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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. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

Get Your Magic Wand in Gear

In session, not too long ago, a client sighed and said she just wished I had a magic wand and could wave it over her to heal her eating disorder. How often I’ve heard that same wistful plea over my 30-plus years in the business. But this time, rather than smile and say my usual, “I would but my wand’s in the shop,” I told my client that she had her own magic wand but didn’t use it. You all have one. The problem with magic wands is that one can’t simply acquire one and then shove it in the back of the closet and forget about it. Wands need to be used or what’s the point of having one? Do you buy a bicycle and not ride it, spend a fortune on a jumbo screen TV, then never turn it on? I hope not. You have to actually use the...
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Finding Your Pleasures

Although everyone seems to strive to be happy, not everyone knows what will generate that feeling for them. And until we know what brings us joy and satisfaction, we can’t pursue it—which means remaining unhappy. And round and round we go. What seems a simple question to answer, “What makes me happy?”, is not. Once we get past defining the word, next comes recognizing when we feel it. On the road to happiness, we must also understand the forces that shape it, including family and culture. Let’s say your parents want you to become a lawyer and the law seems like a drag to you while nothing thrills you like ballet dancing. Or you grew up in a country club culture that insists feeling good comes from looking good, but what floats your boat is driving around the country in your ratty camper dressed like a vagabond. In my Twenties and...
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Pay Attention to Your Inner Wisdom to Live Better

Many clients feel as if they walk around with a dark cloud over their heads, are a magnet to unhealthy people, and are doomed to be unhappy. Nonsense. My take is that they don’t listen to their inner wisdom when it would benefit them. Instead, they listen to the voice that overrides it or to friends who have little wisdom of their own to share. Here’s what I mean. When talking about whether or not to leave her husband, I asked a client how much time she wished she’d given him to see if he would change. She said six months and I agreed that this would have been long enough. Now, 12 years and two kids down the road, she faces a much harder decision. She said she kept hoping and wishing he’d change, just as she had with three previous abuse boyfriends, and that she listened to her friends...
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Why You Can’t Use the Past to Predict the Future

Here are stories clients tell me by the truckload. “I never had any luck with dating, so I gave up eight years ago,” “I tried intuitive eating when I was younger and couldn’t do it,” or “I haven’t worked since I lost my last job because it was too stressful for me.” What do all these scenarios have in common? Each one uses the past to predict the future. Why do we do this? Although we’re the only animals we know of who have consciousness about our actions, our brains are still built to use past experience to guide current and future behavior. My cat knows that when she gets too near the pool she loves to drink from, she’s going to get a spritz of water in her face as a deterrent because she’s fallen in twice. This is how cat mind teaches itself what to do and not do....
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How to Be Less Emotionally Reactive

I took a Rapid Anger Resolution workshop presented by the founder of Rapid Resolution Therapy, Dr. Jon Connelly, in February. If you either work with me or read my blogs regularly you’re likely familiar with the recall-reality connection posited by him. The workshop was on stopping resentment reactions, which Connelly calls “anger in retro,” and responding to difficult situations by being “alert, strategic and creative.” When you’re dealing with a controlling boss, critical spouse, or bossy neighbor, how do you react? If you’re like most humans, you feel wronged and mount a defense or attack. Does that work for you? I know it doesn’t for me. As Connelly explains, this is a normal animal response, but we are the only animals able to change it and handle situations more appropriately and effectively.  He makes a few suggestions: Aim to reduce hostility. Unfortunately, we usually wrongly react from what we think is...
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Taking Political Action to Combat Helplessness

Many clients express and complain about their helplessness but do nothing about it. I was fortunate to have a life-changing experience in my twenties which made me realize that I had a lot more power than I thought I had and which forever politicized me and made me believe that, sometimes, we shall overcome. You may know the song 9to5 by Dolly Parton or the 1980 comedy by the same name in which she starred with Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin. Well, before the movie and the song there was 9to5, Organization of Women Office Workers on which both were based. Back then I was working as a typist at the Massachusetts Teachers Association in Boston. I’d moved from New Jersey where I’d been a third-grade teacher and when I couldn’t find a teaching job in Boston, I took one as a typist in their typing pool. I was shocked to...
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The Paradox of Your Discomfort

I was talking with a client about how she manages emotional discomfort and realized a strange paradox which is not only applicable to her, but which crops up a good deal in my practice: While people shy away from emotional distress because they deem it too uncomfortable to bear, they also go out of their way to upset themselves in mega ways. Here's are some examples.  An adult client lives with her rather dysfunctional family. She’s done an amazing job recovering from substance abuse and is bright and insightful. Currently she’s on disability for mental health issues but says she’d like to return to work to gain some independence. When I bring up the subject, though, she says it’s uncomfortable, that she doesn’t know what she’d do for work, and wonders if she could even get a job. Alternately, she ruminates way too much (her take on it) when she sets boundaries with...
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How Goals Can Be a Barrier to Bettering Your Health

Many dysregulated eaters are ardently goal-oriented. They arise each morning with to-do lists at the ready and rush through the day ticking off items, set reminders of when things needs to get done, shift into overdrive to do them, obsess about how to make the future turn out differently than the present and past, and dream about future happiness. If you’re someone who’s goal oriented, everything in life is a project and you spend more time with your mind in the future than in the now. You do great things at work, make sure family members are well taken care of, and serve your community. Then instead of doing what you say you want to do to eat more healthfully or become more active, you put off these activities and end up eating mindlessly instead. You eat ice cream instead of cleaning the house, down a bag of chips instead of...
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Focus on Change, Not Your Problem

A colleague sent me this quote I hadn’t heard before which was allegedly said by Socrates. When I checked, it actually wasn’t his, but I love the idea behind it: The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. If you want to know one small way to succeed in recovery, there it is. I spend too much time listening to people talk about their problems and how much they want to overcome them. Then, when I share solutions, they often give a perfunctory nod to them and go right back to talking about what’s wrong. This is a bad habit, nothing more. I know clients want me to understand how difficult their eating problems are. I know they’re frustrated and disappointed in their inability to change to date. But how can complaining about a problem do anything to...
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How Your Brain Can Change for the Better

An enlightening book I read, 7-½ Lessons about the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett, explains how our brains are sadly mismatched for current times. Remember, Homo sapien brains evolved to be as they are 35,000-100,000 years ago. Living in caves, we were hunters and gatherers suffering constant physical and mental stress from the elements, starvation, and other humans. I’m sure it had its moments, but for the most part, life was neither life nor pleasant and we had little control over it. In order to survive, we had to be exquisitely attuned and reactive to threats in our environment.  That’s why our brains developed as predictors. If we could predict what would happen, we could have power over our lives and a better shot at surviving. In fact, the premise of Dr. Barrett’s book is that the function of thinking is to predict and that we do this through learning. She...
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