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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. 

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Just the Facts, Ma’am

Just-The-Facts-Ma-am
While reading an article on people’s reactions to the corona virus, I came upon two statements that struck me as right on target about emotions. They perfectly describe what happens when we don’t view life objectively and accurately but insist on seeing it only through the lens of our experience. Of course, we can’t help but view life through our experience. What gets in the way of mental health is when people are unable to acknowledge that their view (based on emotions) runs against the facts and is purely subjective and often patently untrue. David Ropeik, retired Harvard University instructor on risk communication, tells us that, “Emotions are the filters through which we see the facts.” And Paul Slovic, University of Oregon psychology professor, explains that, “‘Hot buttons . . . ramp up our perception of risk, and sometimes make those perceptions different from the evidence-based conclusions.”  Examples of this process...
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COVID and Beyond—It’s All about Self-Care

Wear-A-Mask
I haven’t blogged much about these days of living with the COVID-19 virus, though I’ve written two pieces, one about eating during the pandemic and another on why people ignore or defy taking //medium.com/@kkoeniglicsw/give-me-liberty-or-give-me-death-599abaf9f0ba">virus precautions. I haven’t written more virus-related blogs because I thought I’d be straying off course and that my writings would be more beneficial to my audience of troubled eaters if I stayed with my expertise.  Then I realized that deciding what or how much to eat and social distancing while wearing a mask all fall under the same umbrella of self-care. It’s wonderful if you’re using pandemic time to focus on staying connected to appetite and minding your portion sizes. Be proud if you’ve put away the scale, are making more of an effort to eat healthier foods, and have gotten into an activity routine that feels right for you. But, honestly, if you’re not wearing a...
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Make Mealtime Family Time

Make-Mealtime-Family-Time
For those of you who are raising children, what messages are you giving them about mealtimes which include when, what, where and how much to eat? “7 tips to make every family meal count” by Cara Rosenbloom (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 12/2/19, E24) has some basic ideas for cohering and educating your family. I’m blogging on this subject because I fear that some dysregulated eaters don’t know the value of sharing structured meals and what they can teach children about our relationship with food.  Clients tell me that because they are stressed out, they feel overly taxed by food shopping and preparing. So they order take out, go out to dinner, or let their children grab whatever is in the refrigerator. All of the above is acceptable once in a while, but what does it teach your children if it’s a regular pattern? It says that food is incidental or even irrelevant to...
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Anger, Helplessness and Paralysis

Anger-Helplessness-and-Paralysis-1
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

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

10-Steps-To-Re-regulate
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)

Youre-Anxious-Because
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

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?

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

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
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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How Science Advises Overcoming Procrastination-Part 1

How Science Advises Overcoming Procrastination-Part 1
All week in therapy I hear the following, “If I know what to do, why do I keep putting it off?” or “I can’t get myself to go to the gym even though I really want to” or “What’s wrong with me that I can’t get started on better self-care?” We all procrastinate a little at times, but if it’s a habit, it’s time to understand why we put things off and how to stop. According to “Why Your Brain Loves Procrastination” by Susannah Locke (4/18/16, accessed 2/5/20, https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-your-brain-loves procrastination?utm_source=pocket-newtab), about 5% of the population has a serious problem with it. Rather than being rooted in a moral deficiency, science views chronically putting off doing things we wish to do as a psychological issue: We simply don’t want to do things that make us uncomfortable or that we think will make us uncomfortable. Explains Locke, “When people procrastinate, they’re avoiding emotionally...
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Fears That Prevent "Normal" Eating

Fears That Prevent "Normal" Eating
If you live in terror of food cravings and weight gain, you won’t learn to become a “normal” eater. It’s simply not possible. Something has to give: the fear or the desire. This is a major conflict for people who ping pong between restrictive eating (restraint via self-control) and going hog wild with food. I often see this process played out in therapy. Here's what happens. A client comes in saying she (it’s usually but not always a she) is sick and tired of dieting and wants to learn how to eat “normally.” She provides her diet history and explains why and when she binges and how she is physically and mentally so done with this cycle. She recognizes that neither behavior serves her and comes to me to help her find the alternative, saner approach to eating. All is well and good so far. At some point, after talking at...
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Trash versus Treasure Self-talk

Trash versus Treasure Self-talk
My book on how self-talk heals our relationship with food and our bodies isn’t due out until 2021, but it’s never too soon to learn healthy self-talk. One way to think of it is whether it’s rational or irrational. Rational means it’s based on fact, evidence, reason and logic. Rational self-talk is sensible, settles you down and supports your goals. Irrational self-talk has no logical or reasonable basis. It’s like a bully. It seems to erupt out of nowhere, then tries to overwhelm you with its ferocious emotional intensity and persistence all the while undermining your goals and stomping on your reason.  To separate irrational from rational self-talk, think of them as trash or treasure. We take out the trash so that it’s gone from our lives. We don’t set it in the middle of the living room and worshipfully live our lives around it. When we treasure something, we hold...
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An Easy, Transformational Method to Connect to Your Body

An Easy, Transformational Method to Connect to Your Body
Off the top of your head, how connected are you to your body? I don’t mean to your appetite, but how synced you are with the pain and pleasure you feel in your entire corporeal self. Your disconnection is both a cause and result of dysregulated eating. The hopeful news is that, with practice, you can tap into sensing exactly how your body is feeling any time which will help you enormously in making wiser decisions about food. You do this by performing a body scan (“Oh, Hello There, Body” by Greater Good (11/26/19, Lion’s Roar, https://www.lionsroar.com/oh-hello-there-body/, accessed 2/1/20) in which “we systematically focus our attention on different parts of our body, from our feet to the muscles in our face.” The goal is to experience our body as is without doing anything to or for it and to find and relieve tension caused by stress.  You can do a scan...
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The Joys of Intuitive Eating

The Joys of Intuitive Eating
“Intuitive Eating: The anti-diet, or how pleasure from food is the answer, says its creators,” a CNN Health article, makes it sound as if intuitive eating (IE) is making a comeback, when it’s never gone away. Back in the 80s IE taught me how to eat intuitively after decades of dieting and binge-eating and the movement has only grown stronger nationally and internationally. (Sandee Lamotte, 1/31/20, accessed 1/31/20, https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/31/health/intuitive-eating-no-diet-wellness/index.html). Since then there have been hundreds of books written about appetite-attuned eating. Here’s some how-to advice straight from the mouths of its creators and the authors of Intuitive Eating: An Anti-Diet Revolutionary Approach, Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, both well respected registered dieticians. “The scientific mechanism behind intuitive eating is called ‘interoceptive awareness,’ or the ability to perceive physical sensations that arise within the body. Intuitive eating is really instinct, emotion and thought," Resch said. "It's the instinct, hunger, fullness. What we...
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High Weight is NOT a Moral Failing

High Weight is NOT a Moral Failing
Sadly, because society is not giving up on stigmatizing higher weight people any time soon, if you are higher weight and want to live without feeling its oppressive impact, you’ll need to stop believing that being unable to lose weight or keep it off is a moral failing. There are people fighting to eradicate weight stigma, but change takes time. In the meantime, you can buy into the lie that there’s something dreadfully wrong and defective about you for being higher weight or you can stop internalizing this falsehood.  The results presented in “Living With Obesity: Expressions of Longing” or even reading the abstract describing this study (V. Ueland, PhD, RN, E. Dysvik, PhD, RN, B. Furnes, PhD, RN, 1/22/20, https://doi.org/10.1177/2377960819901193) are enlightening and provocative. They conclude that many higher weight individuals believe that their size is a burden to them and others. They’re “subjected to a cultural understanding that obesity...
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Can Optimism Help You Become a "Normal" Eater?

Can Optimism Help You Become a "Normal" Eater?
I’ve long written about how psychological traits—nuanced thinking, curiosity rather than judgment, persistence, patience, self-compassion and self-approval—affect eating. It turns out that optimism also can help improve your relationship with food.  “Dispositional optimism is defined as the general expectation that good things, rather than bad things, will happen in the future . . . It is a psychological trait that has been associated with positive health outcomes . . .” (“Optimism is associated with diet quality, food group consumption and snacking behavior in a general population,” W. Ait-hadad, M. Bénard, R. Shankland, E. Kesse-Guyot, M. Robert, M. Touvier, S. Hercberg, C. Buscail & S. Péneau, Nutrition Journal vol. 19, Article #: 6, 2020) This study concluded that “optimism was associated with better overall quality and less snacking. It was also associated with consumption of healthy food groups as well as unhealthy food groups typically consumed in social eating occasions. These findings suggest that optimism...
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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.  Privacy Policy