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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]

Anger, Helplessness and Paralysis

Many people who suffered abuse or other childhood mistreatment have become disconnected from their emotions. It’s not that they consciously wish to avoid their feelings; more that they don’t even realize they’re disconnected from them. This is a normal reaction to a budding nervous system being overwhelmed but is a maladaptive strategy for thriving in adulthood. Here's what happens. Let’s say your parents demand that you be the perfect little child and you are shamed or punished when you’re “bad” in their eyes. Maybe you don’t get all As, become excited and talk loudly in public places, or fail to clean your room. Or maybe you just don’t do what they want because you don’t want to. When this pattern happens often enough, it would be natural for you to become angry and resentful. This makes you respond to your parents in an oppositional manner. How well does that go over...
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Train Your Brain to Be More Optimistic

A major trigger of emotional eating is worry or despair. It turns out that pessimism not only feels crummy and is harmful to your relationship with food, but also may impact longevity. If you’re looking to become more optimistic, you can retrain your brain to think more positively according to “Want to live longer? Be an optimist, study says” by Sandee LaMottte (CNN.com, 8/26/19, accessed 8/27/19,  https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/26/health/optimism-live-longer-wellness/index.html). Says LaMotte, “Optimism doesn't mean ignoring life's stressors. But when negative things happen, optimistic people are less likely to blame themselves and more likely to see the obstacle as temporary or even positive. They also believe they have control over their fate and can create opportunities for good things to happen in the future.” Two key concepts are going on here. First, when things go wrong, stop blaming yourself. Pessimists tend to be blame oriented—hard on themselves or others for causing problems. Second, get...
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10 Steps to Re-regulate When You Feel Overwhelmed

One day I was talking with a client who was calmly sharing what had happened in her life since I’d seen her two weeks ago and she impressed with her calmness. With a history of anxiety, depression and having overcome serious drug and alcohol addictions, I wondered how she managed to handle the string of events she was relating to me: college classwork to become a therapist, frustration at bureaucracy dragging its feet when she had to have court papers signed by a specific date or she’d lose her scholarship, single-parenting her young son, dealing with the aftermath of her mother and step-father having been scammed out of a sizable amount of money, and being without a car for two weeks while it underwent necessary repairs. We talked about how we all suffer from discomfort when we lack control over outside circumstances and how growing up as an adult child of...
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You're Anxious Because (It's Not What You Think)

Clients tell me various and sundry reasons for having anxiety. Some say, “I know you tell me I shouldn’t worry, but I’m a worrier.” First, I eschew the word “should” and would never even tell them that. Second, what’s the point of condemning yourself to a worrier identity when it makes you miserable? The statement does no good and a lot of harm. Clients say they’re anxious because: I don’t know what I’ll be doing this summer. My husband may be fooling around.I can’t fit into my clothes.I don’t know where I’ll move to when my lease is up. My family is angry at me for telling the police that my neighbor tried to molest me.It’s almost hurricane season (note: I live in Florida).I have a wedding to go to soon and people will see how much weight I’ve gained. My child is having trouble in school.I need to have surgery on my ankle.My...
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Why Making Friends Can Be Difficult

A complaint I often hear from clients is that it’s hard to make friends. I concur but believe that just how difficult it is depends on the meaning you give to the endeavor. As an only child with a very small extended family, I had to put great effort into making friends, so I know a bit more than most about the subject. Here’s what I’ve learned over the decades about why folks may not be interested in having a friendship with me. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. People may not care for my personality or views on politics or religion, about which I’m quite upfront. While finding me pleasant enough, they might think that our values don’t mesh well enough to want to see more of me.People may not be looking to make friends. Most of the ones I meet and seek friendship from are really active and busy....
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What and Where Is the Mind?

When we say, “I’m going out of my mind,” where is it exactly that we’re going? When we insist that, “Food’s on my mind all the time,” where is it? “Scientists Say Your ‘Mind’ Isn’t Confined to Your Brain, or Even Your Body” by Olivia Goldhill provides some answers along with a definition and general description of “the mind.” (Quartz, 12/24/16, https://getpocket.com/explore/item/scientists-say-your-mind-isn-t-confined-to-your-brain-or-even-your-body?utm_source=pocket-newtab, accessed 2/10/20). Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and the author of the 2016 book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human, defines the mind as “the emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within and among us.” He says that the mind contains our perception of our experiences as well as the actual experiences themselves. “Borrowing tenets from mathematics, Siegel explains that the mind is a complex system and, as such is “optimal self-organization is:...
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The Only Way To Stop Causing Your Anxiety

I know you don’t want to believe that you are causing your own anxiety, but you are. Sure, genetics play a role in calming agita, but they are not the instigator and promoter of your misery. That would be you, your worldview, and your specific thoughts.  This is not a bulletin hot off the press, although it may be new information to you. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and other clinical treatment approaches, philosophy, Buddhism, and meditation all espouse you having the power to alter how you feel and what you do by changing your beliefs and cognitions. “The School of Life presents: Forget finding happiness, instead find peace with anxiety” describes a major barrier to peace: clinging to a deep and fervent wish that you can make life risk- and danger-free. Instead, you must accept the paradox that you will experience less anxiety when you recognize that you—all of us— always will have...
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Can Couples Therapy Fix What Ails You

Couples therapy can be enormously helpful to partners stuck in unhealthy patterns, including dysregulated eating. It improves communication, enhances insight, reduces tension, and deepens intimacy. I’ve done a substantial amount of it over the decades and sing its praises. It may be just what you need to heal your eating problems. Couples come to therapy at different stages of their relationship and for various reasons. The initial stages of marriage or living together can bring up all sorts of major issues about dependence and boundaries. It can rekindle fears of abandonment and rejection as well as trigger traumatic memories. Having and raising children might also create tensions, especially about what it means to be a great parent and keeping intimacy alive within the couple. The later years of coupledom are full of transitions like children moving away from home and retirement or how to have a full, meaningful life without them—not...
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Success Doesn't Always Lead to Self-love

Success Doesn't Always Lead to Self-love
It’s theme time again in my practice. Suddenly the issue of clients turning themselves inside out for achievements and success to up their self-acceptance is cropping up everywhere. So, bulletin: striving and scrambling for success does not make you more lovable and failure does not make you less lovable.  It’s understandable that the two would get linked together so that people would think they’re one and the same. Understandable because of the success-oriented, achievement-dominated culture we live in. We worship those who are rich and renowned—whether they’re sports figures, business icons, or celebrities who are famous for just being famous. We don’t much care how they got there or what kind of people they were or are under all that glitters. I have many clients, dysregulated eaters, who value themselves according to their success. No matter how much they’re doing, it’s not enough. If they’re head of one board, why not...
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How Science Advises Overcoming Procrastination-Part 2

How Science Advises Overcoming Procrastination-Part 2
Here are more tips on how to overcome putting things off from “Why Your Brain Loves Procrastination” by Susannah Locke (https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-your-brain-loves procrastination?utm_source=pocket-newtab, 4/18/16, accessed 2/5/20). Make sure you’ve read part one of this two-part blog which explains why you need to engage in self-compassion rather than self-criticism if you put things off—then, read on. Tim Pychyl, psychologist and Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada professor explains recent research that makes a good deal of sense: “. . . what’s happening with procrastination is that ‘present self’ is always trumping ‘future self’ . . . Some people see these selves as completely distinct, and some people see them totally overlapping. The people who see the present and future self as more overlapping have more self-continuity and report less procrastination.” After reading this article I spent a session with a client who keeps stalling on taking walks that she swears she wants to take....
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