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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]

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...
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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...
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My Interview from Eating Enlightenment

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“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...
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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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Why Food Planning Goes Awry

A reader of my books and blogs wrote with a question that many of you might have: “Why,” he asked, “do I buy foods I think I’ll enjoy and bring them with me to eat, then find I don’t want them and crave something ‘quick and easy’ and eat that instead?” Here are my ideas on why this might happen and how to change the pattern. Remember that intuitive eating isn’t a science. Sometimes we’ll nail a craving and sometimes we won’t. This occurs in other realms of life as well, but we probably don’t think much of it. We get excited about going to a movie because of all wonderful things we’ve heard about it but, when the time comes to go and see it, we’re more in the mood to stay home and read a book. Or we go to the movie and end up not caring for it....
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How Are Eating “Normally” and Therapy Similar?

Many people who seek therapy to resolve their eating problems become rapidly and easily disappointed and frustrated that the process takes longer than they expected. This is the exact same problem they have with food: the quick “fix” desire for whatever ails them. Fortunately, helping them respect and value the slow pace of therapy provides equal instruction on how to manage “gotta have it now” feelings around food.   Here are two problems and ways to deal with them that arise in both eating and therapy. Urge to control: Although some clients enter therapy without the desire to control the process, many dysregulated eaters come in wanting to focus exclusively on eating and weight loss. They could spend an entire session telling me everything they ate—and didn’t “allow” themselves to eat—since the last time they saw me. Whenever I veer off to inquire about other issues, such as how their life...
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One More Time—Forget Self-control and Will Power to Change Eating Habits

If I could wave my fairy godmother wand to abolish certain thoughts, I’d eradicate those having to do with self-control and will power. Science is telling us repeatedly these days that they don’t work long-term to change eating or exercise habits. Please let this concept go so that you can learn what does help to establish better ongoing self-care. One research-based article is “Why willpower is overrated” by Brian Resnick (Vox, 4/25/18, https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-willpower-is-overrated-2029766008 ,   accessed 11/28/18). It describes a 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that says, paradoxically, that participants “who most readily agreed to survey statements like ‘I am good at resisting temptations’ reported fewer temptations throughout the study period. To put it more simply: The people who said they excelled at self-control were hardly using it at all.” A study of students in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science concluded that, “It...
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Making New Meanings of Full and Satisfied with Food

At dinner celebrating a friend’s birthday, I was full and satisfied by dessert time, while she’d eaten a small dinner just to save room for dessert. She ordered key lime pie which came with a slab of dark chocolate melted on top of it and the waiter brought over a dish of chocolate chip ice cream as well because I’d mentioned that it was her big day. I managed to down a few spoonsful of ice cream, which she insisted I share, then watched her polish off the pie. When she was done, she asked if I wished to take home the remaining ice cream and slab of chocolate and I joyfully took it off her hands. I don’t care for dessert after a meal when I’m usually full. From my diet-binge days, I hate feeling uncomfortably full or too hungry. My habit is to eat seven or eight mini-meals daily,...
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Sleep, Circadian Rhythms, Eating and Weight

It’s ironic that clients often don’t want to discuss their sleep habits but focus obsessively on their eating habits. In truth, sleep may be a substantial determinant of what and how much we eat, and disruption of our circadian rhythms may have a significant effect on what we weigh. Here’s what science has to say on these subjects. According to “Sleep Longer, Eat Less, Maintain a Healthier Weight” by Mugdha Thakur, MD (Duke Medicine Newsletter, 5/2008, p. 7), “Sleep is a modifiable risk factor in the link between obesity and cardiometabolic diseases…” and “Reduced sleep affects the regulation of appetite hormones such as ghrelin, which increase appetite, and leptin, which decreases appetite.” It is also thought to increase cortisol (a stress hormone) release, which increases eating behavior. Consider the paradigm above: By sleeping less, you’re putting yourself at risk of generating increased stress and appetite. This combination is the perfect storm...
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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