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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. 

How Critical Parents Hurt Their Children

Most, if not all, of my eating dysregulated clients had at least one parent who was highly critical of them. The majority often don’t make the connection between how critical a parent was and their negative self put downs. In some cases, grandparents and aunts and uncles, too, frequently criticized one another or other people, so, for my clients, this type of behavior was simply the norm, that is, what people do.   They’ll say, “Yeah, Dad was hard on me but I know he loved me” or “Mom always expected so much of me because she loved me so much.” These statements may hold truth, but they’re hardly the entire story. Loving a child leads to wanting the best for them and wanting them to succeed and be happy (whatever happiness means to the parent or caregiver). However, it’s confusing for a child to feel hurt or stung by...
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Book Review: The End of Overeating

I highly recommend Dr. David A. Kessler’s new book, THE END OF OVEREATING: TAKING CONTROL OF THE INSATIABLE AMERICAN APPETITE. He was the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1990-7 and writes on eating and weight from a professional perspective, but also as someone who struggles with food himself. Some pertinent points from this very enlightening and readable book. Kessler begins by talking about why it’s hard to resist certain foods: our bodies crave the mixture of sugar, fat, and salt contained in most prepared foods. While we get a dopamine boost from each ingredient alone, the biggest rush comes from a combo of all three. Even the anticipation of eating them triggers a response in our brains, as does unconscious cuing which happens when anything in the environment creates an unconscious or conscious association with food—seeing grandma reminds us of her yummy brownies, cruising by Taco...
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Health Goals Are More Important Than Weight-Loss Goals

Most dysregulated eaters find it difficult to give up weight-loss goals, even when they know intellectually that this pursuit, per se, is not the strongest motivator for becoming a “normal” eater. What  about you? What if you could enjoy greater mental and physical health benefits yet your weight stayed the same or didn’t drop as much as you’d like?   An article in Obesity, “Mindfulness-based stress reduction in women with overweight or obesity: A randomized clinical trial,” (by Raja-Khan, Katrina Agito, Julie Shah, Christy M. Stetter, Theresa S. Gustafson, Holly Socolow, Allen R. Kunselman, Diane K. Reibel, and Richard S. Legro, abstract, 7 Jul 2017, DOI: 10.1002/oby.21910, accessed 7/21/17, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1002/oby.21910/abstract ) concludes that a trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBS) in higher weight women “improved mindfulness, significantly decreased perceived stress,” and that “there was significant reduction in fasting glucose.” However, the study saw no change in women’s weight.   In “6...
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Weight and Genetics

Generally whenever I mention the statistic from Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin that 50-70% of our body weight is inherited, I receive such dirty looks that I often add that there have been challenges a plenty to this conclusion. Now, however, The New England Journal of Medicine has weighed in on the subject by publishing the conclusions of a twin-study on eating and weight, and it looks as if Kolata was right on the mark. The NEJM study had male identical twins consuming 1,000 extra calories per day for 84 out of 100 days. Theoretically, each volunteer should have put on 24 pounds but, lo and behold, although each twin in a set gained about the same amount as his brother, there was a striking difference in weight gained between twin sets, within a range of 9.5 and 29 pounds. The researchers’ explanation was that “40% of our weight may be...
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Fear of Being Like Your Parent(s)

Occasionally, we all act like our parents. How can we not, as they are the ones whose genes we carry and who first taught us how to be in the world. A number of my clients are aghast that they will become too like their parents which colors how they choose to think and act—often to their detriment. Here are some examples of this dynamic: One client is very timid and works overly hard to be agreeable—the kind of woman I write about in Nice Girls Finish Fat . Her father spent most of her childhood raging at her and her sister after their mother died and he had to raise them himself. Afraid of his anger, people kept away and the family became quite isolated. My client vowed early on to put a damper on her temper and go along to get along. Now, middle-aged, she’s had two abusive husbands...
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Book Review – “Can’t. Just. Stop. An Investigation of Compulsions”

I had such a good time reading Sharon Begley’s new book, Can’t. Just. Stop. An Investigation of Compulsions (Simon & Schuster, 2017), that I was sorry when it ended. For a serious science writer, Begley can be surprisingly funny, which is rather fortunate when dealing with the painful topic of why we simply can’t stop doing things that we hate doing and hate ourselves for doing. Like mindless, emotional, compulsive, binge or over-eating, for example.   If you’re looking for easy answers on how to stop compulsions or addictions, you won’t find them in this book. However, if you’re looking for a greater understanding of why you’re driven to do whatever it is you do (while not wanting to do it), you’ll learn a lot. First off, Begley describes the difference between compulsions and addictions, which are often used interchangeably though they do not mean the same thing. Throw in...
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Identity is How YOU Define Yourself

I’ve just spent the better part of an hour unsuccessfully digging through reading material trying to identify where I read (within the last week!) that “biography is not identity.” I had to wait to carve out time to blog about this subject and, in the interim, forgot where I found these four words which leapt off the page and tattooed themselves onto my brain.   How often do I hear clients make a determination about who they are based on what happened to them as children? Every day. If they were poor and had to go to neighbors’ homes begging for food to feed their younger siblings, they still carry deprivation and shame with them. If their father left them and their mother when they were toddlers, they still think of themselves as fatherless, abandoned children. If their mother trashed them with her words when she got drunk, they can’t...
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More Wisdom from Brene Brown

If you don’t know who Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW is, it’s time to get acquainted with her. She’s an author, TED talk speaker extraordinaire, and a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She is one wise woman whose insights every person with an eating disorder needs to learn from. Here are some nuggets of wisdom from an article she wrote on the “Physics of Vulnerability” in the May/June 2017 issue of Psychotherapy Networker (pp. 32-33).   Brown believes that if you’re not allowing yourself to feel vulnerable often enough or refuse to move out of your comfort zone, you won’t get anywhere in life. I would add that if you spend most of your time obsessing about how to do something right and always need to feel safe and sure of an outcome, you not only won’t get very far in recovery, but you’ll...
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It’s Okay to Have Conflicting Thoughts on How You Want to Eat

It’s not uncommon to have mixed feelings or thoughts. I’ve written about this dynamic related to eating and body image in Starting Monday and in The Food and Feelings Workbook. How can we not have them? I lie in bed many mornings thinking about how I both do and don’t want to arise and begin the day. I feel ambivalent about almost every vacation or event that breaks up my routine—I look forward to something new and different, while feeling I’d just as soon pass the time enjoying my usual schedule.   If mixed feelings are the norm, why do we get so upset about them? Why do we view them as negative and fight so hard to avoid them? We find ourselves averse to conflicting feelings or thoughts for two reasons. First, we may assume that there’s something wrong with us for not being unilaterally and single-minded about what...
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How You Wish To Be Perceived

It’s somewhat ironic that humans often worry a great deal about how people will view and judge them, but may behave unconsciously in ways that elicit judgment. It’s vital that we are all in touch with how we present ourselves—from our appearance to our words and tone to how we behave. We may not wish to be judged, but we will be, because that’s simple the way of humanity.   Robert Parkinson talks about the impressions we make in “Being perceived as you want to be” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 6/24/17, D3). He maintains that, “People will assume many things about you. Help them make the correct ones.” I love this directive because it says that we get to play a big part in how others perceive us. On a related note, I recall a social work school instructor suggesting that we get clinical clues about how clients value themselves from their...
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This website is owned and operated by Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. It contains material intended for informational and educational purposes only, and reasonable effort is made to keep its contents updated. Any material contained herein is not to be construed as the practice of clinical social work or of psychotherapy, although adherence to applicable Florida States, Rules, and Code of Ethics is observed. Material on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment for mental health issues or eating disorder problems, which should be done only through individualized therapeutic consultation. Karen R. Koenig, LCSW disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained on this website. This website contains links to other sites. The inclusion of such links does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW who disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained in this website. Further, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or current usefulness of the material contained in the linked sites. Users of any website must be aware of the limitation to confidentiality and privacy, and website usage does not carry any guarantee or privacy of any information contained therein.