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. 

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How Helpful Is Intuition?

How-Helpful-Is-Intuition
Intuition can be a blessing or a curse. We usually use the word casually to mean a gut feeling or a deep, emphatic sense of something. How much we rely on it may dictate how life works out for us. But what do we really know about intuition?  According to Psychology Today, “Intuition is a form of knowledge that appears in consciousness without obvious deliberation.” It “tends to arise holistically and quickly, without awareness of the underlying mental processing of information,” the result of a subtle, unconscious gathering and registering of impressions of the world around us. At times, following intuition works. When I was practicing in Boston, my client Andie spent most sessions trying to figure out where to move to: either a small city or big town that was laid back with warm weather. She was constantly researching possibilities, traveled to some of them, and talked with people who...
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What to Do with Your Flaws

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As none of us is perfect, it’s useful to decide what flaws we want to fix and which ones we can (sigh!) live with. This works better than feeling ongoing pressure to repair what’s wrong and continuing to fail at it. There’s no formula for which behaviors or attitudes you can live with and which you can’t. The goal to aim for is peace of mind. First off, how would you feel about accepting a few of your shortcomings although you’d rather be different? For example, I would like to be a more patient driver, but in my almost 75 years, to be honest, I haven’t made much progress in mellowing out behind the wheel. I know the behavior hurts no one but myself, but I don’t seem to be able to chill out as much as I’d like to. I’m not a horn honker or anything like that; I just...
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Use Behavior to Reinforce Positive Choices

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My clients with dysregulated eating get a big kick out of my describing a way I avoided unwanted noshing way back when: by hooking my finger into the collar of whatever I was wearing and dragging myself away from the refrigerator while repeating, “If you’re not hungry, you don’t want food.” The action comes from vaudeville shows where a performer who was doing poorly would literally “get the hook.” Picture an oversized cane hooked around a performer’s neck yanking them offstage into the wings. Silly as the behavior sounds, it reinforced my intention not to eat when I wasn’t hungry. I’ve suggested a combination of self-talk and physical action to prevent clients from emotional or mindless eating. Here are some word-action combos you can practice. Better yet, come up with some unique pairing of your own. Many clients feel defective because this was how they were raised to feel about themselves....
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Watch Out for These People

Watch-Out-for-These-People
Several times a week I have discussions with clients about being mistreated by others. This is because not everyone is as mentally healthy or as nice you are. If you often end up being mistreated by people, my guess is that you’re hanging with friends or family who are emotionally greedy or needy or both. Here’s an example of what I mean. Shawna runs herself ragged taking care of others who rarely extend themselves for her. Her grandmother calls her several times a week to complain about her life and many are the days that Shawna spends her lunch hour as a paralegal running errands for her. Then there’s Shawna’s car-less best friend who is constantly begging her to take her places. She frequently asks to borrow Shawna’s car or crash at her apartment when she has a row with her boyfriend. Shawna is the go-to person with family and friends...
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How to Prevent Boredom and Enhance Your Life

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Boredom seems like a simple enough emotion, but it’s more complex than you’d think. When clients tell me they eat out of boredom, I don’t assume I know what they feel, but dig deeper to help us understand what they’re looking for in those “bored” moments.  First off, I help them distinguish boredom (wanting something to do) from loneliness (wanting to be with people). These emotions may or may not co-exist, so when you think you’re bored, it’s worthwhile to ask yourself if you’re lonely instead. Once you’ve established that it’s boredom, notice how you know it: where in your mind and body do you feel it, is it difficult for you to sit still, are you having trouble concentrating?  Second, decide whether you’re seeking excitement or inhibition. Often when we say we’re bored, we’re looking for stimulation. In the middle of adding up deductions while doing your taxes or folding...
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How to Find a Great Therapist Match

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Even when you think you might be ready to start or return to therapy, you may wonder about finding a therapist who’s a good match. In these days of tele-therapy, it can be both easier and harder to find someone. The field is wider, providing greater selection, but that also may make it more difficult to narrow down your choice. It may surprise you to learn that I started therapy (by choice) when I was 14 years old. I’ve had some half dozen therapists over the decades—fair and great ones—and learned something from them all. If you’re in the market for one or are evaluating your current therapist, here's some excellent advice about how to make this important choice from “Not making progress in therapy? Make sure you and your therapist are a good fit.”  The author encourages you to do the following: Don’t expect your therapist to fix you. Make...
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How to Make the Best Use of Anxiety

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Clients who had emotionally or physically unsafe childhood’s tend to hover at either end of a spectrum. Either they never feel safe or inaccurately feel safe when there is an valid threat. If the people who kept telling you to trust them (parents, relatives, caretakers) when you were growing up were really not trustworthy, it makes sense that trust and safety would be confusing to you and that you may not realize it.  Take my client Monty who is recently divorced. He was raised mostly by a single mom who picked many appropriate partners after she and his dad split. Mom appeared to trust every man and believed in being nice to people no matter what. Dad trusted no one but himself and lived a sad, lonely existence. These poor role models set poor Monty up for many unhealthy relationships. Not wanting to be like his dad, he tried his mother’s...
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The Importance of Resting Metabolism

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Most of us have heard the term “resting metabolism,” but may not know what it is and why it’s important. “Cutting calories alone to lose weight just won’t cut it” by Angie Ferguson (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 6/8/21, 6E) explains the term in easy-to-understand language. Am I blogging on this subject to encourage you to lose weight or even focus on weight? I am not. But if you’re to understand how your body works in terms of nourishment in and energy out, resting metabolism is part of the picture.  “Metabolism is the daily energy expenditure of three components: resting metabolic rate, the thermal effect of food, and energy we expend during physical activity.” Your basic metabolic rate is called resting because it’s the number of calories you need to survive. It’s the energy consumption rate of your body simply breathing and doing all the internal machinations it does. Says Ferguson, “…when we consume...
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Is Your Refrigerator Your Holding Environment?

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One of my favorite highly useful concepts in psychology is about the emotional holding environment. It describes a space that is safe and predictable, where you can spill your guts, and someone is there to share your pain and soothe your suffering. If you think about what you might have felt being held in a parent’s arms as a baby, that would be the feeling. Engulfed with love and completely protected from harm.   Psychoanalyst Galit Atlas, PhD explains what Donald Winnicott, PhD, pediatrician and psychoanalyst who coined the term means by emotional holding in her book Emotional Inheritance: “Emotional holding is the steady emotional arms and available presence of the parents that allow the baby to feel safe and protected. The parent holds the baby in his or her mind, available to tolerate the baby’s emotions, tuned into her signals.” Atlas then describes the benefits of adequate emotional holding: “When...
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How to Become More Resilient

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Because resilience is a proven ingredient for success, happiness and satisfaction and the lack of it has been shown to lead to a poor quality of life, it’s important to recognize that you can grow resilience, the ability to recover from hardship, trauma and other stressors. You can build emotional muscle to avoid being taken down by adversity and bounce back from it more quickly and effectively.  “The Kids Are Alright” (Newsweek, 9/3/21, pp 16-26) provides an explanation of resilience, including its manifestations at the neuro-cellular level. According to its author, Adam Piore, susceptibility to depression is unsurprisingly linked with avoidance of risk and a more negative life outlook, while “resilience is associated with a more positive” outlook and “boldness” and taking chances. For example, if you’ve been burned enough times in the romance department, you might stop dating for fear of being hurt again. This behavior will help you avoid...
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