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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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Is It Hard Being the Mentally Healthy Person in Your Family?

Most clients get very excited when they start to get psychological insights into how dysfunctional their family is. They’re determined to recover from past trauma, heal their wounds, and become more emotionally healthy. What they may not realize is that this is not necessarily what other family members want to happen. Parents and siblings might view this new-found wisdom and altered behavior as rocking the boat and upsetting the homeostasis of the family. In fact, what clients often find when they attempt to do what’s best for them is not support but a circling of the wagons and a tsunami of resistance.  So, instead of being cheered on, these clients are overtly and covertly pressured back into their old ways. Sometimes it comes as a surprise to them that they’re not getting pats on the back and other times they anticipate and are bracing themselves for such push-back. Either way, it’s...
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When A Safety Net Turns Deadly

I haven’t been able to get a phrase out of my head that a client said a few months ago. It went something like this: “. . . and then the safety net turns into a spider’s web.” As a writer, I found the allusion to be brilliant. As a therapist, it was chilling. Sadly, my client was talking about her marriage. It’s common for victims of abuse, especially women, to partner up with abusers in same sex as well as heterosexual relationships. The path starts in childhood when, through no fault of their own, they suffer abuse as children—physical, emotional, sexual or, worse, all three. Parents or other caretakers are emotionally unhealthy and more concerned with meeting their own pathological needs than rearing healthy children.  As children, these individuals have no idea that they are not causing the abuse and, instead, are perfectly normal and whole, while their abuser is...
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The Difference Among Food Allergy, Sensitivity and Intolerance

Although most of us use words such as food allergy, sensitivity and intolerance interchangeably, they are not the same. I learned this on my journey to find out which foods are causing me intestinal problems, in this case via a blood test. Fortunately, my handy dandy Lifestyle Eating and Performance (LEAP) MRT® Report (copyright Oxford Biomedical Technologies, Inc., version 8.17.20) provides a comprehensive, understandable tutorial on the subject which I thought I’d share with you in case you have any confusion about these terms.  The short distinction is thus: “The general consensus is that food allergy can be defined as any adverse reaction to food that involves our immune system”: food allergy and food sensitivity. “Food intolerance does not involve the immune system.” In a food allergy, the immunological triggering mechanism is called IgE and the most common food allergies are “peanuts, other nuts, shellfish, or foods containing sulfites. Food allergy...
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From Rapture to Rupture

When we fall in love we generally believe it’s until death do us part. What we feel is a grand rapture. My mother used to tell me that love is the feeling you feel when you’re about to feel a feeling that you never felt before. Not very helpful for a teenager trying to understand her emotions, but most of us recognize what my mom was trying to tell me: romantic love is special, unique, like nothing else we’ve experienced. It's a kind of rapture, a state that both courses intensely through every cell of our bodies and also feels dreamlike and surreal. Love roots us in every aspect of the present while feeling as if it will last forever and that nothing ever came before. Let me give you an example. My client Ella, seeing me for marital problems, told me about when she first met her husband Lyle in...
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A Communication Lesson

How many of us simply speak to others as we have been spoken to for most of our lives? Oh, about 100%. If we were raised by parents who were loving and skilled at effective communication—to others, to us and in their self-talk—we are likely to pick up their positive interpersonal habits. For the rest of us, well, unless we learned it somehow or other along the way, we need to understand what constitutes civilized exchange. In my view, novel writer Louise Penny’s main character, Armand Gamache, is a fine teacher, instructing his police trainees as follows: “Civility,” he says, “How can we expect it if we don’t give it?” Before speaking, he recommends that we consider what we’re about to say by asking ourselves: “Is it true? Is it kind? Does it have to be said?” Is it true? It matters that what we say about someone is true for...
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How to Become More Motivated

Several times a week, I have discussions with clients about why they’re not fulfilling promises they made to themselves about better eating, moving their bodies more or improving self-caring. Having spent much of the first half of my life involved in similar internal debates, I understand the distress you’re in, so here’s some advice: figure out what’s preventing you from having sustained motivation. In my view, motivation has two phases: jump-start and maintenance. The first thing to figure out is which phase you’re having problems with. Some folks just can’t seem to begin, forever standing at the starting line but never crossing it. Others begin again frequently, stopping and starting over. Whichever problem you have, you’ll want to determine what’s been preventing you from starting on keeping on. Here are my ideas:  You have mixed feelings about doing whatever it is you propose to do: cook more healthfully, walk three times...
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You Gotta Have (a Group of) Friends

As an only child, friends were my lifeline to fun, connection and learning about myself. I can’t imagine my life without not only individual friends but belonging to a group of like-minded people. Granted that I’m an extrovert, but I know introverts who also enjoy the benefits of belonging to a band of friends.  Not every group of friends is right for you. Peers can lead you astray, down paths you might not have chosen without their influence and would likely not have traveled alone. If they’re doing unhealthy things and you hang with them long enough, you’ll end up doing them too. Like going out to eat with friends who all binge and overeat. If you’re not anchored to being a “normal” eater—especially if you’re trying to become one—you’re probably dooming yourself. Also, in a group you could become the scapegoat, the one that gets teased and blamed for all...
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Will Accomplishing Goals Make You Happy?

Ah, the beginning of a spanking new year and, per usual, there’s much talk about goals. Whether it’s doing more of this or less of that, most folks believe that reaching goals will make them happy. Unfortunately, science tells us that this idea is but a half truth. According to Happy New Year! Your Resolutions Won’t Bring You Joy, “Changing circumstances won’t make you hugely happier,” said Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside. In other words, the folks who are virtuous enough to keep their resolutions aren’t necessarily enjoying their lives more than the rest of us. And, if they are happier, it’s not because they kept their resolutions — it’s because they made the right resolutions in the right way.”  She goes on to advise that, after basic needs for food, shelter and safety are met, “Life events like marriage (makes you happy!) or divorce...
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Toxic Positivity

Many of you, especially those who incline toward depression and anxiety, might be wondering how positivity could ever be toxic. The truth is that, like negativity, too much of always being upbeat and look-on-the-bright side can hurt you and others. When Does a Good Attitude Become Toxic Positivity? explains how. A bit of background. As a therapist, I was trained to identify and help clients focus on resolving their problems. Therefore, I had to ask people about them—over and over again. Then in the 1990s along came the Positive Psychology movement which shifted therapeutic focus to clients’ strength and resilience, a welcome addition to the field. Fortunately, I’ve not felt a clinical need to choose one aspect of self over the other: people have amazing skills as well as enormous problems. Difficulties arise, however, when we feel we must choose one perspective over the other. You’ve probably met people who are...
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When You Feel You’re Not Doing Enough

Many dysregulated eaters not only eat more food than their bodies need, but also give too much to other people. I half-jokingly call this having an “enough disorder” and have blogged about How to Sense Enoughness. A major cause of stress (and overeating), overdoing often rears its ugly head in interpersonal relationships. Here are examples: Your elderly mother expecting you to visit twice a week, while you’re working full-time as a single parent, is a major stressor for you. You keep trying to do so, but either find that half the time you end up cancelling one visit or return home exhausted and resentful. You feel you should visit twice weekly because that’s what Mom is requesting, believing that a good child would put their needs aside and make the effort. When your friends hint that Mom might be asking too much of you, you agree while at the same time...
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