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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 Seek Food at Night

Most dysregulated eaters don’t do a lot of mindless eating in the morning or mid-day. Some find themselves food-seeking in the late afternoon (they’re probably fatigued due to insufficient nourishment earlier in the day), but the biggest problem time for troubled eating is in the evening. Although it may be caused by a need to relieve stress or because people eat when they’re bored and lonely, hormones may be the culprit. “Hunger strikes harder after the sun goes down” by Roni Caryn Rabin (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, E14, 2/27/18) describes a small Johns Hopkins University study which “suggests that satiety hormones may be lower during the evening hours, while hunger hormones rise toward nightfall and may be stoked even higher by stressful situations. It’s not clear whether these hormonal patterns cause the binge eating behaviors or are conditioned by an individual’s eating habits. But, either way, you can get stuck in the cycle,” says...
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Do You Have Binge-eating Disorder

Half a lifetime ago, I only knew two other people, one in college and one in my mid-20s who binged on food the way I did. We all thought that there was something seriously wrong with us and never dreamed that this behavior had a clinical name. The good news is that we are all fully recovered. The bad news is that the number of people with Binge-eating Disorder is rising. In 1959, Binge-eating Disorder (BED) was described by Dr. Albert J. Stunkard. It was included in earlier versions of the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but didn’t become an official eating disorder diagnosis until 2013 as part of the DSM-5. According to “How Common Is Binge Eating Disorder in the US?” (EatingDisordersReview.com, vol. 28/No. 1, http://edr.karunaconsulting.com/common-binge-eating-disorder-us/, accessed 2/26/18), its recorded prevalence grew when its criteria were increased at that time. Criteria include bingeing at least once per week for a...
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The Realities I’ve Learned About Eating at 71

Having turned 71 in April, I’ve been a “normal” eater for more than half my life. I also know a lot about what causes dysregulated eating and what turns it around. My knowledge is scattered in the writings of my books and blogs. Here are seven simple (but not always easy) success principles: Stop focusing on weight-loss. There is simply no other way to become a “normal” eater. Said another way, it will not happen if you continue focusing on losing weight. You can wish to lose it, but it can’t be “the” goal or something you often dwell on. Wanting good health is great. Couple it with a desire to be a “normal” eater and you’ve got the two most powerful forces to improve your relationship with food. Don’t ever give up. You can give up for a few hours or days, but don’t let surrender drag into weeks. You must believe...
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Stop Making Food Your Enemy

More and more it has occurred to me that people, and not just dysregulated eaters, view food as their enemy. They use words like battle, struggle, war, and fight when talking about eating and their bodies. No wonder they’re having difficulty taking pleasure in eating. They’re generating so much negative energy toward food, eating, and their appetite that any efforts they’re making toward “normal” eating are being cancelled out. If you’re one of these people, it’s time to change your attitude toward food and your body in order to become a “normal” eater. You can do this by examining and reframing your beliefs. Here are some of the irrational, unhelpful thoughts you may currently have. Do they sound like the foundation for a positive belief system for “normal” eating? Food is the enemy.I need to fight my urges to eat junk food.If I struggle against my cravings, I’ll become a healthy eater.I feel...
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Easy Exercises for Practicing Normal Eating

There’s no way to achieve “normal” eating without practice. Here are a few simple exercises toward that end. Although I note how often to do them, practice at least as often as I recommend, but feel free to do them more often to repattern your brain.To improve at identifying fullness and satisfaction, set a practice of taking three bites of food, then stopping and putting down whatever you’re eating and noting your hunger and satisfaction levels in numbers (0-10) or words (not hungry, a bit hungry, fairly hungry, very hungry). Do this exercise at least once a day.To get better at not finishing all the food on your plate, leave a tiny bit of it every time you eat—a slice, some crumbs, a spoonful, a bite. Do this exercise at least once a day.To assess how fast you eat, when dining with others, notice how quickly or slowly they eat and pace yourself with...
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What to Focus on While You’re Eating

I recently did an eating workshop for a local organization which included us eating lunch together. As I usually do, we spent half an hour having lunch. The first 15 minutes was an exercise of eating in silence and the second 15 minutes was a discussion about what participants observed during their silent meal. The discussion was pretty much the same one I’ve had with other groups doing this exercise. I truly wished that I could have videoed those first 15 minutes and maybe someday I will, with the groups permission. What I’d really like to do (but won’t), because it would be far more beneficial for them, is to make a video without their knowing it to capture their natural style of eating. Granted that it’s likely that most participants were a bit self-conscious about eating with others and having me observe them, but I think that self-consciousness disappeared for some...
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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...
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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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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