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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. 

The Scientific Reason That We Can’t Keep Weight Off by Dieting

For all of us who have dieted and for those of you who frequently or occasionally feel tempted to restart a diet, here’s a simple explanation of why most people cannot keep weight off by weight-loss dieting . It makes perfect sense. Your mind might want to be dieting (although most minds sensibly dislike giving up culinary pleasure), while your body inevitably starts to fight back when you deprive it of calories on a regular basis. It’s time to face facts and recognize that learning to be a “normal” eater is the only way to become healthy and fit, establish a comfortable weight for life, and enjoy a positive relationship with food and your body. Here’s the skinny on why diets don’t keep weight off long-term according to “How Did We Get Here? Explaining the obesity epidemic” by Kevin Hall ( Nutrition Action Healthletter , July/August 2018, pp. 3-5). Describing...
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The Scientific Reasons that Weight-loss Diets Fail You

I’ve blogged about psychology professor Dr. Traci Mann’s well-researched book, Secrets from the Eating Lab, and recently came across an article summarizing her findings. Honestly, though, she writes so well and with such laugh-out-loud humor, that I recommend reading her entire book. I read it cover to cover when I was delayed at an airport and couldn’t believe how quickly the time past. Her article is entitled “Why do dieters regain weight? Calorie deprivation alters body and mind, overwhelming willpower” (Psychological Science, May 2018, accessed 5/29/18, http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2018/05/calorie-deprivation.aspx). Here are some excerpts from it. I refer you to the article itself for citations. • “…weight regain is the typical long-term response to dieting, rather than the exception.” • “…calorie deprivation leads to changes in hormones, metabolism, and cognitive/attentional functions that make it difficult to enact the behaviors needed to keep weight off.” • “…after sufficient calorie deprivation, weight is lost, and...
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What If Eating According to Appetite Were Actually Easier Than Dieting

Recently I’ve been thinking how curious it is that most of us have such a challenging time going from chronic dieting and overeating to “normal” eating. I include myself as one of those people. Yes, habits die hard, but dieting has its own unique challenges and is—pardon the pun—no picnic, so why do we fight so hard to give it up?   Imagine if you were a “normal” eater and forced to restrict your food intake, that is, to eat when and how much someone else wanted you to eat and to forget about your own appetite cues. This person would boss you around and tell you how much and when to eat or not eat. No matter what you felt like eating, Bossy Pants would insist that you override your cravings and partake of what he or she wanted you to eat instead. Want a piece of pie at...
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How to Gauge What You Should Weigh

I had a long discussion with a client about what a comfortable weight for herself would be. Having spent time years before engaged in anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating, it made sense that she didn’t know, now that she was eating more “normally,” what a healthy weight would feel like. I understood. This is an issue for many women I treat. Honestly, it doesn’t seem to be as much of a quandary for my male clients.   We looked at this issue from several angles. First, we talked about cultural pressure to look a certain way. For those of you who are young, please know that it wasn’t always this way, and that now there’s almost no escaping it. My grandmother, who was considered a great beauty in her day and who buried two husbands and then had a boyfriend in her eighties, would have been told she had a too...
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Blogging about Weight and Weight-Loss

I love to blog because I love to write. However, I find it daunting to talk about weight and weight-loss because I’m concerned about my comments may come across. Aside from being scrupulous about not using weight in a stigmatizing way, I also want to address readers’ concerns on the subject and be careful not to bum them out by what I say.   Every time I post a blog or an article describing scientific evidence that weight is strongly genetically based, I get a pang of discomfort. If I write that obesity is highly heritable, I worry that readers will feel pessimistic and lose interest in taking care of their bodies, thinking “What’s the use?” If I write that most people who lose weight regain it or, often, regain more than they originally lost—I fear that I’m blowing someone’s day and that they’ll feel frustrated and helpless to ever...
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Unrealistic Expectations of Weight Loss

When you learned your trade or went to college, did you expect to know everything after a few lessons or a few months? Both involve practice and maybe even apprenticeships or internships. Changing your brain or body only happens over time with practice. Why, then, would you expect to begin your journey with “normal” eating and immediately lose weight? Can you say unrealistic expectation?   Mind you, I’m not promoting weight-loss here and my fervent wish is that dysregulated eaters put their energy and focus on following the rules of “normal” eating, changing irrational beliefs about food, eating and appearance, learning life skills, and resolving any issues that prevent them from being comfortable with themselves and in their bodies. However, I recognize that many of you would like to lose weight for any number of healthy and unhealthy reasons.   Toward that end, for those of you who have healthy...
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Health Goals Are More Important Than Weight-Loss Goals

Most dysregulated eaters find it difficult to give up weight-loss goals, even when they know intellectually that this pursuit, per se, is not the strongest motivator for becoming a “normal” eater. What  about you? What if you could enjoy greater mental and physical health benefits yet your weight stayed the same or didn’t drop as much as you’d like?   An article in Obesity, “Mindfulness-based stress reduction in women with overweight or obesity: A randomized clinical trial,” (by Raja-Khan, Katrina Agito, Julie Shah, Christy M. Stetter, Theresa S. Gustafson, Holly Socolow, Allen R. Kunselman, Diane K. Reibel, and Richard S. Legro, abstract, 7 Jul 2017, DOI: 10.1002/oby.21910, accessed 7/21/17, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1002/oby.21910/abstract ) concludes that a trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBS) in higher weight women “improved mindfulness, significantly decreased perceived stress,” and that “there was significant reduction in fasting glucose.” However, the study saw no change in women’s weight.   In “6...
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You Can’t Hate Yourself Thin

If you follow my blogs, you’ll know that I sometimes remark upon how themes emerge during any given day or week in my practice. During one summer day, it seemed a series of eating dysregulated clients were into vilifying their bodies. They had all somehow reached a boiling point of frustration with their overeating, leaving them mired in disappointment at themselves and bashing their bodies to beat the band.   It occurred to me at some point that they were trying their darnedest to hate their bodies thin, and I realized that this is what many people who are dissatisfied with their weight do. As if hating their bodies hard enough would somehow produce the “normal” eating behaviors they longed for. This dynamic made no sense to me then, nor does it now, but I do recognize the pretzel logic behind it: don’t dare accept, love or value your body...
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Be Aware of Thin Privilege

We hear a good deal about white and male privilege, both of which are alive and well and living in the U.S., but we don’t hear much about thin privilege. If you’re reading this blog, you might be all too aware of the benefits and rewards of thinness in this culture and how higher weight people are covertly and overtly effected. You probably recognize on a gut level that thin privilege exists. In case you’d like to learn more or educate others about it, here are some great examples of what it encompasses.   According to Everyday Feminism ( everydayfeminism.com/2012/11/20-examples-of-thin-privilege/ , accessed 6/13/17)), “If you’ve been a ‘normal’ size your whole life, you may have never thought of the benefits of being thin. But sizeism is very prevalent, and it’s one of the most accepted ‘isms’ in our society. And this assumption that you need to be thin in order...
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What If You Never Lose the Weight?

A topic that has cropped up with clients recently is the question of what to do if they keep trying to eat more healthfully, exercise and take better care of their bodies and still don’t lose weight. Clients dance around this question and I suspect I do too at times. They want reassurance that if they finally “do things right,” good things, aka weight loss, will surely follow, but are terrified that it won’t. And I can’t make any guarantees.   The fact is that, even after working with hundreds of dysregulated eaters for three decades, I cannot tell you, a specific person, if you will lose the weight you would like to lose. I’ve had clients lose no weight, some weight, or a great deal of weight. I’ve had clients leave therapy unhappy at their same weight and get in touch down the line (months or years later) to...
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Why Pressuring Yourself to Lose Weight Makes You Want to Eat

A client recently told me about what an odd occurrence that she didn’t understand. She’d just received an invitation to a friend’s wedding that she wished to attend, which made her think about wanting to lose weight which, in turn, made her want to eat. “What,” she asked, “is that about?” It’s about a common paradoxical phenomenon if there ever was one.   I hope that understanding this cause-and-effect dynamic will help reduce or prevent it from occurring, while moving you toward a more sane relationship with food and the scale. To understand what’s going on, you’ll want to examine your relationship with dieting and with weight loss and regain. Ask yourself: “What emotions come up for me when I think or talk about wanting to lose weight?” Try to be as specific as possible.   I’d wager that the subject prompts fear, frustration, despair, failure, or other negative emotions...
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Bring This Information to Your Doctor, Therapist or Health Care Provider

The White Paper below explains the importance of language in talking about eating disorders, especially about weights at the higher end of the spectrum. Read it over and see what you think and talk with your health care providers about it.   WHITE PAPER The Language of Eating Disorders: What the ED Professional Needs to Know Addendum: Language Directed to Binge Eating Disorder (BED), Compulsive Overeating (CO) and People of Size https://www.iaedp.com/Language_of_EDs_Addendum_BED_17.pdf   Purpose The purpose of this addendum is to increase the awareness and educate the professionals who work with, treat, or educate, patients with BED, CO, and people of size on the “language” appropriate for this population. Note: The above diagnoses are clearly defined and the professionals working with these patients should be aware of and understand these clinical parameters when using terminology within the patient conversation with insurance reviews, general writing, article submission and presentations at all...
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Why Giving Up the Goal of Weight Loss Can Be Hard

Of all the discussions I have with clients, the most difficult for both of us, it seems, is talking about their desire to lose weight. The topic comes up often—for some clients, in nearly every session—and its exploration never gets any easier. I sometimes feel as if I’m being drawn down into a quagmire with every word I utter and believe that my clients feel similarly. Why is it so tough to talk about the perils of a weight-loss focus?   First off, clients seem to feel as if I’m trying to snatch something away from them. I even get the feeling that they think I’m a little crazy to be suggesting that weight loss isn’t a great long-term motivator or goal. After all, their doctors and doctors’ nurses, dieticians and, well, just about every health professional they encounter is telling them just the opposite. And then there are the...
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Hefty and Healthy is Possible

Every time I attend a performance by Sarasota’s Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, I’m impressed by the dexterity, prowess, and showmanship of their dancers. And I’m struck by the fact that if you passed some of them on the street, you might not imagine that they’re the excellent performers that have been wowing audiences since 1999. Rather than being willowy or svelte, several of the dancers are what our weight charts would probably call fat or overweight.   Their size certainly doesn’t stop them from singing and dancing for nearly two hours straight (okay, there’s a 15-minute intermission) and entertaining audiences with some complex maneuvers—nothing you’d ever want to try at home. As a tap aficionado myself, I know the intense, sustained energy it takes to do my 45-minute weekly advanced beginner class routine. I can’t imagine doing swing or Broadway show dancing or the like for going on two hours...
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Couples and Weight Loss

Most of you know that I deliberately don’t focus on weight loss in my books. Teaching intuitive eating and improving life skills has a far better long-term payoff, and weight-loss goals function as a barrier to enduring health and fitness. However, I recognize that many troubled eaters wish to shed pounds and that the majority of my blog readers are probably weight conscious. I imagine that a subset of these people are part of a couple who are trying to lose weight and thought an article I read might shed some light on this process (“A few ground rules for weight-watching couples” by Jae Berman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/28/17, E24) The article makes some great points. Don’t compare weights. If you and your partner are looking to lose weight, don’t compare pounds shed if you’re of different genders because men tend to lose weight more quickly than women do. If you’re...
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What Label Can You Live With?

For my new book due out in January, Helping Patients Outsmart Overeating: Psychological Strategies for Doctors and Health Care Providers, my co-author, Paige O’Mahoney, MD, and I struggled to find the best ways to describe the patient population we were writing about as well as their concerns. We received input from the Health at Every Size movement (found at HAES ) and sought out current research on the subject.   One study, “The impact of weight labels on body image, internalized weight stigma, affect, perceived health, and intended weight loss behaviors in normal-weight and overweight college women” (Essayli, Murakami, Wilson, and Latner, Am J Hlth Prom 1-7, DOI: 10.1177/0890117116661982, ajhp.sagepub.com, 2016) explains that there has been a substantial scientific challenge to use of the BMI-related weight labels of “normal, overweight, and obese” because “it does not reflect differences in muscle mass, age and race.” The study’s “results provide initial support...
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High Weight Does Not Equal Disease and Death

It’s about time that we start to see articles in major newspapers like this one by Carrie Dennett in The Washington Post, “Does obesity automatically mean poor health” (10/4/16, http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20161004/does-obesity-automatically-mean-poor-health ). We’ve been scolded for decades about fat equaling an unhealthy body and mind and putting those of high weights onto a path that leads to an early death. That’s mainstream media for you, often lagging behind reporting on cutting edge research (described in Body Respect by Bacon and Aphramor or Secrets from the Eating Lab by Mann) that draws surprisingly different conclusions.   Dennett writes: “For every study suggesting that as body mass index increases, the risk of chronic disease and early death also increases, there are others demonstrating that people can be healthy—or unhealthy—at almost any body weight.” One such study describes how “‘metabolic health’ was more important than BMI when it came to estimating future health risks.”...
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Dieting Is On the Decline

Some of the best news I’ve read in a long time came out in July and didn’t make the headlines. But good news it is indeed. According to “The diet industry is dying as a new mentality takes hold in America” ( Business Insider , Mallory Schlossberg, 7/10/16), Americans are shifting from a diet mentality to a healthy mentality. If you’ve stopped joining diet/weight-loss programs or buying “weight-loss” foods, you’re a part of making this happen and should be proud of yourself for taking part in this sea change. It appears that counting calories and deprivation are on their way out, and a focus on eating for health is moving in. An October 2015 report from the market research firm Mintel noted "the diet industry faces downward pressure as US adults also remain skeptical of the ingredients in diet-specific products and their effectiveness in managing weight…Though calorie restriction remained the...
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A Higher BMI May Actually Be Healthy For You

Next time your doctor or health care provider admonishes you for carrying extra pounds, you might want to mention that it could actually improve your health and longevity. The debate about higher weights being better than lower ones for some health markers has been raging for a while. Here are conclusions from some recent scientific studies. “As a group, overweight people are living the longest nowadays, researchers reported in the May 10 JAMA. And obese people seem to be at no higher risk of dying than those of normal weight.” (“‘Overweight’ may be healthiest BMI,” Science News, 6/11/66, p. 6) The conclusion is based on a nearly 40-year Danish study of more than 100,000 adults. “BMI as a number alone may not be sufficient to predict health and risk of death. It has to be taken within context.” It’s worth noting what scientists have known for a long time: BMI...
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Dangerous Diets

“How to tell when you’re dieting dangerously” by Cara Rosenbloom (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 5/24/16, E8) tells it like it is: “It doesn’t matter whether you eat clean, follow a vegetarian diet or eschew carbs; when choice and flexibility turn into obsession and rigidity, an issue is brewing.” This warning flies in the face of the barrage of advice we get every day to watch out for carbs, eat clean, eliminate red meat, ditch fats, and reduce portion sizes. In my book, those well-meant suggestions have a name: dieting. The problem is that we think we’re doing something healthy for ourselves when we live by rigid eating advice—no carbs, only fruits and vegetables, and portions that would leave a child hungry. We’re in trouble when we view such recommendations as edicts that we must adhere to rather than as suggestions that we can use as a general guide. Use your critical thinking...
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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