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. 

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The Difference Between Emotions and Moods

Many clients complain about being happy or fine for a while, then losing that feeling. Although some of these shifts are due to depressive or anxiety disorders, others are simply the nature of emotions and misthinking we should feel “good” all the time without experiencing the pain of living on this earth. If you’re wondering what is reasonable to expect from emotions and moods—or what the difference is between the two—read on. Without turning to the dictionary, I would describe an emotion as fleeting, lasting for 90 seconds or so, if I recall correctly. Emotions evolved over the millennia to call attention to themselves in order to prompt us to do something. Occurring in response to the environment, affective memories are stored in our brains to remind us of how best to survive. Moods, on the other hand, last longer. We can be on a high or in a funk lasting...
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How Stress Can Harm You

Many of us feel stressed so often that we don’t realize what it’s doing to us. The fact is that stress is a mind-body response that not only triggers food-seeking to de-stress but may also cause all sorts of major physical and mental damage. According to Dana Sparks in Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your mind and body, stress is a way of protecting us from bodily harm and other threats. Ironically, in this day and age, we are more likely to be harmed by the stress itself. Our bodies evolved the stress response when we lived in a time of near constant peril and we still use it, though most of our lives are not fraught with danger lurking around every corner. Says Sparks, when you encounter a perceived threat, “your hypothalamus, a tiny region at your brain’s base, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a...
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Make Recordings Work for You

Many clients value hearing what their therapist has to say to help them get over rough spots. “Just the sound of your voice” is what some have said when I’ve made recordings for them. Before cell phones, clients and I would develop a short script and I’d record it on a cassette which they’d play as needed. This is an old therapy tool, and certainly nothing original to my practice. There are other ways to use recordings, especially now that we have cell phones which are easy to use. One is to make one yourself. You’d be surprised how supportive it feels listening to the wise person within you offering advice, providing self-soothing, or reminding you of what’s important in your life. You can make a recording in the first or second person depending on which you think will work best.  Here's an excerpt of a recording my client Charlotte made...
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Evaluating Hurt Feelings

I had a great email conversation with a therapist friend about hurt feelings and I want to share some of our thoughts. Of course, we both suffer the same slings and arrows that our clients do—feeling left out, undervalued, invalidated, blamed, blind-sided, rejected, abandoned and more. We talked about things like having a doozy of a blow-out with a decades’ old friend and what it’s like to manage feelings in a dysfunctional family.  We agreed that, when it comes to emotions, it’s best to experience what’s going on inside you and let nature take its course. Naturally, this isn’t the best path when your perceived hurt is based on being in recall and perceiving insult when none was intended. That is an entirely different animal. What we were discussing is when someone does something intentionally or unintentionally that hurts you. Another shared viewpoint—though some might disagree—it’s not helpful in the long...
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How We Learn Beliefs

I talk a voluminous amount with clients about beliefs—where they come from, why they persist, and how to change them. Much of our discussion is about them insisting they must believe something in order to say it to themselves and can’t say anything unless it’s true, aka faking it til you make it, and me explaining why they’re flat out wrong.  To understand what’s going on, it’s important to know the process of how we learn to believe: from how people treat us and what they say to and about us. Take my client, Forrest, whose father was emotionally abusive to him, his sisters, and their mother who was sweet and passive. They were all afraid of him. Dad treated them as if they were there only to serve and agree with him. He did little for them and dissent provoked cruel punishment. From Dad’s behavior, Forrest came to believe that...
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Do You Expect People to Read Your Mind?

Most of us think of mind readers as entertainers who insist they know what you’re thinking and go to great lengths to make you think so. That is not the kind of mind reader I’m writing about here. This blog is about a family dynamic in which members are supposed to be able to read each other’s minds and are chastised for not doing so. For instance, my client Jay-Lynn’s mother asked her to pick up a gift for her own father’s birthday. “You know the kinds of books he likes, sports and stuff,” her mother told her. Jay-Lynn wasn’t sure exactly what to get him, but she squeezed out some time from her busy schedule to pop into Barnes and Noble to search for something that seemed appropriate. She was excited when she arrived home to show her mother her purchase. When she held up the book her mother said,...
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Are You Stuck in the Comply and Resent Pattern?

Answering a question, one of my clients said she “did the usual—you know, the comply and resent thing.” I had to think a minute about what she meant. She was referring to her co-dependence, a pattern we’d often talked about, describing how she’d learned to be dependent on the high regard of others early on and was trying to break the habit.  Comply and resent is exactly what it sounds like: Saying yes to something and then regretting it and feeling resentful that you agreed. We all do this sometimes. I remember a friend asking me to drive her to Logan airport early in the morning when I lived in Boston in my late 20s. Anyone who knows me also knows that I am so not a morning person. Yet here this friend asked me for the ride because she didn’t have anyone else to ask or money for a cab....
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How to Be Like and Unlike Your Parents

I had two sessions in a row in which clients were talking about how they in no way wished to be like their mothers. Neither one had to worry in the least that they’d become like them, yet each had this deep-seated terror that it might happen. Let me explain how they came to this kind of faulty thinking and how we fixed it to be more reality-based. If parents take good care of us, we yearn to be like them and internalize their goodness. We model ourselves after them and learn by imitating what they do and say. If parents abuse or neglect us, we may vow early on that when we grow up, we’ll be nothing like them. In fact, we swear we’ll do our darndest to be the opposite of them because being like them would mean doing to others the awful things they did to us. One...
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Film Review: To The Bone

I saw an interesting Netflix movie specifically about anorexia but also about eating disorder (ED) problems and recovery in general: To the Bone. It was painful to watch as an ED therapist (though not as someone fully recovered from chronic dieting, body dysmorphia, binge-eating and bulimia). Though it may make people with active eating disorders or in early recovery uncomfortable, this is not a reason to avoid watching it. I’m not about to critique the film, which is, like most films, imperfect in some ways (just like us!). For that, here’s an excellent review. My purpose is to point out what can be gleaned from the movie that is helpful to putting an eating disorder behind you. The story follows “Ellen” through treatment for anorexia. Previous inpatient stays have fallen short, so she heads for a place that’s a last resort. It’s common for dysregulated eaters to enter treatment and drop...
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Micro-aggressions Against the Self

These days we hear a good deal about micro-aggressions against others but may never think about how we use them against ourselves. The term is defined as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).” I’m using the term loosely here and not attempting to take anything away from interpersonal affronts that do great damage to marginalized groups and the people in them. I’m thinking about micro-aggressions as the unkind to downright nasty things we say to ourselves about ourselves that make us feel marginalized or disconnected from our better intentions. Like micro-aggressions said to others, these words are so subtly embedded in our culture and minds that we barely or rarely realize the harm they do. Here's an example. Lena, a client who’s a real go-getter, was relating all the things...
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