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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]

Healing from Parental Abuse

Here are excerpts from a client’s letter showing her triumph over trauma from a highly abusive father. I hope her growth inspires you to continue on your path to healing. “I finally get it. I get that my father is incapable of loving me, feeling empathy by putting himself in my shoes, caring about my feelings, etc. I see that he is sociopathic and a malignant narcissist and it feels so very painful. I see that I have believed the lie that I am not worthy of being loved as he continues to put others needs over mine. I see that I have believed that I was crazy, wrong, a trouble maker, too sensitive, etc. I see that I have been abused. That my mother was abused and afraid and numb and couldn’t protect me. I see how I have been codependent in my relationships with men and friendships with women...
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What Love Is and Isn’t

Love is one of the mysteries of the ages. It’s a term bandied about so much that most of us have lost sight of what it means and, more important, what it doesn’t mean. We also assume that when a person says they love us, their actions will automatically align with this message. Unless we fully understand what love means, we’re bound to fall into trouble in our interpersonal relationships.  To consider its meaning, let’s go back to 1956 and the publication of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s seminal work, The Art of Loving (which I highly recommend reading). He says that “What matters is that we know what kind of union we are talking about when we speak of love. Do we refer to love as the mature answer to the problem of existence, or do we speak of those immature forms of love which may be called symbiotic union?”  “Infantile love...
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Look for Answers to Today’s Problems in Yesterday

“Boy,” said a client, “this childhood stuff really can mess you up!” I couldn’t help but chuckle. In fact, we had a long, shared laugh about the validity of this statement. What’s as true is that you might not realize in which ways and to what degree your upbringing is messing with you. The good news is that it’s never too late to learn. To do this, you must first erase blame from your brain. Your parents may have caused your problems, but they too had childhoods and parents, so it’s useless to point fingers at them. Who else is there, you might wonder, to blame, so you fault yourself for not realizing earlier in life that you’ve been barreling through it ill-equipped. Once you get blame out of your system, you can look objectively at how “this childhood stuff” might have messed with your head and heart. Here are some...
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Stop Eating Away Your Cognitive Dissonance

I’d wager that one of the major unrecognized causes of runaway eating is cognitive dissonance. You may not know the term, but you sure know the feeling. We all do.    David Denniston, CFA describes cognitive dissonance in 7 Signs You Exhibit Cognitive Dissonance as “the distressing mental state people often feel when they find themselves behaving in ways which don't fit with their self-image, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold.” Here are some examples from my practice: mixed feelings about whether to leave a spouse or partner, how to set boundaries with children, parents or adult siblings, choosing to change jobs, and deciding to retire. Of course, these are the big internal conflicts we encounter. Smaller ones include what precautions and risks to take during a pandemic, exposing emotional vulnerability, and how to spend your money. Denniston explains that one reason for cognitive dissonance...
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How Co-dependence Leads to Non-hunger Eating

A discussion with a client who was having difficulty finding enough pleasure during the COVID pandemic got me thinking about what makes for resilience under stress. Why are some people thriving and others going down hill fast? Why are some people enjoying having time to themselves and others feeling depressed or frantic? Part of the problem is due to co-dependence. My client even described the state by saying, “I always focused on other people and got pleasure from doing that. My parents never encouraged me to think about what I wanted and so I never did. Now that I’m alone and have all this time to myself, I have no idea what to do with it.” This led to talking about how co-dependence—over-focusing on the needs and wants of others to the exclusion of your own—left her lacking skills in her current situation. Fortunately, she was eager to discuss what might...
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Just Kidding—Not

Occasionally a client reports that someone said something unkind to them and then insisted they were joking. These clients tend to minimize the pain of these interactions, sometimes going so far as to swear that their feelings weren’t hurt. I don’t buy it. As I’ve said to them, they wouldn’t mention these incidents if they weren’t bothered by them. The fact is that a pattern of someone being rude or unkind to you in any way then denying that they were serious and being adamant that they were joking is a form of immaturity and emotional abuse. Yes, emotional abuse. You may not like to think that it is, but that makes no difference to what is true. Here’s an example. You’re dressed up for a party and are about to go out the door when your partner says, “You’re not wearing that tonight, are you?” You look at them aghast...
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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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