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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. 

Wanting To Be Normal Or Healthy

Many people confuse what’s normal with what’s healthy. I hear from clients frequently that they don’t know what’s normal or have always wanted to be normal. Taking a closer look at these terms can help you figure out what you really want to be.   As children, especially those who are raised in dysfunctional families, we often wish to be like other children. We want to fit in and being like others is one way to do it. If our parents are different from other parents—that is, they don’t take good care of us, they drink or do drugs, they can’t keep their jobs, or they abuse or neglect us—we are aware of this consciously or unconsciously and naturally yearn for normalcy. We want a father who helps us with our homework rather than one who shuts himself in the den drinking and watching TV or a mother who attends our...
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Wanting to Belong is Not the Same as Wanting to Fit In

Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, TED talker, and author of four bestselling books, can’t help opening her mouth and spouting wisdom. Being interviewed on NPR, she shared some interesting insights about a topic that often arises in treating dysregulated eaters: the need to belong. For more on this subject, read her interviews at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/author-brene-brown-social-scientist-new-book-braving-the-wilderness/ and at http://www.oprah.com/spirit/life-lessons-we-all-need-to-learn-brene-brown .   In both discussions, she talks about the difference between wishing to belong and wishing to fit in. You might think that they are the same or that in order to experience the former, the latter must happen. Not true. Instead, she maintains that people who have the truest sense of belonging are not those who try to blend in with others, but those who can stand up for their authentic selves and who are comfortable in their own skin.     Somewhere along the way (okay, in childhood),...
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Why Do You Lie To Yourself?

I came across an aphorism by social and moral philosopher Eric Hoffer, which speaks to a truth that we all need to be aware of: “We lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves.”   Now, before, you insist that you never fib to yourself and always attempt to be honest, consider if that might be a lie in itself. Read this blog and, then, see if your assessment changes. Moreover, see if you can accept the truth that we all lie to ourselves without any self-judgment and, especially, without self-condemnation.   To understand our behavior, the question we might ask is why we would lie to ourselves. Aren’t we taught from toddlerhood that lying is bad and wrong? Aren’t we often shamed and punished when we tell falsehoods intentionally or inadvertently? The major reason that we lie is because, in the moment, it brings more emotional comfort than telling the...
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Fatalism Versus Irrational Hope Regarding Eating Disorders

A client mentioned seeing parts of her childhood reflected in Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, a book I recently read at her suggestion. What struck her was Vance describing how people may respond to childhood dysfunction in an unhealthy, polarized way through either fatalism or irrational hope or a mix of the two. This is a perfect description of the mindset of many dysregulated eaters, especially regarding their relationship with food.   Fatalism is a belief in a fixed destiny that we are powerless to change or escape. An example is believing that what was said of you as a child—no one will ever love you, you’re not good enough, or you won’t amount to anything—is true. Fatalist thinking then leads to you act in such a way that you end up not living up to your potential, failing to follow through...
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Manage Your Focus and Better Manage Your Eating and Your Life

Recently, a 70-something, highly successful, charming client came to his first session with me and talked non-stop about how his father regularly had berated him for both over-eating and under-exercising in childhood. Not surprisingly, these “problems” had become the focus of his life. Perhaps, you, too, have difficulty focusing your brain on positive things in life and would like to learn how to manage your thoughts effectively.   If so, world-famous coach Tony Robbins, has some sound advice for you to follow. (“An Interview with Tony Robbins” by Rich Simon, PhD, Psychotherapy Networker , Nov-Dec 2017, p. 47) He maintains that there are three tests of focus: “First, do you tend to focus more on what you can control or can’t control? If you’re always focused on what you can’t control, you’re going to be stressed.” “Do you focus on what you have or what’s missing? The vast majority of people...
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How to Manage Your Control Issues

Let’s face it: We all want control over our lives. It’s encoded into our DNA and hardwired into our brains. We want it because we believe it will help us survive and thrive, although that’s not what’s foremost in our minds when we try to shape life to our liking and get other people to change so that we don’t need to.   In those moments, we’re thinking why the heck our spouse won’t lay off the booze, our neighbor won’t quit playing that awful loud music, and our parents won’t stop treating us like children even though we have grown kids of our own. We have no interest in surrendering our desires, and see nothing wrong with asking others to make major and minor alterations in themselves so that we can go along on our merry way exactly as we are. It doesn’t even occur to us that we might...
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Negative Effects of Loneliness and Isolation

Many clients eat for comfort when they’re lonely. As I’ve blogged before, we’re all lonely once in a while. That can’t be helped. The kind of loneliness that clients are referring to is a chronic feeling which some people remember having had since early childhood.   It is not isolation, per se, that causes loneliness problems, but “the subjective perception of isolation—the discrepancy between one’s desired and actual level of social connection.” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “Loneliness and isolation aren’t the same thing” by Jane Brody, E24, 12/19/2017). We all know people who have few social connections and seem just fine with their quantity and quality. We may know others who surround themselves with friends and family, but still seem disconnected from them and also, perhaps, from themselves.   There are a number of reasons that people might be lonely. Some came from small, isolated families who had or saw few relatives. Outsiders...
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Understanding People Who Hurt You as Expressing Their Hurt

One valuable lesson, among many, that I’ve learned as a therapist is to not take hurtful remarks or actions personally. When clients say something unkind to me, I try to understand why they said it. This focus has helped enormously in my personal, as well as in my professional, life. This doesn’t mean that I repeatedly allow people to hurt my feelings or that I let them off the hook for their remarks or actions. It means that I do not internalize what they say to or about me and think negatively of myself because of it.   Here are some clinical examples of what I mean. A relatively new client said to me, “Well, at least you’re not as worthless as my last therapist.” I could have interpreted his comment as meaning that I’m still pretty useless and not very helpful. Instead, I thought that he might have had a...
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How to Enjoy Exercise More

Would you like to love exercise? Would you settle for enjoying it a bit more, enough to do it regularly? To do so, you’ll have to erase the concept of “no pain, no gain” from your mind and follow the wisdom in “Maybe You’d Exercise More If It Didn’t Feel So Crappy” by Kathrine Hobson (538, 12/5/2017, www.538.com , accessed 12/13/17). Here are some interesting highlights from this article.   “Research by David M. Williams, a clinical psychologist and professor at Brown University, and his colleagues has shown that how you feel during exercise predicts both current and future physical activity levels.” Most health coaches, trainers and therapists, including myself, try to motivate people to exercise by encouraging them to focus on how they’ll feel after exercise, not during it. Apparently, that’s not too helpful. Instead, researchers say that the goal is to find exercise more pleasurable as you do it....
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Go-To Self-Talk That Gets Me Through Everything

Clients sometimes ask me what I say to myself to reduce stress and distress. I use three major phrases, which are based on truths I firmly believe in. It’s crucial to have a set of phrases or mantras, because you want self-soothing self-talk to kick in as soon as you need it and don’t want to be wondering what’s going to work to settle you down or set you straight. Occasionally, I’ll say something else to myself to suit a particular situation, but these are my routine go-to messages:   I’m doing the best I can : I say this to myself often, as a quick-fix antidote to perfectionist tendencies, which I have on occasion. Many of us keep pushing ourselves until we’re hurt or exhausted and for what? Usually to come close to or reach some abstract ideal. However, what if, due to inborn limits, our best isn’t going to...
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