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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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What Is Your Broken Record Playing?

For those of you who know what a record is and have heard them being played, you might remember what happens when one has a scratch that causes it to play the same thing over and over. You never get to hear the rest of the song because the needle of the record player is stuck in the groove made by the scratch. Hence the term broken record which means saying the same thing over and over. Why do we get stuck repeating the same messages to ourselves when they’re not moving us forward, but keeping us caught in some ancient time warp? Here’s an example of what I call “broken record syndrome,” which is usually an unconscious pattern of self-talk which keeps you from focusing on yourself and changing your life. A client was telling me about her yearning for a stable man and how all she’d ever chosen were...
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Asking the Wrong Question in Abusive Relationships

What do you think is the most common and persistent question clients ask me about their abusive relationships? And what’s the most unhelpful question they could ask themselves? The answer is the same question: “Why is my abuser doing this to me?” If this question doesn’t initially strike you as off-base, take a moment to consider why that might be. Unless you’re someone’s therapist, the problem isn’t why someone does something hurtful to another person. It’s why someone who’s frequently hurt by another person puts up with abusive behavior and continues the relationship! Here’s an example. I have a client who’s adult sister is always causing trouble in the family. My client’s mother was alcoholic when she and her sister were growing up and is sober now. However, she’s still narcissistic and critical. My client’s sister and her mother have constant friction. And when they do, the sister blames my client...
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The Secret to Getting Things Done

This blog is for all of you who struggle with getting things done—whether you’re wildly busy or simply have little motivation to do the few important tasks you wish to accomplish. Remember, having alot to do is not necessarily the issue. It’s your inability to execute your (many or few) desires, that is, to go from intention to accomplishment. Be a Schedule Builder, Not a To-Do List Maker by Nir Eyal will put you on the right track by shifting your mindset from checking off to-do lists to structuring your life to suit yourself. Insists Eyal, “It’s time to shed the constant stress and toxic guilt of not checking off enough little boxes and finally understanding why running your life with a to-do list is like running your life on Windows 95.” His point is that we make to do lists to get things we’re ambivalent about doing done. After all,...
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How Temperament Affects Us

As a therapist, I think about temperament a good deal—mine and that of the clients I treat. I often joke that I got the “happy genes” from my dad or am amazed at clients who’ve suffered greatly in life and yet remain hopeful and upbeat. We are the fortunate ones when it comes to temperament. In “How Temperament Influences Support Given to Loved Ones With Eating Disorders,” Dr. Laura Hill, Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, The Ohio State University and Voluntary Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego explains what temperament is and its importance: “Temperament impacts the cost of one’s daily emotional expense.”  She goes on to say that “Temperament is the biological basis of our personality. It is created by one’s genes which set the framework for brain circuit development that evolves and functions over one’s life span. Temperament consists of one’s personality traits....
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Being Okay Being You

“If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be” is yet another wonderful quote by US author and poet Maya Angelou. I use the term normal here, not the way I usually do as in “normal” eating which follows four rules, but in the quest some people are on to be like everyone else. Being themselves won’t do, and instead many of them want to be anyone but themselves. Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde tells us why that’s impossible via one of my favorite quotes: “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” And, after all, what the heck is wrong with being the one and only you? We learn that we are basically not okay and defective from our families and culture. If our parents are always comparing themselves to the proverbial Joneses, we’re going to grow up thinking that this is how one...
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There’s Much More to Life Than Instant Gratification

I had a really interesting discussion with a client about how to lift her mood other than through instant gratification. An accomplished woman as well as someone who had used drugs in the past and was still using alcohol to boost her spirits and regulate her emotions, we were trying to figure out what would help her remain clean and sober. I threw out some positive states of being and we talked about their nuances and how she could incorporate them into her life. I share them with you, so you can stop chasing amorphous happiness and start enjoying these emotions to improve it your life.  Joy aka delight and jubilation is not meant to be a lasting feeling. It’s a momentary ping that bubbles up in you on special occasions. It’s what you feeling when you’re doing an activity you love or when someone you adore shows up on your...
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Eating by the Light of the TV—Not

I’m not sure when TV watching plus eating became de rigueur, but perhaps this entwinement is based on movie viewing in theatres while snacking on popcorn. It’s not an unhealthy habit per se—except if you’re trying to be mindful about eating and consume less food. The way to learn new habits is by focusing on them with 100% concentration which is the antithesis of what happens when glued to your set.  Most of us watch TV to become absorbed in what we’re seeing and turn off our minds. Whether we’re into programs about the news, travel, or history, movies or our favorite binge-worthy shows, the idea is to escape consciousness and relax. There’s not a thing wrong with doing that. We need to turn off our busy brains and give them a rest and watching TV is a fine way to do that.  But while our thinking mind is resting as...
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Balancing Sameness and Variety

Pandemic aside, how many of you lead a balanced life? Do you have too much sameness without knowing how to spice it up in a healthy way? The need to have enough of each of these polarities is not so different from trying to get the right measure of structure versus freedom. Many people enjoy sameness, while others abhor it. Often if you had an unpredictable childhood—parents marrying, divorcing and remarrying or the family moving from place to place—you crave sameness. You want to keep your old friends, live in the same house or apartment and never move, spend your annual vacations at the same spot, visit tried-and-true restaurants, and avoid what’s new and different. Alternately, if your parents ran a household where change was looked at with horror because it made them anxious, you might have developed an itch for variety. For you, doing the same old thing is boring,...
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Process Not Product

If you’re rushing through life on automatic or holding off enjoying it until you’ve accomplished something, you might be focused on product rather than process. This could be the case if you’re highly goal-oriented or intent on success at any cost to yourself or others. One obvious example is thinking only of the number on the scale rather than putting attention on eating mindfully. You yearn for the finished product and don’t much care how you get it: by dieting, fasting or bariatric surgery. Here are examples of valuing product over process. You meet someone who’s your type and kind of nice and go out a few times. Although you notice things about them that aren’t what you’re looking for in a life partner, you ignore them because you’re already picturing yourself married with a house and two kids. Because you’re not valuing the getting-to-know-you part of the relationship, you miss many...
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The Stress of Estrangement

One of the many stressors that can lead to dysregulated eating is loneliness due to estrangement from family members—when adults disconnect from relatives or families disconnect from them. This kind of problem can decrease a sense of belonging and, too often, lead to emotional eating.  Family estrangement: Why rifts happen and how to cope with them explains the causes of alienation, why it has increased over time, and what to do if it happens to you. The article’s author, Jen Rose Smith, maintains that alienation is far more common than it used to be for several reasons. When abuse is involved, rather than turning the other cheek, more and more abusees are comfortable letting go of toxic relationships, a view reinforced by American culture’s individualistic, rather than family, orientation. Although I’ve known a few people over the years whose parents shunned them for their life choices, it’s more common for me...
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