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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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Responding to Unwanted or Inappropriate Questions

Decades ago, a near stranger asked me why I often wore neck scarves. True, this was my habit and that of many others, as was the fashion back in the 1980s. I’m sure I mumbled that I liked how they looked or some such, but this woman’s question never struck me as coming from curiosity. It rang of judgment (as I got to know her, it turned out she was a preachy sort) which irked me. Recently, when a client described how her mother keeps asking her why she doesn’t want children, I thought of the scarf interaction and how people often ask questions that are clearly inappropriate or unwanted. Fortunately, in my clinical training, I was taught to answer inquiries of a personal or impertinent nature with another question: “Why do you want to know?” I’ve used that response over the decades well beyond my professional arena, asking it softly,...

How to Make Friends

I’ve blogged a good deal about making, choosing and keeping friends and the red flags to pick up on in relationships. Friendships require close attention which starts before you become friends and continues during the span of connection—because either of you may change for better or worse at any time, calling for relational recalibration. As an only child, I learned early on to be on the lookout for potential friendships. At 76, it’s deep-seated habit. Whenever I meet new colleagues, neighbors, friends of friends, strangers or whatevers, I automatically think about whether they’re friendship material. The only place I don’t look for friendship is with clients, though it doesn’t stop me from considering whether I’d wish to be friends with them if such relationships weren’t taboo. If you’re looking to make friends, keep your eyes wide open at all times. Think of people you interact with regularly in the office, at...

Why Boundary Setting Can Be Difficult

It’s not surprising that the topic of boundaries surfaces often in therapy—and in life. In one day, three sessions dealt with the subject. The situations varied greatly, illustrating the importance of attending to boundary issues wherever they crop up. This starts with having healthy beliefs about your ability to set and maintain boundaries while understanding that nuanced circumstances dictate nuanced responses. The first example is a client in her early twenties, a victim of emotional abuse and neglect in her family, who sometimes gets frozen in a victim mentality. We were discussing how she occasionally chooses toxic friends and her difficulty finding mentally healthy ones. At one point, she described people habitually asking her to do things for them, her complying, their never reciprocating and, therefore, not knowing how to respond to requests. I mentioned that she consider whether someone would do the same (or had done it) for her before...

When Dysfunction Seems Normal

My client Ronni works as a barista at a coffee bar that’s poorly managed. Managers come and go, her schedule is changed from week to week, and she’s often asked to fill in for missing employees. Her goal has been to try her hardest to be flexible and do a good job to please her managers. My goal has been for her to return to college. My client Marlena always seemed to find jobs where she was physically abused by a boss or co-worker. She was never badly hurt, just a shove, light slap or having keys or the like thrown at her. It was almost uncanny how this happened in job after job. When I made comments about unwanted touching, especially with aggression, being totally unacceptable, Marlena would shrug and say, “Oh, it’s not so bad. I’ve had worse.” Want to guess what these clients had in common? They both...

Stuff Happens

Months ago, as I was ironing, my beloved iron sputtered and died. After trying various ways to revive it, I grumbled, “Ugh, now something else is broken. I’m so tired of this happening.” Then the light bulb in my head flashed on to remind me that “s**t happens” because that’s the way of the world—always was, always will be—and our wish that life would simply roll merrily along without a hitch is merely self-serving foolishness.  Objects break or get lost, people and animals get sick and die, deals fall through, plans turn to disaster, weather trumps plans, and if things can go wrong they almost surely will. We know this on some level, don’t we? We experience the process ourselves and see it happen to others every day—and yet we still cling to the fantasy that we’ll have predictable, perfect lives. If random stuff happening weren’t so difficult to bear, it...

Overcoming Fear Leads to Reparative Experiences

Is your fear preventing you from having reparative experiences? I hope not, because fear not only keeps you stuck in victim mode, but also ensures that you stay there. On the other hand, you could do what some of my clients have chosen to do: face your fears, push past them, and improve your future along with your view of yourself.  Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. A client, Andra, a veteran with PTSD, found it hard being social after suffering a military sexual assault. Since then, she’s had two abusive relationships, but also has been determined to overcome her fear of men. Recently she was at a social event where a male vet was sexually inappropriate with her. This time, instead of ignoring his mistreatment and freezing or fleeing in fear, she stood up for herself and told him off. After sharing with other male vets what happened,...

Values Clarification

One of my favorite courses in social work school was called Values Clarification (or something similar). Most people have never heard of the topic. Neither had I. But it’s a crucial life skill in understanding yourself and your place in the world. Good Therapy defines values clarification as “a psychotherapy technique that can often help an individual increase awareness of any values that may have a bearing on lifestyle decisions and actions. This technique can provide an opportunity for a person to reflect on personal moral dilemmas and allow for values to be analyzed and clarified. This process may be helpful for self-improvement, increased well-being, and interactions with others.” An understatement of its usefulness, in my humble opinion. Values come up all the time in and out of therapy, but we don’t generally call them that. Instead, we say: my beliefs are, I think that, what’s right (or wrong) is. When...

Why Cognitive Flexibility Is a Must Have for Mental Health

I’m forever challenging clients who say, “I always” and “I never” or who tell me they’re a certain way, such as insisting, “I hate parties” or “I try never to hurt anyone.” These statements are a sure sign that someone is lacking cognitive flexibility or the adaptive ability to make judgments about what’s necessary or effective situation by situation.  One of the biggest mistakes that dysregulated eaters make is holding on for dear life to old ways of thinking, rather than make decisions based on current reality. For example, my client Tonya grew up in a family in which she was sexually and emotionally abused. No wonder she didn’t trust people and took pride in relying only on herself—except that no man or woman is an island and we need to depend on others to live our best lives. Her response to others was adaptive in childhood but is maladaptive now....

The Chemistry of Fullness and Satiation

In a very interesting article (NY Times Opinion, 6/4/23), “What Ozempic Reveals about Desire,” Maia Szalavitz explains how the brain works vis a vis food. As a fully recovered binge-eater and eating disorders therapist for 35 years, it would be almost impossible for me not to have a fascination with what goes on inside us (and went on inside me) when we’re out of control around food. I hope that writing about the science helps you understand your eating better. By discussing Ozempic and other so-called “weight-loss” drugs, I am in no way endorsing them or encouraging their use. One enlightening nugget in the article is that the brain registers two primary types of pleasure according to Kent Berridge, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan. One he labels “wanting,” about which he says, “The positive side of wanting is feeling empowered and focused on getting what...

More on ADHD and Eating Problems

  Last year I blogged on the link between Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and eating problems (the diagnosis is now ADHD, not ADD) and I want to give you additional info on the subject from Is There a Link Between ADHD and Overeating. Here are some highlights, though I recommend you read the whole article if you have questions about whether you have ADHD or not or how it may relate to your eating. “ . . . research associates ADHD with eating disorders that involve overeating. There is also scientific evidence to support a link between ADHD and obesity.” “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental  condition that can produce a range of symptoms relating to the inability to focus, impulsive or hyperactive behavior, or both.” “As ADHD involves difficulty with staying focused, impulsive behavior, or both,  people with the condition may find it hard to...