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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. 

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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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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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