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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. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

Make Mealtime Family Time

Make-Mealtime-Family-Time
For those of you who are raising children, what messages are you giving them about mealtimes which include when, what, where and how much to eat? “7 tips to make every family meal count” by Cara Rosenbloom (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 12/2/19, E24) has some basic ideas for cohering and educating your family. I’m blogging on this subject because I fear that some dysregulated eaters don’t know the value of sharing structured meals and what they can teach children about our relationship with food.  Clients tell me that because they are stressed out, they feel overly taxed by food shopping and preparing. So they order take out, go out to dinner, or let their children grab whatever is in the refrigerator. All of the above is acceptable once in a while, but what does it teach your children if it’s a regular pattern? It says that food is incidental or even irrelevant to...
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Fears That Prevent "Normal" Eating

Fears That Prevent "Normal" Eating
If you live in terror of food cravings and weight gain, you won’t learn to become a “normal” eater. It’s simply not possible. Something has to give: the fear or the desire. This is a major conflict for people who ping pong between restrictive eating (restraint via self-control) and going hog wild with food. I often see this process played out in therapy. Here's what happens. A client comes in saying she (it’s usually but not always a she) is sick and tired of dieting and wants to learn how to eat “normally.” She provides her diet history and explains why and when she binges and how she is physically and mentally so done with this cycle. She recognizes that neither behavior serves her and comes to me to help her find the alternative, saner approach to eating. All is well and good so far. At some point, after talking at...
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The Joys of Intuitive Eating

The Joys of Intuitive Eating
“Intuitive Eating: The anti-diet, or how pleasure from food is the answer, says its creators,” a CNN Health article, makes it sound as if intuitive eating (IE) is making a comeback, when it’s never gone away. Back in the 80s IE taught me how to eat intuitively after decades of dieting and binge-eating and the movement has only grown stronger nationally and internationally. (Sandee Lamotte, 1/31/20, accessed 1/31/20, https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/31/health/intuitive-eating-no-diet-wellness/index.html). Since then there have been hundreds of books written about appetite-attuned eating. Here’s some how-to advice straight from the mouths of its creators and the authors of Intuitive Eating: An Anti-Diet Revolutionary Approach, Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, both well respected registered dieticians. “The scientific mechanism behind intuitive eating is called ‘interoceptive awareness,’ or the ability to perceive physical sensations that arise within the body. Intuitive eating is really instinct, emotion and thought," Resch said. "It's the instinct, hunger, fullness. What we...
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Eating and Mental Health Disorders

Eating and Mental Health Disorders
Certainly not all, but many people with dysregulated eating suffer with underlying Depressive and Anxiety Disorders. Even if they don’t have full-blown disorders, they experience sub-clinical distress that is enough to contribute to eating problems. It’s not uncommon for me to hear about panic attacks, excessive worrying, isolation due to social angst, low energy, apathy toward beneficial activities, low self-esteem, a shame-based mindset, and over-focusing on controlling life.  What is of interest here is how clients are much more likely to be aware of and wish to talk about their eating problems than the emotional distress which drives them. I am not saying that depressive or anxiety disorders (or any other mental health problems) cause dysregulated eating. All three are biopsychosocial conditions concurrent with eating disorders. But focusing solely on eating better, without attending to underlying issues of anxiety and depression, will derail even the best therapeutic efforts. Here’s why this...
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COVID-19 Isolation Need Not Lead to Overeating

COVID-19 Isolation Need Not Lead to Overeating
If you’ve felt an uptick in urges to munch and crunch your way through the day since COVID19 has revamped our lives, you’re not alone. It’s hard enough not to fall prey to emotional and mindless eating in the best of times. Enduring sky-rocketing stress while hunkered down, we need compassion for what we’re experiencing and a redoubling of attunement to emotions and appetite regulation in order to stay sane and healthy.    How can we not feel overwhelmed when seemingly overnight our usual host of worries has been transformed into inconceivable horrors: ourselves or loved ones succumbing to COVID19, losing our jobs and financial assets, and wondering when this nightmare will end? As our stress ramps up and routine pleasurable, relaxing activities are cut off one by one, it’s natural to experience feelings of extreme loss of control so that the mere act of eating seems like a magical antidote to...
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Why We Eat the Way We Do

Why We Eat the Way We Do
Check out “Why We Eat The Way We Do” on NPR’s Hidden Brain which runs just shy of half an hour (https://www.npr.org/2019/11/11/778266536/hungry-hungry-hippocampus-the-psychology-of-how-we-eat, accessed 11/23/19). Here’s what I learned from this entertaining and enlightening podcast.  Psychologist Paul Rozin was being interviewed by Shankar Vedantam, host of Hidden Brain. Rozin, who has spent decades studying “the interplay between food, identity, and culture,” maintains that "Food is not just nutrition that goes in your mouth or even pleasant sensations that go with it. It connects to your whole life, and it's really a very important part of performing your culture and experiencing your culture." This is why we enjoy certain ritualized foods—from birthday cake to Christmas pudding, Hebrew Sabbath challah, and Muslim couscous—and why we have strong associations to traditional or simply familiar foods from childhood. Two discussion points got me thinking. One was the difference between French and American eaters: Americans are focused...
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Change Your Self-talk Around Food and Your Body

Change Your Self-talk Around Food and Your Body
Most of our self-talk about food and everything else is so ingrained that we don’t realize what we’re thinking or saying to ourselves. Self-talk comes in the way of directives or judgments and truly can be a silent killer (of self-esteem and positive motivation) or a life saver. Feelings and actions don’t just pop up out of nowhere. They spring from what we think and tell ourselves which leads to experiencing and doing this rather than that. I know that you have words, phrases and ideas lodged in your brain learned a long time ago which are damaging your attempts to be a “normal” eater and feel compassionate about your body at any size. But the fact that I know this doesn’t help you unless you know it as well. Moreover, you not only need to be aware of damaging things you say to yourself around food and about your body,...
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Let’s Do Lunch

Let’s Do Lunch
At an airport waiting with an old friend for a flight, the topic of food planning came up. Seeing as it was about lunchtime, I pulled out my freezer bag containing my yummy lunch and snacks for later. My friend asked why I just didn’t eat airport food and wasn’t I being a bit obsessive about carrying food with me whenever I travel. As I munched on lunch, I explained that airport food didn’t strike me as nutritiously appealing. Clearly she thought I was crazy for schlepping food around and I thought she was unwise to depend on airport food for sustenance. An aside: I love to eat at restaurants and have no problem dining at the homes of others without knowing what they’re serving.  So, imagine my delight when I attended a clinical workshop with a therapist friend, bumped into a colleague, and the three of us pulled out our...
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How One Client Stopped Bingeing

How One Client Stopped Bingeing
What would you give to be binge-free? Here’s how one of my clients, after 30 years of binge-eating, has been free of it for nearly two months, saying she doubts she’ll ever resume this behavior again. I asked what she’d been doing differently and if she minded if I shared her story. She was eager to share her thoughts and encouraged me to blog about her success. My client is a divorced, hard-working mom in her early 40s with a history of overeating, dieting, and hyper-focusing on food and weight. She came to me insisting that she could never change her eating. It was only in her third round of therapy with me (after two previous stints of a couple of sessions each time) that she began to make strides. Here's the advice she wants to pass on to you that has helped her not binge:  She has a strong commitment...
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You Can Learn to Be an Intuitive Eater

You Can Learn to Be an Intuitive Eater
You can learn to become an intuitive eater. I know because I learned to do so and it changed my life. I went from restrictive and binge eating and bulimia to eating according to my appetite and health needs. And learned life skills I didn’t even know I needed. Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch coined the term “intuitive eating” in 1995, referring to the “process of using internal cues rather than external rules to guide decisions about what to eat.” (“To eat intuitively, trust your instincts” by Carrie Dennett, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 10/15/19, E28, accessed 10/15/19). Their book has been a mainstay of the international intuitive eating movement ever since and undoubtedly helped me hone my ability to eating according to appetite. Their advice is to “honor your hunger” and “feel your fullness,” while stressing that these are only two of the 10 intuitive-eating principles. This is similar to the...
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Is a 2-Year-Old in Charge of Your Eating?

Is a 2-Year-Old in Charge of Your Eating?
One of my clients joked that it sometimes feels as if a 2-year-old is in charge of her eating. A highly competent teacher, she also does an excellent job taking care of her elderly parents. She’s a can-do person and a great problem-solver like many of the dysregulated eaters I treat. With all her maturity and capability, why, then, would she hand over the reins of her eating to a toddler? Think of 2-year-olds you know. Maybe you’re trying to tame one right now. Or have heard tales of how you ran your parents ragged at that age or remember what it was like raising your little hellion. You know enough to recognize that you don’t want to put a 2-year-old in charge of anything, never mind your eating. Would you let one drive your car, pay your bills, or pick out your clothes? Of course not. A child at that...
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What Kind of Overeater Are You?

What Kind of Overeater Are You?
I attended a workshop entitled “Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food” which had a section on Binge-eating Disorder or BED. (CE International, www.ceinternational.com, Ginger Schirmer, PhD, RD). It included a description of five types of overeaters that I found interesting, although I’m not sure I agree with them being all that different. I’m blogging about them because doing so may help you identify why you overdo with food and develop strategies to avoid doing so. First, consider what Dr. Schirmer had to say about food addiction: that no food is addictive, but that we can form an addiction-like relationship to foods that changes our brain and body chemistry much as it would if we were dependent on drugs or alcohol. I’ve heard others describe this dynamic as having an eating addiction. At any rate, when you read the categories below, remember that Dr. Schirmer isn’t talking about the food being addictive...
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My Interview from Eating Enlightenment

food
“30 Years and 7 Books of Eating Disorder Recovery Wisdom,” is an interview of me by Jared Levenson. Below is a bit about my crazy eating days. To hear more of my story and recovery, listen to this podcast at https://eatingenlightenment.com/2019/12/01/eating-disorder-recovery-interview/.  I talk some in my books and more in my sessions with clients about how I went from being a chronic dieter and world-class overeater to a “normal” eater. They are often amazed when I tell them that I’ve been recovered for half a lifetime which, at 72, sometimes seems like it was just yesterday and sometimes seems like my warped relationship with food happened to another me and not the one I am today. I was a deprivational eater who weighed myself several times a day. I counted calories to know what and how much to eat. You could have slapped on me any other label that applied to...
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Recovery Works—Just Not as Fast as You Want

Recovery Works—Just Not as Fast as You Want
Many pieces of recovery need to come together to reach your goals. If you’re focused on looking in the mirror or down at the scale, you’ll miss them. You want quick change, like now! I get it. But for success, instead of measuring progress in pounds or inches, you’ll need to shift your focus to how you’re making small attitudinal and behavioral adjustments in other aspects of life that will eventually move you toward recovery. Recently a client was lamenting the “bleepin’ lag time between learning how to have a better relationship with food and her body” and actually doing better around food and improving her health. It’s true, the lag time can be frustrating and seem daunting. That’s because there’s generally a good deal for dysregulated eaters to learn in order to manage life in a healthier manner. For the umpteenth time: It’s not just about the food. Clients start...
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The Importance and Value of Treats

treats
Many dysregulated eaters crave and overeat “treats.” But, guess what: If you’re eating them all the time, they are no longer treats. That’s because a treat is something pleasurable, out of the ordinary, and not in your daily routine. It’s meant to be an occasional pleasure to the palate or boost to the spirit, but many dysregulated eaters ruin their purpose by seeking and consuming them excessively. From my own bingeing history and 30-plus years of working with troubled eaters, my take is that they often don’t enjoy life very much and seek food to increase its pleasure. That’s just plain sad. You cannot have a healthy relationship with food if you’re overly reliant on it and it’s your singular go-to for pleasure and a bounce in your step.  I’ve had clients who use vacations the same way. They’re anywhere from unhappy to miserable in their lives and seek travel to...
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Purging After Eating

Purging After Eating
Been there done that: purging after eating, that is. I had bulimia for about 18 months in my late twenties. Back then my binge-eating was in full force and I thought that purging (a more genteel word for “vomiting”) was such a clever idea to combat overeating. This was long before the word bulimia came on the scene. No one I knew purged and I don’t recall reading anything about its health dangers. I suppose there was less shame attached to it because there was no big fuss made about it. But somehow I knew it was wrong or, at least, something I didn’t want to be doing. I finally confessed to a friend who knew about my ongoing struggles with food that I was also vomiting (let’s call it what it is), and she very caringly insisted that I find myself a therapist post haste. I think I told her...
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Why You keep Ping-ponging Between Diets and Bingeing and Purging

Sometimes I miss the obvious. I treat many clients who were raised by parents (most often mothers) who either excelled at dieting and food restriction or modeled nothing but emotional, mindless or binge eating. Or parents bounced from one extreme to the other—one week tossing out any foods that contained carbs or sugar and the next week bringing all those same foods into the house in bingeing on them. Now, even when dysregulated eaters come to therapy desperately wanting to stop dieting or bingeing, they have no clue how to do it. Not one real clue. As children, they learned specific eating behaviors like denying themselves food when they were hungry, eating less caloric foods than others in their family, eating out of deprivation, seeking food for comfort, ignoring appetite signals, or a combination of all of these strategies. Sometimes they were criticized when they reached for food and other times...
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Reasons You Won’t Recover from Your Eating Disorder

One of the reasons I eventually was able to overcome my chronic dieting and emotional and overeating was that I’m a tenacious person and not inclined to give up when I set my mind on doing something. So, persistence served me. More importantly, there is no area in my life that I wouldn’t discuss and try to change (with the help of a therapist) in order to become a “normal” eater. I was willing to delve deeply into whatever was wrong in my life (lots!) and take steps to remedy it. Nothing was off limits for discussion and discovery if it would help me stop being a crazy person with food and weight. One of the barriers clients have is shying away from aspects of their lives that are obviously not working for them. Even talking about those areas makes them squirm. At first they may deny problems, but eventually (if...
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Yes, You Can Retrain Your Taste Buds

Dysregulated eaters too often rule out the possibility that they might over time enjoy nutritious, tasty fare more than the high fat/sugar/carb foods they now eat. They won’t even consider that their taste buds can be radically altered. In fact, they can. I was reminded of this amazing fact one night watching a TV commercial for pizza, a food I used to adore and eat to excess decades ago. I took one look at the image on the screen and said aloud, “Yuck!” My revulsion to pizza surprised me. What happened to the college coed who could eat leftover cold pizza for breakfast and think she’d won the lottery? Or to the ecstasy, I used to feel in an Italian restaurant when a waitress plonked down my order and, asked: “You the extra cheese?” I certainly could eat and maybe even mildly enjoy a slice of pizza now, but I know...
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What’s Behind Eating in Secret?

You might be surprised, or maybe not, how many people eat in secret: in their cars, in the bathroom with the door locked, or sneaking treats up to their rooms. I used to do it myself—tiptoeing down the stairs to the kitchen in the house I grew up in to swipe something I was forbidden to eat from the fridge, popping a leftover into my mouth in the kitchen of friends the moment they turned their backs, or barely nibbling at food during a party or dinner I hosted, only to gorge on remains after my guests had left. When clients bring up secretive or sneak eating, I make sure to tell them about my own experience to let them know a few things. First, they’re not alone. Many dysregulated eaters—high and low weight and in between—choose to eat without prying (aka feared judgmental) gazes. Second, it’s vital that they understand...
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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