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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. 

Which Type of Happiness Makes People Happiest

Josh Humi, author of “Life Guide”, asserts that there are two kinds of happiness: experiential and reflective (“A Living Humanist Document,” The Humanist.com, 9/28/17, accessed 9/29/17, https://thehumanist.com/ ). He explains the former as “the enjoyment of a present-moment experience (for example, eating a tasty meal or sharing a laugh with friends),” and the latter…”as one’s belief that he or she has lived a valuable life, to the extent that one reasonably believes he or she could have lived a valuable life (for example, via personally meaningful accomplishments).” He describes reflective happiness as having a “long-lasting ‘background’ impact on one’s happiness,” that is, that “all else being equal, pursuing the latter will likely have a greater positive impact on one’s happiness over the long run.” I would add that reflective happiness adds depth and breadth to who we are, while experiential happiness is limited to what we did.   I’m blogging...
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Anger is an Essential Part of Self-Care

Many of my clients have difficulty tolerating their anger and, not surprisingly, with self-care. That’s why I write about anger a good deal. They get into relationships or take jobs in which they’re mistreated. They’re all about forgiveness and compassion and shy away from feeling wronged—even when they are. Sadly, one of the major reasons that they get into unhealthy situations is that they are not in touch with and fear their anger.   Here’s an example. I was talking with a client about standing up to people and she said that she kept feeling badly for others and didn’t want to be angry at them. I hear this a lot, as if anger is a bad thing. We feel anger automatically when we’re being, were or will be harmed. That’s healthy. That’s how things are supposed to work because recognizing that we feel endangered is vital to surviving and...
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What’s Wrong With Being Wrong?

Whether I’m working with couples or families, I find that too many people absolutely hate being wrong. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that any relationship you’re in, including those at work, will improve dramatically when both parties become more comfortable with being in the wrong. This improvement will automatically decrease stress and the urge to comfort yourself with food, so you’re getting a two-fer with it.   What is it about being wrong that makes people feel so uncomfortable and defensive? It’s a strange phenomenon, this attachment to a state of correctness. Do you recognize what upsets you when you’re wrong? Is it the actual experience of it or is it what others say to or about you when blame is being thrown around?   Here’s my take on the subject based on working with (most) couples who are all hung up on who’s...
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Wanting To Be Normal Or Healthy

Many people confuse what’s normal with what’s healthy. I hear from clients frequently that they don’t know what’s normal or have always wanted to be normal. Taking a closer look at these terms can help you figure out what you really want to be.   As children, especially those who are raised in dysfunctional families, we often wish to be like other children. We want to fit in and being like others is one way to do it. If our parents are different from other parents—that is, they don’t take good care of us, they drink or do drugs, they can’t keep their jobs, or they abuse or neglect us—we are aware of this consciously or unconsciously and naturally yearn for normalcy. We want a father who helps us with our homework rather than one who shuts himself in the den drinking and watching TV or a mother who attends...
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Wanting to Belong is Not the Same as Wanting to Fit In

Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, TED talker, and author of four bestselling books, can’t help opening her mouth and spouting wisdom. Being interviewed on NPR, she shared some interesting insights about a topic that often arises in treating dysregulated eaters: the need to belong. For more on this subject, read her interviews at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/author-brene-brown-social-scientist-new-book-braving-the-wilderness/ and at http://www.oprah.com/spirit/life-lessons-we-all-need-to-learn-brene-brown .   In both discussions, she talks about the difference between wishing to belong and wishing to fit in. You might think that they are the same or that in order to experience the former, the latter must happen. Not true. Instead, she maintains that people who have the truest sense of belonging are not those who try to blend in with others, but those who can stand up for their authentic selves and who are comfortable in their own skin.     Somewhere along the way (okay, in...
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Why Do You Lie To Yourself?

I came across an aphorism by social and moral philosopher Eric Hoffer, which speaks to a truth that we all need to be aware of: “We lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves.”   Now, before, you insist that you never fib to yourself and always attempt to be honest, consider if that might be a lie in itself. Read this blog and, then, see if your assessment changes. Moreover, see if you can accept the truth that we all lie to ourselves without any self-judgment and, especially, without self-condemnation.   To understand our behavior, the question we might ask is why we would lie to ourselves. Aren’t we taught from toddlerhood that lying is bad and wrong? Aren’t we often shamed and punished when we tell falsehoods intentionally or inadvertently? The major reason that we lie is because, in the moment, it brings more emotional comfort than telling...
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Fatalism Versus Irrational Hope Regarding Eating Disorders

A client mentioned seeing parts of her childhood reflected in Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, a book I recently read at her suggestion. What struck her was Vance describing how people may respond to childhood dysfunction in an unhealthy, polarized way through either fatalism or irrational hope or a mix of the two. This is a perfect description of the mindset of many dysregulated eaters, especially regarding their relationship with food.   Fatalism is a belief in a fixed destiny that we are powerless to change or escape. An example is believing that what was said of you as a child—no one will ever love you, you’re not good enough, or you won’t amount to anything—is true. Fatalist thinking then leads to you act in such a way that you end up not living up to your potential, failing to follow...
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Manage Your Focus and Better Manage Your Eating and Your Life

Recently, a 70-something, highly successful, charming client came to his first session with me and talked non-stop about how his father regularly had berated him for both over-eating and under-exercising in childhood. Not surprisingly, these “problems” had become the focus of his life. Perhaps, you, too, have difficulty focusing your brain on positive things in life and would like to learn how to manage your thoughts effectively.   If so, world-famous coach Tony Robbins, has some sound advice for you to follow. (“An Interview with Tony Robbins” by Rich Simon, PhD, Psychotherapy Networker , Nov-Dec 2017, p. 47) He maintains that there are three tests of focus: “First, do you tend to focus more on what you can control or can’t control? If you’re always focused on what you can’t control, you’re going to be stressed.” “Do you focus on what you have or what’s missing? The vast majority of...
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How to Manage Your Control Issues

Let’s face it: We all want control over our lives. It’s encoded into our DNA and hardwired into our brains. We want it because we believe it will help us survive and thrive, although that’s not what’s foremost in our minds when we try to shape life to our liking and get other people to change so that we don’t need to.   In those moments, we’re thinking why the heck our spouse won’t lay off the booze, our neighbor won’t quit playing that awful loud music, and our parents won’t stop treating us like children even though we have grown kids of our own. We have no interest in surrendering our desires, and see nothing wrong with asking others to make major and minor alterations in themselves so that we can go along on our merry way exactly as we are. It doesn’t even occur to us that we...
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Negative Effects of Loneliness and Isolation

Many clients eat for comfort when they’re lonely. As I’ve blogged before, we’re all lonely once in a while. That can’t be helped. The kind of loneliness that clients are referring to is a chronic feeling which some people remember having had since early childhood.   It is not isolation, per se, that causes loneliness problems, but “the subjective perception of isolation—the discrepancy between one’s desired and actual level of social connection.” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “Loneliness and isolation aren’t the same thing” by Jane Brody, E24, 12/19/2017). We all know people who have few social connections and seem just fine with their quantity and quality. We may know others who surround themselves with friends and family, but still seem disconnected from them and also, perhaps, from themselves.   There are a number of reasons that people might be lonely. Some came from small, isolated families who had or saw few relatives....
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