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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. 

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Book Review: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone will teach you about yourself. Sure, it details author Lori Gottlieb’s journey with her therapy patients and her attempts to sort out her own mental health conundrums. But, as the subtitle implies, it’s also about “Our Lives Revealed,” because under all our class, ethnic, religious, educational, political, gender, and vocational differences, we’re all just struggling to paradoxically both know ourselves and hide from this knowledge at the same time. Although this book is presented as a series of stories involving the author, it’s really a teaching tale about how we create, assign meaning to and, if we’re lucky, change our own stories. Telling hers and those of her beloved patients, Gottlieb bares her soul often enough to make us cry, while also making us laugh as she offers herself up as a prime example of someone maneuvering the mind-bending ups and downs and in and...
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Book Review: Loving Someone with an Eating Disorder

As an eating disorders’ therapist, I can say unequivocally that partners of dysregulated eaters need to know what to do to help their loved ones struggling with food. Although they don’t think of it as “their” problem, it deeply affects them deeply. Whether they realize it or not, what they do or don’t do has a strong impact on their partner’s eating. From working with partners of dysregulated eaters, I know they often feel either overly responsible or powerless to fix their beloved’s dysfunctional eating. Loving Someone with an Eating Disorder: Understanding, Supporting and Connecting with Your Partner by Dana Harron, PsyD provides concrete, psychology-based strategies to help partners become more helpful and feel more confident in promoting healthy and effective dynamics to help their loved one resolve his or her dysregulated eating problems. Topics include feeling alone in loving someone who has an eating disorder, learning about different kinds of...
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Book Review – The Weight of Being

Reviewed by: Karen R. Koenig (Originally published at New York Journal of Books) https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/weight-being Kara Richardson Whitely’s double-entendre of a title, The Weight of Being, wonderfully captures her physical and emotional life as a person of higher weight. In spite of successfully having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro at 300 pounds and survived a dysfunctional childhood that involved PTSD from sexual abuse, her father’s heartbreaking abandonment of the family, suffering as the target of fat stigma, near disabling self-doubt, body hatred, depression, and low self-esteem—all of which she writes about in lively prose with touches of self-deprecating humor—the one thing that she’s unable to do is to have a consistently sane, sensible relationship with food. Having begun dieting in middle school, she knows how to starve herself and lose weight, but the pounds always pile back on. The book describes the discomfort of moving around in a large body well enough to live...
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Book Review: Meditation Is Not What You Think

How many minutes—or hours—do you miss in a day wishing that you were home when you’re out at work, yearning to do nothing when you’re busy doing something, feeling pressured to do something when you’re doing nothing, worrying about what you didn’t do yesterday or need to do tomorrow, wishing to sleep when you’re awake and staying frustratingly awake when you want to be sleeping. Your life doesn’t need to be this way. Since reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s classic, Wherever You Go, There You Are , in the late 1990s, I’ve attended a few meditation workshops and use deep-breathing to relax, mostly to fall asleep (an easy process that works like a charm). I picked up his newest book, Meditation Is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important , to see what more he had to say on the subject. The evidence is in: meditation has great value....
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Book Review—The Power of Agency

Reviewed by:  Karen R. Koenig   (Originally published at New York Journal of Books) https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/power-agency The Power of Agency: The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms “If you’re looking for a read that spotlights exactly how to take control of your life, this book provides a tidy amalgamation of theory and practice that’ll get you up and running with the tools you need.”  The Power of Agency provides the essentials for managing your life by referencing and recapping the best ideas that have been written on the subject over the past few decades. The authors keep us engaged with brief, to-the-point case examples and studies, check-list suggestions at the end of each chapter, and readable language that explains theoretical concepts by getting right to the point. The book includes a handy inventory/self-assessment on the components of agency at the start of...
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Book Review – The Elephant in the Room

Reviewed by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. and originally published at New York Journal of Books: https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/elephant-room. The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man's Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America “The inspiring story of Tomlinson transforming his relationship with food may break your heart before it eventually lifts it.” The Elephant in the Room should be compulsory reading for people of every size. If you share Tomlinson’s love-hate relationship with food, you just may learn a thing or two that will set you on a path to more normal eating. If you’ve not battled with food or weight, he’ll paint you such a graphic picture that you’ll never look askance at a fat person again. And if you don’t feel compassion for his struggles, check for a missing piece of your heart. When it comes to being fat, Tomlinson tells it like it is: the stigma and shame,...
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Book Review – The Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens

I wish I’d had The Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens by Elyse Resch, MS, RDN when I was growing up. My dieting and binge-eating started in adolescence and back then I never gave a thought to these behaviors damaging my mental or physical health. I was ignorant and would have benefitted from knowing about intuitive eating in order to start focusing on appetite cues and valuing my body and stop focusing on weight. The workbook is geared for teens, without talking down to or above them. It covers a wide range of issues beyond what and how to eat. It begins with an explanation of why diets don’t work long-term and the dangerous pattern they set up for young minds and bodies. I love that it links the dynamic of deprivation to rebound eating, of denying ourselves food to rebelling against rules which can generate the desire to overeat. This is...
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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, what...
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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 in...
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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 the...
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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, positive...
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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 parties...
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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 with...
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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 our...
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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 self...
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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 stay...
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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, Dr....
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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 actions...
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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 poundage...
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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 and...
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