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 Splitting and How It Can Hurt You

Reading an article on maladaptive behaviors due to early abuse, I came across the term splitting. It’s used a great deal when talking about Borderline Personality Disorder, but most folks have never heard of it, which is too bad, because it’s a useful concept. Splitting happens when someone has difficulty integrating aspects of themselves or others. For example, how you’ve felt after a binge—like an entirely bad and disgusting person. In splitting, you forget all the other wonderful qualities you have, all the behaviors that make you valuable and lovable, and see only the negative ones.  Or, you meet a potential romantic partner and only see their best qualities, ignoring that they sometimes treat you poorly. You don’t see them as fully human. This happens with people who are different from us ethnically, religiously, etc. as well. We see us as good and them as bad. Or when you put someone...
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Weight Loss versus Weight Maintenance

When clients tell me they’re desperate to lose weight, they usually mean to go on some sort of diet and restrict calories. When I ask them what happened after they dropped pounds in the past, they often think a moment and restate their goal: they don’t want to lose weight; they want to lose it and keep it off. Ah, I tell them, no wonder they’ve had trouble in the past, because the latter is a different skill set than shedding pounds. To lose weight, clients tell me they need to exert self-control, deprive themselves of foods they love, say no to food more often than they say yes to it, constantly monitor their weight, never overeat, consume only healthy foods, obsess about what goes into their mouths, and constantly think about food. This process likely sounds familiar to you.  The problem is that most people (about 95% of us) can...
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How We Learn to Trust Others

Do you trust people in general or are you wary that others won’t have your best interest at heart? Do you believe the world is a caring place or do you see it as fraught with dangers so that you need to remain on guard? Simplified, is the world safe or scary? A more relevant question may be whether you recognize that your view isn’t a matter of fact or fiction but simply what you learned from experience growing up. How else can we explain that Holocaust survivors still believe in the human capacity to be and do good or that some people will go to their graves believing that a dark cloud hangs over them although they’ve lived reasonably normal, uneventful lives?  Whether you view people as trustworthy or not and the world as safe or scary depends on what your family of origin was like. Here are some questions...
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Replace Judgments with Emotions

It’s probably no surprise to you that dysregulated eaters tend to be highly judgmental of themselves. This is usually out of sheer habit. If you listen to yourselves, you’ll know I’m right. When things don’t go your way, you often judge yourself rather than identify the emotions you’re experiencing. And the judgments make you feel worse about whatever happened rather than helping you move on. So rather than make a moral issue out of something, simply identify what you’re feeling. Here's an example of what I’m talking about. A client of mine, Tisha, always comes down hard on herself when she doesn’t like the outcome of her best efforts to eat better. We were talking about how she really wanted french toast for lunch one day and grabbed a few pieces, intending to eat one and save the other slices for later. As it turned out, she so enjoyed the first...
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Stay Safe by Being Alert, Not Anxious

I was watching the new CSI Las Vegas when someone asked a retired CSI being hunted down if they were being hypervigilant. His answer was no, that he wasn’t going to live in fear, but he strongly intended to stay alert. This seemed like a vital distinction to both stay safe and not make yourself crazy doing it. Hypervigilance is when you live in fear 24/7, when you’re constantly—consciously or unconsciously—scanning the horizon for new threats even when you’re safe and when you’re unable to turn off the threat sensor in your brain. As it turns out, hypervigilance doesn’t work very well because it produces too many false positives. For example, my client George always expects people to reject or abandon him because he grew up in foster homes. You can’t blame George for wanting to brace himself against suffering and avoid it, but he’s so on guard that he misinterprets...
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Book Review of the Expectation Effect

Book Review
This book review was originally published at New York Journal of Books on 2/14/22.  In The Expectation Effect, award-winning science writer David Robson answers these questions: “What are the beliefs and expectations that rule our physical and mental well-being? How do the body, brain, and culture interact so potently to produce these self-fulfilling prophecies? And how can we use these fascinating findings to our own benefit?” He explains how beliefs “shape your health and well-being in profound ways, and that learning to reset our expectations . . . can have truly remarkable effects on our health, happiness and productivity.” He also shares how he reset his own expectations regarding his anxiety and depression and how much better he feels and is faring since changing his assumptions about them and himself. The book is replete with studies and stories from around the world about how expectations affect us physically, mentally, and emotionally....
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The Good Enough Parent

Those of you who read my blogs know that I’m all about “good enough.” No one needs to strive for perfection in parenting. Parents can be imperfect and still do a great job with their kids. In fact, The Good Enough Parent Is the Best Parent. The term “good enough mother” was coined by British psychoanalyst and pediatrician Donald Winnicott. Psychologist, scholar, public intellectual and author Bruno Bettelheim later expanded the concept to “good enough parents.” Here are some tips:  Don’t strive to be a perfect  parent or expect perfection from your children. Cut yourself and others slack and have compassion for yourself and others. Mistakes and failures are learning experiences, not character defects or self-worth arbiters. Respect your children and try to understand them for who they are. Good enough parents “see their children as complete human beings right now, and their job as that of getting to know those...
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How Helpful Is Intuition?

Intuition can be a blessing or a curse. We usually use the word casually to mean a gut feeling or a deep, emphatic sense of something. How much we rely on it may dictate how life works out for us. But what do we really know about intuition?  According to Psychology Today, “Intuition is a form of knowledge that appears in consciousness without obvious deliberation.” It “tends to arise holistically and quickly, without awareness of the underlying mental processing of information,” the result of a subtle, unconscious gathering and registering of impressions of the world around us. At times, following intuition works. When I was practicing in Boston, my client Andie spent most sessions trying to figure out where to move to: either a small city or big town that was laid back with warm weather. She was constantly researching possibilities, traveled to some of them, and talked with people who...
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What to Do with Your Flaws

As none of us is perfect, it’s useful to decide what flaws we want to fix and which ones we can (sigh!) live with. This works better than feeling ongoing pressure to repair what’s wrong and continuing to fail at it. There’s no formula for which behaviors or attitudes you can live with and which you can’t. The goal to aim for is peace of mind. First off, how would you feel about accepting a few of your shortcomings although you’d rather be different? For example, I would like to be a more patient driver, but in my almost 75 years, to be honest, I haven’t made much progress in mellowing out behind the wheel. I know the behavior hurts no one but myself, but I don’t seem to be able to chill out as much as I’d like to. I’m not a horn honker or anything like that; I just...
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Use Behavior to Reinforce Positive Choices

My clients with dysregulated eating get a big kick out of my describing a way I avoided unwanted noshing way back when: by hooking my finger into the collar of whatever I was wearing and dragging myself away from the refrigerator while repeating, “If you’re not hungry, you don’t want food.” The action comes from vaudeville shows where a performer who was doing poorly would literally “get the hook.” Picture an oversized cane hooked around a performer’s neck yanking them offstage into the wings. Silly as the behavior sounds, it reinforced my intention not to eat when I wasn’t hungry. I’ve suggested a combination of self-talk and physical action to prevent clients from emotional or mindless eating. Here are some word-action combos you can practice. Better yet, come up with some unique pairing of your own. Many clients feel defective because this was how they were raised to feel about themselves....
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