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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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Books on Eating

There are many wonderful new books and websites to help disregulated eaters and the people who treat them. Although I haven’t read the titles listed below, I recommend them based on what I know about them and their authors. If you’ve read any of them, feel free to comment in the space below this blog and please encourage others to visit these websites and read these books. Look for them at http://www.bulimia.com/.   When I was recovering, I tried to read as much as I could about how to move beyond my eating problems and what I needed to do to recover. An insight here, a new perspective there, it all adds up and moves you forward. And, remember, as each of us recovers, we’re reshaping cultural norms about eating and weight and working toward building a society that has a more natural, saner, comfortable relationship with food.   JUST TELL...
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Feeling Okay about Food Choices

Often I speak with clients who are beginning to make food choices which feel right to them, except that they’re severely self-conscious and uncomfortable about them. If this happens to you, it’s important to learn how to stand up for your food decisions and not cave to external pressure, real or perceived. Remember, if you’re not eating foods you enjoy, you’re going to have a heap of trouble following the rules of “normal” eating. This problem plays out in three ways. The first is in the when of eating which might seem inappropriate to others. When I began trying to eat “normally,” I carried around food everywhere to assure myself that it would be available whenever I felt I needed it. I once ate an apple at intermission in the lobby of a Broadway show and a tuna fish sandwich in the bathroom of a bar in Vermont. Though I still...
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Blacks and Food Advertising

Of interest is a Sarasota Herald-Tribune article (9/16/08) about black Americans being targeted by advertisers to eat less healthy foods than white Americans. Unfortunately, the article was intended for my “Blog” folder, but ended up somewhere else until I recently discovered it. Hence, my blogging about it two years late! My apologies. The article is a real eye opener, stating that overweight and obesity rates are higher among blacks than among whites—68.9% to 59.5%—and that one of the culprits is food marketers. These statistics come from research reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation. “In a review of 22 studies published in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that advertisers specifically target blacks with unhealthy food messages.” The kinds of food that are advertised—sweets and treats, of course. Obviously, these foods are aggressively marketed to all Americans. However, “TV shows that are popular among black audiences...
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Make “Normal” Eating Your Project

One of the biggest problems in becoming a “normal” eater is working at it for a while, then giving up and going back to mindless eating or dieting. If you stop and start, no wonder you feel as if you aren’t getting very far. No innate defect is preventing your success, however. Rather, you’re underestimating what you need to do to change. You’ve been to school and know that gaining proficiency in a subject takes focused attention for months or years, but generally this isn’t the mindset you use for learning to eat “normally.” Instead, you dabble at acquiring skills, become overwhelmed at what you don’t know and can’t do, feel disappointed, believe the process won’t work for you, and give up. Better to tell yourself, It will take time to become highly skilled, so I guess I’ll have to hunker down, put “normal” eating in the forefront and make it...
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Weekday and Weekend Eating

Recently I was chatting with a friend who complained that she was looking to lose weight, but was frustrated that she couldn’t shake off any more pounds. She reported cutting portions and making healthier food choices and paying more attention to her appetite. For a moment, there seemed like little she could do to improve her habits—until she mentioned being careful during the week, but eating junk food with her boyfriend which he brought over on the weekend. It’s easy to fall prey to this pattern. On work days, you may forced into a regular feeding schedule with limited food choices, whereas, on weekends, you have more free time at home and are surrounded by food. Or making your own food choices as a stay-home-alone parent on weekdays, you may be faced with a partner’s preferences on weekends. Even without kids, weekends generally include eating activities—dinners out, get-togethers, and parties—which may...
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Women, Food and God—and Oprah!

Oprah says she’s seen the light—that diets don’t work, that punishing herself for being fat and overeating is exactly the wrong thing to do, that instead of hating her food problems, she needs to value them as a tool to teach her how to live her best life. Let’s hope that Geneen Roth’s May 12 appearance on Oprah helped switch on the light for Oprah’s entire viewing audience. And that it also gets Geneen Roth’s newest book, WOMEN, FOOD AND GOD, read and reread by disregulated eaters everywhere. Roth’s books were a turning point in my battles with food. How long had I been struggling, you ask. Since always. As a skinny kid, my mother had to trick me into eating by convincing me that my mouth was a tunnel and the food-on-a-spoon a choo choo train. However, not long after, there she was buying me clothes in the chubby department...
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Healthy versus “Normal” Eating

When a message board member questioned the difference between “normal” and healthy eating, I browsed through my blogs and was surprised I hadn’t blogged on the subject. What an important one it is. “Normal” and healthy eating are not the same, but each has tremendous value. “Normal” eating means being guided by appetite: eating when hungry, making satisfying choices, eating with awareness and enjoyment, and stopping when full or satisfied. The focus is internal, on responding to body signals. When you eat “normally,” you use instinct and judgment together to reach a goal of having a satisfying food experience. On the other hand, healthy eating, or what I’d call eating for nutritional value, has a goal of consuming foods that are beneficial for your body in terms of disease prevention, optimal health, and longevity. Nutritional eating is externally focused, ie, reading labels, considering fat, sugar and salt content, forgoing processed foods,...
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Fighting Food Compulsions

On my Food and Feelings message board, members have been talking about what it takes to struggle in the moment to resist unwanted eating (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings). There’s no easy formula that will make it happen, but understanding why you fail to struggle, struggle harder, or struggle until your rational self beats out disordered thinking will help you make wiser decisions. Along with learning essential life skills and reframing irrational beliefs, there’s nothing more valuable in overcoming disregulated eating than struggling in the moment with food decisions. What do I mean by “struggling”? I mean using your best self—the cognitive part of your brain that knows what is healthy, the memory of all your unhappy experiences with unwanted eating, the incentives of your personal goals for fitness and well-being, the wise self-mother who wants to nurture you, your commonsense that knows you’re hurting yourself—to battle disordered thinking that so seductively and manipulatively tries...
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Slow Down Eating

Need one more reason to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n y-o-u-r e-a-t-i-n-g? According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, eating fast reduces the release of hormones which help regulate appetite. Makes sense. Eating quickly is a learned behavior. The natural way to eat is to chew thoroughly and taste food so that your body can respond to what and how much you’re eating. Eating quickly is nothing more than a bad habit. In fact, compared to sitting with intense emotions and changing irrational beliefs about food, eating, and weight, it’s, well, a piece of cake. What I’m saying is that it is one of the easier behaviors to change. So what prevents you from slowing down and eating at a more leisurely pace? The fact that most speed eating is unconscious and automatic. You’re so used to gobbling up food and paying so little attention to your actions, that you don’t even...
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Eating Confusion

I’ve had many conversations with clients (with friends and acquaintances too) who aren’t really sure what behaviors are appropriate around food. Small wonder. Fearing it smacks of dieting, they don’t know if any restriction of food is kosher or wonder if overeating due to stress means they’re abusing food. Even in the realm of exercise, they’re unsure of how much is enough. Although there are no hard and fast answers to these questions, there are ways to think these issues through effectively. Let’s take the question of whether it’s ever okay to consciously rein in your eating. Of course it is. If you’ve been overeating on vacation, dining out, hosting house guests, or over the holidays, it’s fine/normal/natural/healthy to be aware of it and cut back for a while. What you want to avoid is extremes, feeling deprived, and making a negative judgment about yourself or your eating. So you might...
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Overeating versus Loss of Control Eating

A while back, I read about a research project studying loss of control (LOC) eating and got to thinking about the study’s need to distinguish it from garden variety overeating. The subject can be confusing. For example, the concept of loss of control eating may be helpful for overeaters, but it is problematic for highly restrictive eaters who are too in control when they eat and need to cut themselves some slack around food. So for strict undereaters LOC eating might actually be a good thing. To be clear then, today’s blog is for overeaters who lose control around food to their detriment. The way I see it is that all overeating isn’t LOC eating, and all LOC eating isn’t overeating. Overeating is continuing to consume food past fullness or satisfaction. Of course, sometimes we consciously take a few more bites than we really need, but it doesn’t make a huge...
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Dieting versus Healthy Eating

My message board members have once again raised an interesting issue, and I thank them for keeping my head well stocked with bloggable subjects. The topic this time is the difference between dieting and healthy or nutritious eating. How can you distinguish them? How can you make healthy food choices most of the time and not feel as if you’re on a restrictive diet? As one board member points out, we’re all on some sort of diet. The problem is that diet has two meanings: the way we eat and a way to eat to lose weight. Stop and think about that. When you use the word, which definition do you mean? Can’t you follow a way of eating without being on a diet? I believe you can. It’s all in your perspective. You can follow formal or informal food guidelines—eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, eat small meals often throughout...
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A Guide to “Normal” Eating

Starting out on the path to “normal” eating, you may be uncertain about what the journey entails. You expect you’ll be changing attitudes about and behavior around food, and may think that’s all you’ll be doing. The truth is that going from disregulated to regulated eating is a long, complex, process that requires a shift in numerous aspects of your life, and no one achieves complete recovery without undergoing an enormous, positive transformation. Conversely, without such an overhaul, you will never reach your eating goals. Here are some changes which lie ahead. You will have to acknowledge that moving from chronic dieting and/or overeating to “normal” eating is a lengthy process. It will not happen overnight. Plan on many months to a few years. It will not be an easy process. For many, it will be the hardest thing you ever do in your life. Changes are not only behavioral, but...
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Yet More on Legalizing Food

If you’re still struggling with food legalization, I hope you’ve read my blogs on the subject. This one builds on the previous two. Frankly, I’ve found that the concept works for some people but not for others, and it’s difficult to know in which category you fall. Finding the best path for you is yet another facet of healing from eating problems. A reminder that legalization is a concept: food is neither good nor bad and there is no imperative that one food is morally better than another. Nutritiously better, yes; morally, no. That perspective frees you up to make choices based on food preference (enjoyment) and health. However, and it’s a big caveat, you need a healthy belief system to use the concept of food legalization effectively. You have to believe 100% that there are no good or bad foods—no uncertainties allowed! Most people who jump into legalizing food still...
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More on Legalizing Food

As a first step in healing eating problems, legalizing food is a tricky and complicated business, based as much on biology as psychology. Many disregulated eaters get stuck in the effort to widen food horizons and don’t move beyond it. This blog and future ones can’t tell you exactly how to manage legalization, but will help you sort out the issues. When the concept of legalizing foods surfaced in the late 1970s/early 1980s, it was positively revolutionary. I know, I was one of those eaters who was revolutionized by it. Eat whatever you want whenever you want in whatever quantities you want—what an astounding idea! It worked for a lot of us. Merely thinking that we could eat the foods we’d forbidden ourselves enabled us not to. It took many months and years of practice to convince ourselves that all foods were fair game. I used to think, I can eat...
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Legalizing Food

When the idea of "legalizing" food was introduced some three decades ago, I was just starting to work through my own dieting/binge-eating struggles. By the time I began to treat and write about disregulated eating, I was pretty much a “normal” eater and no longer thought about food as good or bad, legal or illegal. Now, I’m concerned with how much trouble disregulated eaters have with the term legalization. For too many of you, it seems to provide license to go hog wild with food which, of course, creates more problems than solutions. My ideas on legalizing food may differ from other experts, and hopefully will help those of you who are trying to expand food options constructively. Here's what legalization means (and has always meant) to me: I have the right to and, therefore, can eat anything I want any time in any quantity. For me, legalization is a belief...
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Undereating and Food Obsession

A blog reader recently asked me to write more about undereating and the fear of becoming overweight. There are many similarities between undereaters and overeaters—using food as an emotional distraction or crutch, allowing weight to determine self-worth, dependence on inadequate life skills, and disconnection from appetite signals. However, there are also differences. Many undereaters believe they need to be in perfect control around food 24/7and obsess about it and their weight. I know, I used to be one myself. These thoughts fill up your head and dictate your life. You can’t go here or there because there might be edible temptation, food is the hollow center of your life, and the accursed enemy which must be battled daily. Societal reinforcement keeps behavior in place. Unless you’re walking skin and bones, everyone thinks it’s mahvelous how much control over food you have. After all, you are the American ideal, having vanquished your...
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Behaviors of Slim People

Keeping in mind that some 50-70% of our weight may be genetically predetermined (Rethinking Thin—The New Science of Weight Loss and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, Kolata, 2007), survey studies identify that a number of behaviors slim people do that keep them that way. Although I could quibble with one or two findings, the point is that biology is not destiny and that there are folks with some of the most challenging weight-related DNA on the planet who manage to stabilize weight at a comfortable level and still enjoy eating and life. Dr. John Foreyt, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine, maintains that people who remain thin “are eternally vigilant with daily or weekly weighing, they monitor calorie intake and they’re highly active exercising at least 60 minutes a day.” Hmm, so what of the many “normal” eaters I’ve met, whether they’ve ever had an...
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Cravings and Addictions

A message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings) member asked me to blog about cravings, compulsions, and addictions. Here’s my take. Over recent decades, scientific research has concluded that brain chemistry dictates far more of our behavior than we had previously thought. Alternately, it also stresses that we still retain free will and, fortunately, that changing behavior can modify brain chemistry. When you hear the seductive voice of leftover birthday cake calling to you from the refrigerator two rooms away, can’t stop obsessing about a watch you found on E-bay that you don’t need and in no way can afford, or feel the repeated stab of yearning for your old flame who was bad through and through, what’s going on? When you crave a food, biology is often at work—your body is triggered by low blood sugar or surging hormones or has a neurotransmitter imbalance and you seek food to alter your mood. What of...
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When You Eat

Safe to say that most of us have a typical eating schedule whether we realize it or not. Hopefully, it’s an intentional, mindful pattern, but it may also develop without much thought—when the ice cream truck rings its bell or when you stroll by Starbucks. Do you set your own schedule with an eye toward hunger, health, and satisfaction, or have you simply fallen into eating at certain times, well, just because? The answer to this question may help determine your weight. According to Prevention Magazine (March 2009), not only what or why you eat, but when you eat has a strong impact on healthy weight maintenance. Want to guess which kinds of people do better at keeping the number on the scale steady? Through a study of 3,607 women and men, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden determined that people who eat consistently at the same time every day without missing...
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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