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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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Book Review: ADHD for Smart Ass Women

(originally written for and posted on NYJB) Whether you have ADHD or are close to someone who has it, are female or male, young or old, this book will brighten your outlook on it. Rather than focus solely on how to remedy its disadvantages, certified ADHD coach, attorney, and podcast host, Tracy Otsuka—who carries the diagnosis herself—offers an upbeat view of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and shows how understanding its brain-based causes and managing them effectively will set and keep you on the road to success.   Otsuka’s goal is to make this book for women with ADHD “fun and easy so that you feel good reading about it—and keep reading it.” Encouraging curiosity rather than judgment about what she views as this spectrum condition, she advises that those with it find their own unique ways of managing it rather than copying what works for others. She writes from the stance...

Movie Review: The Whale

The Whale is one powerful movie, yet I’m unsure whether to recommend it to people with eating disorders and weight concerns. As I’ve avoided reading any reviews about it, this blog is purely my reactions to a film about Charlie, (spoiler alert!) a man who literally eats himself to death, masterfully played by Brendan Fraser. If this film was disturbing to me, an ED therapist who’s fully recovered from decades of emotional and binge-eating, I wonder what it will be like for people in the throes of runaway eating. I worry it will be so upsetting they’ll head right for the cookie jar or feel revulsion for Charlie, or intense shame toward themselves for their eating or their size. My wish is that they’d feel so filled with compassion for him that they’d begin to soften and feel compassion for themselves. The film is about an online writing teacher carrying such...

A Healthy View of the Past

Here are situations you might find all too uncomfortably familiar. My long divorced client Philip is frustrated that he can’t catapult himself back into the past and change it. Filled with regret about things he did and didn’t do in his marriage, he feels a need to atone for his perceived transgressions. A personable and attractive man, Philip could be dating other women. Instead, he cedes the present to the past, immersed in a shoulda, woulda, coulda reverie he’s likely to regret in the future. Middle-aged Moa has convinced herself she ought to have been able to save her younger brother from going down a self-destructive path which led him to being in hospice care today. She and her three siblings all suffered in various ways in their highly dysfunctional family, but her rebellious brother got the worst of it. Now, she keeps thinking that, though he abused her when they...

Why Choice is Consequence

Within every choice, every decision, every intention are the seeds of consequence. You might not wish it to be so, but it makes the statement no less true. If you smoke cigarettes, you might not get lung cancer or you might. If you refuse to wear a seat belt, you might be uninjured in an accident or thrown from the car and killed. If you yell at your boss, you might be forgiven or fired.  Many of us think of consequence as divorced from choice, that choice is now and consequence is later. That false perception keeps the two unnaturally detached and makes it easy to forget that potential consequence is embedded in every choice. Sure, life’s a crapshoot, but we improve it exponentially when we play the odds.  When I asked my client Stella if she worried that her heavy drinking would damage her liver, she snickered in her typical...

How to Eradicate Bedeviling Thoughts

All 8.1 billion of us on the planet struggle with bedeviling thoughts to greater or lesser extent. Effective management depends on your view of them and the effort you put into governing them. What’s your take on thoughts? What’s their purpose? Are they facts or truths? Are they all created equal? You must seriously consider and answer these questions in order to be in charge of your thoughts rather than the other way around.  Neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett author of the groundbreaking book, How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, calls the brain a prediction machine which works nonstop to keep us out of harm’s way. Emotions and thoughts are constantly interacting with each other, surfacing as considerations that either float in and out of awareness or bombard us. Some are automatic reactions to the present (wow, they’re hot) and others are memories that intrude because...

How to Love Your Highly Flawed Self

To be mentally healthy is to know yourself extremely well and still manage to like yourself. These are two distinct but strongly related feats. In truth, some people are so afraid they won’t like themselves if they dig too deeply into their psyche that they barely scratch the surface of self-knowledge before making a fast retreat. These are people who insist they don’t need therapy and it’s a bunch of hooey, anyway, and who pretend to have enormous self-knowledge when it’s obvious to anyone who’s been with them for five minutes that they’re clueless about themselves. The first part of the equation, knowing yourself, is easier than the second. Self-examination begins with recognizing your challenges and weaknesses as well as your strengths. The goal is to hold both at once. One would think it’s more likely that positives would shoot to the surface and we’d need to reach deeper inside to...

Guilt versus Guiltiness

I never thought of there being a difference between the words “guilt” and “guiltiness” until I read an article distinguishing the two which made a big impression on me. In it, psychotherapist Orna Guralnik explains: “Guilt entails feeling bad for having harmed another; guiltiness is the preoccupation with yourself—whether you are or aren’t guilty. This preoccupation is all about warding off shame, which blocks concern for others.”  If I’m understanding Guralnik correctly (what reader can ever really know the mind of the writer?), guilt is your heartfelt pain for having harmed another, that is, you hurt because you hurt someone, as in “I feel your pain.” Guiltiness is getting hung up on having caused someone pain, which ends up being self-referential and self-serving. Whereas guilt is all about what the other person feels, guiltiness is about what you feel.  An example of this distinction is former clients Kendra and Mikhail who...

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...