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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]

How to Make Meaning of Emotional Pain


Clinical work involves trying to help clients figure out what to make of current emotional pain, because not all of it is instructional. When we feel pain, we must determine if it’s in response to a real threat or not. Based on this determination, we then can decide what to do with it. Here’s the discussion I had with a client on this subject. Moira is a soon-to-retire police officer who described arresting a highly inebriated man for assaulting his girlfriend then being stuck listening to him verbally abuse her (my client) for hours from his holding cell as she did his paperwork for booking. Bossed around, shamed and neglected in childhood, she’s highly sensitive to what others think of her and is learning how to better manage personal slights.  We talked about how to view her arrestees’ ridicule, including how people whom we hurt try to hurt us back (clearly...

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How I Learned Not to Be a “Normal” Eater


In the interest of helping you understand how you developed dysregulated eating habits, I thought I’d share my story with you. All our stories, of course, will be different but will also have themes and threads in common. It’s important to remember that not just one thing derailed your eating. Rather, it was a combination of factors beyond your control. It’s nothing you did and it wasn’t your choice to have a dysfunctional relationship with food. It’s something you learned from circumstances and now must unlearn. First off, my father was not a great role model with food. He was an overeater, in part likely from growing up during the Great Depression. And perhaps his sense of food deprivation was also due to how his parents related to food. I don’t know because his mother died before I was born and his father died when I was a toddler. At any...

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More On Coping with Narcissists


The better we understand narcissists, the easier it is (though it will never be easy) to cope with them. It’s most problematic when they’re a parent or boss because you’re stuck with them. Having narcissistic romantic partners or friends can be a painful experience, but you can always edge or elbow them out of your life. Right? “Why Do Narcissists Lose Popularity Over Time?” offers fresh insights into this hard-to-handle personality. Researchers W. Keith Campbell and Stacy Campbell propose “a new model of narcissism in which they argue that two particular time points are important. The ‘emerging zone’ includes situations involving unacquainted individuals, early-stage relationships, and short-term contexts. In contrast, the ‘enduring zone’ involves situations involving acquainted individuals, continuing relationships, and long-term consequences. The costs of narcissism are seen primarily in the ‘enduring zone.’" Because narcissists tend to switch their charm on and off—and replace it with self-centeredness and aggression, among other traits—they are...

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More Pride, Less Gratitude Please


Here’s a common therapy occurrence. A client does something amazing like eat “normally” for a week, start a new job clean and sober, or divorce an abusive spouse and I ask them, “How’re you feeling about that?” and they start off with, “Well, I’m grateful for . . .”—and they lose me. It’s hard to pay attention to their gratitude overflow when I’ve been hoping they’d tell me how proud they are of themselves.  Just as long ago when I became a therapist during the “forgiveness” movement which seemed over the top to me, I now find myself feeling similarly put off by the “gratitude” crusade. Not that there’s anything wrong with forgiveness or gratitude. They are part of emotional health. But there’s a lack of balance and authenticity when forgiveness or gratitude are de rigueur and crowd out pride, one of the crowning jewels of emotions.  Gratitude definitely has its...

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Being Okay No Matter What


Most of us spend our lives stressing to make everything work out okay. We want our children to be happy and successful, friends to like us, employers to value us and our work, romantic partners to love us and live forever, and for various and sundry other endeavors to turn out swimmingly. And in so doing, we engage in a fool’s errand. For example, my middle-aged client Josephina is divorcing her husband of many decades to live alone for the first time in her life. Tending toward anxious, she worries about feeling lonely, being able to pay her rent, and managing by herself when she’s used to depending on her husband. She told me, “I just want it all to be okay.” Another client, Alan, studying to be a paralegal, gets frantic when he receives anything less than a B due to his scholarship requirements. He works two jobs and throws...

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Why We View Parents Differently Than Other People


I had an interesting discussion with my client Alexandria about how she often allows her mother to mistreat her. She’s been changing her thinking about their relationship lately, though, because she’s finally decided that she doesn’t want to be intentionally hurt repeatedly by anyone. Then again, if we felt the same way toward parents as we do toward others, there’d be no need to discuss the issue in therapy or elsewhere. A shift in thinking is natural as we grow older. Remember that our brains only fully form in our late twenties, so our emotional response to parents is based on a brain lacking adequate executive functioning: we don’t understand ourselves, others, or the world because we don’t have the cognitive ability to do so.  By the time we’re teens and making friends, we have a stronger (yet still incomplete) capacity to assess how we’re treated and decide if it’s acceptable....

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Why Must We Get Over Something?


I confess that I’ve blogged about letting go until I finally realized it’s just another nonsensical phrase that we have no business using. Another is to “get over” something. Really, where do people come up with this stuff?  I tried to find the origin of “let go of” without, as they say, taking a deeper dive, but I came up with nothing. It appears that way back in the 14th century “get over” meant to recover from a physical illness. It’s unclear when it began to mean to stop being a ninny and start controlling your emotions. The phrase felt wrong to a client who shared her reaction to responses to the recent death of her mother. Though no one actually said, “let go” to her (thank goodness), one person implied that she needn’t feel grief because her mother’s death was “God’s will.” What a subtle way of telling someone to...

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Quit Making People Projects


Do you make fixing others your life’s work? Do you find folks with problems—the more the merrier—and feel such immense pressure to make things better for them that they become your “pet project”? While people are teaching English as a second language, refinishing a table or learning to meditate, are you spending your time fixing others? This behavior stems from co-dependence, your need for others to be okay for you to be okay. Learned in childhood, this dysfunctional dynamic makes you ignore your needs and problems and focus instead on fixing troubled and troubling people. Take Sarah-Jean who almost lost her rental apartment because she was treating it like an Air B&B. She was a magnet for people who’d been evicted or kicked out of their living quarters and swore they only needed a bed for a night or two. Never mind that they ran the gamut from substance abusers to...

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Watch Out for Breadcrumbing


I’m sure many of you read the title of this article and had no idea what I was talking about. I’d never heard the term “breadcrumbing” either until I read How to Tell if You’re Being Breadcrumbed in a Relationship, Friendship or at Work by Amy Beecham but I certainly recognize the behaviors described. I bet some of you will too. Breadcrumbing is a manipulative technique used by unhealthy (often not nice) people to keep you hooked into them or your relationship with them. It involves giving you just enough love, praise, time, attention, good will to make you happy, but not enough to really satisfy you. In clinical terms, it’s called giving you intermittent reinforcement.  According to Beecham, “‘breadcrumbing’ involves leading someone on, and keeping their hopes up through small and superficial acts of interest. A breadcrumber might be flirtatious, complimentary or seem engaged with you at first, but will...

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Book Review: The Eating Disorder Trap


Although The Eating Disorder Trap by Robyn L. Goldberg, RDN, CEDRD-S was written as “A Guide for Clinicians and Loved Ones,” much of it is equally useful to people with dysregulated, dysfunctional eating. So, feel free to learn from this book, pass it on to your therapist who may know little about the specialty of treating eating disorders (EDs), and encourage intimates to read what Goldberg has to say from her decades as a registered dietitian helping clients and their loved ones make recovery happen. Full of valuable information and insights, chapters are short and to the point with simple graphics, case examples, and research data and conclusions. The book begins by explaining how lack of accurate information about EDs in our culture lays the traps that unwittingly snare people into them. Goldberg shares the truth about BMI, what “normal” eating entails, why diets fail long-term, and how to decide the...

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