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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]

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 to wanting to...
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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?The answer is having...
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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 have a thought...
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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 advice I...
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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 age...
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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 can...
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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 ideas and...
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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 school.” (Mayo Clinic,...
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Fear of Being Judged

Fear of Being Judged
A whopping 64.9% of women and 36.1% of men avoid going to the gym due to suffering from FOBJ or “fear of being judged.” (Newsweek, “Horizons,” 1/3-17/20, p. 36). That’s almost 2/3 of females in this country and more than 1/3 of males. If you suffer from FOBJ, here’s how to reduce your anxiety so you can get the exercise you want.Stop imagining. Where’s the evidence that you’re being judged? I’ve yet to find a client who can answer this question. I usually hear, “Well, I don’t really know, but they’re probably judging me” or “Sometimes people look at me funny like I don’t belong because I’m fat.” Be aware that what you assume or fantasize is not fact nor evidence. Focus on facts. I recognize that you imagine you’re being judged and that you likely—actually, factually—have been judged by others which has badly hurt your feelings. But, unless someone does or...
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What Red Flags Are You Missing in your Life?

What Red Flags Are You Missing in your Life?
Many clients have a “red flag problem.” They don’t see the truth in front of their eyes, then get blindsided by it. Not seeing red flags is a human trait, especially when we’re young and naïve and learning what life is all about. By doing dumb things and getting hurt, we avoid doing them again. That’s how we survive and grow into mature adults. But ignoring red flags as an adult will only do you in. Below are some possibilities. Feel free to add your own. Are there exceptions to them? Of course. But I wouldn’t chance finding out.Dysfunctional organizations. You go for a job interview and talk to employees who all say they’re unhappy. Your new boss seems demanding, controlling and to care little about his subordinates. You feel a sense of total disorganization and dysfunction that, you’re told, has been that way for a long time and isn’t likely to...
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Do You Have Empathy for Others?

Do You Have Empathy for Others?
Many people I meet and treat engage in emotional eating because the people in their lives have little empathy for them or others. Empathy is a basic human feeling, perhaps the glue to holding us together as community. If you don’t have it from the people with whom you surround yourself, you might end up feeling more upset than you need to be and that may drive your emotional eating. So, consider this blog a primer on empathy.Here is what it is not, although you’d need to have empathy in order to feel the following emotions. It’s not compassion which is feeling kindness or kindly towards someone’s suffering. You need not feel kindness in order to have empathy, but you need empathy to feel kindness. It is also not sympathy which is feeling sorrow (we call it feeling sorry) that someone is experiencing pain.  According to nutritionist Ellen Glovsky, PhD, RD, LDN,...
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Bouncing Between Dwelling and Denial

Bouncing Between Dwelling and Denial
When terrible things happen or even when we consider that they might, we tend to swing between two polar extremes: dwelling in distress or denial of it. Either we can’t stop thinking about a potential threat or we convince ourselves that it will never happen. Neither strategy is useful for problem-solving, but both are understandable, as they are our primitive responses to trying to protect ourselves from hurt and hurting.This pendulum swing happens in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many victims and survivors remain hyper-vigilant and excessively anxious about harm befalling them again and can think of nothing else. Wary of danger, being on the look out for it is their way of trying to ensure that it doesn’t re-occur. Intrusive memories become a warning of all the terrors that could resurface. Alternately, many survivors repress (unconsciously) or suppress (consciously) memories. Such denial makes them feel safe, as if nothing awful ever happened...
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Try Body Neutrality

Try Body Neutrality
One of areas in which I get the most push back from clients is when I talk about body positivity. The idea of loving a large body which everyone in the world seems to hate is just too much to take in for many higher weight clients. It’s also difficult for people who would like to stop dieting and eat more “normally,” because of their terror of gaining weight and becoming like the people, fat, that is, that they’ve learned to hate. If you’re in either group, Sonalee Rashatward, social worker and activist, has a message for you about substituting the quest for body love and acceptance with body neutrality. (“What We Can All Learn From the Fat Sex Therapist” by Alexandra Jones, https://www.phillymag.com/be-well-philly/2019/09/18/fat-sex-therapist/, Philadelphia, 9/18/19, accessed 9/20/19). While fighting fat phobia and weight stigma and many other prejudices, she makes the point that: “. . . those struggling to exist in a...
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What Kind of Overeater Are You?

What Kind of Overeater Are You?
I attended a workshop entitled “Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food” which had a section on Binge-eating Disorder or BED. (CE International, www.ceinternational.com, Ginger Schirmer, PhD, RD). It included a description of five types of overeaters that I found interesting, although I’m not sure I agree with them being all that different. I’m blogging about them because doing so may help you identify why you overdo with food and develop strategies to avoid doing so.First, consider what Dr. Schirmer had to say about food addiction: that no food is addictive, but that we can form an addiction-like relationship to foods that changes our brain and body chemistry much as it would if we were dependent on drugs or alcohol. I’ve heard others describe this dynamic as having an eating addiction. At any rate, when you read the categories below, remember that Dr. Schirmer isn’t talking about the food being addictive but...
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Alexithymia and Eating Disorders

As a social work intern in an outpatient clinic, I had a client who my supervisor diagnosed with alexithymia, a condition I’d never heard of. If I hadn’t gone into the mental health field, I probably never would have run across it. But, it turns out to be highly relevant to therapy and to eating disorders as well. Here’s what it looked like in my client. My client had been extremely close with her father who died after a long illness. She coped by coming into each session talking about a dead bird she’d seen in the gutter. She was ripped apart by the plight of this poor bird and could talk of little else. To make grieving easier, she used the defense mechanism of displacement to shift her feelings about her father onto the dead bird. Alexithymia means literally “no words for feelings” and “is prevalent in patients with psychosomatic problems, substance...
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How Often Are You Triggered by Memories?

memories
Clients spend most of their time telling me about situations which have been or might be very upsetting to them, what I call recall or memory triggers. My job is to teach them how to recognize triggers before, during or after the fact. I’ve blogged often about how to identify slipping into recall, but that’s not enough. You need to know what your triggers are. Remember, you can identify them because they are your emotional reactions that are out of proportion to or in excess of whatever is occurring in reality.Here’s a paragraph from one of my previous blogs. “To stop recall triggers, make a list of troubling memories regarding how you were hurt in childhood: being shamed, abandoned, neglected, compared unfavorably to others, fiercely competed with, ignored, teased, undermined, invalidated, feeling unheard or  invisible, regularly being forced to do things against your will, being manipulated, etc. Recognize that similar current...
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Why It’s Hard for People to Give Up Weight Shaming

Why It’s Hard for People to Give Up Weight Shaming
Although I usually enjoy comedian Bill Maher’s humor on his show Real Time, I was appalled and disgusted at his misinformed fat shaming monologue in September. Just like “obesity,” fat shaming is a complicated subject and there’s no simple answer for it. But there are five reasons that it occurs. Lack of civilityPeople fat shame because we live in a highly uncivil culture where everyone thinks they have the right to say whatever they want to everyone else. Due to the advent of social media, very little is kept private anymore. There was a time (younger folks will need to trust me on this) that people, for the most part, kept their religious and political opinions to themselves. Of course, humans always have gossiped, but that was the point—it was done privately, one-to-one or in a small group, not blabbing our judgments to hundreds or millions of people. We say our peace...
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Co-dependence and Dysregulated Eating

Co-dependence and Dysregulated Eating
Can it be that in all my blogs, I’ve never written specifically about co-dependence? I think that is the case, which is odd considering that it’s a prevailing trait among my clients—dysregulated eaters and otherwise. According to “6 Signs of a Codependent Relationship: Research explains why the ties that bind are practically unbreakable” by Linda Esposito, LCSW (Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-zen/201609/6-signs-codependent-relationship, 9/19/16, retrieved 9/6/19), co-dependency is “when two people with dysfunctional personality traits become worse together.” Suffice it to say that co-dependence involves poor boundary setting and maintenance, enabling unhealthy behavior, not taking responsibility for oneself, over-focusing on others’ needs to the exclusion of your own, and a general life imbalance around caretaking of self and other. You can read more about it online or in two classics books, Co-dependent No More by Beattie or Facing Co-dependence by Mellody. For now, I want to talk about how co-dependence and eating disorders go together. In...
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Book Review – My Body’s Superpower

Book Review – My Body’s Superpower
How I wish I’d had a copy of Maryann Jacobsen’s book, My Body’s Superpower: The Girl’s Guide to Growing Up Healthy During Puberty, in my pre-adolescent and adolescent years. Although many decades have gone by since then, I still vividly remember how difficult it was to manage my feelings, my changing body and the world I lived in. If you have a female child who’s approaching or going through the changes of puberty, you’ll want to purchase a copy of this book to help guide her through it.The premise of My Body’s Superpower is that we all have secret powers that become superpowers once we discover, practice, and start using them regularly. The book begins with Jacobsen, a dietician, mother and author who writes about effective parenting, explaining what puberty is and describing its five stages. She describes early and late puberty and even has a short section for boys going...
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My Interview from Eating Enlightenment

food
“30 Years and 7 Books of Eating Disorder Recovery Wisdom,” is an interview of me by Jared Levenson. Below is a bit about my crazy eating days. To hear more of my story and recovery, listen to this podcast at https://eatingenlightenment.com/2019/12/01/eating-disorder-recovery-interview/. I talk some in my books and more in my sessions with clients about how I went from being a chronic dieter and world-class overeater to a “normal” eater. They are often amazed when I tell them that I’ve been recovered for half a lifetime which, at 72, sometimes seems like it was just yesterday and sometimes seems like my warped relationship with food happened to another me and not the one I am today. I was a deprivational eater who weighed myself several times a day. I counted calories to know what and how much to eat. You could have slapped on me any other label that applied to feeding...
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