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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 to Stop Being Permanently Aggrieved

If you’re ever going to end your eating problems and create a satisfying life for yourself, you’ll need to give up being permanently aggrieved. Perhaps you don’t realize that this is your view life (and how others may view you) and would be wildly distressed if you were to acknowledge that you see the world as constantly stacked against you, the helpless victim who’s been cheated by life. You may feel so distressed at the idea of having this worldview that you tell yourself you don’t. Understandable, but refusing to recognize your perpetual put upon-ness is only a barrier to living the wonderful life you yearn for and deserve. So, what do I mean by being permanently aggrieved? Read on. First is looking to blame others for why you’re not happy, successful, loved, etc. Because it’s so painful to think that you could have brought unhappiness, failure, and rejection or...
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Post-Traumatic Dieting Disorder

Though I’ve treated hundreds of clients who are recovering from chronic dieting, it wasn’t until one remarked on her decades of restrictive eating making her feel as if she had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), that I recognized their similarities. Recurrent restrictive eating may, indeed, feel traumatic and recovering from dieting—not just from emotional or binge-eating—may have lingering traumatic effects. Decades recovered from restrictive eating, the memories of those awful years are still painfully vivid: the deprivation I felt from saying no to food while others ate whatever they pleased, my obsession with thinness and the intensity of shame and self-hatred I felt after my relentless bingeing, my focus on what and how much I ate above all else that sorely needed my attention, and my low self-esteem because I couldn’t seem to feed myself well no matter how hard I tried. Trauma has varying definitions, but we generally view it...
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Reaching Goals through Pressure or Desire

I talk a lot (a whopping lot) with clients about how they feel that they need to or should do things. I’m sure they get tired of me nagging them about their word choice and approach to getting things done, but it really pays off in helping them shift to more beneficial, internal motivators. So, what better way to start off the new year than to encourage you to make a resolution to stop bullying yourself into doing things. Every time you say aloud or to yourself that you need/must/should/ought/have to do something (that is, use an external motivator), you’re putting pressure on yourself to do something. You’re trying to get yourself to act because you don’t have enough desire to do it without the pressure. So, you apply more force and ramp up the attacks on yourself, which do nothing to strengthen your desiring to do whatever it is....
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The Real Reasons You’re Not Becoming a “Normal” Eater

I’ve blogged on this subject before, which warrants a frequent revisit. Many of you are not reaching your “normal” eating or health goals because you’re not consistently following the guidelines for changing your thinking and behaving around food. You then become disappointed because you’re not making strides as quickly as you’d like to and feel like giving up. I don’t say this punitively, believe me, but facts are facts: The more you practice a behavior, the more it will stick as a habit. Doing a behavior inconsistently—one day, then not the next, or one week on and one week off, will get you exactly nowhere but frustrated. So, here are my suggestions: Eat without distraction. I stopped telling clients to do this at every meal because they insisted that doing so was impossible, so I dropped down to suggesting that they do it at least once a day. I found...
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How to Use Therapy to Move Toward “Normal” Eating

Having been a therapist for more than 30 years, I have some ideas on how to get the most out of the process. As an eating disorders therapist, I also have advice on how to use therapy to help you move toward “normal” eating. Of course, if you’re not in therapy, you can still focus on the areas I highlight to promote psychological healing. Have an agenda. Clients often wait for me to bring up a topic to talk about, which may be hit or miss on my part. If a client doesn’t raise a subject, I generally ask, “How can I help you today?” This doesn’t mean that you always need to come in with a problem. It’s important for clients to share pride in their accomplishments or progress. Often my validating clients’ concerns or ideas is helpful. It’s fine to occasionally not come prepared with questions, but it...
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Science Explains the Truth about Addiction

A debate about which behaviors are addictive and which aren’t has raged on for decades. Can food be addictive? Here’s the latest on what science thinks about addiction. (“Science Says: What makes something truly addictive?” by Lindsey Tanner, Sarasota Herald Tribune , 6/22/18, page A3, retrieved 6/23/18) Tanner says that “The strict definition of addiction refers to a disease resulting from changes in brain chemistry caused by compulsive use of drugs or alcohol. The definition includes excessive use that damages health, relationships, jobs and other parts of normal life.” According to UCLA psychiatrist, Dr. Walter Ling, it is ‘a disease of extreme behavior. Any behavior carried to an extreme that consumes you and keeps you from doing what you should be doing becomes an addiction as far as life is concerned.” Dr. Andrew Saxon, chairman of the American Psychiatric Association’s addiction psychiatry council, deems drugs addictive because they over-activate “the...
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Stop Trying to Change Your Parents and You’ll Have a Better Holiday

Want to improve your eating during the holidays? Then stop trying to change your parents’ views or their distress about your views. Heed the wisdom of New York City writer Joan Reisman-Brill, who responds to ethical questions for The Humanist.com in “The Humanist Dilemma”. Here’s her response to a letter writer asking how to get his views accepted by his parents who believe they’ve failed him because he doesn’t think as they do about religion (Issue 771, 8/10/18). “The first thing you have to do is recognize that you can’t control what your parents believe any more than they can control what you believe. You can wish they’d see things your way, just as they can wish you’d see things their way. But wishing doesn’t make it happen, and maybe nothing can. Regardless, you need to live your life, let them live theirs, and make the best of whatever intersection...
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Growing a Strong Self That Withstands Rejection

Many people live in fear of rejection. They won’t change jobs, try to make friends, join groups or do anything which might put them in a position to be rebuffed. This deep-seated terror prevents them from being happy and emotionally healthy and is based on dysfunctional childhood experiences with rejection which haven’t been put to rest. Here are ways to rethink rejection so that it becomes tolerable and easily forgotten. No one likes to be rejected as a job applicant, but not everyone builds his or her life around avoiding the possibility of it happening. When we have a pattern of fearing and getting upset at rejection, we are not looking rationally at how the world works and have an immature sense of entitlement rather than view ourselves simply as one of many deserving people on the planet. Just because you don’t get a job that you believe you were...
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How to Create Emotional Safety in a Relationship

How do you create emotional safety in a relationship? It’s not a 1-2-3 process, but it’s also not so complex that there aren’t guidelines for making it happen. Obviously, you want to avoid sarcasm, accusations, name-calling, defensiveness and offensive body language. Read on for guidelines on what makes for genuine emotional intimacy. Most couples come to see me and want to jump right into talking about major relationship problems: he doesn’t spend enough quality times with the kids, she’s negative and critical, she hoards every penny, he can’t spend money fast enough. But talking about differences can’t be done in a productive way without feeling safe enough to share your honest emotions and thoughts openly. That can happen only if you believe that no harm will come to you in doing so—not only physical harm (that goes without saying), but emotional harm as well. If there’s a fear of any...
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Myths and Facts on How to Eat Less and Still Feel Nourished

Many people ask me how to eat just the right amount to feel nourished without experiencing over-fullness. There’s a good deal of information out there on the subject, all the way from flat out wrong to inconclusive to tentative but needing more research. “How to Eat Less: What Works, What Doesn’t” by Caitlin Dow (Nutrition Action Healthetter, Jul/Aug 2018, pp.6-8) provides some evidence-based answers. Are smaller plates the answer?: According to Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State University, “Focusing on plate size is a diversion” because studies tells us that people often don’t eat less when using smaller plates. They eat about the same quantity of food they’d eat on larger ones. However, if you mindfully choose to use a smaller plate as a reminder to eat less, they can be helpful. The goal is not to heap your plate with foods you love in order to feel...
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The Scientific Reason That We Can’t Keep Weight Off by Dieting

For all of us who have dieted and for those of you who frequently or occasionally feel tempted to restart a diet, here’s a simple explanation of why most people cannot keep weight off by weight-loss dieting . It makes perfect sense. Your mind might want to be dieting (although most minds sensibly dislike giving up culinary pleasure), while your body inevitably starts to fight back when you deprive it of calories on a regular basis. It’s time to face facts and recognize that learning to be a “normal” eater is the only way to become healthy and fit, establish a comfortable weight for life, and enjoy a positive relationship with food and your body. Here’s the skinny on why diets don’t keep weight off long-term according to “How Did We Get Here? Explaining the obesity epidemic” by Kevin Hall ( Nutrition Action Healthletter , July/August 2018, pp. 3-5). Describing...
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Family Fiction Can Teach Us A lot

I’m a huge fan of novels. Mostly I enjoy literary fiction and mysteries. Family dramas, in particular, are engaging because they’re generally so psychological: why characters act in certain ways, the loving and hateful dynamics common to us all, how childhood shapes without our realizing it, what gets passed on from parents consciously and unconsciously. Well written novels act as mirrors for us all, normalizing what we feel, as well as helping us see aspects of ourselves we’ve been fighting not to see. Celeste Ng, the author of Everything I Never Told You (and Little Fires Everywhere) is interviewed at the end of her book and has some profound comments on families that are as true as anything I’ve read written by psychotherapists. I want to share some of her remarks with you so that you can reflect on them in terms of your own life. On sibling relationships. “You...
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The Dangers of Counter-dependence

I recently discovered that I’ve blogged about dependence and independence, but not about counter-dependence. I suspect that many of you don’t know what this dynamic entails, although it’s rampant in the eating disorder community. Read on to learn more. A simple definition of dependence is reliance on others, while independence means relying on oneself. Obviously, none of us can be completely one way or the other. As adults, we’re expected to do many things for ourselves, assuming we are able. Your spouse or friend might spoon some ice cream into your mouth for a taste, but it’s unlikely that anyone will take on the job of feeding you when you can feed yourself. Likewise, we can be highly accomplished and autonomous, but we can’t do everything ourselves (perform surgery, pilot an airplane, grow all our own food, fix our own cars). Counter-dependent people will do just about anything to avoid...
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Different Types of Dysregulated Eaters

While talking to a client about her dysregulated eating, it struck me how many ways we can get into trouble with food. Here are three categories I came up with. Of course, you may not engage with just one but two or all three. Not to worry, each has solutions. Emotional Eating: This type of eating may be intentional or unconscious. You may have a fight with your boss/friend/child/partner/parent/neighbor/colleague and be so irate that you feel justified in food-seeking because you tell yourself you can’t stand how you feel or think you’re entitled to a treat because you’ve been wronged. Alternately, you may not realize how much someone or a situation upset you and think you’re fine, but still be food-seeking to avoid or lessen your distress. Two ways to avoid emotional eating are to stay connected to your feelings and to find effective ways to comfort and cope. Mindless...
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Lessons from a Slice of Cake

I was at a dinner meeting at a restaurant when the focal point of discussion became the cake slices set out on the table. The meal had not been served, but there, diagonally to the side of every plate, sat a slice of cake. It was a real attention-grabber. Aside from wondering why it was out so early when we hadn’t even ordered drinks, we all seemed compelled to give voice to its appeal or lack thereof. It wasn’t even a particularly attractive slice of cake—kind of yellowish, double-layered with common white frosting on its sides and top, sitting in a pool of mustard-colored sauce drizzled around it. Nothing to write home about in my book (I was hoping for tiramisu or something equally exotic), but not everyone agreed. Here’s what was said about the cake as best as I recall and, at dessert time, how speech turned into action....
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How to Handle Difficult People

You know how certain people leave you tongue-tied or frequently seem to best you in arguments? They need to dominate or “win” every discussion—when you didn’t even know there was a battle going on. The more you go at it, the more your frustration grows, leaving you feeling helpless, frustrated and emotionally drained. The solution is to change the focus of your response and redirect the conversation by making a comment or asking a question about the process or dynamics occurring rather than by addressing content. To put yourself in the driver’s seat, instead of responding to a statement or question by responding to what a person is saying, address only what’s going on between you by questioning his or her motivation or the way he or she is coming across. Here’s an example. Note how a process response disrupts the pattern and shifts the power of the discussion. SOMEONE:...
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Stop Asking Why People Won’t Change

Humans are meaning-making creatures with built-in curiosity about people and the world to help us survive and thrive by learning new behaviors and putting new ideas into practice. One kind of persistent answer-seeking that is regressive is wondering why someone doesn’t or won’t change. Though you may feel dismayed or dissatisfied because my explanation isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, it’s still the truth, one which you eventually will need to accept to become emotionally healthy. Let’s say that Mom regularly invalidates your thoughts and feelings, insisting that you think and feel as she does, or she becomes angry. You try hard to explain yourself over and over, but she still acts as if what your saying makes no sense or is wrong. So, you ask her repeatedly, “Why don’t you understand me?” or ask yourself, “What can I do to get her to understand me?” Nothing. Not a darn...
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Cultivating Doubt to Find the Truth

As I’ve written in my Food and Feelings Workbook, most of us feel uneasy with doubt and some people turn to food when it gnaws at them. We adore certainty because we believe it will lead us away from harm and towards safety and comfort. In reality, the opposite also can be true. Doubt helps us seek the truth, while certainty based on insufficient doubt often leads to false information and practices. Doubt is usually viewed negatively when it is actually valued neutral. We need some, but not too much of it. Here are (some) ideas on the subject from a presentation by David Allison, psychologist and Dean of Indiana University’s School of Public Health, to graduating students in June 2018. (IU School of Public Health-Bloomington (http://blogs.iu.edu/iusph/2018/06/07/doubt-and-truth-take-center-stage-in-dean-allisons-remarks-to-iusph-graduating-students/, retrieved 6/23/18) Allison says that: “It takes courage to admit doubt. It takes intelligence. It takes humility. Some of the greatest minds have...
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Four Essentials for Becoming a “Normal” Eater

Four proficiencies are essential for becoming a “normal” eater. In one way or another, I’ve blogged and written about them all before, but here they are together so that you can see which of them you might be missing. These proficiencies are skills in coping with stress, practicing self-comfort, finding purpose and enjoying pleasure. None of us was raised to excel in all these areas, yet they are crucial for having a positive relationship with food and living your best life. Coping with stress: We all have stress in our lives, but it need not overwhelm us nor drive us to eat mindlessly. First off, we need to accept that no matter what we do, there will be times when life is not in our control and this can cause us to feel crummy. By accepting this truth, we go a long way toward reducing stress. Stress management skills include...
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Are You Stuck Between Blame and Shame?

One dysfunctional pattern you may be stuck in is cycling between blame and shame—being unhappy and wanting to blame someone else (or lots of people) alternating with blaming yourself and feeling deeply ashamed of your deficits, mistakes, etc. Nothing good can come out of ping-ponging between these two effects which both may trigger emotional eating. Here are two examples of this dynamic. You, an adult, have an alcoholic father whom you take care of more often than you’d like to. You often blame him for keeping you stuck living at home making sure he stays alive or gets to work and you feel angry that he’s dependent on you. Or you blame your mom who divorced Dad a long time ago. Alternately, you blame yourself for staying in the situation which makes you feel terrible about yourself. With blame comes deep disappointment and shame that you don’t do anything to...
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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