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 Object Relations Theory Will Help You

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I often use object relations theory to help clients better interact with narcissistic people, especially their parents or bosses. It’s a complicated theory and I focus on one particular concept that fosters improved understanding of how others operate. The theory describes the internalized view we have of others: do we see and treat them as if they have their own needs and wants that may be different from ours or do we perceive them as objects (a part of us) to be used for our own gratification. Stop a minute and think about people you know and how you feel around them. If you feel seen, heard and valued by someone, they probably have an internalized view of you as a unique, separate person from themselves (good object relations). However, if you feel unseen, unheard and devalued, they probably objectify you (poor object relations). Here's an example. I had a client...
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What Does Letting Go Really Mean?

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A client and I were discussing her difficulty with loss: a sister’s long-ago suicide, her mother’s gradual decline and death from cancer and, most recently, the death of her adored dog, Pearl. Talking about Pearl’s death, my client kept repeating a common phrase, “I can’t seem to let go” and “I need to let go,” which started an interesting conversation about what those words really mean.  Our discussion raised many issues. One was how my client was referring to something that had happened—Pearl’s death—as if it hadn’t. That is, after a long illness, Pearl was euthanized with my client present. She knew Pearl was dead and yet her words implied the need to take further action. This is often how we use the phrase. We don’t get a job we want and say, “I need to let go.” Our fiancé breaks our engagement, and we say, “Why can’t I just let...
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To Lose Weight, Ditch Processed Food

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If you’re a regular reader of my blogs, you know I don’t write about ways to lose weight because a scale focus is bound to sabotage learning to eat “normally.” However, a recent article, Our Food Is Killing Us, presents such compelling facts about how ultra-processed food makes us fatter, that I couldn’t not write about it. It also speaks to how food manufacturers intentionally load up these foods to make them super appealing and habituating and how their production is geared to put weight on anyone who eats them. For more information on processed foods see my previous blogs about its dangers.  Here's how ultra-processed makes us fatter. Fructose, the commonly sweetener in our foods used in high concentrations, “destroys or inactivates several key enzymes needed for the healthy function of mitochondria . . . which causes a backlog of unprocessed glucose to circulate in the bloodstream and store it...
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Satisfaction versus Achievement

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I recently came across an author who suggests that happiness comes from satisfaction, not from achievement and I thought about all my unsatisfied clients over the decades who had achieved so much but rarely felt that what they’d done was enough or was up to par. And so off they went seeking satisfaction with food. Satisfaction is a quirky thing, but hardly elusive. You can feel satisfied watching a spell-binding movie or TV series, reading a book about the Civil War, weeding the garden or making a four-course meal. These are just a few of the activities that can bring satisfaction, as can getting a solid night’s sleep or cleaning out the garage. Satisfaction doesn’t come from the party you’re attending, but from what you bring to it. That is, it comes from a deeply felt sense of pleasure in what you’re doing. It’s not about what you’ll tell people after...
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The Legacy of Trauma

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Many people think that if they didn’t suffer trauma in childhood or adulthood, they’re trauma free. But it’s interesting to note how many of these people suffer with anxiety, depression, chemical dependency, or are victims or perpetrators of abuse. How trauma becomes intergenerational through our cells and DNA is more complex than I’m able to do justice to (though I’m reading a book on the subject and will soon blog about it). For now, I want to talk about how intergenerational trauma affects people and may be one of the causes of their dysregulated eating. Here are two examples. When Devon’s grandparents who were farmers came over from Ireland, they were dirt poor. With eight children, two of whom who died as toddlers, they could barely scrape together enough money to migrate to the U.S. when Devon’s dad was 11. All the children arrived here malnourished and were put to work...
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This Year Whine More and Apologize Less

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It’s ironic that some of my most stoic clients worry that they’re a whiner. Of course, it could be their fretting so much about being viewed as such that keeps them from being one. Concurrent with this self-containment, however, comes another trait, excessive apologizing. Putting these two traits together makes me think that someone doesn’t want to be perceived as having needs, a personality marker for dysregulated eaters. Here’s an example. My client Evie was a “military brat” whose mother was a Major in the Army, and her father was principal of a local elementary school. Both were rules focused and neither suffered fools gladly. Evie says she never heard either of them complain and she was brought up to think it was “babyish and a sign of weakness” to do so. On the other hand, Evie worried constantly that she was doing something wrong (or at least not right). She...
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Why Keep Asking Why People Won’t Change?

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Why questions can be helpful in understanding yourself and others. “Why do I think I need to eat watching TV?” and “Honey, why don’t you like historical novels?” are fine questions which will likely give you fruitful information But some “why” questions aren’t meant to seek new information and have a purpose which you’re probably not aware of.  “Why won’t they change?” may be the most frequent question I’m asked. What drives it is usually not avid curiosity and it may not even be a quest for new information. When you ask, “Why hasn’t he changed when I’ve asked him a million times not to talk about my weight?” or “Why hasn’t she changed when I’ve begged her not to hurl questions at me the minute I walk in the door from work?” what you really might be wanting to know is: am I worth someone doing things differently, don’t they...
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Time to Learn How to Detach

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Most clients think of detaching from others as breaking off a relationship or not caring about another person, but neither represents true emotional detachment which is another sort of animal. When we detach, we may or may not still care about the person, spend time with or live near them, or continue contact.  Detachment is a mental/emotional state of indifference and emotional disconnection. Have you ever read a book or watched a film in which you were mildly engaged with a character but didn’t greatly care about what happened to them? When we detach, we feel as if we’re seeing someone from a distance. Detachment is a neutral space where you don’t feel personally connected to someone’s actions or let them disturb you. Here's an example. My client Charles, 34, has a highly narcissistic father who expects complete allegiance and wants to control his life. Living within a few miles of...
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Aim for These Rational Default Settings

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Our childhoods shape our default settings for interacting in the world whether we know it or not. How we’re treated or mistreated and the role models who surround us lay down a template for what we believe about ourselves and others. Make no mistake, we don’t get to choose what we think until we become aware how we’ve been programmed.  Until you reset irrational, unhealthy default settings to ones which are rational and healthy, you’ll have a difficult time achieving well-being. Consider what might be wrong with your default settings regarding lovability, rights, and deservedness. Lovability. An unhealthy default is thinking you’re lovable only when people love you, making your lovability dependent on their assessment of you. Therefore, you must always work hard to please and get their approval and never anger or upset them because then they’ll stop loving you and you’ll no longer be lovable. A healthy default is...
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How Does Your Anxiety Manifest Itself?

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I was reading an excellent book on anxiety to review for the New York Journal of Books after talk with a friend about health problems and it got me thinking about the various ways we let anxiety inhabit us and run the show. It’s a hard-wired emotion and we all run smack into it on occasion (or on many occasions) whether we want to or not. Here are some of the ways that we exhibit or express it, even when we don’t realize it. You get angry. You and a friend are in the supermarket in the self-check-out lane. She drops her wallet, and you rush to help her pick up everything because there’s a line behind you. You feel angry that she’s not moving quickly enough to finish her transaction and say something like, “If you hadn’t been talking on your phone while we're checking out, this wouldn’t have happened....
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