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]

What’s the Big Deal about Being Productive?

I’ve mentioned before how themes sometimes arise in weekly therapy sessions. Well, one recent theme is productivity. So many dysregulated eaters have this intense drive to be productive. I’m not sure if they tell me what they’ve accomplished because I’m their therapist or they’re in the habit of telling everyone. I thought of this need to be productive when I came home from a busy day doing errands and was struck between the difference I felt—simply glad to have the tasks behind me—and the way some of my clients seem to feel—as if they deserved a gold star on their forehead. I suspect they were trained to report in to others, likely their parents, about their productivity early on and continued the pattern without realizing they no longer need to do so (except perhaps with a boss). This desire to be productive for its own sake stems from parents modeling this...
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Sore or Scar

What’s the difference between a scar and a sore? In my mind, a scar is something that once hurt but is no longer painful, while a sore is something that hurts right now. You view a scar as being about something that happened to you and recognize that it isn’t happening now. A sore is different: it’s an active wound that keeps hurting. It’s helpful to think about events in life as scars or sores in order to distinguish what’s active and really needs our attention and what’s a memory to ignore. Here’s an example. My client Lloyd was the oldest of six children and their unofficial caretaker, what we call the parentified child. Growing up, his mother was on disability due to a heart condition and his father worked two jobs to support the family. Good natured Lloyd tried to do all that was expected of him, but that was...
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The Causes of Mindless Eating

What prevents you from being a mindful eater? Mind you (pun intended), I’m not encouraging you to be a perfect eater but, rather, one who generally puts enough attention on what you’re eating to enjoy it and stay attuned to appetite signals. Here’s my take on what gets in your way: You’re mentally distracted by “all you have to do” and therefore don’t believe you have or deserve time to relish food and feed yourself in such a way that you know when you’ve had enough and are comfortable stopping. Your body may be sitting at the table—or more likely standing at the stove, plopped on the couch in front of the TV, or hunched over your computer—but your mind is miles away obsessed with all the things you feel you “should” be doing. Your focus is on everything but eating. People looking at you might see a person having dinner,...
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It’s Time to Live for What You Fought for in Childhood

Every once in a while a client latches onto a phrase I’ve said because it speaks to them. This happened when I suggested that it’s time for my client Jill to “live for what you fought for.” What I meant was that she’d struggled through an abusive childhood only to live like she’s still stuck on the battlefield.  The truth is that many clients feel and act this way. The war is over, but they can’t seem to climb out of the trenches and delight in freedom, clear skies, and the calm of inner peace. Dr. Jon Connelly, founder of Rapid Resolution Therapy, describes it this way: It’s as if you’re walking forward but always looking over your shoulder. How can you move ahead without looking ahead? How can you leave memories of the past behind if you’re always glancing back at them? Jill, the client referenced above, is a great...
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The Upside of Emotional Triggers

More and more these days I’m noticing a troubling trend in psychotherapy involving tiptoeing around certain subjects and side-stepping the use of certain words in fear of offending or upsetting clients or readers. This seems to stem from a well-meaning desire not to trigger an audience of one or many. In either case, our goal should not be to fear triggering them, but to bring sensitive subjects out into the open so that we can understand and deactivate them once and for all.  In 13 Strategies to Deal with Your Emotional Triggers, David Richo, Ph.D. defines a trigger as “any word, person, event, or experience that touches off an immediate emotional reaction.” Triggers vary in intensity and can lead to either comfortable or uncomfortable feelings—or both. Looking at photos of myself as a child at sleep-away camp, for example, stirs delight that I had such a wonderful time there as well...
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Guest Blog: Healing a Negative Body Image by Mary Anne Cohen, LCSW

The actress Kate Upton once declared, “To me, what’s sexy is when you look like you’re having a good time.”  Many girls and women try to look like they feel sexy. They dress provocatively and carry themselves seductively. One girl wore pants to her therapy session with the word “juicy” scrolled in rhinestones on her backside, and another girl came to her session in four-inch stilettos.  But if you are happy in your body, you don’t need to turn it into a billboard advertising your wares. Authentic good body image comes from inner self-satisfaction.  Because the pain of body image dissatisfaction is emotional, we can improve our body image through psychological change. Making peace with body image distress and enhancing our self-acceptance involves a three-prong approach:  Awareness + Action = Acceptance  Awareness. Become aware of your unique triggers that make you feel bad about your appearance. Are there certain people, places, or situations that especially cause you unhappiness about...
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Ain’t No Wagon to Fall Off Of

I’m sure I’ve had conversations with clients about falling off the proverbial wagon before, but a recent one really got my dander up. Where does this analogy come from and how come we use it so much? Is it helpful to think of recovery with wagon analogies or might the concept actually be hurtful? Can you guess where I stand on the idea? The phrase came into usage around the end of the 19th century and referred to people who said they preferred to drink from a water wagon than imbibe alcohol. The analogy has been used freely in the field of addictions ever since though it’s actually a dangerous concept implying, as it does, the tight control one needs to remain on a moving wagon and the disaster it would be if one fell off one.  There is no wagon when it comes to recovering from an eating disorder because...
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Weight, Vaccines and the COVID-19 Pandemic

I wonder if higher weight people are feeling more under siege than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t mean because of heightened stress, feeling home bound, or battling with increased emotional eating, although they are all factors to be considered. I mean feeling under siege due to the comments of others about higher weight people being at greater risk for becoming seriously ill with the virus. If you’ve been on the receiving end of such comments, don’t for a minute let people shame you. I’m not going to go into numbers about the relationship between COVID and weight because that is besides the point. The point is that blaming higher weight people for “letting themselves get the virus” (one way I heard it put) is simply more weight stigma coming at ya. It’s infuriating for me to hear such remarks when week after week I sit with clients who are...
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How to Unstick from Traumatic Bonding

If you’re being abused and having difficulty breaking away from your abuser, you may be experiencing traumatic bonding. A destructive form of attachment that occurs when, in spite of mistreatment, you still want to be with the person hurting you, it may happen with family, friends, or co-workers. According to Wikipedia, “Trauma bonds are emotional bonds with an individual that arise from a recurring, cyclical pattern of abuse perpetuated by intermittent reinforcement through rewards and punishments. The process . . .  is referred to as trauma bonding or traumatic bonding.” Hotline explains the difficulty of breaking free from abusers as recognizing that they “exhibit ‘good’ behaviors too.” That is, they’re not abusive all the time, but may be kind, caring and loving between abusive episodes. Some partners are even described in glowing terms when they’re not being abusive. Here’s the thing: Intermittent reinforcement is what creates the bonding part of trauma bonding,...
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Tips on Changing Habits

I blog a great deal about changing habits because, at base, that’s what going from dysregulated to “normal” eating is all about—exchanging one set of behaviors for another. How to Build Lasting Habits for a Better Life has some excellent practical ideas on how to get this done.  Katy Milkman, professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and co-founder and co-director of Wharton’s Behavior Change for Good Initiative, studies habits and explains why habits are hard to break: “We know from lots of research that people are very resistant in general to making a change. We’re comfortable in our ways. Any deviation from what we’re used to doing feels like a loss, and losses tend to loom larger than gains.”  She recommends that you surround yourself with people who have the habits you wish to have and observe what they do. Talk to them about how they acquired...
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