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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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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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

More Pride, Less Gratitude Please

Here’s a common therapy occurrence. A client does something amazing like eat “normally” for a week, start a new job clean and sober, or divorce an abusive spouse and I ask them, “How’re you feeling about that?” and they start off with, “Well, I’m grateful for . . .”—and they lose me. It’s hard to pay attention to their gratitude overflow when I’ve been hoping they’d tell me how proud they are of themselves.  Just as long ago when I became a therapist during the “forgiveness” movement which seemed over the top to me, I now find myself feeling similarly put off by the “gratitude” crusade. Not that there’s anything wrong with forgiveness or gratitude. They are part of emotional health. But there’s a lack of balance and authenticity when forgiveness or gratitude are de rigueur and crowd out pride, one of the crowning jewels of emotions.  Gratitude definitely has its...

Being Okay No Matter What

Most of us spend our lives stressing to make everything work out okay. We want our children to be happy and successful, friends to like us, employers to value us and our work, romantic partners to love us and live forever, and for various and sundry other endeavors to turn out swimmingly. And in so doing, we engage in a fool’s errand. For example, my middle-aged client Josephina is divorcing her husband of many decades to live alone for the first time in her life. Tending toward anxious, she worries about feeling lonely, being able to pay her rent, and managing by herself when she’s used to depending on her husband. She told me, “I just want it all to be okay.” Another client, Alan, studying to be a paralegal, gets frantic when he receives anything less than a B due to his scholarship requirements. He works two jobs and throws...

Why We View Parents Differently Than Other People

I had an interesting discussion with my client Alexandria about how she often allows her mother to mistreat her. She’s been changing her thinking about their relationship lately, though, because she’s finally decided that she doesn’t want to be intentionally hurt repeatedly by anyone. Then again, if we felt the same way toward parents as we do toward others, there’d be no need to discuss the issue in therapy or elsewhere. A shift in thinking is natural as we grow older. Remember that our brains only fully form in our late twenties, so our emotional response to parents is based on a brain lacking adequate executive functioning: we don’t understand ourselves, others, or the world because we don’t have the cognitive ability to do so.  By the time we’re teens and making friends, we have a stronger (yet still incomplete) capacity to assess how we’re treated and decide if it’s acceptable....