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]

Are You Hung Up on Resentments

Are you someone who views the world as a hostile place and is full of resentments? If so, you might be setting yourself up for unnecessary internal distress. And you know where that might lead you—to making a beeline for the cookie jar! I recently came across the phrase “married to resentment” and it reminded me of many disregulated eaters who cling to their resentments. They remember every unkind word ever said to them (but not so many of the kind ones), every untoward act, every unintended insult, and accumulate grievances as if they’re legal tender. If you’re such a person, in your childhood you likely had parents who modeled bitterness and/or suffered unfairly yourself. If your parents were major complainers who squirreled away grievances, it might be difficult for you to imagine being any other way. If you were a victim, it may be hard to stop seeing yourself in...
Continue reading
0
  559 Hits
  0 Comments

How Mood Affects Eating

Although many of you undoubtedly engage in non-hunger eating when you’re in a positive (aka good) mood, it’s more likely that you act on your cravings when you’re in a negative (aka bad) mood. So says Robert E. Thayer, Ph.D. in his book CALM ENERGY: HOW PEOPLE REGULATE MOOD WITH FOOD AND EXERCISE (2001, Oxford University Press, NY). To learn more about his research, read on. Thayer teaches readers to recognize what they’re looking for when they engage in non-hunger eating and how to find these same benefits through exercise. I’m not about to lecture you on the subject—and neither does he—but he makes the argument that you are not looking for nutrients when you’re not hungry. Mostly, he says, you’re reacting to your mood. And not just any mood, but a negative one. He maintains that, “Tiredness and tension usually underlie negative moods, and they cause overindulgence as people attempt...
Continue reading
0
  500 Hits
  0 Comments

Vulnerability and Emotional Eating

Vulnerability is a universal feeling, one to which we may attribute different meanings, and the meaning you make of this emotion will determine what you do with it. Associated words to feeling vulnerable, physically or emotionally, are weak, small, insignificant, in danger, in trouble, susceptible, defenseless, or exposed. Each word indicates being at risk for harm due to lack of power. That’s because when we first felt vulnerability, in infancy, we did lack power to impact our lives. Our current take on vulnerability depends in large part on how our vulnerability was treated in childhood. If we couldn’t fight back when we were physically abused by parents or witnessed one parent abusing the other or our siblings, we felt a surge of helplessness and fear. If we couldn’t talk back to defend ourselves when we were emotionally abused, we also felt frightened and powerless. Both of these automatic, natural reactions generated...
Continue reading
0
  928 Hits
  0 Comments

Are You Looking to be Full or Fulfilled?

When yearning for fulfilment, It’s not by chance that disregulated eaters fill themselves with food--and with people, activities, and material goods as they seek satisfaction, contentment, connection, and meaning. Sadly, they rarely get what they’re looking for because full and fulfilled are as different as apples and oranges. Many disregulated eaters yearn for more out of and a deeper engagement with life. They talk about feeling empty as if they could ingest something which would stay there and keep them feeling full up. The problem with using food—or success, applause or achievement to do this—is that you keep having to go back for more and more and more. The applause dies down or your success happened a while ago and you begin to feel depleted. So you think, Ah, that worked before, so I’ll just go out and find some more of it and I’ll be fine. And, that, ladies and...
Continue reading
0
  511 Hits
  0 Comments

Venting versus Complaining

There’s a fine line between sharing intense negative feelings, called venting, and their morphing into gripes and grumbles that seem to have a life of their own. The former is a useful way to manage emotions in the short-term, while the latter actually considerably adds to emotional distress. Therefore, it pays to be able to distinguish between the two. When we feel as if we can’t take it any more, we often vent—about a boss’s constant criticism, our partner’s habits, harried lives, difficult children, or chronic illness. If we’ve picked the right people to vent to (active listeners, for one), we receive validation for our feelings, a sharing of comparable experiences or reactions, and assurance that anyone would feel similarly in our situation. We then experience a release of mental and physical tension and, relieved, we are ready to let go and move on. However, there’s a particular way of sharing...
Continue reading
0
  1406 Hits
  0 Comments

Don’t Overuse Your Emotions

Disregulated eaters do a funny thing with emotions: they employ them whether they’re appropriate or not. That is, they get emotional about things which truly don’t necessitate affective reactions, including eating. For example, they feel guilty about eating foods of low nutritional value or ashamed when they overeat. Are these reactions necessary when we’re feeding ourselves? “Normal” healthy eaters occasionally eat foods which won’t do much to nourish their bodies, but they don’t see this behavior as related to emotions. In fact, they have zero feelings about it. They eat, it’s done, and they move on. They also don’t make a fuss about overeating. They consume too much, give a satisfied groan, then not eat until they’re hungry again. They view these matters as biology and appetite, not of the heart. Alternately, you may inappropriately attach emotions to eating alone or with others. If, as a child, you ate your after-school...
Continue reading
0
  1024 Hits
  0 Comments

One More Time on Feeling Deserving

As I’ve written before, at the root of many troubled eaters’ food problems is the issue of not feeling deserving of health, happiness, success, etc. They are conflicted about whether or not they’re deserving of good things in life and, hence, behave sometimes as if they are and other times as if they aren’t. Let’s get this straight once and for all: everyone is deserving and you are no exception. A person who feels deserving, never thinks about it. It’s simply something they are like green-eyed or brown-haired, witty or a artsy. They are because, well, they are. I know that sounds awfully simplistic, but the subject is just that: simple. Many of you try to make it more complicated as in, “I’m deserving if” or “I’m deserving because.” You’re deserving because you were born. Think about it. There’s no way some folks are born deserving and some folks aren’t. That...
Continue reading
0
  669 Hits
  0 Comments

A Lazy Gene- Say It Isn’t So

I was chagrined to read a blurb in the August/September 2013 copy of the AARP Magazine about “laziness.” I recognize that folks have differing motivations and mixed feelings about being active, but I have always stood firmly against using the negative term “lazy” regarding people who don’t take care of their bodies. And I still do. From the AARP article: “A new University of Missouri study shows that rats with sedentary parents are less motivated to run on an exercise wheel.” And, “After studying their brains, we found that running was less enjoyable for these rats than for those with active parents,” says study author Frank Booth, Ph.D. Okay, so there’s a hereditary link toward or away from enjoying body movement—at least if you’re a rat. I’ll buy that there even may be a similar genetic inheritance relating to finding pleasure from moving your body in humans. But, why call it...
Continue reading
0
  1097 Hits
  0 Comments

Exercise Calms You Down

When we think of exercise, what comes to mind is usually its benefits to body organs such as the circulatory system. But, did you know that exercise is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to reducing anxiety? It’s true. Next time you’re upset and have the urge to eat, move your body instead. Here’s why. Scientists have long known that exercise combats anxiety, but not exactly how that process works—until now. According to “How exercise calms the brain” (THE WEEK, 7/26/13), “physical activity creates excitable new neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that regulates emotion, thinking, and memory.” One would think that this process would make people more anxious, but it works just the opposite. Studying active and sedentary mice, Princeton researchers discovered that the brains of mice that ran on their wheels regularly contained more of a specific neuron that releases the neurotransmitter called gabapentin,...
Continue reading
0
  1181 Hits
  0 Comments

Happiness and Eating

“The happiness of pursuit” by Jeffrey Kluger (TIME MAGAZINE, 7/8-15/13) is not about eating per se, but started me musing about food and our often driven pursuit of it. The article describes how Americans tap into the “happiness industry.” Two relevant ways are “‘pills’ (the TIME poll found that 25% of American women and 5% of men say they are taking antidepressants) and ‘food’(48% of women and 44% of men admit to eating to improve their mood).” Almost half the country engages in emotional eating! Most of you know that neurotransmitters manage our moods. Kluger tells us, “Serotonin and dopamine are often, simplistically, thought of as feel-good neurotransmitters.” He goes on to explain that, for certain people (in the article, he’s talking about the behavior of immigrants), “the power of the chemicals is that they regulate what researchers straightforwardly call search activity—forward-looking behavior that often occurs in pursuit of a specific...
Continue reading
0
  964 Hits
  0 Comments

Life’s Non-negotiables

Disregulated eaters do best when they have some, but not too much, structure. We all need a certain amount of routine, and discovering what is absolutely necessary and what you can do without will help you feel more stable, centered and satisfied. Toward that end, it pays to know what activities or behaviors are non-negotiable in your life, that is, which ones are so crucial to your well-being that you refuse to live without them. Here are some things that are non-negotiable to people: finding a date or mate who loves nature or staying active, attending parent-teacher conferences or a child’s school performances, making dinner for the family every night and eating together, getting a good night sleep every night, visiting Mom in the nursing home weekly, eating a healthy breakfast, leaving work at five o’clock sharp, or cleaning the house weekly. When something is non-negotiable, you don’t sit around debating...
Continue reading
0
  1422 Hits
  0 Comments

Need and Greed

I got to thinking about greed, need and eating while reading a novel in which a psychologist character explains to a patient, “Of course, you were greedy. You were a child, you’re supposed to be greedy. Parents are there to fill your needs. That’s the whole point of parents.” Do you have difficulty differentiating need and greed when it comes to food and other things in life? Do you understand why that is? According to the dictionary, greed is excessive wanting, a wish for more than your share and what you deserve. Children, especially very young ones, can’t possibly know what they deserve or require. When we’re young, we’re a bundle of desires—for hugs, food, attention, comfort, toys, help, and information. We want what we want and are run by our primitive brain, lacking a more mature brain component to help us filter our desires. As the psychologist in the novel...
Continue reading
0
  1545 Hits
  0 Comments

The Benefits of Cultivating an Interior Life

Talking to a friend who remarked that her sister seemed to have little, if any, interior life, I realized how seldom this phrase is heard nowadays or used outside of clinical circles. Yet, having a rich “interior life” may be key to finding meaning and happiness in our existence and undoubtedly promotes emotional health and “normal” eating. What does it mean to have a rich interior life? People who have one reflect on themselves and their place in the world with curiosity, not judgment. They engage with ideas and wonder a great deal. They spend time musing and mulling over, which is not the same as ruminating about the past or being anxious about the future. They have no stake in this process except intellectually enlightening their horizons and broadening their understanding of the world. Their inner life excites them and is a resource. People with rich interior lives generally enjoy...
Continue reading
0
  1901 Hits
  0 Comments

Mood and Unhealthy Foods

Although some disregulated eaters head toward food when they’re in a good mood, most emotional eating is done when we feel crummy. If you think that eating unhealthy food makes you feel better, think again. Research says it ain’t necessarily so. Penn State researchers did a small study on 131 women to assess their moods before and after eating unhealthy foods, those high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat (Tufts Health and Nutrition Newsletter, 6/13, v. 31 #4). Their results: “If the women were in a bad mood” before they ate unhealthy food, eating made them feel even worse. Those who were in a good mood before eating bad food (“bad” is the study’s word, not mine), however, reported little change in their emotional state. Okay, this is one small experiment that leaves us with lots of questions, too many for generalizing. The subjects were only 131 random women who did...
Continue reading
0
  960 Hits
  0 Comments

Why Focus on the Past

We all talk about “the past,” whether we’re reminiscing about events that happened decades ago or relating an incident that occurred yesterday. I have no quarrel with talking about what has already happened—as long as you know why you’re doing it. Too often, however, I hear discussions about childhoods and personal history that make me wonder what their purpose is. Why do you talk about “the past”? Sometimes we look to our history to fondly remember people, places, and events, intentionally recalling our graduation from college, a big date, home-coming of a new puppy, a child’s first word, or a visit to Paris. This life-enhancing activity can make you feel warm and fuzzy all over. Other times we consciously turn to memory for information—the name of that guy who was such a great dancer, the date of our last dental appointment, that funny saying of grandma’s. To recall information is also...
Continue reading
0
  649 Hits
  0 Comments

Loneliness and Eating

Because I enjoy being validated as much as the next person, I was gratified to read Jane Brody’s column, “Loneliness can change your health for the worse” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 5/21/13) which describes the connection between feeling lonely and reaching for food. Understanding the connection will help you break it, so read on. Brody, a recovered emotional eater, quotes psychologist John T. Cacioppo, co-author of the book, LONELINESS: “Loneliness undermines people’s ability to self-regulate.” If you’ve read my blogs and books about disregulation and self-regulation, you’ll understand what’s happening. When we’re in emotional distress, our bio-chemistry goes into disequilibrium, and we may turn to the chemicals in food to re-regulate it. Cacioppo points to one experiment in which participants who were “made to feel socially disconnected ate many more cookies than those made to feel socially accepted,” and another in which people scoring high in loneliness “ate substantially more fatty foods than...
Continue reading
0
  927 Hits
  0 Comments

Current versus Memory-Triggered Emotions

Clients sometimes get confused when I encourage them to experience all their emotions, yet discourage them from unconsciously dwelling on feelings that trickle up unbidden from the past. This advice is a bit confusing, I admit. So, let me explain. There’s a difference, at times obvious and at times subtle, between emotions that spring from a current event or interaction and those that are triggered by memory. For instance, if a friend is often late and, because of this, you end up entering a movie after it has started, you may have appropriate feelings of annoyance or anger. You’d want to connect to these feelings to rationally decide how to handle them—mention something when your friend arrives, wait until you’re having coffee after the movie, etc. However, in this same example, if your friend arrives late and your memory coughs up all the times your alcoholic father strolled in late for...
Continue reading
0
  1091 Hits
  0 Comments

Feeling versus Being

Here’s a mistaken belief I hear all the time from clients and Food and Feelings message board members: Because I feel a certain way, it must be true. I feel fat, I feel unlovable, I feel unsuccessful, I feel inadequate, I feel defective. Hello, feeling isn’t being. I’m all for connecting with emotions and skillfully using them to navigate life, but when you say I’m feeling any of the above, what does that really mean? Do the preceding statements equal I am fat, I am unlovable, I am unsuccessful, I am inadequate, I am defective? Because that’s what you’re telling yourself. Where’s the proof? When people say they feel fat, they often mean their body feels heavy or their stomach is stretched out from eating or drinking too much. If a 100-pound adult eats a large plate of food and feels fat, does that make her fat? If a successful dancer...
Continue reading
0
  908 Hits
  0 Comments

Cultivating Indifference

You may believe that hate is the opposite of love and that there’s no alternative but to love or dislike someone or something, like food. What if there’s another affective state you could cultivate, an underrated, not often talked about alternative which would bring you peace of mind? There is and it’s called indifference. When I talk with clients about cultivating indifference, they generally have little idea what I mean. We so often think of indifference as a negative emotion, one to be avoided like apathy. We want to have passions and strong feelings. It’s so easy to fall into love or into hate because both emotions make us feel vividly alive. Some people even think that hate is the opposite of love, but how can it be? They both keep you mentally/emotionally tethered firmly to someone or something, while the true opposite of connection is disconnection. Whether you love or...
Continue reading
0
  2984 Hits
  0 Comments

Happiness and Dysregulated Eaters

Dysregulated eaters tend to think they’ll be happy when this or that happens—when they find a life partner, become “normal” eaters, lose weight, land the perfect job, can slow down, or retire. But will these occurrences really bring happiness? If not, what will? According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at the University of California-Riverside and author of THE MYTHS OF HAPPINESS, “These things—marriage, family, wealth—do make people happy, but the effect is often not as long-lasting as people expect. And when the ‘thrill’ wears off and life gets back to everyday experiences, we think there’s something wrong.” (“What makes you happy isn’t what you might think,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/26/13) This sentiment reminds me of what happens when people lose weight. They’re on cloud nine for a while feeling triumphant, checking out their slimmer bodies in every mirror, buying new clothes, basking in the glow of compliments—until the newness of it all...
Continue reading
0
  491 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