karen header 3

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]

Using People-first Language to Avoid Obesity Stigma

We’ve long known that the language used to describe people can strongly impact how they’re viewed and how they view themselves. In social work school, I was taught to describe clients as people “with” or who “have” a condition—people with addictions rather than addicts or people with schizophrenia rather than schizophrenics. This is called people-first language. The editors of the journal Obesity recently developed a statement about the language to use in describing people who have high weights. Here are some excepts from it: “Describing individuals as obese as opposed to having obesity could have a negative impact on how people view them. People-first language has been widely adopted for most chronic diseases and disabilities, but not obesity.” For example, persons with diabetes, rather than diabetics or persons with disabilities, rather than the disabled. “Labeling individuals as obese creates negative feelings toward individuals with obesity, perpetuates weight bias, and must be...
Continue reading
0
  729 Hits
  0 Comments

Virtuous Aging and Body Image

I heard someone in her 40s say that, being middle-age, she was worried about her aging body. For some people, aging automatically brings about a shedding of body image concerns, while for others, it amplifies them. Did you know that there’s an increase in eating disorders among aging women? Forget culture and the media, we have it in our power to decide how we want to view the inevitable changes in our bodies, so, for goodness sake, let’s choose a viewpoint that is positive and healthy. According to Joann M. Montepare, director of the RoseMary B. Fuss Center for Research on Aging and Intergenerational Studies at Lasell College in Massachusetts, the view of “researchers may be part of the problem—that focusing on how to mediate and mitigate the ravages of growing old can fuel negative self-perceptions among those of us engaged in graying…Ultimately, we need to figure out how to make...
Continue reading
0
  1385 Hits
  0 Comments

View on Fat and Obesity Changing

For those of you who fear being stigmatized for your larger-than-average size, finally, some good news. The article, “Fat stigma fading? Fewer see obesity as problem of bad personal choices, survey says” (11/6/14, WBUR’s CommonHealth), tells us that new research indicates that “the general public and health care providers are starting to view obesity as a ‘community problem of shared risks’ as opposed to a personal problem stemming from ‘bad choices.’” Quotes from the Obesity Society News suggest a “significant shift in perceptions of obesity in 2014,” and that “data also show differences among various demographic groups. In 2014, younger and higher income respondents more likely view obesity as a community problem. Older respondents more likely view it as a medical problem. Male and rural respondents more likely view obesity as a personal problem of bad choices.” Says Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Deputy Director at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy...
Continue reading
0
  1149 Hits
  0 Comments

How Control Issues Morph Into Body and Weight Concerns

Control is a major issue for us all. We want to control our environment and people’s behaviors to help us survive and thrive. Although we have little control over either when we are children, we become more empowered as we mature. But, fact is, we will never have complete power over our lives, even as adults, and this is a crucial fact to remember so that we don’t keep questing after something that is unattainable. We cannot control the forces of nature or the actions of others. Accidents, life upheavals, and catastrophes occur no matter how hard we try to keep them at bay. The best we can do in these situations is whatever is possible to empower ourselves and accept our fate. Knowing that we are neither totally powerless nor all powerful is a platform for effective life management. For disregulated eaters, it may mean the difference between obsessing about...
Continue reading
0
  436 Hits
  0 Comments

Why People Shame Fat People

It seems to me that there are two kinds of fat shaming: about what and how much a person eats and about their size. Why does fat shaming happen? The simple answer is because we all let it happen. We need to call this abuse by its name and stop it in its tracks—make it taboo—or it will continue. You can start by not shaming yourself. Shaming someone about what or how much they eat is common place: Are you going to eat all that? Do you really think you should eat so much? Why don’t you eat something more low fat or low calorie? You know you shouldn’t eat that! Let’s assume that some people who say these things love you and care about your health and well-being. If you don’t tell them that their words are hurtful—and totally unhelpful—how will they know in their ignorance that they’re making things...
Continue reading
0
  849 Hits
  0 Comments

More on Fat Shaming

If you are going to get past fat shaming—letting others do it to you and doing it to yourself—you will have to understand the dynamics of why and how it happens. If you are still allowing (yes, allowing!) fat shaming to happen, then you are part of the problem. Remember, it takes two not only to tango, but for shaming to take place. An article in The Guardian online, “Fat-shaming: how the slim and sanctimonious help to cause our obesity crisis” by Gaby Hinsliff (9/11/14), provides an excellent discussion of the topic as it is experienced in the UK. Hinsliff explains why “sitting in judgment of fat people” has become so official and public: “Doctors are told not to be afraid of the word ‘fat,’ to stop muttering about body mass index and starting telling it like it is” and in tough economic times she reckons that employers think, “Why should...
Continue reading
0
  1059 Hits
  0 Comments

Weight Stigma Can Make You Fat

Generally we think of weight stigma as a result of being overweight, but what if it is also a trigger to putting on pounds? We already know that stigma stresses the body and produces more of the chemicals that harm optimal well being. Now we are discovering how this process takes a psychological toll as well. In “Stigma and the perpetuation of obesity, Alexandra A. Brewis (Social Science and Medicine, vol. 118, pages 152-128) tells us that “social stigmatization of obesity seems to be strengthening and globalizing” and describes “four mechanisms by which a pervasive environment of fat sigma could reinforce high body weights or promote weight gain, ultimately driving population-level obesity.” Stop and think about what this means. I mean really reconsider, because disregulated eaters generally view fat as an individual problem, a la “I did this to myself.” This study is saying the opposite, and it’s an enlightening new...
Continue reading
0
  356 Hits
  0 Comments

Science Weighs in on Body Size Stigma

It’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week! Because size stigma is a cultural problem, that is, large people have difficulty due to the negative meanings society ascribes to fat, they fare better when they understand the physical effects that stigma has on their nervous systems and can resist internalizing such arbitrary prejudices. *STUDY: “Associations of weight stigma with cortisol and oxidative stress independent of adiposity, “Tomiyama, A. Janet; Epel, Elissa S.; McClatchey, Trissa M.; Poelke, Gina; Kemeny, Margaret E.; McCoy, Shannon K.; Daubenmier, Jennifer, Health Psychology, Vol 33(8), Aug 2014, 862-867. doi: 10.1037/hea0000107. Result: “Independent of abdominal fat, weight stigma was significantly related to measures of cortisol…as well as high oxidative stress. Perceived stress mediated the relationship between weight stigma consciousness and the cortisol awakening process. Conclusion: “…Weight stigma is associated with greater biochemical stress, independent of level of adiposity. It is possible that weight stigma may contribute to poor health underlying some...
Continue reading
0
  440 Hits
  0 Comments

Proof—Fat Phobia Is a Cultural Phenomenon

No matter how much I insist that fat phobia is nothing more than a cultural phenomenon, disregulated eaters are unwilling to believe this fact. Well, here’s a great illustration of the truth from an article entitled “Much too fat: the doctor says it’s time to slim down.” (The Economist, 6/14/14, page 44). The article comes out of Johannesburg, South Africa and describes how that country’s people are now considered the fattest in Africa. It reports that high weight “is evidence, to many South Africans, of the good life: fast food, a fast car, an urban lifestyle. Moreover, a chubby woman traditionally betokened health and beauty, whereas thinness smacked of disease. Among men, a big belly is often thought to spell maturity, wealth, and success. South Africa’s latest government is a portly crew, with many a ministerial suit bursting at the seams.” The article goes on to observe that “Most South Africans...
Continue reading
0
  653 Hits
  0 Comments

Body Dissatisfaction

Our view of our bodies is not fixed as you might think. The way people think about their overweight bodies may be due to the size and weight of people around them. Or so says a new-1.3 million person study from the University of California-Boulder. According to a Journal of Health and Social Behavior study analyzing the three-way relationship among obesity, life satisfaction and where you live (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 6/10/14, 29E), “obese men and women who live in U.S. counties with high levels of obesity are much happier than obese men and women who live in slender areas. Nor do people of ‘normal weight’ enjoy much advantage in neighborhoods with more flesh per capita.” The study’s conclusion: what is important to us is that in order to feel satisfied, we need to “look like the people around us.” The study was done by asking people to rate their satisfaction and the...
Continue reading
0
  414 Hits
  0 Comments

Tight Clothes

An interesting discussion on my Food and Feelings message board was about wearing clothes that are too tight. If your weight goes up and down, wearing clothes that fit just right might be a challenge for you too. Here are my thoughts on the subject. If you’ve put on weight or if your body weight has shifted and clothes are restrictive and pinch your flesh, it’s important to examine this situation from several angles. Here are some questions to answer: What does my body feel like in tight clothes? What does my body feel like in loose clothes? What does my body feel like in clothes that fit just right? How do I look to myself and others in too tight or too loose clothing? What are my reasons for wearing clothes that are uncomfortable? Many people continue to wear clothes that are too tight because they refuse to buy a...
Continue reading
0
  776 Hits
  0 Comments

Re-categorize Fat in Your Brain

Our brain uses its own shorthand to help us negotiate life. It categorizes people, places, events, etc. as life-enhancing or life-threatening based on its initial encounters with them in childhood or adolescence. As adults, we’re able to delete them from one category and add them to another. Imagine doing this with how you think about “fat.” Say as a school-age child, your first encounter with body fat is that your family thinks you’re adorable because they’re all a bit on the stout side. Then, when you get to school, your teacher leads discussions about body diversity and no one mentions that you’re a bit chubbier than many children in class. You’re active and value yourself and don’t think much about carrying more weight than other kids. How might your brain categorize fat in terms of “good,” “neutral,” or “bad”? Probably as good or as neutral. On the other hand, as a...
Continue reading
0
  438 Hits
  0 Comments

No Upside to Body Comparisons

Once again, I’m grateful to a client for bringing up an issue that too often plagues disregulated eaters: the compulsion to compare your body with that of others. In this, the most fat-phobic, thin-obsessed period in the history of the world, comparison may seem like normal behavior. But, truth is, it’s anything but. My client related her ah ha moment to me. There she was out shopping in her body that she wished were 30 pounds thinner than it was and out of the corner of her eye, she caught another woman walking by. Without thinking, she might have glanced at this woman and automatically done the quickie assessment so many disregulated eaters do, asking herself, “Is this woman thinner or fatter than I am?” But because she has been trying to accept her body as is, she willed herself not to glance at this female passer by. She said she...
Continue reading
0
  563 Hits
  0 Comments

Great Body Image Video Series

A negative body view too often accompanies eating problems and it can be hard to shake. If you’re serious about wanting to feel positive about your body at any weight, you won’t want to miss BODY COMPASSION, Jean Fain’s new (free!) video series. This series is a natural follow-up to THE SELF-COMPASSION DIET , a book by Jean Fain, LICSW, which is really no diet at all, but an approach to loving your body into health and fitness. Her five-part video series is a great teaching tool. Part 1, Why Body Image Matters , describes the health and mental health risks of having poor body image and how developing a positive body image actually can help you reach your eating and weight goals. My bet is that you put lots of mental energy on how you feel about your body, but perhaps not so much on how those feelings affect your...
Continue reading
0
  389 Hits
  0 Comments

Nix the Fat Talk

Much as I encourage clients and Food and Feelings message board members to speak their minds, I draw the line at fat talk which involves putting your body or someone else’s down because it is fat, large, or unshapely. This kind of talk is dangerous to self-esteem and mental health. Fortunately, we all can play a part in ending it. Psychological researchers define fat talk as “body-denigrating conversation between girls and women” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 6/4/13, “‘Fat talk’ can carry a steep cost” by Jan Hoffman, Health and Fitness, p. 28E). Of course, men can take part in these exchanges as well, but are less likely to do so. Hoffman explains fat talk as a “bonding ritual” that can be “contagious, aggravating poor body image and even setting the stage for eating disorders.” How many women participate in fat talk? One study concluded that “93% of college women admitted to engaging in...
Continue reading
0
  718 Hits
  0 Comments

Doctors’ Bias Against Obese Confirmed

If you’re overweight or obese, you may have had the experience of not getting the attention you need at medical visits. A recent Journal of Academic Medicine study confirms why (Time/Health and Family online, “Medical students may already be biased against obese patients” by Alexandra Sifferlin, 5/24/13). Yes, there’s bias against you, but that’s no excuse for not getting the medical care you require and deserve. The study “shows that two out of five medical students have a subconscious bias against obese people…and that this way of thinking can appear before doctors even start to treat patients.” The study involved explicit bias, which occurs when people are aware of their prejudice, and implicit bias, which occurs when they’re not. “Based on the results, 39% of the students had a moderate to strong subconscious bias against the overweight, and less than 25% of the students were aware of their bias.” A February...
Continue reading
0
  727 Hits
  0 Comments

Changing Beauty Standards

I was lunching with a friend who mentioned having read a biography of Lucrezia Borgia, an Italian femme fatale, which described the extreme lengths women went to in order to have a ghostly white complexion, the epitome of beauty back in the 1400 and 1500s. Frankly, they make as much sense as what women do nowadays to be thin. Here’s the skin beautifying description that Sarah Bradford provides in LUCREZIA BORGIA—LIFE, LOVE AND DEATH IN RENAISSANCE ITALY (page 146). “Foreheads were to be kept high, white and serene by hair removal, by applying a past of mastic overnight. Perhaps the most revolting beauty treatment for whitening the skin of the face, neck, hands and other parts of the body ‘whiter than alabaster’ was this…from Marinello: ‘Take two young white doves, cut off their necks, pluck them and draw out their innards, then grind them with four ounces of peach stones, the...
Continue reading
0
  653 Hits
  0 Comments

Body Variations

While shopping here in Florida, I stopped to sit down to rest and people watch. One of the first things I noticed is the amazing variety of bodies to be seen. I mention being in Florida because without lots of clothing, our body outlines are so clearly visible. Let me share my observations, then I’ll tell you why I think they’re important. My major one was that there seemed to be a greater variety of men’s shapes and sizes which would be deemed “acceptable” than there are for women. Now, I know this is no big surprise, but it’s worth noting. Here are the male body shapes I noticed. One man walking by had broad shoulders which tapered down to a small waist and thin legs. His adult son, walking next to him, had the same contours. Another man was as broad, practically all neck and shoulders, and the rest of...
Continue reading
0
  807 Hits
  0 Comments

Being Fat and Feeling Sexy

This culture can cause heavy people to feel as if fat can’t be sexy, but that’s only cultural bias. If you’re fat, you have two choices: to dislike and hide your body or to feel good about it and decide how to show it off in its best light. If you’re going the latter route, here are some great suggestions from Advice Goddess Amy Alkon (Think you’re fat? Try this at home, TICKET, SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE, 12/20/12). She begins by offering research that tells us that “‘walking the walk’—acting the way you’d like to feel—is one of the most effective ways to change how you feel.” When I make this suggestion to clients (about anything, not just body attitudes), I almost always hear, “But I can’t do something I don’t believe. It just doesn’t feel right.” Well, duh, that’s how change occurs: by doing something that feels uncomfortable. So, either do what...
Continue reading
0
  1204 Hits
  0 Comments

Fat Can Be Fit

I read two articles in the same week (in the 12/12 issue of the Duke Medicine Newsletter and in the Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter) that said fat people can be fit, so that means the truth is finally getting out. The original study these articles were based on was described in the 9/5/12 EUROPEAN HEART JOURNAL. If you’re tired of your doctors insisting that you have to lose weight to be healthy, listen up. The bottom line, based on a study of more than 43,000 Americans, is that although obesity is often associated with disease, a subgroup of obese people don’t suffer from what medicine calls “metabolic syndrome.” The Tufts article, Almost Half of Obese Are Nonetheless “Metabolically Healthy, says that many of these healthy obese people “were found to be more fit than most, regardless of weight…” The upshot is that “obese people are at no greater risk of...
Continue reading
0
  750 Hits
  0 Comments

shelf new

EBProfessionalBadgeLarge

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