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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]

Be Aware of Levels of Communication

Be Aware of Levels of Communication
There are many levels of communication and it’s essential to speak on all of them. We need to recognize the level on which we and others are speaking and what we seek from each other. Moreover, the more skilled we are at switching from one level to another, the better communication will flow. In “The Four Levels of Communication,” Charlie Gilkey explains ( https://www.productiveflourishing.com , accessed 11/25/19): Social level: “… where we talk about the weather, sports, news, or around the things  we care about. It’s superficial…and allows us to function among strangers and determine whether the people around us are foes or potential friends.”  Mental level: “… where we talk about ideas, facts, non-controversial beliefs, plans,  strategies, and tips. Most of our professional conversations fall into this area…” Emotional  level: “…in which we talk about our wants, needs, aspirations, fears and  joys” and express them in verbal and non-verbal ways,...
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How to Deal with People Who Act Like Victims

How to Deal with People Who Act Like Victims
Clients often come to sessions totally exasperated at having had dealings with someone who acts like a victim when they truly are not one. These clients are frustrated and angry, feel victimized themselves and helpless to change others. In fact, they’re so stuck in the problem that they’re not really interested in my solutions. In a dysfunctional emotional domino effect, I end up both frustrated that clients aren’t listening to my solutions and helpless and spent because I don’t seem to be able to help them. When I have this “poor me” experience in a session, I know that therapy has gone awry and it’s time for me to reflect on what’s going on because victimhood can be a contagious condition if we let it be. Person A complains to person B so much that B feels put upon and needs to vent to person C. Person A usually feels better...
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Why We Eat the Way We Do

Why We Eat the Way We Do
Check out “Why We Eat The Way We Do” on NPR’s Hidden Brain which runs just shy of half an hour ( https://www.npr.org/2019/11/11/778266536/hungry-hungry-hippocampus-the-psychology-of-how-we-eat , accessed 11/23/19). Here’s what I learned from this entertaining and enlightening podcast.  Psychologist Paul Rozin was being interviewed by Shankar Vedantam, host of Hidden Brain. Rozin, who has spent decades studying “the interplay between food, identity, and culture,” maintains that "Food is not just nutrition that goes in your mouth or even pleasant sensations that go with it. It connects to your whole life, and it's really a very important part of performing your culture and experiencing your culture." This is why we enjoy certain ritualized foods—from birthday cake to Christmas pudding, Hebrew Sabbath challah, and Muslim couscous—and why we have strong associations to traditional or simply familiar foods from childhood. Two discussion points got me thinking. One was the difference between French and American eaters: Americans...
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Really, You Don’t Have Time for Exercise?

Really, You Don’t Have Time for Exercise?
“I don’t have time to exercise” is a plaint I often hear. I can almost guarantee that if you think this thought frequently, you will convince yourself that it’s true. “…According to a new study from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducted by researchers at the non-profit Rand Corp. Americans, in fact, have plenty of free time: an average of five hours of it each day.” This conclusion is based on an analysis of the American Time Use Survey, which collects detailed time-use diaries from thousands of people each year. (“Making time for exercise in a busy day,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fitness Q&A,11/12/19, E17, accessed 11/12/19) What is it we do with all this extra time? Hint: it’s not reading, getting out in nature, or meditation. “Instead of exercising, we’re giving over the bulk of our free time to mobile, PC and TV screens.” For the purpose of...
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Stop Telling Yourself It’s Hard to Take Care of Yourself

Stop Telling Yourself It’s Hard to Take Care of Yourself
I had another one of those weeks when several clients came in with the same complaint: It’s hard to not binge or overeat, exercise regularly, stop noshing, take “me” time, and do right for themselves. Hearing this grievance three times in three days, I knew I had to blog about this strange phenomenon. How could highly accomplished and competent clients insist it was too hard to take care of themselves? Why did capable people with enough fortitude, talent, gumption and persistence to be doing impressive things out in the world swear they couldn’t say no to a Mars bar or a bag of chips? I’m talking about…Single parents with a gaggle of teenagers at home and a difficult ex-spouse. Medical professionals whom we entrust with our lives. People taking care of aging parents while juggling a demanding career. Clients going to school and working at the same time. Folks who’ve stopped...
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To Achieve, Believe

To Achieve, Believe
If you want to achieve, you’ve got to believe. I heard this line spoken by the initiator and director of a highly successful local Black theatre troupe during its 20th anniversary show. There so much truth in it. If you don’t believe, you will never achieve. Instead you’ll be surprised when good things happen to you or simply wait around for a stroke of good luck. People who are successful didn’t get that way by simply hoping good things would happen. The believed that they could do it—whatever it was—then went after it. Sadly, many clients tell themselves and me that they can’t achieve their eating or other goals and this is exactly what plays out. I understand that they have fears and wish to avoid experiencing failure and disappointment and that their childhoods didn’t prepare them with the skills they need to be successful—patience, perseverance, curiosity (rather than judgment), frustration...
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Change Your Self-talk Around Food and Your Body

Change Your Self-talk Around Food and Your Body
Most of our self-talk about food and everything else is so ingrained that we don’t realize what we’re thinking or saying to ourselves. Self-talk comes in the way of directives or judgments and truly can be a silent killer (of self-esteem and positive motivation) or a life saver. Feelings and actions don’t just pop up out of nowhere. They spring from what we think and tell ourselves which leads to experiencing and doing this rather than that. I know that you have words, phrases and ideas lodged in your brain learned a long time ago which are damaging your attempts to be a “normal” eater and feel compassionate about your body at any size. But the fact that I know this doesn’t help you unless you know it as well. Moreover, you not only need to be aware of damaging things you say to yourself around food and about your body,...
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How a Dysfunctional Childhood Impacts Your Behavior Today

How a Dysfunctional Childhood Impacts Your Behavior Today
Although biology and genetics play a huge role in our development, the way we were treated in childhood is foundational to our emotional well being. Here are some startling statistics from “Resurrecting therapy: putting Big Pharma on the couch” by Erick Kuelker, PhD (Psychotherapy Networker, Sep/Oct 2019, pp 45-49) showing that when it comes to mental health, we hardly grow up on an equal playing field, that is, some of us really are far more unlucky and unfortunate than others.  Such as, “Someone fortunate enough to have grown up in an emotionally healthy home had an 18% chance of developing depression by middle age. But having just one adverse child experience (ACE) boosted the risk by 50% . . . three to 84% and five or more to 340% greater risk.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study by Robert Anda). Children of angry, narcissistic, unpredictable or poorly emotionally regulated parents...
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The Truth about Weight Loss

The Truth about Weight Loss
There’s been a debate raging for centuries about the role that nature versus nurture play in how we turn out. One aspect of this dispute is whether it’s socialization or biology that turns us into dysregulated eaters and people who carry high weights. Although I can’t settle the debate for you, I can provide scientific information for you to decide yourself. “Obesity is in the genes” by Jeffrey M. Friedman, MD, PhD (Scientific American, 10/31/19, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/obesity-is-in-the-genes/ , accessed 11/8/19,) explains why a weight-loss focus will likely fail. Here’s some of what it says about eating and weight:  “In aggregate, the genes that control food intake and metabolism act to keep weight in a stable range by creating a biological force that resists weight change in either direction. Moreover, the greater the amount of weight that is lost, the greater the sense of hunger that develops. So, when the obese lose large...
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Why You Must Do What Makes You Anxious

Why You Must Do What Makes You Anxious
Let me tell you about a CEU workshop I attended on rewiring the brain to reduce anxiety. Read on only if you wish to lower the amount of worrying you do. (“Rewire the Anxious Brain: Neuroscience-Informed Treatment of Anxiety, Panic and Worry,” presented by Daniel van Ingen, Psy.D. of Sarasota, FL, PESI, Inc., WI, 11/5/19). First off, let’s talk about your brain component, the amygdala, which is fear central and whose job it is to keep you emotionally and physically safety. Along with other brain structures, it’s your risk manager and captures intense affective memories in your life such as being bitten by a dog, smacked around by your father, screamed at by your mother, or just making it out of a car wreck alive. Any events it perceives as dangerous threats to you are stored in your amygdala and generate a fear response automatically. As I’ve blogged before, the amygdala...
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Let’s Do Lunch

Let’s Do Lunch
At an airport waiting with an old friend for a flight, the topic of food planning came up. Seeing as it was about lunchtime, I pulled out my freezer bag containing my yummy lunch and snacks for later. My friend asked why I just didn’t eat airport food and wasn’t I being a bit obsessive about carrying food with me whenever I travel. As I munched on lunch, I explained that airport food didn’t strike me as nutritiously appealing. Clearly she thought I was crazy for schlepping food around and I thought she was unwise to depend on airport food for sustenance. An aside: I love to eat at restaurants and have no problem dining at the homes of others without knowing what they’re serving.  So, imagine my delight when I attended a clinical workshop with a therapist friend, bumped into a colleague, and the three of us pulled out our...
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Conspicuously Absent

Conspicuously Absent
Conspicuously absent, that is what I’d call the care, attention and love that’s missing in the narratives of many dysregulated eaters toward themselves. I know this because clients come in talking about all they’re doing for everyone else in their lives and, if or when they shift to a self focus, it’s to talk up their shortcomings. I can almost see the outpouring of energy that they give to family and friends and feel how parched they are for care and attention. This manifests itself in several ways. One is that we may give others what we want but fear asking for ( https://www.karenrkoenig.com/blog/giving-others-what-you-want ) either because we believe we shouldn’t need it or are ashamed that we do—we give in the hope we’ll get back, rather than ask directly for help, support, care, or attention. The other issue is that people who tend to take care of others and not...
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How One Client Stopped Bingeing

How One Client Stopped Bingeing
What would you give to be binge-free? Here’s how one of my clients, after 30 years of binge-eating, has been free of it for nearly two months, saying she doubts she’ll ever resume this behavior again. I asked what she’d been doing differently and if she minded if I shared her story. She was eager to share her thoughts and encouraged me to blog about her success. My client is a divorced, hard-working mom in her early 40s with a history of overeating, dieting, and hyper-focusing on food and weight. She came to me insisting that she could never change her eating. It was only in her third round of therapy with me (after two previous stints of a couple of sessions each time) that she began to make strides. Here's the advice she wants to pass on to you that has helped her not binge:  She has a strong commitment...
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Power Talk Yourself into Activity

Power Talk Yourself into Activity
Politics aside, 86-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a role model for taking care of one’s body. I recently read that she “never stopped working out” after her fourth diagnosis with cancer…although she couldn’t always complete her full routine.” (“Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she never stopped working out during pancreatic cancer treatment” by Ariane de Vogue and Chandelis Duster , CNN, accessed 10/22/10, https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/21/politics/ruth-bader-ginsburg-workout-cancer-recovery/index.html ) Granted the article says that she has a personal trainer, but that doesn’t strike me as important as her strong will to take excellent care of herself. Here’s a woman who lives with cancer on her mind even when it’s not in her body. Recognizing the importance of good health, she doesn’t take it for granted. Someone in her shoes might just give up and most of us could sympathize with them. Why bother to do push ups when cancer might recur any day?...
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It’s Only a Thought

It’s Only a Thought
I’m forever trying to explain to clients that they can resist their thoughts. When you get an idea to head for the fridge when you awaken at 2:30 a.m. or while watching TV, finishing a school paper or balancing your checkbook, you don’t need to respond to it. “It’s only a thought,” I remind clients. “You don’t need to act on every one you have, particularly in the food arena.” A thought is an electrochemical reaction and “...Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 60,000-80,000 thoughts a day...an average of 2500-3,300 thoughts per hour. Other experts estimate a smaller number, of 50,000 thoughts per day, which means about 2,100 thoughts per hour.” (How Many Thoughts Does Your Mind Think in One Hour? https://www.successconsciousness.com/blog/inner-peace/how-many-thoughts-does-your-mind-think-in-one-hour/ , accessed 10/18/19) Busy little brains we have. Thoughts pop up continually, no matter what we’re doing. We have one thought which leads to another and another. We...
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You Can Learn to Be an Intuitive Eater

You Can Learn to Be an Intuitive Eater
You can learn to become an intuitive eater. I know because I learned to do so and it changed my life. I went from restrictive and binge eating and bulimia to eating according to my appetite and health needs. And learned life skills I didn’t even know I needed. Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch coined the term “intuitive eating” in 1995, referring to the “process of using internal cues rather than external rules to guide decisions about what to eat.” (“To eat intuitively, trust your instincts” by Carrie Dennett, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 10/15/19, E28, accessed 10/15/19). Their book has been a mainstay of the international intuitive eating movement ever since and undoubtedly helped me hone my ability to eating according to appetite. Their advice is to “honor your hunger” and “feel your fullness,” while stressing that these are only two of the 10 intuitive-eating principles. This is similar to the...
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Is a 2-Year-Old in Charge of Your Eating?

Is a 2-Year-Old in Charge of Your Eating?
One of my clients joked that it sometimes feels as if a 2-year-old is in charge of her eating. A highly competent teacher, she also does an excellent job taking care of her elderly parents. She’s a can-do person and a great problem-solver like many of the dysregulated eaters I treat. With all her maturity and capability, why, then, would she hand over the reins of her eating to a toddler? Think of 2-year-olds you know. Maybe you’re trying to tame one right now. Or have heard tales of how you ran your parents ragged at that age or remember what it was like raising your little hellion. You know enough to recognize that you don’t want to put a 2-year-old in charge of anything, never mind your eating. Would you let one drive your car, pay your bills, or pick out your clothes? Of course not. A child at that...
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Body Compassion

Body Compassion
Working on a new book, I’ve been struggling to find the best word to describe how I wish people with body shame would feel about their bodies. Helping clients feel better about their bodies is one of the most difficult parts of my job. As I’ve blogged previously, making peace with a body that you’ve hated for a long time takes some doing, but is crucial to becoming a “normal” eater and engaging in self-caring practices.  Many words are used to describe the positive feeling we want to have about our bodies and none seem quite right. One is “loving” your body. But, I understood when clients counter that saying they love something they don’t want feels inauthentic and like a lie. Another word is “accepting” your body. Clients’ objection has been not wanting to say “it’s okay” to something they want to change. Although I’ve tried to explain that we...
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Our Stories—for Better or for Worse

Our Stories—for Better or for Worse
Is the world a safe place? Are people trustworthy? Our answers to these and other crucial questions depend on our beliefs, even if we’re unaware of them and their impact on our lives. So says research by University of Pennsylvania’s Jeremy Clifton published in Psychological Assessment (“Beliefs about the world can shape a psyche” by Emily Esfahaui Smith, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 10/8/19, p. E22, accessed 10/10/19).  If you’re into self-help books or have been in therapy, you likely have heard this idea before: Our stories are just that—not truth, not fact—but nevertheless are the basis of our feelings and behaviors. Clifton’s research generated 26 primal world beliefs, including whether the world is “good, safe, changing, worth exploring, and intentional.” These beliefs beget the stories we tell ourselves which “predict how happy or depressed we are, how trusting we are in relationships, and the decisions we make.” Consider your beliefs about these...
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Personality Disorders and Dysregulated Eating

Personality Disorders and Dysregulated Eating
Many clients think that they’re mentally healthy because they don’t have depression,  anxiety or any combination of the two that would constitute a mood disorder. They don’t understand that there are other mental health conditions that might lead to mindless, binge or emotional eating. Welcome to learning about personality disorders. “A person’s personality typically stays the same over time. A personality disorder is a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.” (American Psychiatric Association, “What are personality disorders?,” https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/personality-disorders/what-are-personality-disorders , accessed 10/5/19)  It’s also described as “. . . a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social activities, work, and...
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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