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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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Stop Judging Your Thoughts

In one day I had three sessions focused on disregulated eaters judging themselves as bad for having thoughts they believed they shouldn’t have which then led to a binge. I don’t think I realized just how common this problem is until that day. If you judge your thoughts, it’s time to understand why you do and stop this destructive behavior. News bulletin: We’re allowed to have any darned kinds of thoughts we want. You may have learned that you must be pure of mind, but that’s nonsense. Your thoughts are private and personal, and having a wide range helps strengthen your authentic self—not the self you think you should have. Though they may cause you to feel discomfort, thoughts are neither good nor bad, but may be positive or negative, beneficial or harmful. And, to a large extent—surprise!— they’re under your control. For example, say you’ve had an argument with your...

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How Long Does It Take to Form a Habit?

When you’re trying to learn new behavior, how long do you give yourself? Do you expect to become habituated after a few tries or do you believe it’ll take such a long time that you give up in despair before you even start? Here’s what one scientific study has to say about habit formation. Most of us have heard and may even believe that it takes 21 days to form a habit. However, James Clear in “How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit (Backed by Science)” debunks that theory. In his 4/10/14 HuffPost Healthy Living article which can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/forming-new-habits_b_5104807.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000030, he tells us that there was never any science behind the “3 week” habit-formation principle—simply observations made by a plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz, about his patients’ recovery. According to a University College London study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology examining habit changes...

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Busy, Busy, Busy

The day after I read an article on “busyness,” a client happened to share an epiphany she’d had: Tired of hearing herself say how busy she is as if it would earn her a gold star on her forehead, she decided that putting herself under the gun 24/7 wasn’t such a hot idea and that she’d have a better chance of relaxing, caring for herself, and eating “normally” if she slowed down the pace of her life. I couldn’t have agreed more. The article, “Are we really as busy as we think we are?” by Hanna Rosin (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 4/15/14, page18E), drives home this point: “The art of busyness is to convey genuine alarm at the pace of your life and a helpless resignation, as if someone else is setting the clock, and yet make it clear that you are on top of your game.” I used to be guilty of...

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Meaning Making and Beliefs

More than anything, more than even genetics, your beliefs dictate your world view and behavior. In order to understand why you’re so doggone attached to your current, wrongheaded beliefs, you have to understand their purpose and where they come from. In THE BELIEVING BRAIN, author Michael Shermer spells out the answer, “Our brains evolved to connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen. These meaningful patterns become beliefs, and these beliefs shape our understanding of reality. Once beliefs are formed, the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs.” (NY Times Books, 2011, p. 5) By the way, we call this confirmation seeking “confirmation bias.” It’s not only people whose brains are geared to connect the dots. When my cat spots or smells her pet carrier, she hightails it under the sofa. She’s figured out that each time we...

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The Brain and Our Habits

Here are some choice nuggets from Psychotherapy Networker (Jan/Feb 2014), whose entire issue is devoted to brain science and tells us a great deal about our habits. According to Brent Atkinson, Ph.D. (“The Great Deception—We’re Less in Control Than We Think”), “Whereas undisciplined people are influenced primarily by the gut feelings they experience in the present moment…disciplined people are equally influenced by good and bad feelings generated while remembering the past…or envisioning the future” (p. 28). Think about consequences and you’ll always do fine. He maintains that “…distress tolerance and self-soothing exercises help clients turn toward their own upset feelings and engage directly in physiological soothing, temporarily postponing thoughts about problems. This process of self-accompaniment elicits a sense of calm in the storm, allowing clients to avoid alarm or panic when things aren’t going well...each day that goes by without practicing distress tolerance and self-soothing decreases the likelihood that their brains...

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Rosie O’Donnell’s Health Crusade

Blogging about Rosie O’Donnell’s quest for better health is a deviation for me because I don’t generally blog about celebrities’ eating or weight issues, her focus is not exactly my focus, and her path toward health is not one I necessarily endorse. However… First off, Rosie is a recent transplant to Sarasota—well, she lives here part of the year— where I call home and saw her recently at our local comedy club, McCurdy’s. She was terrific, mostly making comedy out of raising her five children. What she didn’t much joke about was her near fatal heart attack in 2012 caused by an artery which was 99% blocked. Instead she got serious about women, including her former self, not taking care of their health. I must say that for a funny lady, she was deadly serious about educating women about the signs of a heart attack which are as follows: Uncomfortable pressure,...

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Changing Behavioral Patterns

Whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re always either reinforcing or changing behavioral patterns. This is true of our own attitudes and actions as well as those of others. Being aware of this dynamic is crucial to shaping the behaviors we wish to have. My thoughts on this subject stem from a conversation I had with a client about how to raise her sons effectively. She said that whenever she interacted with them, at least one of the things she attempted to get across was that she loved them. I then suggested that she might also consider how her words or actions were either reinforcing their old, unwanted habits or changing them. We moved on to talk about how she could apply this principle to transforming her eating and improving her relationship with her spouse. Think about it: Whatever you choose to think or do shapes your future thoughts and...

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Consciousness is the Key to Success

Want to know one of the major reasons you haven’t changed your eating habits? Simple. You’re still responding in an unconscious way around food. Become more conscious and I guarantee you’ll leap forwarding in resolving your food issues. Habits are behaviors we do without much thought. In evolutionary terms, we form automatic actions for survival. Our mind-body habituates so that it doesn’t have to put substantial energy into making the same decisions repeatedly, allowing it to direct energy in more vital directions in order to keep you alive and thriving. Humans wouldn’t be around today if they weren’t geared to make automatic decisions. According to Steven Stosny, Ph.D., author of “Blue collar therapy” (Psychotherapy Networker, 11-12/2013, p.23), “Habits and the conditioned responses that comprise them are processed in the brain in milliseconds, thousands of times faster than conscious awareness. In fact, most of our decisions are made prior to conscious awareness,...

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The Benefit of Habits

I came across a simple, but enlightening quote about habits that I thought worth passing on. Basically, it said that because no one escapes forming or falling into habits, we might as well choose positive rather than negative ones. Who could disagree? Though I’ve blogged about this before, it’s worth repeating—habits and routines serve an evolutionary purpose. Thinking eats up mental energy, so our ancestors who negotiated life without unnecessary thinking had energy left over for more important, life- enhancing tasks. An ancestor who, like clockwork, headed out each morning to hunt for game saved energy and likely survived better than his next-cave neighbor who spent time deciding what to do with his day. So, view habits as mental energy savers. The quote I ran across is from Olga Kotelko, a 94-year-old competitive athlete. One of her suggestions to live well is to create habits (“Going the distance,” Parade Magazine, 12/29/13m...

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Self-care and Food

Recently I asked a client to repeat what she’d said because it was such a profound statement. She said: “Because I can take care of myself with food, I know now that I can take care of myself in other parts of my life.” So true—taking care of yourself by effective feeding may be your first step in doing right by you, period. Because feeding ourselves is one of our first important tasks, it’s a huge step. Do you recall how good it felt when someone asked what you wanted to eat as a child, and you thought about it and told them, and they gave it to you? Alternately, do you remember how bad it felt when you were told that you didn’t really want the food you asked for or didn’t receive what you requested? To feed oneself adequately is a bold statement that says, “Of course I know...

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The Scarcity Mindset

Do you have a scarcity mindset? You are if you fear you won’t get enough of what life has to offer, especially with food. If the shoe fits, read on to find out more about your irrational viewpoint and how to change it. In SCARCITY: WHY HAVING TOO LITTLE MEANS SO MUCH (Economist, 8/31/13), authors Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir focus mostly on poverty and the minds of people who are poor. But they also universalize their theories about feeling deprived in general. They insist that “People’s minds work differently when they feel they lack something. And it does not greatly matter what something is. Anyone who feels strapped for money, friends, time or calories is likely to succumb to a ‘scarcity mindset,’ which shortens a person’s horizons and narrows his perspective, creating a dangerous tunnel vision. Anxiety also saps brain power and willpower, reducing mental ‘bandwidth’.” Note the authors’ use...

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Don’t Tell Yourself You Don’t Care

Do you know the three words you never want to say to yourself when you’re faced with eating decisions? “I don’t care.” Say them and you know what food- and body-abusing road you’re heading down. The fact is, you do care. You care, you care, you care! Not long ago, I was privy to observing a friend debate whether to eat something that wouldn’t be healthy for her due to food allergies and other metabolic problems. I listened to her struggle aloud and knew she was heading for defeat when she said, “I just don’t care.” Of course, she overate—carbs, of course—as I sat there helplessly and mutely watching her do herself in. Believe me, I remember saying those very words a gazillion times during my binge-eating and overeating days, along with “I shouldn’t eat this but…” and “But I want it.” They really are famous—or rather infamous—last words. How often...

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Having Problems to Solve

I was talking with a client who complained about having problems, yet felt she built her self-esteem around solving them. Her thinking made me realize that disregulated eaters often seem stuck on this merry-go-round. If you too are on it, it’s time to get off. Here’s how her logic went. She didn’t feel she was worth very much as is, and only felt good about herself when resolving difficulties and getting out of jams. She believed that she intentionally attracted problem people and got into thorny situations in order to feel competent and clever through inevitably escaping from these people and predicaments. She went so far as to say she thought she existed to solve problems, yet was totally exhausted by them, feeling as if she was always “fighting for her life.” If she wasn’t struggling to improve herself in some way and be perfect, she didn’t feel alive. So she...

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New Year, New Beliefs

If you’re going to have new behaviors and habits in 2014, you’ll need healthy beliefs, not just about eating and your body, but about life and how you interact with the world. So that you don’t need to bother coming up with them yourself, here are 30 beliefs to hold you in good stead. Feel free to add to them. From now on, you believe:   The world is full of abundance regarding happiness, pleasure, and food.My body deserves to be treated well 24/7/365.My primary duty is to take care of myself not others.There are many activities in the world which bring me pleasure, not just eating.I can say “yes” and “no” in the right balance with food and in other areas of my life.If I lack skills, it doesn’t mean I’m defective, only that I need more practice.Having a dysfunctional childhood doesn’t mean I can’t have a functional adulthood.I deserve...

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Learn from Experience

I had two conversations with clients in one week that prove how vital it is to learn from and live by our experiences. This can be a difficult task for a number of reasons, but it’s the only way to get through life effectively. When we pay attention to our own experience, we make better choices, reduce stress and distress and, therefore, set ourselves up for making healthier decisions around food. One client, a dancer, described ongoing problems with her husband also a dancer, who interacted with many attractive women. She agreed that his dancing with them was no threat to her but, as someone who’d been abandoned early in life by her father, she was super-sensitive to the possibility of a man leaving her. When her husband went to dance with a particular (generally good-looking) partner, my client would demand that he dance with her. The more she “freaked out,”...

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When Food Is No Longer the Center of Your Life

Although many disregulated eaters yearn for the day when food is no longer the center of their lives, my experience is that when this happens, they experience substantial disquiet within. Much as they’ve waited for food to be just nourishment, they’re not sure what to do with all the open space in their minds—and their days. Stopping any major habit can leave a hole in your life. Maybe you went out for a drink every Friday night with friends after work since high school, until they started to pair off with romantic partners Or perhaps it was the Sunday night basketball game that had been going on for years and got scotched when too many of the old-timers no longer wanted to play regularly. Or maybe your favorite Thursday night TV shows aren’t there in the new Fall line-up, or your sister, who’s been your best bud, moves away. If food...

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Enjoying Learning

I had a discussion with a client a while ago about how difficult it was for her to tolerate not knowing a subject and staying with learning until she knew enough to feel confident. Many of you have this experience with becoming a “normal” eater, wanting immediately to feel competent, smart and secure without going through the process that will produce these feelings. Remember, all any of us can do is start at the beginning. Many people feel mild anxiety learning something new, whereas some people become wildly anxious. What a shame, because how do you suppose anxiety affects learning? Do you think it helps or hinders it? Hopefully, you recognize that anxiety gets in the way of learning. Our minds do best focusing on one track at a time. Say, you’re a new volunteer at your local library and are being taught the filing and book check-out system. That’s a...

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Craving Sweets After a Meal

If you crave sweets after a meal, you’re not stuck in some kind of rut, but reacting to human biology. Perhaps understanding this process will help you be less hard on yourself about your cravings. And perhaps it will help you better manage your appetite. According to Dr. Louis J. Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program (boy, do I hate the name of that program) at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, “The craving for sweets is primarily biological. However, the sweet that is preferred seems to be primarily a learned behavior, a function of one’s upbringing.” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 10/29/13). Apparently, cravings, for example for specific nutrients such as carbohydrates, come from our bodies’ need to “alter our neurotransmitters in conditions like eating disorders and obesity.” Remember that it’s carbs that trigger a boost of dopamine—the feel-good neurotransmitter—in our brains. Here are some other interesting research conclusions from the article:...

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Give Thanks for Yourself (For a Change)

Around this time of year, there’s much talk about gratitude—for family, friends, health, etc. Some of you may even have a gratitude journal that you dutifully write in daily. But, since many dysregulated eaters don’t have great self-esteem, I’d love to see you scribbling away in your journal about why you’re absolutely tickled pink to be you. The way I see it, being grateful for being more fortunate than others can only take you so far in valuing and loving yourself. Even by saying you have wonderful kids or parents, neighbors or co-workers, a lovely house or a loving community says very little about your worth. It’s all about what surrounds you, even if you view that as what you’ve chosen. The emphasis isn’t on how wonderful you are, how unique and special, how much you admire and respect yourself. Instead, it’s on what you have, not who you are. I...

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Managing That Voice in Your Head

Let’s say, at a bus stop in frigid weather, you wipe your runny nose with a tissue and a man charges up to you and starts screaming that you’re unclean and spreading germs. He continues to harangue you until the bus comes, then finds a seat far away from you and shoots you dirty looks. What meaning would you make of the encounter? My guess is that you’d assume that he had some mental problems and would, hopefully, feel compassion for him due to it and his unwarranted agitation. Or you might be annoyed or anxious that this could happen again, seeing as you take the same bus every morning. Now, let’s say you start taking guitar lessons in middle-age and are told that you have an exceptional talent by your teacher and others. In fact, people can’t get over your newly discovered ability. So you start to think about winning...

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