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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]

Chew More, Eat Less

I often say that sometimes how and what you eat is like a train’s locomotive and what you weigh is like its caboose. Not that we can always control weight by diet, as 50-70% of what we weigh may be due to genetics. However, according to new research, we may have an impact on how much (or less) food we eat just by chewing more. Here’s some of the science behind this theory from “Why slow eaters may burn more calories” by Markham Heid (Time.com Health, Diet/Nutrition, 4/12/17, accessed 9/9/17, http://time.com/4736062/slow-eater-chew-your-food/).“Some preliminary research has found that chewing until “no lumps remain” increases the number of calories the body burns during digestion: about 10 extra calories for a 300-calorie meal. Eating fast, on the other hand, barely burns any calories.” (“The number of chews and meal duration affect diet-induced thermogenesis and splanchnic circulation” by Hamada, Kashima, and Hayashi, 5/1/14, Obesity, doi: 10.1002/oby.20715) The point,...
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Why You Have to Keep Moving Toward Normal Eating

Many of my clients are making terrific progress toward “normal” eating. However, some don’t think they’re moving forward at all and lament how slow and hard the process is. Although I never would have believed at the time that the decades I engaged in mindless, emotional, and overeating (and the couple of years I had bulimia) could possibly have any value in my life, I now know that my eating disorder recovery is one of the most useful tools I have in my therapeutic toolbox. When clients rail against how ridiculous they feel when they know exactly how to eat and do the opposite, I can sympathize with them. When they complain that they’re not changing fast enough, I can tell them how well I understand their impatience. When they feel torn about continuing on the path to “normal” eating, returning to dieting or giving up on eating better, I can empathize...
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Replace Cheating with Permission to Eat

It drives me crazy how weight loss marketers keep promoting the idea of “cheat” eating. Is that how you really want to feel about enjoying food you love? The whole concept is rife with dysfunction, although I’m guessing that the intent of “cheating” with eating was meant to be benign. It’s time to stop using the word and this dangerous concept. The Oxford Living Dictionary (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cheat, accessed 8/10/17), defines cheat as follows: “Act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage” or “An act of fraud or deception.” So, when we’re told it’s okay to have a cheat day of eating or to cheat eat occasionally, we’re basically being encouraged to act fraudulently and to engage in deception, to be dishonest and take advantage. Who or what are we taking advantage of? Who is being deceived? I totally understand what the intent of cheating is in relationship to food, but it smacks...
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Psychological Shifts Toward Normal Eating and Better Mental Health

Two clients recently mentioned “feeling different about food” recently. When I asked if they could describe what the difference was, they couldn’t explain it, but were adamant that something had changed within them. That’s what we call a psychological shift and, when it happens, you may not understand what caused it, but you darn well know that it happened. I had such a shift recently while thinking about someone I knew and was fond of decades ago. I was thinking about how much fun he was and the good times we shared, when suddenly I saw him in a completely different light, as not really an honorable man. His deceitfulness suddenly completely overshadowed his fun-loving qualities, and he was no longer a man I felt fondness for, but someone who, at heart, I knew was not a very trustworthy person. And since that day, I’ve never been able to get back that...
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Good and Bad Don’t Apply to Eating

Sometimes we can’t help overhearing conversations, especially when someone is talking really loudly on their cell phone, as if they’re alone in the room. That happened to me recently, and I was dumbstruck over what I was hearing. A man was telling someone about an upcoming doctor’s appointment and this is what I heard: “My doctor is going to be really mad at me because I’ve been really bad. I’m eating all the wrong things when I promised him I’d be good. Man, have I been bad.” If I hadn’t seen that this speaker was a middle-age guy, I would have sworn I was listening to a child between 6 and 12. That’s the age when we’re often preoccupied with wishing to be good and fearing being bad. That’s the age when we don’t have a huge vocabulary and use words like “good” and “bad” because we don’t have better, more appropriate...
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How Do You Know If You Have Food Sensitivities?

It seems as if almost everyone these days has food sensitivities—or thinks they have them. Then, again, I bet there are lots of folks who never thought about the possibility who actually suffer from them. Whichever the case, most of us lump together allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities and don’t really understand the difference among them. “Getting to the bottom of food sensitivities” (Environmental Nutrition, 10/16. p.7) provides a comprehensive explanation that will help you recognize if you’re on the sensitivity continuum. “Allergies can cause an immediate measurable immune response and intolerances are delayed, reproducible symptoms often caused by the lack of an enzyme or other factor necessary to digest a food.” For example, people who lack the lactase enzyme have difficulty digesting dairy products. Others become symptomatic when they ingest chemicals like caffeine, salicylates or histamine which are naturally found in foods. Allergies and intolerances are at one end of the continuum...
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Let’s Stop Calling Food Junk

I’ve heard the term “junk food” so often that I’ve never thought much about it, except to feel antipathy toward its pejorative slant. Therefore, I was interested to read an article in ConscienHealth entitled “Junk Food, Junk Diets, and Junk Policy for Obesity” (http://conscienhealth.org/2017/01/junk-food-junk-diets-junk-policy-obesity/) based on some reviews in the International Journal of Obesity about the term. The Journal article (as described in ConscienHealth) asks, ”Is smoked salmon junk food? Its fat and salt content might meet the WHO [World Health Organization] definition. Is a rich meal at an expensive restaurant junk food? Or are we more comfortable calling a cheap meal at McDonald’s junk food?” Gregorio Milani, author of the Journal article, says: “Each food can be just a player in the field of unhealthy nutrition. No single category of food can be identified as the main guilty factor. Consequently, in addressing obesity and obesity-related diseases, we think that the term “junk food” is...
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Are You a Picky Eater?

May 1 Picky Eater blog
Image by Debbie Digioia If you’re a picky eater and would like not to be, there is hope for you! According to “Picky eating is in our genes” by Casey Seidenberg (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Health + Fitness, 12/20/16, p. E18), our taste buds may be more adaptable than we think, which was a surprise to me and good news for people who want to expand their palates. David Katz, a Yale nutritionist, told U.S. News and World Report that “when taste buds can’t be with the foods they love, they learn to love the foods they’re with.” This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, because, as Seidenberg writes, “The original job of taste buds was to help us stay alive. Familiar foods were usually recognized as delicious because they were safe; our subconscious logic told us that if they didn’t kill us the last time we ate them, they wouldn’t kills us this time....
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Guest Blog ~ Lessons from a Turkey Sandwich

by Paige O’Mahoney, MD At my most comfortable, natural weight, I knew what I was having for lunch every day. It was my third year in medical school, commonly believed to be the most stressful, but I tend to gain weight when I am stressed, so that was not the reason. And it was also not what I was eating that brought me to this comfortable, sane place with food and my body. It was how. You see, I had just started my clinical rotations. My husband and I got married over the 4th of July long weekend, he went back to school 90 minutes away, and I started my third-year clinical rotations the following Tuesday. I packed my lunch nearly every day for the next two years. During my pediatrics rotation, lunch was a turkey, lettuce and cucumber or red bell pepper roll-up on a wheat wrap with Boursin cheese, mustard and a...
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You Have the Data to Stop Dysregulated Eating

April 27th You Have the Data You NeedEating
Image by Debbie Digioia What can the way a computer learns and applies knowledge teach us about healing dysregulated eating? While reading a column entitled “Cyberwars: we must prepare ourselves for the wars of the future”, (Time, 12/26/16-1/2/17, p.25), it occurred to me that what the authors were saying about computer learning could well apply to dysregulated eaters. Hear me out and see what you think. According to authors Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, “Machine learning, or computers able to learn from data, will be essential to decoding the battlefields of the 21st century. The more attacks we endure, the more training data we will have. This means for every attempted hack of an electrical grid or intrusion on a banking system, we will better understand how these attacks work and improve our defenses.” This got me thinking about how, rather than view each troubling eating episode as a problem, you could better understand...
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How Habits and Intent Affect Snacking

6 AM HOW HABITS
Image by Debbie Digioia We generally think of snacks as small amounts of food eaten between meals. But some people (like me) eat many small “meals” a day (like, six or seven), in which case the meaning of the word starts to blur. What makes some people snack and others not? “Snacking now or later? Individual differences in following intentions or habits explained by time perspective” (now that’s a mouthful) explores into the subject based on studies whose conclusions make a great deal of sense (Appetite, by MC Onwezen, J. Van ‘t Riet, H.  vol. 107 12/1/16, pp 144-151, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2016.07.031). Basically, the authors studied people who are now-oriented from those who are future-oriented. Here’s part of the thinking: “Even when individuals are aware of long-term health effects of their diet, and form healthy intentions, they often engage in relatively unhealthy snacking habits. Some individuals fall back on unhealthy habits more easily than others.”...
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You Can Change Even Ingrained Bad Habits

BREAKING HABITS BLOG FOR 3 13 17
Image by Debbie Digioia Rather than blame and be hard on yourself for having difficulty eradicating bad habits, start by accepting that everyone has trouble changing them. Stop berating yourself for returning to the same old patterns again and again and enjoy some self-compassion for a change. If nothing else, the self-compassion will change your life for the better. And follow tips from the experts, like those below, to make behavior modification easier. “Why Is It So Hard to Break a Bad Habit” by Brandon Ambrosino (Johns Hopkins Health Review, Fall Winter 2016, pp 7-8) first talks about the purpose of habits, then moves on to explain the best, proven ways to break them. Quoting Charles Duhigg writing in The Power of Habits, he says, “Without habits, our brains would shut down, overwhelmed by the minutiae of every day life.” Understanding this concept is crucial. It’s a great deal easier to change habits...
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Please Stop Calling It Comfort Food

SAD GIRL WITH BUBBLE
 Image by Debbie Digioia As an eating disorders therapist, I am so done with hearing the term “comfort food.” I’m not only sick and tired of it, but I’m frustrated and angry that we’re still using this misnomer, if there ever was one, and about how it’s affecting our mental and physical health. As a therapist—mostly on the binge and mindless eating end of things—I can say without qualification that the troubled eaters who come to my office and read my books, do not get much genuine comfort from eating these foods. The Merriam-Webster online definition of “comfort” includes: “strengthening aid, support, consolation in time of trouble or worry, solace, a feeling of relief or encouragement, contented well-being, a satisfying or enjoyable experience.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/comfort) Let’s take a look at these definitions one at a time. Does eating non-nutritious food when you’re not hungry but have a case of the blahs or the blues...
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Can What You Eat Make You Happier?

If you were convinced that certain foods could increase your happiness, would you eat them? Science tells us that there’s a link between the foods we eat and how good we feel (HealthNews, “Want to Feel Good? Eat More Fruits and Vegetables,”10/16, p. 3). It might surprise you to find out what those foods are.Dysregulated eaters might assume that foods that are high in sugar and fat would raise our spirits. The fact is that a “new study (from the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health) reveals that eating up to eight daily servings of fruits and vegetables provides a ‘happiness’ factor that kicks in within 24 months.” Wait two years, you may think, to feel happy? No way. Fortunately, that’s not what the study is saying. It states that, “Happiness, or well-being increased incrementally for each extra daily serving of fruit and vegetables, up to eight servings...
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Book Review – Getting Over Overeating for Teens

I wish I’d had a book like Getting Over Overeating for Teens by Andrea Wachter, LMFT, as a teenager when my dysregulated eating began. Maybe I’d never have become a chronic dieter or a binge-eater. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to struggle for decades to become a “normal” eater. Without talking down to them, the book is written in a language that teens will understand and is divided into four easy-to-focus-on sections.Section 1, Healing What You’re Feeling, explains how teens (adults, too!) may think that they need to make uncomfortable feelings go away because they’re wrong to have or because they believe they can’t handle them. Wachter explains how to ride out waves of distress and encourages readers to recognize and accept emotions rather than to eat over them. She includes workbook exercises to promote understanding, tolerating, and dealing with emotions.Section 2, Pay No Mind to Your Unkind Mind, describes how...
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How to Make Better Eating Choices

Many dysregulated eaters choose and eat foods impulsively. They see food and grab it. Or they wait until they’re too hungry to think straight and go for what’s quickest to prepare or easiest to swallow. To turn around these behaviors, researchers explain how planning ahead helps to make wiser food choices.“Try planning your meal before you get hungry” by Roni Caryn Rabin (Sarasota Herald Tribune, 8/23/16, E24) describes why thinking about food ahead of time improves our ability to choose better foods for ourselves. Carnegie Mellon University experiments “found that when there was a significant delay between the time people ordered their food and the time they planned on eating it, they chose lower-calorie meals. What was interesting, researchers said, was that the participants were not making a conscious choice to order less. Most didn’t even realize they were choosing lower-calorie options.”Eric M. VanEpps, a postdoctoral student who led the experiments,...
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“Normal” Eating Means Following All Four Rules

A complaint I often hear when dysregulated eaters embark on “normal” eating is that, once they give themselves permission to eat whatever they want, they eat without restraint and gain weight. I turns out that they’re following rule #2, choosing foods they think they’ll enjoy, but not rules #1, 2, and 4. So, here’s a mini-refresher course. You can read or reread The Rules of “Normal” Eating for a more comprehensive review.When you begin trying to eat intuitively or what I’d call in a normal, regulated manner, do you attend to the rule that says to eat mostly when you’re moderately hungry? This means not seeking food until and unless your body craves it enough to maximally enjoy it. It does not mean to jump at a chance to eat because you had one measly hunger pain. Nor does it mean to wait to eat until you think you may faint...
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I’m Not a Foodie, So Sue Me

I still vividly recall a heavenly, exotic chicken-peanut dish I ate when I was bumped up to first class on a Portuguese airline in my early twenties, a mouth-watering Napoleon that was nearly the highlight of a cruise in my fifties, and I practically purr when I sink my teeth into raw sweet corn on the cob or pop some juicy grapes into my mouth. Yet, no one ever would mistake me for a foodie. Food does the trick when I’m hungry, I prefer that it tastes good, is nutritious and nourishes me, and I love to eat dinner out (aka be cooked for), but beyond that, eating is not an activity that lights up my life. Because of this, quite frankly, at times I feel totally out of step with our culture.My maternal grandmother had a part-time cook and, while my mother was never at her most confident or happy...
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How to Think Like a “Normal” Eater

I’m sure that it will come as no surprise that “normal” eaters think differently about food than you do. Research from Cornell University’s online Global Healthy Weight Registry, designed to “find out how thin people are able to maintain a healthy weight for their entire lives,” lays out their commonalities. (“Skinny folks share their secrets in a study” by Marilynn Preston, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 3/15/16, E16)It’s important to note that the study’s conclusions were drawn from a very small sample, 147 adult volunteers, and that they were both thin and healthy. Please note that I’m not promoting thinness here, only health, because thin does not equate to health.Here are some statistics from the study’s “healthy and thin responders”:96% report eating a healthy breakfast90% exercise, with 42% doing it five or more times a weekThe majority make sure to eat vegetables at dinner and salads at lunch92% say they’re mindful of what they...
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Stop Comparing – Our Idiosyncratic Bodies and Food Needs

I’ve heard many people of higher weight say that they really don’t think they eat more or more unhealthfully than thinner folks—and now science has proven them right. “Not all dieters are created equal” by Tina Hesman Saey (Science News, 1/9/16, p. 8) explains how we have differing metabolic responses to food, particularly to sugar, and provides one more reason to stop comparing our eating and our bodies.“People’s blood sugar rises or falls differently even when they eat the same fruit, bread, desserts, pizza and many other foods, researchers reported in the November 19 Cell. The discovery came after fitting 800 people with blood glucose monitors for a week. The people ate standard breakfasts supplied by the researchers. Although the volunteers all ate the same food, their blood glucose levels after eating varied dramatically.” The researchers’ conclusion: “blood sugar spikes after eating depend ‘not only on what you eat, but how...
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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