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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. 

Book Review — “This Messy Magnificent Life”

I have a special place in my heart for Geneen Roth’s books. Back when I was in the throes of my emotional and binge-eating, she was there to teach me that food wasn’t love, that I could honor my needs rather than gobble them away, and that I could enjoy a comfortable body weight without dieting and deprivation. And now she has a new book out that’s just as wise, witty, and inspirational as her others, the aptly named "This Messy Magnificent Life: A Field Guide."   As a writer myself, I’m a sucker for beautiful prose and Geneen’s liquid, lyrical style doesn’t disappointment. As a therapist, I’m thrilled that she’s finally stopped seeking answers from outside “experts” and now recognizes that she is her own font of considerable, ever-flowing wisdom. By writing from that point of view, she encourages us all to look inward to learn, as she says,...
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Book Review – “The Art of Talking to Yourself”

If you’re looking for a guide to become better acquainted with yourself and need a hand to hold while exploring your beliefs and perceptions, try Vironika Tugaleva’s book, The Art of Talking To Yourself: Self-Awareness Meets the Inner Conversation (Soulux Press, 2017). The premise of this wise mix of memoir, philosophy and psychology, written in an approachable manner is, paradoxically, to not trust self-help books, but to learn to trust yourself.   Recovered from drug and eating problems, Tugaleva has suffered from depression and suicidality. She clearly learned some valuable life lessons on her journey of healing, many of which are applicable to dysregulated eaters. Rather than describe all that she covers in the book, here are some nuggets of wisdom from a book that is full of them:   She extols the value of self-talk “Your inner conversation is more than the sum total of thoughts that roll around...
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Book Review – “Can’t. Just. Stop. An Investigation of Compulsions”

I had such a good time reading Sharon Begley’s new book, Can’t. Just. Stop. An Investigation of Compulsions (Simon & Schuster, 2017), that I was sorry when it ended. For a serious science writer, Begley can be surprisingly funny, which is rather fortunate when dealing with the painful topic of why we simply can’t stop doing things that we hate doing and hate ourselves for doing. Like mindless, emotional, compulsive, binge or over-eating, for example.   If you’re looking for easy answers on how to stop compulsions or addictions, you won’t find them in this book. However, if you’re looking for a greater understanding of why you’re driven to do whatever it is you do (while not wanting to do it), you’ll learn a lot. First off, Begley describes the difference between compulsions and addictions, which are often used interchangeably though they do not mean the same thing. Throw in...
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Book Review – The Intuitive Eating Workbook

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Image by Debbie Digioia   One of the reasons I looked forward to reviewing The Intuitive Eating Workbook: 10 Principles for Nourishing a Health Relationship with Food by Elyse Resch, MS, RDN and Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN is because I remember so clearly when their first book, Intuitive Eating , arrived on the eating disorders’ scene in 1995. Although I’d pretty much turned around my wildly disordered eating by then, I was still scouting out books on the subject to make sure that I’d covered all the bases. Intuitive Eating reinforced how much I never wanted to diet again and laid out the basic principles of appetite-attunement in a relatable way that helped me easily explain the process to others.   The authors’ new Workbook expands on their original premise: Giving up weight-loss dieting and connecting—really connecting—to body signals involved in eating is the only way to establish a permanent,...
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My New Book Is Out: Helping Patients Outsmart Overeating

My seventh book is out! Helping Patients Outsmart Overeating—Psychological Strategies for Doctors and Health Care Providers is co-authored by Paige O’Mahoney, M.D., CHWC. Don’t be fooled by the title and think that the book is only for health professionals. It has two audiences: health care practitioners and patients who want their providers to understand and truly help them with their weight or eating concerns. Based on the psychology of eating rather than on the biology of weight-loss, the book aims to educate doctors, nurses, dieticians, health coaches, and diabetes educators on why it’s crucial to stop using a moralistic, restrictive, fat stigmatizing, weight-loss diet model for treating eating problems. Instead, it maps out compassionate, empathic, empowering, lasting wellness and self-care strategies. The book’s goal is to put providers and higher weight patients on the same page and to start a positive conversation about eating and weight by describing why both...
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Book Review – Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Whether you have a child or know of children 12 and under who are unhappy “feeling fat”, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Breaking the “I Feel Fat” Spell, by Andrea Wachter, LMFT and Marsea Marcus, LMFT, will help them develop a more loving, accepting view of their bodies. I was delighted to find out about this book, wishing that my clients who are dissatisfied with their body size would have had something like it growing up. Heck, I wish that I had read this book as a chubby, thin-obsessed child back in the Fifties! The idea of a spell being cast on young children is apt. People who are under a spell don’t realize it until the spell gets broken. In this case the thin-is-beautiful and fat-is-ugly spell is cast by culture, the media, our families, and our peers, unbeknownst to us at a young age. The book leads off...
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Book Review – Secrets from the Eating Lab

As soon as I read about Traci Mann, PhD’s book, Secrets from the Eating Lab—The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again, I rushed out and bought it. I thought it might be a bit dry, filled with jargon I didn’t understand, and overrun with facts I’d never remember, so imagine my delight when I found her writing style to the point and highly humorous. I several times embarrassed myself by laughing aloud reading it in an airport terminal during a five-hour layover. Mann starts out by presenting scientific evidence debunking the value of diets and goes on to write about how they’ve made us fat. I could share the points she makes, but I assume that if you’ve been reading my books, you’re already not a big fan of diets. Next she tackles why we can’t depend on willpower to restrict...
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Book Review – Rethinking Narcissism

If ever there were folks who’ll drive you to eat (and do whatever else), it’s Narcissists, with their self-centeredness, unbridled self-importance, empathy deficits, need to be right, and lack of interest in what others think, say or do. Whether the Narcissist in your life is a spouse/partner, adult child, parent, boss or co-worker, Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad—and Surprisingly Good—About Feeling Special by Dr. Craig Malkin, will help you deal with him or her rather than eat over the distress they’re bound to generate. What is so fascinating and instructive about this book is that Malkin not only covers the subject of narcissism thoroughly, but makes the point that many people who were raised by Narcissists are their total opposites, what he calls Echoists (from the myth of Narcissus). As described by Malkin, Echoists are characterized by having no voice of their own, feeling and acting invisible, having little sense of...
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Book Review – Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay

Many people stay in unhappy, unhealthy relationships for a long time—sometimes until death—because they can’t decide if they should remain or go. For years, I’ve recommended that clients with this conflict read Too Good to Leave, Too Bad To Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship by Mira Kirshenbaum. I heard about the book when it was published in 1996 and it’s become a classic, a must read if you’re undecided about whether to stay in or leave a relationship. The book is based on research that psychotherapist Kirshenbaum did with Dr. Charles Foster on what makes it worthwhile to stay in a relationship and what indicates that it’s time to let go and move on. Full of case studies from Kirshenbaum’s clients over the years, it presents guidelines based on specific criteria for why you might want to...
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Book Review – The Therapeutic Aha!

The Therapeutic “Aha!”: 10 Strategies for Getting Your Clients Unstuck by Courtney Armstrong, M.Ed. is too good to share with only therapists, so I decided to blog about it for my lay readers. First, I’m hoping that those who are in therapy will be intrigued enough to share this book’s ideas with their therapists (clients often mention psych or self-help books they’d like me to read in order to help them—and occasionally even buy the book for me!). Second, this book is so full of vital healing information, I thought that psychologically-minded readers might want to purchase it themselves. The premise of the book is that we can reconsolidate—or clear—traumatic, unhappy, disturbing, or upsetting memories without spending years in therapy and do it in such a way that we are completely healed from them. I have been (minimally) trained by one of the therapists whose approach is seminal to Armstrong’s,...
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Book Review – Relief: Release Stress and Harmful Habits and Awaken Your Best Self

Relief: Release Stress and Harmful Habits and Awaken Your Best Self by Sasha Loring is full of strategies and techniques to help people with eating problems improve their relationship with food and enjoy a happier, more peaceful and satisfying life. You can find out more about Sasha, the book, and her work at http://www.sashaloring.com. Relief starts out by describing our brain functions, focusing on how they affect our nervous system, including an explanation of why we overreact to fears and how we can respond more appropriately to our automatic reactions. My experience with troubled eaters over the decades is that they react rather than respond, that is, they don’t choose how to think and feel about a situation, but automatically do what they’ve always done without considering other options. Loring explains how to break this cycle in order to make better decisions around food and in life. She describes commonplace...
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Book Review – Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight

Health at Every Size—The Surprising Truth about Your Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD was a groundbreaking book based on the concept that a high weight doesn’t necessarily lead to illness and early death, as we’ve been repeatedly told. Now, Bacon has co-written another cutting edge book with Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD: Body Respect—What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight. If you want factual data on the relationship between weight and health, you’ll find it here, along with information on diets and “normal” eating. I’ve been in this field for more than 30 years and I learned a lot from Body Respect. For instance, I no longer use the term “overweight.” As the authors point out, the term is meaningless. Over what weight? Better to say high weight or fat. But, no, you might insist, the word means above what a healthy...
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Book Review – Hope and Help for Your Nerves

An anxious client of mine discovered a book, originally written in 1969(!) which has helped her reduce panic attacks—and she even gave me a copy. Hope and Help for Your Nerves by Dr. Claire Weekes is an enlightening book about how to decrease anxiety or what the good doctor calls “nervous” suffering. Her approach is simple, straightforward, and eminently doable, and I highly recommend it. After all, in many cases, reducing anxiety and fear decreases unwanted, mindless eating. Weekes’ premise is that the meaning you mistakenly make of feelings and symptoms of panic and anxiety are your real problem, not the feelings and symptoms themselves. Typical indications of “nervous” suffering are foggy confusion, derealization, dread, fatigue, internal shakiness, racing thoughts, tightness in the chest, irregular heartbeat, and stomach fluttering. When we’re tired and under pressure or physical or emotional stress, says Weekes, we sometimes develop these manifestations. They generally come...
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Book Review – Power Snuggles: Your Path to Vibrant and Lasting Love

Whether your romantic relationship leaves lots to be desired or could simply use a tune up, you’ll learn therapeutic wisdom and practical strategies for getting the love you want in Power Snuggles: Your Path to Vibrant and Lasting Love by Jon and Beverly Meyerson. Although they’re friends of mine, I’d write the same stellar review of this guide to lasting love if I’d never met them. The goal of Power Snuggles is to turn universal power struggles into growth and healing opportunities. Of course, one of you can’t simply read this book and fix the relationship single-handedly. Two will need to tango for your relationship to maximize its potential. But don’t underestimate how one person making small changes can have a huge effect on a partner’s actions and reactions. You can learn a lot from Power Snuggles. After nearly 30 years of marriage and being a therapist, I did! The...
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Book Review – Outsmarting Overeating: Boost Your Life Skills, End Your Food Problems

My sixth book, Outsmarting Overeating: Boost Your Life Skills, End Your Food Problems, was just published by New World Library, and I’m excited to tell you about it. It’s like no other book because it’s less about food than, well, the rest of your life. In fact, it’s based on this basic question: What if your eating problems aren’t really about food? If so, then all the diets and fasts, carb and calorie-counting, deprivation and nutrition information in the world isn’t going to help you. My premise, based on 30-plus years of experience treating troubled eaters—and having overcome overeating half a lifetime ago myself—is that effective life skills lead to a more manageable life, and a more enjoyable, stress-free life makes it easier to eat “normally.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? Life skills are strategies and behaviors which we all needed to learn in childhood, but didn’t because our parents were...
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Book Review – Mindful Emotional Eating

The title of Pavel G. Somov’s new book, Mindful Emotional Eating: Mindfulness Skills to Control Carvings, Eating in Moderation and Optimize Coping, provides a new slant to emotional eating. What if it’s not a bad thing to do? What if it’s a natural response to a stressful life? What if we could enhance emotional eating by doing it mindfully without guilt and perhaps, therefore, eat less? This may be a radical idea for many of you. This book focuses on harm reduction, the hurt done to body and mind from out-of-control emotional eating. It is written for eating disorder clinicians and their clients and has something for each audience. Disregulated eaters learn that self-loathing and guilt drive binge-eating, and that the only true path to stopping binges is self-acceptance. Somov distinguishes between mindful and mindless bingeing. We may consciously choose to have a nibble of this or a nosh of...
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Book Review – Embody Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and quiet that critical voice)

Ever on the lookout for books to help people feel better about their bodies, I found one in Embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and quiet that critical voice!) by Connie Sobszak, co-founder of The Body Positive. Sobszak begins by explaining that, “When we become ‘embodied’—choosing to live consciously in our bodies and thereby giving our spirits a physical home—we can experience love for our ‘flawed’ human selves.” The Body Positive model moves away from trying to fix what you perceive is wrong with your body to a “practice of improving and maintaining self-care behaviors that are motivated by positive rather than punishing forces.” Act from your “wants,” she’s saying, not from someone else’s “shoulds.” The book is divided into five competencies. In “Reclaim Health” Sobszak offers a weight-neutral, pleasure-focused approach to getting and staying healthy. She encourages readers to find pleasure in self-care rather than see it as...
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Book Review – Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself

After 30+ years of reading books on psychology and self-help, it’s unusual for me to come across a book that absolutely knocks my socks off. But that’s just what Anneli Rufus did in Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself (Penguin Group, NY, 2014). Truly, this is a life-changing book. First, it tells it like it is—like it really is—for people who suffer from self-hatred, through the words of an author who has been there and then some. Then it lays out a reasonable, comprehensive, doable plan for learning to value yourself. Plus it’s written beautifully with a down-to-earth style. Some highlights. Rufus asserts that someone stole your self-esteem. Bull’s-eye: you had it at one point and then it was wrongly ripped away from you. She says, “Maybe no one directly told us we were worthless, but we came to that conclusion anyway as the only rational explanation of how we...
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Book Review – Lasagna for Lunch

Lasagna for Lunch: Declaring Peace with Emotional Eating by psychotherapist Mary Anne Cohen, is a book you’ll want to read and refer back to—as a sequel to French Toast for Breakfast or as a stand alone read. If you’re a compulsive or emotional eater, both books have a great deal of wisdom to offer you. First off, I like Cohen’s style and format. She talks about her own food problems and recovery, switches to her therapist hat and provides advice on how to stop abusing food and your body, then drives her point home as an educator by detailing anecdotes and case examples from her years of clinical experience. You can see the breadth and depth of this book in her chapter headings: Evolving from Impasse to Possibility, Frozen Grief and Emotional Eating, The Inner World of the Emotional Eater, Body Image and Culture, Childhood Attachments and Eating Disorders, The...
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Book Review – Starting Monday: 7 Keys to a Permanent, Positive Relationship with Food

Are you someone who keeps ping-ponging between self care and “I don’t care”? If so, my new book, STARTING MONDAY—SEVEN KEYS TO A PERMANENT, POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD (Gürze Books), will teach you how to resolve your mixed feelings so you can establish consistent self-care with food and your body. The book was born out of the laments I hear daily from troubled eaters who insist that they’re lazy, crazy, and defective because they don’t do what is best for themselves all, or even most, of the time. The fact is, when your intentions and behavior don’t align—you insist you want to eat healthfully or go to the gym regularly but don’t, or do it for a while, then quit—it’s not a sign of mental illness or moral depravity, but of mental conflict.  What you’re suffering from is a chronic case of mixed motivations which, when resolved, will open you...
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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