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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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New You, New Thoughts

Rather than start a diet at the beginning of this year, think about January as a good time to evaluate and improve not just your thoughts, but the way you think. Change it, and your feelings and behavior will be transformed, automatically shifting you in the direction you want to go for health, fitness and higher self-esteem. Let me explain a simple tool for measuring how take in and process information. I’ve been using it since I learned about it in social work school back in the late 1980s. Be careful not to judge yourself as you’re learning about this new concept. Just take note of your habits and how you might change them. Consider what you do with new information. When you’re presented with a different way of looking at something than your usual way—for example, trying intuitive or mindful eating versus dieting—how do you decide whether to hold onto...

One Week Will Change Your Eating Habits

Here’s a 7-day plan to connect with your appetite and emotions. For one week, follow the guidelines below to learn and practice a different aspect of connecting to yourself. Each day you’ll have one experience to focus on for that whole day. If you like what you learn in a week, try it for another. It will help move you closer to “normal” eating. Day 1: How do I feel in my body? Don’t critique your body. Just neutrally notice how you feel in it. Which parts move well and which don’t? Connect to your body, observing how it feels sitting, standing, walking, dancing, resting. Stay away from the mirror. Repeat, stay away from the mirror. You’re seeking a view from the inside out, not the outside in. Day 2: How hungry am I? When you think you want food, note your hunger level using a 0 (none) to 10 (very)...

First Decide How You Want to Feel

One way to transform yourself, is to name how you want to feel. Usually when I ask clients who are complaining about how they feel, how they would like to feel, they respond with either the reasons they feel as they do or what they think. This is especially true of clients who spend a lot of time in their heads to avoid experiencing feelings. Let me lay out a scenario to show you what I mean. Say, your brother is selfish, emotionally abusive and generally tries to bully you into doing whatever he wants. Occasionally you’ve had good times together—fishing or listening to music—but whatever fun you have is overshadowed by him reverting to character, narcissism in his case. You’ve spent most of your life trying to please him, but he still is critical and puts you down. Occasionally he belittles you in front of others, then pretends it was...

Ways to Identify When You’re in Recall Not Reality

It takes work to recognize when we’re in recall rather than reality. This happens when a painful memory echoes a current experience and we become mentally unmoored from the present and suffer what we felt then. Remember, memory is how we protect ourselves from bad things happening to us—the old “better safe than sorry” adage. As I’ve written before, recall memories co-opt the present and the best we can do is to realize when this is happening and mentally drag ourselves back to the present. To do so, you will need to be a keen, accurate observer of your thoughts and feelings.  Step 1: Notice the strength of your emotions. If someone cuts in front of you in line at the bank, you might be slightly annoyed. However, if you’re so enraged you want to shove them out of line or knock them to the ground, you’re being swept up an...

Fear of Wasting Food

A client and I had an interesting chat about wasting food. She was raised on a tight budget, with her grandmother insisting that everyone finish the food on their plates. I understood: My father would sit with me and read the NY Telegram until every morsel on my plate was socked away into my stomach. Many of us were raised to think that throwing out food was reason to call the major crimes unit to haul us away. Many of us would be wrong.  What we sensed and came to believe when people told us as children not to waste food was that we were bad if we did. Such an act was unacceptable, shameful, disapproved of by whoever was in authority. For whatever reasons, they were trying to make us feel the behavior was wrong because it never occurred to them that they weren’t right. If you’re serious about becoming...

To Diagnose or Not

I was explaining to a neighbor that someone we were talking about had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and she got miffed and said it was unnecessary to label people. This happened during the same week that a client mentioned to her sister that I suggested she (the sister) might carry the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and that caused trouble in already dysfunctional family dynamics. In my first post-grad school job, I was required to submit a DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) diagnosis. Ditto when I was an insurance provider. I didn’t think much about mental health diagnosing until a friend explained to me how it had negatively impacted her brother with schizophrenia and I started looking at it from the client’s point of view, that is, feeling that they were being reduced to a psychiatric label. I understood how harmful this could be. Years later, I had two clients in my...

The Best Way to Set Boundaries

Many dysregulated eaters have difficulty setting boundaries. All/nothing thinking leads them to accept everyone into their lives and allow people to walk all over them or keeps them emotionally defended and alone. This is known as having loose or tight boundaries. One is not better than the other. Boundaries need to be set according to what’s necessary. Like doors, boundaries can be open, closed or swing back and forth.  We learn about boundaries from parents and other adults who take care of themselves and others and say yes and no appropriately on a case-by-case basis. Boundaries are fluid—like swinging doors—set according to varying people and situations. Wise parents are sometimes available to their children and sometimes not. They watch out for them and themselves and are clear about what they will and won’t do for others. Alternately, parents with poor boundary setting provide unhealthy models for their children. Maybe they feel...

Book Review – Us: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship

My book review originally published at NY Journal of Books This life-altering book stands head and shoulders above the countless how-to guides aiming to teach couples how to repair broken relationships. Its brilliance lies in both its macro-analysis of how cultural over-valuing of the individual undermines loving partnerships, and its detailed strategies to get back on track by learning to hold the well-being of the union above the happiness of each member. Written in plain language, the author’s generous sharing of therapy sessions will make readers cry with his clients and laugh at themselves. Terrence Real, LICSW, internationally recognized family therapist, speaker, and multi-book author, is the founder of the Relational Life Institute. The power of his message comes from professional wisdom, topnotch writing, deep introspection, and exceptional frankness about the challenges he’s faced to become not only the man his wife would like him to be, but the man he,...

A Subtle Sign of Co-dependence

So often when I suggest to clients that they may be co-dependent, they say, “Who me?” They can’t see what I see about them because they’re so entrenched in their interactional patterns and fail to recognize that they’re more other than self-focused. Here’s a major clue that you might lean toward co-dependence.  One major tip off is when I ask a client about how they’re feeling and they don’t talk about themselves but start talking about another person’s feelings. For example, I was asking a client how she felt about a break-up with her boyfriend and she responded, “Well, you know it’s his choice. He thinks we should try to work it out, but I’ve tried everything to make things work. I guess I just don’t meet his standards.”  A slightly different example happened during a conversation I had with a client about his narcissistic mother. Again, I asked my client...

Taking Care Of versus Caring About

A conflict that comes up a good deal in therapy is whether we can care about someone but no longer want to be responsible for taking care of them. Discussion of this topic arises more often with people who are co-dependent than with those who aren’t. In fact, it’s often a tip off of their over-focusing on other’s needs.  Here are two examples. A client broke off a long-term relationship with her boyfriend in another state. They hadn’t lived together for a while and slowly became more friends than lovers. My client made great strides in therapy, more or less leaving her ex in the dust, while he continued to be jobless, live with his parents, and do drugs. They’d been each other’s support for decades and she still had deep feelings for him, but she was tired of him calling to complain and always make himself out to be a...