karen header 3

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]

Stop Fear of Judgment with Self-compassion

Many dysregulated eaters fear not only their self-judgments but, worse, they dread others condemning and belittling them for what they say and do. Do you know what the best protection—no, make that the only protection—is from others’ judgments? It’s having self-compassion for ourselves no matter what. Think of self-compassion as a soft but tough, tear-proof protective armor surrounding you. People may hurl slings and arrows at you, but with it you walk around unafraid, unfazed, and unharmed. You don’t judge others for judging you nor do you judge yourself for your mistakes or what others think are your frailties or failures. In a perpetual state of safety and security, no judgments can touch you. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to live? Here’s an example of how to use self-compassion. Say that while visiting, one of your parents makes a comment about how your house could be cleaner, demanding to know...
Continue reading
0
  1205 Hits
  0 Comments

What Does Emotional Health Look Like?

I often get the impression that clients don’t really understand what it looks or feels like to be emotionally healthy. Of course, emotional health runs on a continuum; there is no one person who exemplifies it to perfection. But, the same way that people may eat differently yet “normally,” emotional health has certain hallmarks. Here are examples: You take the long view of your wildly dysfunctional childhood and don’t let it get in the way of having a functional adulthood. That was then and this is now. The pain and suffering you endured through absolutely no fault of your own but through random bad luck is over because you avoid dwelling on painful memories, avoid people who hurt you, and know how to handle emotional wounding better than you did as a child. You blame neither your parents nor yourself for your deficits, but strive to overcome them. You know your...
Continue reading
0
  809 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Stop Memory Triggers Leading to Emotional Dysregulation

To avoid getting triggered by intense emotions from traumatic memories, it’s vital to recognize when we’re in recall, accessing emotions about an event that is over and done with, or in reality, what we call the now or the present. Much of my work with clients about regulating emotions (and ending mindless eating) is preventing slippage into recall and, instead, staying in reality. To do this, we must be able to recognize the hallmarks of both states. If this idea is new to you, read these blogs before continuing: Current versus Memory-Triggered Emotions and Clearing Emotional Pain. I’m often asked how to know when you’re in recall or reality. The answer is that you’re in recall when your internal distress is intense and out of proportion to the current situation. You don’t get invited to a party and feel devastated and unloved, just like when you were a little girl and...
Continue reading
0
  1180 Hits
  0 Comments

Learning Emotional Health from Animals

Want to enhance your mental health—which can’t help but improve your relationship with food? If animals could speak about mental health, here’s the advice I imagine they’d give. If you have a pet, observe him or her to see if you agree.Animals take the attitude of that’s life. If my cat goes to her dish and it’s devoid of food, she might circle around me once or twice, but then she moves on to other things. She’s got more to do than sulk or be angry or try to analyze what’s wrong with me or the world—or herself—when she doesn’t get what she wants. Instead, she has a snooze, plays with her toys, stares out the window, or heads outside to lounge in a shady or sunny spot (depending on the weather) on our lanai. Here’s what she doesn’t do: ruminate about why I didn’t feed her or whether she’ll ever...
Continue reading
0
  842 Hits
  0 Comments

To Grow Emotionally, Learn Something New

As a senior, I often hear and read how learning something new improves cognition and memory. Even if you have yet to reach the age where you need to shore up your mental facilities, there are still excellent reasons to take part in learning because of the emotional skills you develop in overcoming frustration, shame, envy, internal conflicts about success and failure, and understanding the concept of baby steps. I’ve been learning about learning through resuming tap lessons after a hiatus of some 20 years. I studied tap seriously as a child, then dabbled with it over the decades, making so little progress that I never got beyond the level of advanced beginner. After taking lessons for more than a year now, I’m finally a lower intermediate! But back to how new learning—what tap still feels like to me—promotes new emotional skills. First, I had to get over entering a class...
Continue reading
0
  894 Hits
  0 Comments

Mastering Dealing with Emotions

It’s important to allow yourself to acknowledge every emotion. I can’t tell you how manytimes clients say to me, “You’ll think I’m terrible, but I was feeling such and such.” And Ialways reply, “I don’t think you’re terrible. I think you have the hang of what to do withfeelings which is to know what you feel.” Here’s why it’s critical to do so. Our emotionalworld is the only place where we can be completely free. Inside our heads or hearts, tospeak metaphorically, is a land of liberty. After all, you can’t actually say or do whateveryou want without experiencing repercussions. But acknowledging what you feel simplygives you information—as long as you don’t dwell on upsetting feelings. Sometimes thatinformation is what to do with the feeling—explore it or ditch it—but how can you knowwhat action to take if you don’t have a clue what you’re feeling? For example, I have a client...
Continue reading
0
  720 Hits
  0 Comments

How Looking Good on the Outside and Falling Apart on the Inside May Lead to Mindless Eating

I treat many clients who are successful and look great from the outside—well put together and functioning at a high level—but feel like a total and utter mess inside. They are well liked and appear to handle life superbly, while in reality they are anxious much of the time and often even depressed. One of the ways they manage their well protected, hidden inner turmoil is through mindless eating. To a person, these clients had difficult childhoods in which they could not express their authentic selves due to a rigid environment which brooked no challenge or dissent. Maybe it was Mom who needed to have everything go her way or she flew into a rage. Or Dad who maintained tight control over everyone in the household and losing his temper meant emotional or physical abuse to those who upset him. Can you see how this environment would produce children who obeyed,...
Continue reading
0
  1563 Hits
  0 Comments

More on Food and Mood

Please know that you’re not crazy if you eat when you’re upset. Food does make us feel better for a number of reasons, among which is that it lifts our mood. However, as you know, it also may make your mood plummet after you’ve eaten (heavily of fat or sugar) or overeaten. Here are some insights on the subject from “Mood, food, and obesity” by Minati Singh (Frontiers in Psychology, 9/1/14, doi: 10.3389/pfsyg.2014.00925). First off, here’s a description of the mechanism for why you feel better when you eat emotionally: “Food is a potent natural reward and food intake is a complex process. Reward and gratification associated with food consumption leads to dopamine (DA) production, which in turn activates reward and pleasure centers in the brain. This type of repetitive behavior . . . leads to the activation of brain reward pathways that eventually overrides other signals of satiety and hunger.”...
Continue reading
0
  517 Hits
  0 Comments

Intellectual versus Emotional and Social Intelligence

Clients often complain that their partners tout how smart they are and insist that their high intellect makes them right more often than wrong. While some folks might be cowed by intellectual heights, the truth is that people who use it to dominate others are actually low on emotional intelligence, however dazzling their brainpower might be. Daniel Goleman, author of one of my favorite books, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, defines emotional intelligence or EQ, “a trait not measured by IQ tests, as a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships.” You know people who have it when you’re with them. They’re comfortable with just about anyone in any situation, are as interested in you as they are in sharing about themselves, have curiosity about humanity in general, and know how to make the kinds of connections that...
Continue reading
0
  881 Hits
  0 Comments

Are Comfort Foods a Myth?

We talk about “comfort foods” all the time. Most of us like ‘em creamy, full of fat, and sweet to beat the band. Although our choice of comfort foods vary, we all have some image in mind when we think of them. And we all base eating them for comfort on the assumption that they, and only they, are the foods which will make us feel better. Not so, is the surprising conclusion of “The Myth of Comfort Food” (Wagner, Heather Scherschel; Ahlstrom, Britt; Redden, Joseph P.; Vickers, Zata; Mann, Traci, Health Psychology, 8/18/14, retrieved from APA PsycNET 9/5/14).This study looked at whether so-called comfort foods actually provided psychological benefits to people, in particular, enhancing their moods better than other foods or no foods at all. Study participants completed a questionnaire specifying their comfort foods and various comparison foods. Then, after viewing films that triggered negative affect, they were divided into...
Continue reading
0
  594 Hits
  0 Comments

What You Should Know about Mirror Neurons

What do mirror neurons have to do with eating? Quite a bit, says Megan Ross, PhD candidate, LPC, R-DMT, GL-CMA of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center in “Mirror Neurons in Eating Disorder Treatment.” Located in the brain, “mirror neurons respond to the movement of another living being.” In this process, the neurons in one animal (human or otherwise) may get triggered just by watching the actions of another animal.” During 1990s testing on monkeys, scientists found that a monkey watching a buddy eat a banana activated neurons in its brain as if it, too, were eating a banana. Daniel Goleman in Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships explains why this is. His explanation is that brains have come to synchronize themselves to other brains to form cohesive bonds in society for survival.How this may affect us as eaters is enlightening. Generally people with eating disorders have all-or-nothing, this-way or...
Continue reading
0
  1508 Hits
  0 Comments

Genetic Links to Procrastination and Impulsivity

Do you procrastinate? Are you impulsive? Both traits may make it difficult to become a “normal” eater and there’s research that says you may have come by them genetically. In “Like to put things off? Now you can blame your parents,” Alison Griswold (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 4/29/14, p. 21E) says that the traits of procrastination and impulsivity are considered “moderately heritable,” that is, at about the 50% mark. According to Daniel Gustavson, the lead author of a paper in Psychological Science, “genetically they (ie, these traits) seem to be related, which suggests that they’ve sort of evolved together…what makes people procrastinate and what makes them impulsive might be their specifically forgetting about their goals.” The 50% of the trait that isn’t directly inherited is likely acquired through socialization by parents who either had procrastination and impulsivity problems, and modeled this dysfunctional behavior for you, or who imposed strict, brook-no-dissent rules which made...
Continue reading
0
  847 Hits
  0 Comments

What’s Your Normal?

If you’re being emotionally, verbally, physically or sexually abused by your partner, you’ll likely have difficulty becoming a “normal” eater because of what you accept as “normal” in your domestic life. Several points about such misperceived normalcy were made in Time magazine (9/22/14) after the release of the video of NFL player Ray Rice beating up his then fiancé Janay Palmer and speak to the plight of the victims of abuse. One of the take home messages in the article is about what seems normal in the lives of people, mostly women, who are abused. There’s a frightening perceived normalcy about how they’re mistreated, a case of the emperor’s new clothes. When everyone else can see how poorly you are treated and condemns your partner’s actions (either because they see what’s going on or because you’ve told them), what keeps you in denial? I believe it’s the fact that being abused...
Continue reading
0
  541 Hits
  0 Comments

Eating Due to Envy or Jealousy

In their words or tone, I often hear clients express envy and jealousy which may trigger unwanted eating. They may not realize that this is what they’re experiencing, but these emotions are worth exploring to learn about yourself and end non-hunger eating. Envy means “bearing a grudge toward someone due to coveting what that person has or enjoys” or “the longing for something someone else has without any ill will intended toward that person.” Envy involves two parties—you yearn for the promotion your co-worker received or the house your best friend just bought. You don’t necessarily dislike people for having or obtaining these things, but might wish you were them. Jealousy means being “apprehensive or vengeful out of fear of being replaced by someone else.” It is an emotion tinged with fear, especially of losing something or someone you love. Jealousy involves three parties and makes you feel less than and...
Continue reading
0
  917 Hits
  0 Comments

Anxiety and Eating

Most of my clients with disregulated eating worry a good deal about doing things right, being “good,” pleasing others, and the future turning out okay. And these anxieties drive non-hunger eating. Moreover, feeling weak, inept and defective that they can’t better “control” their worries causes them additional anxiety. A helpful book, one I read recently, is My Age of Anxiety—Fear, hope, dread, and the search for peace of mind by Scott Stossel (2013, Alfred A. Knopf: NY). It may not reduce your anxiety per se but it will lessen your belief that it’s all your fault and that there’s nothing you can do about it. Referring to genetic studies, Stossel says, “Research like this suggests that your susceptibility to nervous breakdown is strongly determined by your genes. Certain genotypes make you especially vulnerable to psychology breakdown when subjected to stress or trauma; other genotypes make you naturally resilient…certain gene combinations program...
Continue reading
0
  574 Hits
  0 Comments

Stop Fearing Rejection

I can’t blog about eating without mentioning feelings and I can’t speak about them without talking about rejection which often propels us right toward the cookie jar. The problem isn’t rejection per se, but the (negative) meaning you make of it because you’ve either had too much or too little of it. So here’s the best way to view rejection. Advice Goddess Amy Alkon says it better than I ever could in her Sarasota Herald-Tribune column of 6/12/14 (page 49E). Responding to a letter from a man complaining about being rejected by a woman, she speaks of being “rejection-avoidant” which means steering clear of situations in which you might be hit with a “no.” Says Alkon, “constantly flipping the bird at your fears and taking social risks is how you get okay enough with rejection to live your life like you’ll be dead soon instead of like you’re dead now…Getting comfortable...
Continue reading
0
  420 Hits
  0 Comments

Eating and Aloneness

What is it about being alone or not busy that drives disregulated eaters to eat? I don’t have the exact answer to that question, but I have some ideas about it. If this has been a problem for you, it’s time to figure out what’s going on and make some changes. It’s common for me to have several clients a week who lament their ability to stay away from food when they’re home with nothing to do. Part of what’s going on for them is an uncomfortable transition from being busy to not busy. Perhaps some people are simply more sensitive to pace of living, while others are hyper aware of changes in temperature or are deeply affected by attractive or ugly surroundings. So, maybe you have a heightened sensitivity to fluctuations in the pacing of your life. Another issue is what it was like for you to be alone as...
Continue reading
0
  868 Hits
  0 Comments

Envy

A client sharing her problem with envy discovered it was actually a dual problem. First, hate that she coveted what someone else had—in this case, thinness—and, second, her shame about experiencing envy made her feel worse about herself. Her feelings got me wondering how many of you also struggle with envying people with thinner bodies and whether you, too, dislike yourself for having this emotion. My discussion with my client we’ll call “Jane” made me curious about what people truly want when they covet other people’s slimmer or fitter shells. What about you? Do you wish to have their actual body or do want your own trimmed down, toned version? Jane and I discussed what she was willing to go through to get what she perceived a thinner person did to get such a body. Did it involve “normal” eating or more, such as starvation, over-exercising, deprivation, purging or laxatives. What...
Continue reading
0
  1083 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Make Yourself Miserable

I got a chuckle out of reading an article on misery which really hit home shortly after listening to a man in the supermarket 10-items-or-less checkout line yell at the woman ahead of him for having 12 items, then storm out of the store. He was a misery expert. Here are some steps master family therapist Cloe Madenes puts forth for making yourself miserable, as laid out in her guide, “Honing Your Misery Skills” and summarized by Marilyn Preston in “8 easy steps to making yourself miserable” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Health/Fitness, 2/18/14).Blame your parents for all your problems. After all they begat and made you who you are today. Avoid taking responsibility for yourself.Complain as often as you can about being bored and how unexciting life is. Perhaps even create a crisis or two to perk yourself up. Do something that will bring a shift in your life, even if it’s not...
Continue reading
0
  813 Hits
  0 Comments

Feeling Anxious versus Feeling Fine

Most of my clients over the decades have had high anxiety which has, in part, driven them to non-hunger eating. While I believe that there’s a genetic, neurobiological component to anxiety, I also know that it’s triggered by irrational beliefs that escalate, rather than de-escalate, distress and stress. Here’s a way out of anxious moments. Anxiety is a perceived sense of a general threat to self, while fear is a specific one. You may fear particular events like being bitten by a dog, getting an injection, having Uncle Bill pinch you as he did when he got drunk when you were a child. Alternately, you may be anxious in vaguer, more general situations—around strangers or in circumstances in which you need to perform or don’t have control. Get the difference? When you’re anxious, you “leave” the present and “enter” a mental future. To remain present, you need to observe how you...
Continue reading
0
  465 Hits
  0 Comments

shelf new

EBProfessionalBadgeLarge

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