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]

Which Childhood Feelings Are You Haunted By?

It’s long past Halloween but many of us are haunted by childhood feelings. They may not visit us every day or even every week, but we may sense them lurking behind the scenes ready to jump out and unnerve us at any moment. Here are emotions I’ve found commonly distressing in my practice and from my years of living on the planet. Vulnerability/fear. If you grew up, say, in a military type of household, you might not have been able to show fear or vulnerability without being shamed or reprimanded. Yet, these are every day, normal emotions all humans have. Maybe Dad made fun of you when you got scared going out in a canoe for the first time or Mom yelled at you when you shared with your first-grade class that you didn’t like to be alone in the house. What you learned from the tiny sampling of your family...
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From an Unhealthy to a Healthy Relationship

Having a healthy relationship doesn’t mean that both people are poster children for perfect emotional health. It means that how you respond in the relationship is appropriate and functional. So, the good news is that you often can have a healthy relationship with someone who’s still in the process of getting it together—just like you. In my blog Stages of Relationship Health, I explore how to go from being abused in a relationship to having anger about your mistreatment to leaving the relationship altogether. What I’m blogging about here is a different take on that situation: how to go from being passive about being abused to becoming angry to learning how to detach.  So many of my clients who come from dysfunctional family backgrounds took the mistreatment for far too long because they were dependent on their parents. Although some children do run away from egregious abuse, most remain in the...
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How to React When People Give You Advice—Eating or Otherwise

It’s not always true that, as my client Penny said to me, “No one likes to be told what to do.” Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. It depends on several variables. What’s being said. People who are already highly sensitive to hearing comments about eating or weight, might be more touchy about being told about what to eat and not eat, than “normal” eaters. They often ignore advice givers because they know in their heads and hearts what’s better or worse for them to do around food.   Who’s saying it. If a beloved friend says she’s worried about your eating because she knows you have type 2 diabetes and she’s someone who’s always had your back and your interest at heart, you’ll likely react differently than if your doctor, whom you just met and who doesn’t even look you in the eye, makes the same comment.    How...
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Frequently Asked Questions

Many questions and topics come up repeatedly in therapy that you may want answers to, so here they are. Where possible, I’ve directed you to read more about them.  Am I a bad person because I judge and feel critical of others? Rather than thinking others are bad people, use critical thinking skills (based on cognition and rationality) along with your honest emotional reactions to determine someone’s worth and appeal by weighing their pros and cons. You’re supposed to use these skills to know who’s emotionally healthy and who isn’t.  How do I know if I’m normal?  That’s an easy question to answer: there is no normal for everyone for everything. What you’re really asking? Usually, when clients ask this question, they want to know if their thoughts or feelings are healthy/unhealthy or common/unusual. In my book, it’s more important to be healthy than common. Lots of people do awful things...
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What If People Don’t Like You?

Are you someone who believes that if people don’t like you there’s something wrong with you? Many dysregulated eaters who think this way interpret rejection as meaning they aren’t likeable or lovable. To curry favor, they therefore become people-pleasers. Emotionally healthy people have a less personal, more reality-based take on the issue.  The goal is not to never feel hurt if you’re not someone’s cup of tea, but to avoid taking every brush off as an assault on your personhood and proof of your unlikability. It’s okay to feel a ping of hurt or even an occasional sting of serious ouch when people aren’t interested in you. But if you believe you’re defective and unlovable just because someone doesn’t ask you on a second date, won’t go for coffee with you, or doesn’t invite you to their 20th anniversary party, you’re in big trouble.  Better to learn why rejection happens to...
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Body Shame Is In Your Head

Checking out after a medical appointment, I was trying to write a check on a (to me) high counter and remarked to the nurse that I wished I were taller. She said, “But you’re so tiny, so petite.” I replied to all 5 feet 1 inch of her—an attractive, slightly higher weight woman—"Well, you’re not exactly tall. There’s not much difference in our height.” Then came the kicker when she said, “Oh, no, but you’re thin. I wish I were thin like you.” Though I’ve had these conversations before, they still stun me and I never know what to say. There wasn’t much I could say with people around us and me being in a bit of a rush, so I said something like, “You look fine. Focus on your health, not your weight.” She looked at me like I was clueless about her situation, so I added, “I know about...
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Conflicted Thoughts on Whether to Eat or Not

If you’re someone who regularly eats without being hungry or past full or satisfied, you’ll want to read, “The goal conflict model: a theory of the hedonic regulation of eating behavior,” which nails why you engage in this behavior. The argument of its author Wolfgang Stroebe is simple: “reduced responsiveness to hunger and satiation cues is not due to a lack of ability to recognize such cues, but to a more powerful motive governing the food intake of people with a weight problem, namely eating enjoyment.” Of course, everyone who is higher weight does not have a “weight problem.” People have differing genetics, body structure and metabolisms. But the conflict Stroebe describes is exactly what I felt when I was an overeater: I wanted both to enjoy food and lose weight, which led me to doing neither very effectively. How can you enjoy food when you’ve been brainwashed to obsess and...
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How to Make Meaning of Emotional Pain

Clinical work involves trying to help clients figure out what to make of current emotional pain, because not all of it is instructional. When we feel pain, we must determine if it’s in response to a real threat or not. Based on this determination, we then can decide what to do with it. Here’s the discussion I had with a client on this subject. Moira is a soon-to-retire police officer who described arresting a highly inebriated man for assaulting his girlfriend then being stuck listening to him verbally abuse her (my client) for hours from his holding cell as she did his paperwork for booking. Bossed around, shamed and neglected in childhood, she’s highly sensitive to what others think of her and is learning how to better manage personal slights.  We talked about how to view her arrestees’ ridicule, including how people whom we hurt try to hurt us back (clearly...
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How I Learned Not to Be a “Normal” Eater

In the interest of helping you understand how you developed dysregulated eating habits, I thought I’d share my story with you. All our stories, of course, will be different but will also have themes and threads in common. It’s important to remember that not just one thing derailed your eating. Rather, it was a combination of factors beyond your control. It’s nothing you did and it wasn’t your choice to have a dysfunctional relationship with food. It’s something you learned from circumstances and now must unlearn. First off, my father was not a great role model with food. He was an overeater, in part likely from growing up during the Great Depression. And perhaps his sense of food deprivation was also due to how his parents related to food. I don’t know because his mother died before I was born and his father died when I was a toddler. At any...
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More On Coping with Narcissists

The better we understand narcissists, the easier it is (though it will never be easy) to cope with them. It’s most problematic when they’re a parent or boss because you’re stuck with them. Having narcissistic romantic partners or friends can be a painful experience, but you can always edge or elbow them out of your life. Right? “Why Do Narcissists Lose Popularity Over Time?” offers fresh insights into this hard-to-handle personality. Researchers W. Keith Campbell and Stacy Campbell propose “a new model of narcissism in which they argue that two particular time points are important. The ‘emerging zone’ includes situations involving unacquainted individuals, early-stage relationships, and short-term contexts. In contrast, the ‘enduring zone’ involves situations involving acquainted individuals, continuing relationships, and long-term consequences. The costs of narcissism are seen primarily in the ‘enduring zone.’" Because narcissists tend to switch their charm on and off—and replace it with self-centeredness and aggression, among other traits—they are...
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