overeating and, leaving the first session amazed and angry that there was so much work for her to do to...

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Baby Yourself

It’s funny how disregulated eaters say they can’t plan meals ahead or find time to feed themselves when they’re hungry when they really can. This is not rocket science, folks. This is basic self-care and, let’s be honest, you can do it but choose not to. If you were in charge of a baby, would you have the same laments about taking care of her or him? For example, would you say: Even though she’s wailing and obviously starving, I can’t feed her because I’m too busy; I can’t possibly take her to the playground ever because I have too much to do; I can’t pull together decent, healthy food for her because I’m too tired; I’ll just stuff her with food no matter that she’s crying and has eaten enough; I can’t be bothered bringing food for later if she gets hungry, so too bad for her. Of course you...

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Being Different

I was talking with a client about her discomfort eating differently than other people which led to discussing why divergence and nonconformity produce fear and shame in her. Many of you may encounter these feelings. To move into emotional health and eat “normally,” it’s vital to enjoy, value and feel at ease with your authentic self. In terms of evolution, there are major reasons why humans desire to be like others or be different. For safety and security reasons, we want to conform and blend in, in short, be part of a group. There are also times when we want to stand out—to take charge, right a wrong, innovate, or act for the good of the group in ways which may appear counter to their norms. I know that when you’re out with friends you’re not thinking about evolution, but if nonconformity causes you discomfort when safety and security aren’t concerns,...

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Personal Bill of Rights

Most adults who grew up in dysfunctional families in which their parents drank or used drugs, were physically/sexually/emotionally abusive or neglectful, and/or were mentally ill, have difficulty knowing as adults what their rights are. Here’s a Personal Bill of Rights by Charles Whitfield (his books are great!) to live by:
1. I have numerous choices in my life beyond mere survival.


2. I have the right to discover and know “my Child” Within.


3. I have the right to grieve over what I didn't get that I needed or what I got that I didn't need or want.


4. I have the right to follow my own values and standards. 


5. I have the right to recognize and accept my own value system as appropriate. 


6. I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe or it violates my values.

7. I have the right to dignity and respect. 


8. I have the right to make decisions. 


9. I have the right to determine and honor my own priorities.


10. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others. 
11. I have the right to terminate conversations with people who make me feel put down and humiliated.


12. I have the right not to be responsible for others behavior, actions, feelings or problems.


13. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect. 


14. I have the right to expect honesty from others.

15. I have the right to all my feelings. 


16. I have the right to be angry at someone I love. 


17. I have the right to be uniquely me, without feeling that I'm not good enough. 


18. I have the right to feel scared and to say, "I'm afraid."


19. I have the right to experience and then let go of fear, guilt and shame. 


20. I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings, my judgment or any reason that I choose. 


21. I have the right to change my mind at any time. 


22. I have the right to be happy.


23. I have the right to stability, i.e., "roots" and stable healthy relationships of my choice. 


24. I have the right to my own personal space and time needs. 


25. I have the right to be relaxed, playful and frivolous. 


26. I have the right to be flexible and be comfortable with doing so. 
27. I have the right to change and grow.


28. I have the right to be open to improve my communication skills so that I may be understood. 
29. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people. 
30. I have the right to be in a non-abusive environment. 
31. I have the right to be healthier than those around me. 
32. I have the right to take care of myself, no matter what. 
33. I have the right to grieve over actual or threatened losses. 
34. I have the right to trust others who earn my trust. 
35. I have the right to forgive others and to forgive myself. 
36. I have the right to give and to receive unconditional love.
If you want to be emotionally healthy, you need a healthy belief system like Whitfield’s. To make it yours, rewrite his list in your own words. Feel free to add new rights. Repeat them daily to yourself aloud in front of a mirror. Work on living by these rights and you’ll become healthier and improve your relationship with food and your body.

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Fantasy versus Reality

A message board member (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings) posted that she spent a great deal of time fantasizing about being a “normal” eater in a thinner body. Fantasizing is a tempting, common activity for many disregulated eaters, but it can be more destructive than constructive. Truth is that reality is the only game in town. Of course, there’s fantasizing once in a blue moon, say, when you’re invited to a swanky bash where you may be meeting lots of cool people or daydreaming about lying on the beach in Aruba on vacation without a care in the world. Then there’s fantasizing as a way of life—to avoid reality, feel better, or escape how painful and unhappy your life is. Obviously, the first kind of fantasizing is pleasurable and adds to your happiness. Musing about the big gala gets you excited, while visualizing yourself basking in the sun is a mini-break from reality that can...

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Competence and Self-esteem

At a dinner meeting I attended, the topic of self-esteem arose and generated quite a lively debate on what it is and how it develops. The answer to these questions are highly relevant to troubled eaters who generally exhibit low self-esteem and are looking for ways to raise it. Here’s a how-to from the so-called “father of self-esteem.” According to Nathaniel Branden, author of THE SIX PILLARS OF SELF-ESTEEM, “Self-esteem is the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness.” Self-esteem isn’t about feeling good arbitrarily nor is it about loving yourself unconditionally. It comes from achieving competence which gives you confidence which, in turn, reinforces competence. To raise your self-esteem in the eating arena, you have to achieve competence which means learning and practicing skills until you are very, very good at them. Competence evolves from hard work, repetition, and tolerating...

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Faith and Recovery

I rarely blog about religion, but here’s a dilemma a client encountered which those of you who are using faith and prayer to heal yourself may run into. Because dilemmas, aka unresolved internal conflicts, impede recovery, it’s important to identify and work through them all. Although resolution involves a great deal of self-honesty and emotional discomfort, it will free you up to pursue other recovery issues. Let’s say you believe there is a God and, beyond that, also believe in miracles which, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, are defined as “events that appear unexplainable by the laws of nature and so are held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God.” By entertaining the possibility of God performing a miracle to cure your eating disorder—anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating—you hold out hope of one day being a “normal” eater and maintaining a healthy, comfortable weight for life. This hope...

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Why Nice Girls May Overeat

When I wrote NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT, I found scant research to back up my contention that there seemed to be a link between women being too nice and overeating. Now an article entitled “How people-pleasing may lead to overeating” by Alexandra Sifferlin (TIME HEALTHLAND, 2/2/12) hints at what may be going on. The article cites two studies. In one, researchers at Case Western Reserve University found that “people-pleasers tend to overeat in social settings in an effort to make other people feel more comfortable. They feel pressure to eat, whether they’re hungry or not, in order to match what people around them are eating,” though they end up later regretting their choices. It seems that people-pleasers eat more “when they believe that their eating will help another person feel more comfortable.” In another study, researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands found that subjects were inclined to “mimic each...

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Rewarding Yourself and Food

Rarely does a week go by when I don’t hear about the need for rewards. Sometimes the subject comes from the media hawking a product. More often, I’m listening to a friend, client, or message board member talking about the need to reward herself. Our culture is excessively and unhealthily fixated on the concept of external rewards. But, come on, do you really need a reward because you took care of the kids by yourself all day, did a full day’s work at the office, finished your homework, aced a test, or are taking care of your difficult, aging parents? If you feel entitled to a reward for what is normal every day activity, you’re in deep trouble. The reward system start with parents. We get a smile, hug, or praise when we do something they want us to do like use the toilet, eat with a fork, or say thank...

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