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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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Eating Frequency

I’m often asked, “How often should I eat?” and this is a subject that frequently crops up on my message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings). It’s an important question lacking a one-size-fits-all answer. When people ask me how often they should eat, I know immediately that they are looking for an answer in the wrong place—outside themselves—rather than reflecting internally on what is right for them because the only person I can answer for is me! How often you want to (not should) eat depends on your lifestyle, hunger and activity level, interest in food, and its availability. Some people love having three meals and three snacks a day. Other folks (like me) don’t like to be hungry or full and have multiple food encounters during the day without counting. As a writer and therapist with a home office, I can take frequent breaks and have foods I love readily available. My husband generally...
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Pre-eating Meditation

If you want to put yourself in the right frame of mind for eating, try a meditation beforehand. Don’t let the word scare you. A meditation can be anything you focus your physical and mental attention on. By saying aloud the message you want to program into yourself right before eating, you increase your potential for responding to it while you’re eating, thereby heightening your awareness to better connect to appetite signals. Here are a few ideas but, please, feel free to create what suits you, because your own words will speak most passionately to your heart. “I am relaxed and peaceful and anticipate enjoying a glorious meal. I will choose foods to enjoy, then savor them. I will honor my body by giving it as much nourishment as it needs and as much pleasure as I want. I will listen to my appetite and trust it to tell me when...
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Eating Fast and Overweight

For 30 years I’ve been teaching people to slow down while they’re eating. It seems like common sense. After all, what’s the big rush? How often are we really (really, really) so harried and hurried that we can’t take time to enjoy food? Fast eating used to be just a bad habit. Now science is ringing the alarm bell and warning us that eating quickly and past full puts us at risk for becoming overweight. According to a study published October 21, 2008 in the British Medical Journal, folks who both eat quickly and until full have a three-fold risk of becoming overweight compared to people who eat more slowly and stop before fullness. The study included 3,000 Japanese adults, males and females ages 30-69. It focused on the speed with which they ate and whether they stopped before or after fullness, then correlated these activities with their BMI (Body Mass...
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Satisfying Food Choices

One night as I was heading for the kitchen cabinet containing the fat-free chocolate chip meringues I usually enjoy while watching the 11:00 news, I realized they weren’t what I was in the mood for. Usually they hit the spot and I was surprised that my body was saying, “Sweets, yuck. Go get yourself some protein.” So I had a yummy chunk of cheddar cheese and boy did it ever hit the spot. Those moments reminded me that we can become so stuck in food routines that we tune out what our bodies really want. Although we don’t know exactly what factors go into producing a strong craving for a particular food or food group, we have a pretty good idea of the influences: hunger level, hormones, foods eaten earlier in the day, activity level, mood, blood sugar, and what’s available, to name several. It’s natural to slip into food routines—a...
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Fat Cells and Hunger

More proof that appetite, metabolism and weight loss don’t function the same way for all of us. I make this point as often as I can to drive home your uniqueness and to encourage you to quit comparing your process and progress to other people’s. Comparison is one of the worst aspects of dieting—you know, that “What do you eat and how much did you lose?” discussion—and the reason that “normal” eating works because it respects your individual appetite. So, on to the scientific evidence. Studying appetite, Terry Maratos-Flier, M.D., an obesity researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and her team have reached this conclusion: ”Fat cells produce leptin, a hormone that at low levels suppresses appetite. But excess and full fat cells make so much leptin that the ‘I’m full’ signal doesn’t work well any more.” This is one explanation for overweight people who say they honestly...
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How to Stop Rebellious Eating

The last time I blogged about a rebellious food attitude, a reader said she appreciated my insights into the underlying problem, but wanted to know what to do about it. Good point. Although I can’t give you a step-by-step outline to follow, I can give you a general game plan. You will need to change your beliefs about your rights as an adult, alter your reaction of anger toward “shoulds” by separating the concept of control from caring, and do whatever you can in the moment to make mature and rational decisions about food. First, examine whether the shoe fits. Do you eat (or refuse to eat) from anger, habitually challenge healthy guidelines about food in order to prove something or to hurt or defy someone? Do you feel entitled to food or can’t stand for anyone (even yourself) to tell you what to eat? Understand why your upbringing makes you...
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Different Types of Unwanted Eating

It’s essential to understand exactly which of your eating behaviors is off the mark. Okay, I hear some of you saying, All of them. Yet many of you do fine in one kind of eating situation and are plagued by dysfunction in others. Because you can’t fix a problem until you identify it, it’s time to target which specific eating behaviors get you into trouble. You may engage in binge-eating or consuming large quantities of food regardless of hunger and satisfaction, whether you start out hungry or not. In either case, you eat with little consciousness and total abandon and keep going until the food is gone or an outside event intervenes. A binge usually generates shame and remorse—and often a stomach ache. During binges you consume thousands of calories. Then there’s garden variety overeating in which you ignore satiation signals and regularly chow down way past full. Maybe the food...
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Different Kinds of Food Problems

Linda Moran, moderator of the Diet Survivors message board at HYPERLINK "http://www.groups.yahoo.com/group/dietsurvivors" http://www.groups.yahoo.com/group/dietsurvivors, often reminds members that some folks can diet and lose weight more or less permanently—the 5% of dieters who are successful and make everyone else feel like failures. They have simpler food-related issues than the multitude who have complications. In fact, some folks have eating problems, others have weight problems, and others have eating and weight problems. People who have simple eating problems are pretty well set when they attend more to nutrition, discipline themselves better around food, and trim down portions. They find dieting relatively easy without feeling especially deprived, don’t have all-or-nothing thinking about food, and do fine with a style of eating that helps them shed pounds and feel healthier. They don’t have to white knuckle it to stick to a food plan, aren’t emotional binge-eaters, and find that healthier eating makes them feel better...
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Eating in the Dark

Everyone is telling us how to eat. If they’re not pushing advice about which foods or ingredients will ensure or compromise health or lengthen or shorten longevity, they’re giving guidance on portion size or misleadingly advising us how to feel full by tucking in a salad before a meal or drinking lots of water during one. And now we’re being told not to eat in the dark. Yup, I read it in Parade magazine. Do not, they insist, eat in the dark if you’re trying to lose weight or keep it off. Which got me thinking, because a few nights before reading this information I happen to have awakened at 3:30 in the morning because I was hungry. It’s something that occurs a few times a year, but when I toss and turn and can’t sleep because my stomach is growling, the only thing to do is get up and eat....
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What’s in Food?

On the road to “normal” eating, how much should you think about nutrition and how can that focus feed (excuse the pun) into your eating problems? Does trying to eat healthily most of the time make you feel as if you’re on a diet and push your restriction button? How much attention should you pay to possibly toxic ingredients in food? How can you balance how food affects your health and not fall into obsessing about its purity? To eat “normally,” you need to assume that all food is fair game except for those that cause allergies and sensitivities. No food is forbidden or bad. No food is good or better than any other. The philosophy of “normal” eating says that all foods are created equal. This is a difficult concept to grasp when every other news bulletin is about nutrition and healthcare providers are stuck on our weight. The approach...
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The Meaning of Food Cravings

What is the meaning of a food craving? Science has disproven the idea that craving always means nutrient deficiency—a lack of potassium drawing you to a banana or an iron deficiency driving you to order a sirloin. It can be confusing when you feel an urge to eat—whether you crave something specific like Betty Crocker brownies or have a yen for pasta—to know how to react. To follow the urge or not, that is the question. Some cravings are biologically based, such as when you haven’t eaten protein all day and go for turkey, eggs, yogurt or cheese. But how to explain what I hear all the time from clients: “If I could, I’d eat chocolate or ice cream or candy or macaroni and cheese all the time.” Would they really? Because they actually crave those foods or because they’ve been forbidden for so long they’re driven by deprivation? What should...
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Ignoring Hunger

One of the worst things you can do that ensures you won’t become a “normal” eater is to regularly ignore hunger signals. People who skip meals when they’re hungry only cause and reinforce appetite dysregulation. Frequently avoiding food when your tummy is empty is like refusing to put gas into your car and continuing to drive—eventually you’re going to run into trouble. There are several unhealthy reasons dysregulated eaters use for not eating when they’re hungry. First is that they have no time to eat. C’mon, how long does it take to toast a slice of whole grain bread for breakfast and slather it with yogurt/jam/peanut butter? To microwave veggies, a sweet potato, or eggs for lunch (and pack ‘em to go if needed)? To grab an apple, banana, or piece of cheese in the afternoon. Folks less often skip dinner, the meal they allow themselves and make time for. A...
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Tips for Stopping Eating

Of all the rules of “normal” eating, the one that gives overeaters the most trouble is stopping when they’re full or satisfied. When food tastes delicious, it can feel like agony to lay down your fork. “Normal” eaters, as well, sometimes continue eating although they’ve had enough food or just because it tastes so darned good. However, they also know how to quit while they’re ahead. Here are some tips to learn and practice. When overeaters consume too much food, it may be because they only consider the negative consequences of overeating after they’ve done it—how yucky they feel physically and the weight they’ll gain. They’re scared, but the fear of consequence comes too late to change behavior. The time to get in touch with anxiety about being stuffed or gaining weight is before eating. If you only connect to fear after eating, you’re putting the cart before the horse and...
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Hormones and Appetite

The subject of eating and hormone deficiencies is on my mind. I read about it in a Wall Street Journal article last month which concluded that appetite—no surprise—may be more about biology and biochemistry than previously thought. Days later a nutritionist colleague referred me to a website promoting a replacement for an appetite-regulating hormone some overeaters may lack. Interesting, but scary stuff, reminiscent of the nature-nurture debate—that is, how much power do we really have over our bodies? The WSJ article explains that a lack of leptin, a hormone secreted by fat cells, is one of the reasons that people regain lost weight. Leptin plays a key role in fat metabolism because its levels decrease when we lose weight, generating a host of physiological changes which promote pounds creeping back on. In studies, it doesn’t matter if people were lean or obese before losing weight. Whatever their body mass, after losing...
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Foodies

I’m intrigued by “foodies.” As I understand the word, it refers to people who are enamored with food. They love the thought of it, its wondrous variety, how it looks and smells and tastes and feels going down. They have an appreciation for fine food, including its exemplary preparation and high quality. Does their relationship with food increase or decrease eating problems among them? An interesting question. Not being a foodie (and coming from a non-foodie lineage), I can’t speak on the subject from personal experience. My expectation for food is what some have called low. It need be (not necessarily in this order): nutritious most but not all of the time, accessible, palatable, and have sticking power. If it makes my taste buds sing, all well and good. When I talk with foodies, however, I know they have an utterly different experience. They notice subtleties of flavor, texture, and presentation...
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Sugar and Cravings

An article in Environmental Nutrition (July 2008, vol. 31, No. 7) confirms that although sugar and sugary foods taste good and it can be hard to stop eating them, “you cannot get physiologically addicted to sweet foods.” Their studies conclude that “a craving for sweets…is the result of conditioning based on cultural, social, and individual cues.” More evidence that food is not physiologically addictive. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel as if you’re addicted. What you suffer from, however, is not an addiction, but a dependence. There have been controversies for decades about whether or not sugar is addictive. A study described in the article explains its negative conclusions this way: When people are addicted to a substance, getting that substance eliminates or reduces the craving (think heroin addicts getting high on a fix or alcoholics who feel great from a drink). However, when people craving chocolate were given a pill...
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Educating About “Normal” Eating

Because I’m petite and people know me as a specialist in eating disorders, when I dine with others, they often eye and comment upon my food consumption. After decades of eating under a microscope, I’m used to it, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy being scrutinized or having my food habits be the talk of the table. When you’re just starting down the road toward ”normal” eating and don’t yet have the self-trust or confidence—or the words—to respond effectively, the situation can be even harder.Recently, I was at a party and passed on having what looked like a piece of very uninspiring, unexceptional birthday cake. Immediately, people misinterpreted my decision as self-denial, assuming that I was rejecting something deliciously fattening in order to stay slim. I took the opportunity to explain that I love sweets and generally eat small amounts daily, but that this particular cake had zero appeal to me....
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Eating Habits

An article in the May/June 2008 issue of AARP’s magazine called “Eat Smart” provides interesting information about ways to change your eating if you’re looking to lose weight. My purpose in blogging about these ideas is not to emphasis a weight focus, but to help you pay more attention to your eating habits and dining environment. One area mentioned in the article is the amount and kind of noise around when you’re eating. According to studies in Northern Ireland and Canada, people eat more when there’s background noise, and loud, fast music increases consumption. It makes sense that eating would accelerate to keep pace with the music. Alternately, these studies conclude that slow, soft music isn’t optimum for eating either because it encourages us to eat slower than what we need for healthy digestion. Unconsciously, our eating either slows down or speeds up to the beat. Slow music also keeps people...
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Intuitive Eating Works

Sometimes when I hear about someone going on yet another diet or notice a “revolutionary” new weight-loss book topping the best-seller list, frankly, I feel a little blue. I’ve been teaching the “normal” eating model for 30 years and it often seems as if very little has changed in our culture in all that time regarding sensible eating (in spite of Weight Watchers new no-diet spin). I wonder and wonder when people are going to wake up and smell the coffee. Then I have an experience like one I had recently with a teletherapy client I’ve worked with for nearly a year. After decades of dieting and bingeing, he’s finally turned the corner and started to “get” what he needs to do to become a “normal” eater. He always thought weight loss was just about food and that he was a failure because he fell off the OA wagon repeatedly over...
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Eating with Others

Most of us can’t avoid eating with others and may harbor beliefs and feelings which negatively affect the experience. Whether we’re sharing a meal with family or friends, our history of and reaction to social eating can produce an enjoyable time or complete dysregulation of appetite. Understanding our responses to people-and-food situations can help adjust our perspective and make social eating occasions more comfortable. How do you feel when you know you’re going to be eating with people? Do you immediately feel excited about catching up with old chums or family members or are you filled with anxiety about food? If you don’t eat out much, do you find that scheduling dinner dates is difficult because you’re torn between enjoying social contact and fearing eating too much or “the wrong thing? No matter what your anxieties, you can address your distress beforehand by reframing irrational beliefs and practicing self-soothing behaviors. For...
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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