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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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Your Gut Microbia May Make You Eat Sweets

I hoped this blog title would catch your interest. It’s big news, really big news that your gut microbia might be what’s making you eat the whole bag of Oreos and not just one, or an entire bar of Godiva chocolate rather than two tiny squares. Of course, the studies on sweets’ bingeing and microbia is only being done on mice, not people. But what if their conclusions are correct and something physiological rather than a moral failing has been causing you to binge on sweets?  Before I give you the science behind this theory, let me share my fear with you: that even if you’re given proof that your sweets’ bingeing or part of it may be caused by your gut microbia, you’ll still cling to the idea that it’s your fault that you overdo with food. You’ll still blame yourself for lack of self-discipline, no willpower or poor self-care....

Treats

I can’t be the only person on the planet who objects to the word “treats” when referring to food, can I? A treat is defined as being “an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure” My problem is that by putting certain foods in the category of “treats” we might be doing more harm than good.  I’m thinking that eaters might do better embracing theses foods—yes, the ones high in sugar, fat or salt and often all three yummily mixed together—rather than keeping them at arm’s length. Seeing them as “out of the ordinary” might mean to some folks that they’re rarely eaten or eaten only on special occasions. My fear is that many dysregulated eaters might see treats as restrictive to only certain occasions. During the holidays, I often hear clients talk about family foods that are treats—anything from soups to breads to desserts....

Crash Course on Boundary Setting

One of the most talked about topics in therapy is boundary setting. If you grew up in a family with appropriate boundaries in which people knew where they ended emotionally and others began, you probably have no problem with them. You do what family members modeled, it feels natural saying yes and no as appropriate, and you choose to be around people with healthy boundaries. If your parents and relatives exhibited poor boundaries—prying into each others’ business, taking advantage of each other, always saying yes and never saying no or vice versa, and being bossy—you likely have problems with them too. Not to worry: this is a learnable skill that requires paying attention, having courage, knowing what to say when, and practicing until they trip off your tongue easily. When someone violates your boundaries, you might instinctively:  Explain what someone is doing wrong or point out they’re not listening to you.Repeat...

Compulsive Forgiveness Does Not Serve You Well

The trend toward forgiveness has been around for decades. But what about people who have a compulsion to instantly forgive people no matter how heinous their crimes against them or others. Here are a few examples. Bobby came to see me for overeating problems, and the fact that he was a trauma survivor soon surfaced. After describing his horrendous childhood—Dad was murdered when he was six, Mom was an abusive alcoholic, and he was the oldest of five children whom he was charged with taking care of. Neglected physically and emotionally, he was the one who got stuck asking neighbors for help and money and the one who cared for his mother when she was dying of liver cancer. When I asked how he felt about caring for his mother who barely cared for him, he said he felt bad for her because she’d had a hard life. I understood his...

Someone Else’s Anxiety Is Not Your Problem

My client Benito, a successful businessman and only child, wouldn’t stand up to his mom, shrunk to feeling like a little boy around her. Domineering and fretful, her anxiety had skyrocketed after the death of Benito’s father and she lived in terror of something happening to Benito which would leave her alone. He even hid the little dating he did from her because she always told him his dates weren’t good enough for him.  Benito, too, suffered from anxiety. How could he not? His mother tried to make him feel responsible for her happiness and guilt-tripped him at every turn. Fearing to upset her, he cut short business trips and rarely shared his true feelings with her about anything but trivial subjects. He entered therapy when his mother broke her hip and refused home health care, which he offered to pay for, after she left rehab. Another client, Cammy, a seasoned...

Why Do We Need to Know Our Weight?

While visiting a friend, she mentioned being happy about having lost weight and asked how much I weigh. I said I didn’t know, at which point she asked if I wanted to use her scale, perhaps thinking the reason I don’t know is because I don’t own one. I politely declined, saying that I know what I eat so I don’t need to know what I weigh.  On the drive home, I was thinking about our interaction. My first thought, quite frankly, was that what I weigh is none of most people’s business. I grew up at a time when the scale was not an obsession and I don’t recall general discussion of body weight until I was a teenager and had begun dieting and binge-eating.    My second thought about the interaction was curiosity: Why would someone want to know what I weigh? I think my friend was comparing her...

How to View Isms

Last summer, my husband and I got on the wrong check-in line at Boston’s Logan airport (having been directed there by an airport employee). Later, at the gate, we sat down just as a twenty-something woman mentioned something to her friends about, “this old couple getting in the wrong line.” Assuming it was us, I stood up and said, “You mean us?” and we all had a good laugh about it.  I described this (to me) humorous incident to a friend who smirked and said, “How could you laugh? What she said was so ageist!” I hadn’t thought of it that way. To me the term “old” was descriptive, especially since the young woman wasn’t saying anything unkind about us. After my friend’s comment, however, I realized that this whole “isms” thing may be a lot more complicated than it first appeared. I’ve on rare occasion had someone say something negative...

Looking to be More Consistent

I confess, I’m a creature of habit: I have dance classes on Tuesday night, watch TV or read from 8:30 on in the evening, exercise 10-11 most mornings, and my best friend and I exchange phone calls every Sunday at 9 a.m. Although I have my share of flaws, I’m nothing if not consistent, raised as I fortunately was by creatures-of-habit parents. So, what do you do if you weren’t raised with a model of consistency and want to learn how to do things more regularly and stop flip-flopping between performing and avoiding certain activities? This is an especially crucial skill for dysregulated eaters who swing from under- to overeating and being a couch potato to becoming gym rats. In How to Be Consistent, Brad Stulberg explains the five principles to follow to develop habits of consistency. I’m sure you’ve heard some of them before, but maybe this time you’re ready...

What’s So Hard about Facing Reality?

A client told me this anecdote. Her first therapist helped her to see that we can live quite well without controlling everything in our world and she was excited to share this enlightened insight with her mother. But when she told Mom that “anything can happen to anyone anytime,” Mom freaked out and quickly changed the subject. This story reminded me of a former boyfriend to whom I was complaining about my mother when suddenly he slapped his hands over his ears (in a restaurant, no less) and kept repeating “no, no, please stop.” My complaints must have stirred up a helluva storm inside him that he needed to shut out the pain my words were triggering in him. I’ve accepted that life can turn on a dime ever since my father died suddenly in the summer between my junior and senior years in college. Ever since then, I wince when...

Let People Take Care of You and You’ll Improve Your Eating

I’ve noticed this phenomenon over my 35 years of being a therapist: many clients who are great at giving care are crummy at receiving it. These are people who become uncomfortable when someone wants to do something for them—give them a gift or do them a favor. These are often the same people who rely on alcohol, food or other obsessive habits to deal with life rather than turn to people. Take Astrid who is finally accepting now in her late 50s that there’s a cost to perpetual giving. Doing for all her neighbors, colleagues, and family members exhausts her but it also makes her insist, “It makes me feel good about myself, you know, worthwhile.” Of course, anyone can see that by saying this, she’s also saying that the opposite is true: if she isn’t giving or taking care of someone, she’s of no value. Worse, if she’s taking care...