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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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Best Advice for Holiday Eating

I don’t usually blog about weight, but here’s some great advice for holiday eating and sanity from an article entitled, “Can you enjoy the season without weight gain?” by Gabriella Boston (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 12/16/15, 13E). No preaching, I promise!“It’s better to eat normally during the day [of a cocktail party] and not go to the party starving,” says Anne Mauney, RD, “adding that it’s hard to “slow down and eat mindfully when you’re starving.” Instead, she recommends eating a big salad with lots of protein during the day because cocktail party fare is usually carbs and sugars.“Mindful eating includes noticing the smells, flavors, textures and colors of the food as well as eating more slowly. Along with more enjoyment, mindful eating has been associated with a better ability to self-regulate,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, RD. Scritchfield suggests alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and showing up hungry for a sit-down dinner or...
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More Bad News about Multitasking and Eating

Are you a habitual multitasker? More to the point regarding your food problems, how does it affect your ability to eat mindfully? I am now able to eat, and by that I mean eat “normally,” while doing any activity because for many years I practiced eating without distraction until eating mindfully became ingrained. However, you will never get to this point unless you eat with a sole focus on this one activity for quite a long while. In his book, The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin, a McGill University professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience, tells us why doing several activities at one time does not work: “We now know that the brain doesn’t multitask. Rather, the brain shifts rapidly from one thing to the next. That causes us to not be able to focus attention on any one thing, and this dividing of our attention makes us less efficient. The reason...
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More on the Do or Don’t Breakfast Debate

My October 20 blog, Do You Need to Eat Breakfast?, gave one (surprising) evidence-based answer to this question about our morning meal: eating breakfast is not essential for good health. Now come more studies saying, not so fast, that breakfast is, after all, an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Rather than get angry or frustrated that there is no “right” answer, appreciate the beauty of science testing hypotheses and coming to new conclusions due to new evidence. Let your critical thinking skills (my new book, Outsmarting Overeating, due out January 13, has an entire chapter devoted to improving critical thinking skills as a way to eat “normally”) analyze what you read and come to your own conclusion—which may be that the jury is still out on the question. Heather Leidy, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at Missouri University, reports that “’research showed that people experience a dramatic decline...
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Solitude and Mindless Eating

Many of you do fine with food when you’re busy with activities or socializing with people, but as soon as you’re alone, you get all squirrely and head for the fridge. Well, it turns out that humans seem to have a bias against solitude, according to “People find solitude distressing” (Science News, 8/9/14, p. 12). Perhaps better understanding how humans—and how you—feel about solitude will help you avoid mindless eating. Says Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, “The human mind wants to engage with the world.” He and his colleagues maintain that thoughts are difficult to control, as is trying to make sure they’re pleasant. It helps to hear that this is true so that we don’t think we’re the only ones trying—and failing—to keep a clear and positive mindset. Wilson goes on to say that “Mammalian minds evolved to track external dangers and opportunities. Only humans acquired...
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Slow Down Your Eating

Slowing down your eating is one of the most effective ways to enjoy food more and, if it is your goal, to eat less. Need proof? Here’s a summary of a brief article, “Not so fast” (Nutrition Action Healthletter, 5/14, p. 8, source: J. Acad. Nutr. Diet: 114: 393, 2014). “Eating slowly may help you eat less. Scientists offered 35 normal-weight and 35 overweight or obese men and women a huge portion of the same lunch (pasta with tomatoes, olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic, herbs, and spices) on two separate occasions. On the ‘fast’ eating day, the participants were told to eat their lunches as quickly as possible without feeling uncomfortable, to take large bites and chew quickly, and to not pause or put down their utensils between bites. They typically finished eating in 9 minutes. On the ‘slow’ eating day, they were told not to rush, to take small bites...
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Real Hunger

Several months ago I had intestinal testing which involved 24 hours of fasting, including some hours with liquids but mostly without. Being forced to abstain from food reminded me of what appetite, especially true hunger, is all about. Knowing I’d be hungry and permitted to eat a “light” breakfast and lunch, I tried to bulk up in preparation for a day without nourishment. I usually eat small amounts every few hours or so because that’s how my body likes to take in food. I don’t care to be full because it reminds me of my binge-eating days and I don’t like to feel starving because it reminds me of my dieting days. So frequent, small meals suit me perfectly. Before I talk about my hunger, let me back up a bit and describe what it was like to eat prophylactically and be stuffed with food. Suddenly I was super conscious of...
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Duh and Re-duh on Eating

It’s very common as you’re learning new behaviors to make the same “errors” around food repeatedly. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid. It simply takes a good deal of practice for the brain to rewire. Not being hard on yourself in the process will help you learn faster. I call this repetition of learning experiences duh and re-duh, meaning that you realize you’ve made a choice not in your best interest yet do it again—and again. Maybe it’s swinging by Dairy Queen after work, bringing the bottle of wine and bag of chips along with you as you watch evening TV, or skipping breakfast and ending up so famished at before lunch that you mindlessly grab a donut or two when you pass by the break room. Each time this happens, post-eating you realize that the outcome is the same—the triumvirate of regret, guilt and shame. Yet, each time before the event,...
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Eating at the Homes of Others

I had an experience dining at the house of a friend that was echoed by an eating problem a client brought in to discuss. It’s a frequent occurrence: you’re invited to a party, dinner, or brunch at someone’s home and wonder how to handle eating. There is no one way, but it’s worthwhile to explore several approaches to this common situation. First off, if you know people well, you can ask what food will be served and the approximate time of the meal. At the least, you can inquire about the what if not the when. In my case, I was invited to a late lunch and I’m used to eating my mid-day meal around noon. Knowing I had to adjust my schedule or I’d be starving by the time we ate, I had a late breakfast. So, think about timing and how that will work with your usual eating hours....
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There May Be an On-off Switch for Eating

Many disregulated eaters say they feel as if they have an on-off switch with eating. Now, it seems that researchers may have found evidence to back up this belief. At least in mice, there seems to be an open-shut valve when it comes to food. Through experiments which compelled full mice to keep eating and hungry mice to avoid food, researchers have identified the cells that control our appetite switch. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists used a laser on the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (or BNST) in the brains of mice to either excite or quiet them (Science News, 11/2/13, “On-off switch for eating discovered”). “When a laser activated these BNST neurons, the mice became ravenous…As soon as you turn it on, they start eating and they don’t stop until you turn it off,” says Garret Stuber, one of the study leaders. The laser also was...
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When You Eat Makes a Difference

There’s been a debate raging for decades about whether it matters for weight loss what time you eat. Some experts say yes and some no. Not that I’m pushing weight loss here, because I’m not, but if you’re trying to shed pounds, it pays to know what will help and hinder that process. A new study says that when you eat does make a difference. “A study in the International Journal of Obesity lends supports to the idea that eating earlier in the day is better, at least if you are trying to lose weight.” (University of CA, Berkeley Wellness Letter, 11/13, page 4). In fact, according to researchers, “the timing of the main meal by itself seems to be the most determinant factor in weight-loss effectiveness, and therefore eating at the right time may be a relevant factor to consider in weight-loss therapies.” I don’t do weight-loss therapy or coaching,...
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Feeding Kids to Be “Normal” Eaters

If you’re a parent, you’re probably concerned about teaching your kids to be “normal” eaters. Of course, you wonder how you could possibly raise a child without food problems when you have them yourself and have been confused about eating for most of your life. Here are some tips to guide you. First, off realize that it’s a myth that kids don’t like and won’t eat vegetables and that they crave only sugary, fat-laden treats. Please, it’s been in our DNA for hundreds of thousands of years to consume a plant-based diet. That’s most of what was available way back when and we’ve evolved fairly well eating fruits and vegetables. So, understand from the get go that most kids find nothing inherently wrong with them.    According to “Getting your children to eat their veggies” (Sarasota Herald Tribune, 8/13/13), research supports the following rules: “Grown ups and kids eat the same...
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Appetite and the Brain

I hesitate writing about some of the biology related to eating and weight because I don’t want readers to feel that their biology is fixed and a done deal. There are genetic and metabolic factors which strongly influence appetite and body size, but lifestyle still plays a large role in both. I blog about biology because I want readers to be well informed. The article “Gut brain link tied to overeating” by Cristy Gelling (Science News, 10/5/13) describes how overeating can be, in part, caused by faulty communication between the gut and brain. Experiments on mice may lead to a strategy of repairing that faulty communication in compulsive eaters. Here’s the gist of the study done with mice based on the supposition that “the more food a person consumes, the less responsive the brain becomes to the pleasure of eating.” In these experiments, it turns out that “by restoring normal communication...
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Rules for “Normal” Holiday Eating

Here are my rules for “normal” holiday eating. Study them now and review every day through the holidays. Say them aloud. Carry them with you. Make them your bible. Think of food as delicious and nutritious, nothing more. It has no value beyond these two attributes. It will neither solve your problems nor lift your mood. Don’t restrict what you eat over the holidays. “Putting foods on a do-not-eat list only makes you crave them more, according to a Canadian study, and Israeli scientists found that having a little bit of sweets every day helped dieters shed 15 pounds more on average than those who didn’t indulge in desserts.” (TIME, 12/9/13, p. 18)Eat slowly and mindfully and savor every bite. Make sure you’re enjoying what you’re eating. Unless you’re starving, if it’s not fabulous, stop eating it. Visualize yourself feeling and acting relaxed around all foods no matter what your dining...
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The Idea of Food

Clients keep teaching me more and more about dysfunctional eating. For instance, that it’s not really food that compulsive or emotional eaters want but the idea of what they wish/hope/perceive food will bring them. This is a crucial distinction. Disregulated eaters turn to food to relax, unwind, kick back, let loose, de-stress, whatever you want to call it. This is what you’re seeking, what you erroneously perceive as the end result of eating or of eating particular kinds of foods. When we’re hungry, our bodies signal wanting food through rumbling bellies, hollowness in the chest, headaches, and light-headedness. When hungry, our bodies aren’t satisfied by watching TV or taking a walk. Alternately, stress signals that our bodies need to relax. When we dive head first into a box of past-the-pull date, tasteless dry cereal, we can’t possibly be into “the food.” Or when we snarf down the leftover crackers we’re putting...
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The Food Industry and Your Bliss Point

I don’t know about you, but I get really, really angry when I read about how the food industry steers us toward eating high fat/sugar/salt food. The truth is that what seems like a conspiracy to tempt you with sweets and treats is actually a conspiracy. The best way to defend against being manipulated is to know the truth about the industry’s goals and methods—and to use your critical thinking skills to avoid being manipulated. According to a review of SALT SUGAR FAT: HOW THE FOOD GIANTS HOOKED US by Michael Moss (Psychotherapy Networker, “The taste bud conspiracy” by Diane Cole, 7-8/2013), “The food industry has meticulously researched and orchestrated our cravings for food.” Uh huh. And here you thought it was simply your lack of “will power” or “self-discipline” that’s driven your compulsive eating. Of course, you want to be accountable for your behavior, but be careful not to blame...
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Eat-i-o-syncracies

Let’s face it, we all have our own eat-i-o-syncracies, our unique eating habits that are not only particular to us but sometimes downright peculiar. That’s okay. They’re nothing to be ashamed of and even may make eating more pleasurable. They sure do for me. This subject came up when I was talking with a client who’s trying her darndest to eat vegan. I know how difficult that can be, as my husband enjoys following a mostly vegetarian regimen. First off, that means he often eats foods that others don’t (tempeh anyone?) and doesn’t eat foods that they do (such as turkey at Thanksgiving). Second, he’s very concerned about how food is prepared (the amount of salt, type of oil used for cooking, etc.). Third, people think of him as a very fussy (albeit extremely healthy) eater. My client had a similar approach to food, but felt uneasy burdening food preparers and...
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No Need to Trust Your Appetite

So many disregulated eaters want desperately to trust their appetite. However, focusing on trusting it per se is nothing but a red herring. Rather than trust it, you need only to follow it because it knows what it’s doing whether you trust it or not. Say, you’re driving and get a flat, so you open your trunk to get out a tire iron. To fix your flat, do you need to trust the tire iron or use it to loosen the lug nuts? I’d say, those nuts aren’t budging unless you put that iron into action. Maybe you think the tire iron is old and rusted and won’t work. Doubt makes no difference. Trusting or believing isn’t going to get you back on the road. If you want to fix the flat, you’ll have to use the iron to the best of your ability to loosen those lug nuts. Similarly, you...
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Body Posture and Cravings

Disregulated eaters often find that tips and techniques in managing cravings are as useful as understanding what drives unwanted eating. We know that our mental attitude affects how we feel in our bodies and vice versa, but what about our posture? Could that affect our emotions and actions around food? Turns out that it might. In “The right stance can be reassuring” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 6/11/13, Health and Fitness, p. 7E), Kate Murphy reports that “expansive postures release a flood of hormones that make you feel more positive and at ease. Striking a commanding pose can change how you perceive yourself….” She says that recent studies suggest that “posture may precipitate, rather than just reflect emotions. How you carry yourself can actually change your mood, which greatly affects how you approach situations and solve problems…” This makes sense. Think of what actors do to get into playing a part: they walk or...
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Food and Eating Myths

I love good fiction, but when it comes to eating and food, give me the unvarnished truth every time. Here are some surprising facts on the subject from the Nutrition Action Newsletter (June, 2013). At least they’re considered true for now, but who knows what will be when the next batch of scientific studies come along. Do emotional eaters only overeat when they’re unhappy? According to the results of a Dutch study, they overeat when they’re happy too. Study participants were shown upbeat and downbeat film clips, offered sugary/salty/fatty foods and filled out pre-and post-questionnaires about their moods. Those who indicated they were emotional eaters and watched the upbeat clips ate more than those who watched the downbeat clips. Non-emotional eaters ate the same number of calories whichever clip they watched. So stay aware of the potential for emotional eating when you’re happy.Does skipping breakfast put weight on you? Although some...
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Being Guided by Your Appetite Wherever You Go

Many disregulated eaters are wildly influenced by how folks around them eat. If people eat healthfully, they do too. If folks eat carelessly, they struggle with how to eat or give up and go with the mindless flow. Fact is, we carry our appetite with us wherever we go to always guide our eating. I was reminded of this truth when we had friends staying with us who were about to visit other friends and remarked on the difference in eating experiences in both places. My husband and I generally eat healthfully by choosing foods which nourish our bodies and we focus on satisfying food experiences. In contrast, my friends’ other friends ate a lot of “junk” food and ignored the rules of “normal” eating. At our home, our friends enjoyed having nutritious food choices available and doing pleasurable activities with us besides eating, but were anxious about how they would...
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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