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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]

Princess Diana and Bulimia

I hadn’t intended to watch Diana: In Her Own Words and then an eating disorders colleague asked me my opinion about it. After viewing it, I thought how profoundly classic her personality traits and ED symptoms were and wondered if seeing it might help some of you in your recovery. I realize that not all of you have access to Netflix, so here are some take-aways from the documentary, my views of what stood out to me. Diana never felt she fit in and worried about it. How often do I hear that from clients? She had several sisters but didn’t sound as if she was particularly close with them in a sharing of feelings kind of way. By her report, her father was physically abusive to her mother. She says he hit her mother in front of the family. I’m going to take a not very big leap here to...
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You Are Never the Only One

One characteristic that many clients have in common is believing they’re the only ones who feel or think a certain way. How many times a day do I hear, “Well, I’m sure no one else thinks this way, but . . .” or “You’ll probably think this is really weird, but . . .”? My response to these questions is always the same: “Many, if not all people, think the way you do” or “I don’t think that’s weird at all. Why would you?” This kind of distorted thinking that clients have is due to several causes. One is that their parents told them that their thoughts or feelings were crazy and wrong and that no one believed or felt such things. The second is that, fearing being invalidated, shamed and ostracized for their innermost sentiments, they never bothered to share them with others to find out they are not alone....
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How to Know Whom You Can Trust

It’s not surprising that dysregulated eaters, who often have little self-trust, also have difficulty with knowing whether or not to trust others. Knowing who to trust is a learned ability, a skill. One way to assess trust is through verification. Another is by recognizing what people do when they feel guilty. I had a client when I worked at a Boston methadone clinic who stored his stash of heroin under certain railroad tracks, convinced that no one would ever catch him burying or retrieving it. When I probed for fear or a sense of guilt if he got caught, he insisted he’d be fine, that his clever plan would work. Fast forward to when he finally got arrested at those very same tracks digging up his stash and was frantic with guilt when I visited him in jail. He kept repeating how stupid he’d been and how guilty he felt that...
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Beware of Becoming the Family Therapist

I’ve blogged about being the problem in your family and now want to talk to those of you who’ve taken on the role of family therapist. I don’t mean you went out and got yourself a degree in psychology, but that you’ve volunteered for the thankless job of solving the problems of everyone in your family. In truth, you may think you’ve volunteered, but my guess is that you’ve been recruited in subtle ways and are actually sacrificing your own well-being in order to fix the lives of your parents and siblings. When You Become the Family Therapist: Avoid these amateur psychology mistakes when tending to loved ones’ emotional needs by Kelsey Ogletree (AARP Bulletin 11/20, pp 36-39) explains the downside this situation poses. When you’re constantly trying to put out family fires—Cousin George’s drinking, Grandma’s depression, your parents contemplating divorce, or your sister self-harming—you run the risk of exposing yourself...
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Stress and Self-care

Recently I’ve come to understand what’s not working in clients’ view of self-care and stress. Hopefully this blog will give you a clearer perspective on how the two fit together. Here's what I hear from clients: I’m too busy for self-care right now, but when I’m less busy, I will certainly get right to it. You could also substitute the word stressed for busy with the same kind of thinking. Self-care is something that will happen in the future when stress somehow miraculously disappears on its own.  Here’s a typical example. A client we’ll call Julia has two kids, a part-time job working from home, and a husband who works hard but does little in the way of parenting. Julia has at times run marathons and eaten healthfully on diets. She loved how she felt when she ate with intention and mindfulness and exercised regularly. During this time she also made...
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Spend Time in the Yikes Zone

It’s hard to believe that I’ve never blogged about the “yikes zone” though I talk about it frequently with clients. I learned about the “yikes zone” from a book called Women Ski decades ago when I was an avid downhill skier in New England trying to overcome my fear of moguls, which are those big bumps on the advanced slopes. The author described a gentle, paced, effective way to tackle difficult moguls—or any feared task. Her concept is to ski on a flat downhill slope near one that has moguls. Some trails are actually groomed to facilitate this either-or dynamic. The idea is to head onto the mogul side and bounce around as long as you can without freaking yourself out, then return to the groomed trail until you regain confidence and equilibrium—not just once but over and over, each time drawing out your stay in the yikes zone a little...
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A Crash Course on Avoiding Unwelcome People

A subject that gets a major blast of air time in sessions is clients picking unhealthy people and suffering the consequences. They either complain (rightly) about being mistreated or are desperate for advice about how to get out of unhappy relationships. I spend so much time explaining how to identify mentally unhealthy people that I thought it would help to blog about them. Here are three easy steps to use to evaluate whether people are emotionally healthy enough to let them into your life as friends or lovers. Notice traits. Avoid rushing into a relationship and instead give it time to evolve. While that’s happening, observe the other person. Stop worrying so much about whether or not they’ll like or love you and focus almost exclusively on what kind of person they’re turning out to be. By nature, are they kind, generous, and thoughtful not only to you—and this is crucial—but...
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To Complain or Not to Complain

Some dysregulated eaters don’t complain enough. They focus their complaints on their weight, the unfairness of not being able to eat certain foods, their lack of “self-discipline,” and how long and difficult the road to “normal” eating is. It’s a shame, really, that they confine their complaining to such a thin slice of life. I’m thinking that if they complained more, they might eat less. Coming from a mother who had no trouble finding things to grouse about and a father inclined toward stoicism, I saw how both the absence and presence of complaining could play out for better or worse. To complain, by the way, means “to say that you are annoyed, unhappy, or not satisfied about someone or something” (Oxford Advanced American Dictionary). I’ve been thinking about complaining lately as pandemic-weary clients have been doing a slew of it in sessions (and I’ve been doing more than usual) and...
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Is It Hard Being the Mentally Healthy Person in Your Family?

Most clients get very excited when they start to get psychological insights into how dysfunctional their family is. They’re determined to recover from past trauma, heal their wounds, and become more emotionally healthy. What they may not realize is that this is not necessarily what other family members want to happen. Parents and siblings might view this new-found wisdom and altered behavior as rocking the boat and upsetting the homeostasis of the family. In fact, what clients often find when they attempt to do what’s best for them is not support but a circling of the wagons and a tsunami of resistance.  So, instead of being cheered on, these clients are overtly and covertly pressured back into their old ways. Sometimes it comes as a surprise to them that they’re not getting pats on the back and other times they anticipate and are bracing themselves for such push-back. Either way, it’s...
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When A Safety Net Turns Deadly

I haven’t been able to get a phrase out of my head that a client said a few months ago. It went something like this: “. . . and then the safety net turns into a spider’s web.” As a writer, I found the allusion to be brilliant. As a therapist, it was chilling. Sadly, my client was talking about her marriage. It’s common for victims of abuse, especially women, to partner up with abusers in same sex as well as heterosexual relationships. The path starts in childhood when, through no fault of their own, they suffer abuse as children—physical, emotional, sexual or, worse, all three. Parents or other caretakers are emotionally unhealthy and more concerned with meeting their own pathological needs than rearing healthy children.  As children, these individuals have no idea that they are not causing the abuse and, instead, are perfectly normal and whole, while their abuser is...
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