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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: The Self-compassion Diet

What a delight to blog about THE SELF-COMPASSION DIET: A STEP-BY-STEP PROGRAM TO LOSE WEIGHT WITH LOVING-KINDNESS by Jean Fain, LICSW, a colleague from the Boston area, where I lived and worked for decades. Although I rarely focus on weight loss, this book has such powerful strategies for becoming a “normal” eater (and shedding pounds), that I want to spread the word. The premise of the book and CD is simple: by using self-compassion or “a deep awareness of one’s own suffering,” you can radically go from being a dysfunctional eater to a functional one. Fain describes self-compassion as composed of mindful awareness (a basic technique of keeping attention on the present moment), self-kindness (treating yourself with caring, understanding and validation), and common humanity (the awareness that suffering is part of the human condition and that others suffer in a similar way). I love that Fain considers self-compassion both a personality...
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Book Review: The Brain That Changes Itself

An enlightening new book, THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF: STORIES OF PERSONAL TRIUMPH FROM THE FRONTIERS OF BRAIN SCIENCE by Norman Doidge, M.D., is not about eating per se, but I recommend it because it is all about mental change. Although the title may sound daunting and dry, the book is anything but. THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF teaches us about how plastic—malleable and changeable—the brain is. For most of history, it was thought that the brain’s workings were fixed and permanent, that because we’re hard-wired, that’s how we stay. Although we do have instincts and a good deal of hard-wiring inherited through our DNA, there is much about ourselves and our lives that can be altered by thinking differently and taking actions in ways that reshape and rewire the brain’s neural pathways. One relevant chapter in the book is devoted to stopping worries, obsessions, compulsions, and bad habits. Doidge writes,...
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Book Review: Creativity Workbook

Ever think that there must be another way to work on your eating problems? FINDING YOUR VOICE THROUGH CREATIVITY: THE ART AND JOURNALING WORKBOOK FOR DISORDERED EATING by Mindy Jacobson-Levy and Maureen Foy-Tornay (Gürze Books, 2010) offers an approach that encourages you to use creativity to access your innermost thoughts and feelings about your disregulated eating. As the authors, both art therapists and professional counselors, say, “Art bypasses the flow of thoughts and words that continually run through our heads. Although words can be meaningful…they can also serve as a façade that masks true feelings. This is particularly true for individuals with chaotic eating patterns whose negative self-talk has become a habit and focal point.” This workbook taps into the non-verbal part of your brain, using creativity to help you shut off those pesky thoughts and teach you to recognize exactly what you’re feeling. The authors maintain that disregulated eaters too...
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Book Review: Women, Food and God

WOMEN, FOOD AND GOD: AN UNEXPECTED PATH TO ALMOST ANYTHING, Geneen Roth’s new book, is a must read. You might wonder, as I did, what she could possibly have to say that she hasn’t said already after penning some half dozen bestsellers. The answer is lots. Although there’s nothing so new and startling that it will knock your socks off, she still has wisdom to impart from her own food struggles and recovery and from studying and pursuing emotional/psychological health for decades. First off, for all you secularists (of which I am one) who fear that this book is some sort of religious or spiritual tome, let me put your mind at rest. When Roth speaks of God, she’s not talking about the concept in the traditional sense—to her, God can be anything or nothing. Her intent is for you to discover and hold dear the divine in yourself. Second, she...
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Book Review: A Trio of Books

A trio of books by Barbara Small, MA on subjects near and dear to the hearts of disregulated eaters—assertiveness, effective communication and self-talk—belong up there on your bookshelf. Small, a reformed overeater and “nice girl,” counselor, and life coach from Victoria, BC, has lots of insightful and instructive things to say about how to get your head on straight, get out of behavioral ruts, and speak your needs. In WHAT ABOUT ME, WHAT DO I WANT: BECOMING ASSERTIVE she focuses on how to get what you want in life. Starting off with communication styles, she moves on to discuss how we learn to communicate poorly and how to use cognitive restructuring to turn around your thinking with hands-on suggestions to become more assertive. The book is filled with self-assessment exercises, practical advice, and humor. In fact, it’s a mini-workbook written in clear, cogent language that teaches you exactly what you need...
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Book Review: The End of Overeating

I highly recommend Dr. David A. Kessler’s new book, THE END OF OVEREATING: TAKING CONTROL OF THE INSATIABLE AMERICAN APPETITE. He was the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1990-7 and writes on eating and weight from a professional perspective, but also as someone who struggles with food himself. Some pertinent points from this very enlightening and readable book. Kessler begins by talking about why it’s hard to resist certain foods: our bodies crave the mixture of sugar, fat, and salt contained in most prepared foods. While we get a dopamine boost from each ingredient alone, the biggest rush comes from a combo of all three. Even the anticipation of eating them triggers a response in our brains, as does unconscious cuing which happens when anything in the environment creates an unconscious or conscious association with food—seeing grandma reminds us of her yummy brownies, cruising by Taco Bell...
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Books to Avoid

There are so many pop psychology, clinical, and self-books written nowadays, that I can’t keep up. Most of the time I’m amazed at what, after 30 years in the field, I still can learn. However, occasionally I’m appalled by some of these books which can be detrimental to certain kinds of clients and reinforce their problems, not only with food and weight, but in other areas as well. Most self-help books are written for the general population—people who are having trouble changing their thinking and behavior in various settings—not for trauma survivors. Yet, more and more, the people I treat come from childhoods that are traumatic, at worst, and seriously dysfunctional, at best. Most already compare themselves intensely unfavorably with others, have major issues with self-esteem, self-worth and self-image, and have spent decades trying to improve their emotional health. considering their backgrounds, nearly all have made incredible strides, but too many...
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Book Review: Beating Ana

BOOK REVIEW: Beating Ana: How to Outsmart Your Eating Disorder and Take Your Life Back by Shannon Cutts (HCI, 2009) Author Shannon Cutts has created a smart little book in Beating Ana for anyone struggling with eating issues. The theme of the book, which I whole-heartedly endorse, is developing relationships to replace eating disorders. Cutts couldn’t be more on target when she says that we need to “feed our minds and hearts with the empowering stories of others.” To extend the metaphor, the book is a most satisfying meal. The focus of Beating Ana is on mentoring. Cutts defines a mentor as “one who is recovering who understands and can give hope and support from an insiders’ perspective.” This concept is the foundation of the “Anonymous” organizations and works well for recovering from a host of problems and addictions. As Cutts underscores, it is precisely our isolation and shame that keep...
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Book Review: Nice Girls Finish Fat

My fourth book, NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT—PUT YOURSELF FIRST AND CHANGE YOUR EATING FOREVER (Fireside Books, a division of Simon and Schuster), hits the shelves tomorrow, June 2! It’s the first book to link up doing too much and eating too much, and was written for all of you women who take care of others with your warm hearts and generous natures and take care of yourselves through multiple trips to the refrigerator. “Nice” men who abuse food will benefit from reading the book as well. NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT developed from my gradual realizations about the excessive niceness of the women I treat for food problems—smiling all the time, dutiful about keeping appointments, guilt stricken when they can’t pay me on time, apologizing for half the session for coming a few minutes late, and spending much of our time wailing about how much they have to do, how imperfect they...
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Book Review: It’s Not Your Fault

Books that tell you to change unwanted attitudes and behaviors by “just doing it” don’t generally work for readers with traumatic childhoods. That’s why I like It’s Not Your Fault: How Healing Relationships Change Your Brain and Can Help You Overcome a Painful Past by Patricia Romano McGraw, Ph.D. She explains in readable language and through case-based examples what happens to a child’s brain growing up in a stressful, dysfunctional (ie, traumatic) environment and describes how therapy can actually change the brain and heal the heart. As so many disregulated eaters are trauma survivors—whether you recognize yourself as one or not—this book will help you understand why it’s so difficult to establish and maintain new eating habits. McGraw presents the concept of templates—models or patterns on which things are based—that are physically laid down in the brain through childhood interactions we have with caretakers, primarily our parents. Because neural pathways grow...
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Book Review: Will I Ever Be Good Enough?

I read as many psychology and self-help books as time permits to keep expanding my knowledge base and make targeted suggestions when clients need help. Some books relate directly to eating, others have a peripheral link. As you probably know by now, food and weight problems are connected to many facets of life. Here’s a review of a relatively new book about mothers and daughters which has been helpful to my clients. Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride, Ph.D., is a terrific addition to the literature written about the clinical diagnosis of narcissism and how having a narcissistic parent can detrimentally affect you throughout life. Written by a psychology professional and daughter of a narcissistic mother, the book explains: what a narcissist is (and isn’t), the underlying causes of narcissism, why and how daughters of narcissistic mothers suffer, and what they can...
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Book Review: What Every Therapist Needs to Know about Treating Eating and Weight Issues

Ever wish your therapist could help more with your eating and weight issues? Wonder why a counselor doesn’t pick up on your distress over food or body image or minimizes these issues when you start talking about them? Feel angry that the only response a therapist has to your being overweight is to tell you to go on a diet? Love working with your therapist, but wish he or she had a better understanding of your eating and weight frustrations? My new book, What Every Therapist Needs to Know About Treating Eating and Weight Issues, has the answers you’re looking for—and much, much more. Published by Norton Professional Books in September, 2008, What Every Therapist Needs to Know About Treating Eating and Weight Issues was written for general practitioners who have little or no training or experience working with these problems. Maybe they specialize in treating depression or anxiety or family...
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Book Review: The Food and Feelings Workbook

I’m going to use blog space today to encourage you to read my second book, The Food and Feelings Workbook—A Full Course Meal on Emotional Health. My purpose isn’t to sell more copies (though that’s always nice!), but to share with you a powerful vehicle for learning about your emotional relationship with food. If you already know about the workbook, have read or are reading it, well, then you don’t need to continue on and have a few extra few minutes today to do something else. The workbook came about from my experience treating people who worked hard on becoming “normal” eaters but couldn’t get there because of how they used food to prevent or lessen uncomfortable feelings. It didn’t matter whether they were over- or undereaters or yo-yoed back and forth. The issue was how they turned to food to avoid and modulate emotional distress. The workbook explains the purpose...
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Book Reviews: Books for Healing

I know that many of you read books about eating (like mine!) to help you resolve your food problems. However, other books that don’t specifically target eating can work wonders in moving you toward recovery. For now, here’s a taste of the wisdom from my favorite “self-help” books. From time to time, I’ll provide you with more titles. Two books by Daniel Goleman offer highly readable descriptions of emotions from a biological and sociological perspective. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ focuses on temperament, the biology of emotions, and the importance of really knowing your “feeling” self. Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships provides a thorough education on the biopsychosocial chemistry of how and why we relate to others as we do. Another gem on the subject is The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life by Joseph LeDoux which tells explains how the brain...
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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