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]

What Happens When You Have Too Much Pleasure?

What Happens When You Have Too Much Pleasure?
What kinds of pleasure do you seek? How do you know when you’ve had enough pleasure? What happens when you have too much pleasure? Pleasure is different for different people. Because you’re reading this blog, I’ll assume that food is pleasure to you. But I bet you know people who find food low on their list of delights. Instead they relish swimming laps, reading a novel, watching the NCAA finals, planting flowers or touring Paris. Whatever your choice, you likely anticipate doing it and get a buzz of dopamine thinking about it. Then while you’re engaged in the pleasurable experience, you’re anywhere from happy to ecstatic. And either later that day or sometime in the future, you look back on your enjoyment and smile and smile.  Does the above happen to you when you’re eating mindlessly or overeating? Perhaps in the first few moments pleasure soars but, as quickly, it wanes....
Continue reading
0
  654 Hits
  0 Comments

Is There Such a Thing as Hangry?

Is There Such a Thing as Hangry?
I can’t recall when I first heard the word “hangry.” I admit that I never actually looked up the definition, as it seemed cleverly obvious. Then I came upon an article explaining it. According to “Don’t get mad, but ‘hangry’ isn’t really angry” by Benedict Carey (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 12/17/19, p. E8), Although “Hangriness is a distinct sensation of urgency and growing impatience . . . psychologists are now trying to parse how, exactly, ‘hanger’ differs from the furious, simmering or righteous varieties.” Jennifer K. MacCormack, a University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill doctoral candidate in psychology and neuro-science, “found that people describe themselves, when hungry, as more annoyed than usual and less in control of their emotions.” Studying groups of people testing emotional awareness, she found that “Only the individuals in the second group, presumably less self-aware of their growing agitation, showed clear signs of stress and annoyance…” Her conclusion is...
Continue reading
0
  493 Hits
  0 Comments

Personality Descriptors Are Value Neutral

Personality Descriptors Are Value Neutral
If you’ve read my book, Nice Girls Finish Fat—yes, “boys” can learn from it, too—you’d know that dysregulated eaters share many personality traits. Not every dysregulated eater has all of them, but most possess the majority of these attributes: perfectionism, all-nothing thinking, approval-seeking and people-pleasing, poor self-regulation and self-care, fear of confrontation, being hard on yourself, and being shame- not pride-based.   You may see yourself in this description and think, “Sure, I’d like to change and be different,” but you must understand that different doesn’t mean the opposite of how you currently think, feel and act. This view would be binary, a primary cause of eating and other dysregulation. Examples would be dieting or bingeing, holding in your feelings until you explode or being overly nice even when you dislike someone. Personality traits fall on a continuum and are value-neutral. Nice may be at one end and mean at the other,...
Continue reading
0
  513 Hits
  0 Comments

The Importance of a Sense of Self

The Importance of a Sense of Self
What is your sense of self and how might it affect your eating and body image? Do you know what a sense of self means or what yours is? Do you understand what having a healthy one entails? Research by Christopher Basten, Ph.D. and Stephen Touyz, Ph.D. “lends some empirical support for the often-cited observation that eating disorders (EDs) occur in those whose sense of self and identity is weak.” (EDRS Post Presentation Summary 2018 Manual, “The relationship between sense of self and pathology in eating and body image,” Basten and Touyz, accessed 10/20/19). According to them, a weak sense of self includes “lacking a sense of wholeness, authenticity, continuity, and vitality.”  Many eating disordered clients hold a view of themselves that is fragmented, That is, they see themselves as parts that are unintegrated with other parts to form a sense of wholeness. For example, they view their work value as...
Continue reading
0
  520 Hits
  0 Comments

Why You Must Do What Makes You Anxious

Why You Must Do What Makes You Anxious
Let me tell you about a CEU workshop I attended on rewiring the brain to reduce anxiety. Read on only if you wish to lower the amount of worrying you do. (“Rewire the Anxious Brain: Neuroscience-Informed Treatment of Anxiety, Panic and Worry,” presented by Daniel van Ingen, Psy.D. of Sarasota, FL, PESI, Inc., WI, 11/5/19). First off, let’s talk about your brain component, the amygdala, which is fear central and whose job it is to keep you emotionally and physically safety. Along with other brain structures, it’s your risk manager and captures intense affective memories in your life such as being bitten by a dog, smacked around by your father, screamed at by your mother, or just making it out of a car wreck alive. Any events it perceives as dangerous threats to you are stored in your amygdala and generate a fear response automatically. As I’ve blogged before, the amygdala...
Continue reading
0
  693 Hits
  0 Comments

It’s Only a Thought

It’s Only a Thought
I’m forever trying to explain to clients that they can resist their thoughts. When you get an idea to head for the fridge when you awaken at 2:30 a.m. or while watching TV, finishing a school paper or balancing your checkbook, you don’t need to respond to it. “It’s only a thought,” I remind clients. “You don’t need to act on every one you have, particularly in the food arena.” A thought is an electrochemical reaction and “...Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 60,000-80,000 thoughts a day...an average of 2500-3,300 thoughts per hour. Other experts estimate a smaller number, of 50,000 thoughts per day, which means about 2,100 thoughts per hour.” (How Many Thoughts Does Your Mind Think in One Hour? https://www.successconsciousness.com/blog/inner-peace/how-many-thoughts-does-your-mind-think-in-one-hour/, accessed 10/18/19) Busy little brains we have. Thoughts pop up continually, no matter what we’re doing. We have one thought which leads to another and another. We have...
Continue reading
0
  754 Hits
  0 Comments

Personality Disorders and Dysregulated Eating

Personality Disorders and Dysregulated Eating
Many clients think that they’re mentally healthy because they don’t have depression,  anxiety or any combination of the two that would constitute a mood disorder. They don’t understand that there are other mental health conditions that might lead to mindless, binge or emotional eating. Welcome to learning about personality disorders. “A person’s personality typically stays the same over time. A personality disorder is a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.” (American Psychiatric Association, “What are personality disorders?,” https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/personality-disorders/what-are-personality-disorders, accessed 10/5/19)  It’s also described as “. . . a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social activities, work, and school.”...
Continue reading
0
  685 Hits
  0 Comments

Fear of Being Judged

Fear of Being Judged
A whopping 64.9% of women and 36.1% of men avoid going to the gym due to suffering from FOBJ or “fear of being judged.” (Newsweek, “Horizons,” 1/3-17/20, p. 36). That’s almost 2/3 of females in this country and more than 1/3 of males. If you suffer from FOBJ, here’s how to reduce your anxiety so you can get the exercise you want. Stop imagining. Where’s the evidence that you’re being judged? I’ve yet to find a client who can answer this question. I usually hear, “Well, I don’t really know, but they’re probably judging me” or “Sometimes people look at me funny like I don’t belong because I’m fat.” Be aware that what you assume or fantasize is not fact nor evidence.  Focus on facts. I recognize that you imagine you’re being judged and that you likely—actually, factually—have been judged by others which has badly hurt your feelings. But, unless someone...
Continue reading
0
  605 Hits
  0 Comments

Do You Have Empathy for Others?

Do You Have Empathy for Others?
Many people I meet and treat engage in emotional eating because the people in their lives have little empathy for them or others. Empathy is a basic human feeling, perhaps the glue to holding us together as community. If you don’t have it from the people with whom you surround yourself, you might end up feeling more upset than you need to be and that may drive your emotional eating. So, consider this blog a primer on empathy. Here is what it is not, although you’d need to have empathy in order to feel the following emotions. It’s not compassion which is feeling kindness or kindly towards someone’s suffering. You need not feel kindness in order to have empathy, but you need empathy to feel kindness. It is also not sympathy which is feeling sorrow (we call it feeling sorry) that someone is experiencing pain.   According to nutritionist Ellen Glovsky, PhD,...
Continue reading
0
  981 Hits
  0 Comments

Bouncing Between Dwelling and Denial

Bouncing Between Dwelling and Denial
When terrible things happen or even when we consider that they might, we tend to swing between two polar extremes: dwelling in distress or denial of it. Either we can’t stop thinking about a potential threat or we convince ourselves that it will never happen. Neither strategy is useful for problem-solving, but both are understandable, as they are our primitive responses to trying to protect ourselves from hurt and hurting. This pendulum swing happens in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many victims and survivors remain hyper-vigilant and excessively anxious about harm befalling them again and can think of nothing else. Wary of danger, being on the look out for it is their way of trying to ensure that it doesn’t re-occur. Intrusive memories become a warning of all the terrors that could resurface. Alternately, many survivors repress (unconsciously) or suppress (consciously) memories. Such denial makes them feel safe, as if nothing awful ever...
Continue reading
0
  578 Hits
  0 Comments

Alexithymia and Eating Disorders

As a social work intern in an outpatient clinic, I had a client who my supervisor diagnosed with alexithymia, a condition I’d never heard of. If I hadn’t gone into the mental health field, I probably never would have run across it. But, it turns out to be highly relevant to therapy and to eating disorders as well.  Here’s what it looked like in my client. My client had been extremely close with her father who died after a long illness. She coped by coming into each session talking about a dead bird she’d seen in the gutter. She was ripped apart by the plight of this poor bird and could talk of little else. To make grieving easier, she used the defense mechanism of displacement to shift her feelings about her father onto the dead bird.  Alexithymia means literally “no words for feelings” and “is prevalent in patients with psychosomatic...
Continue reading
0
  810 Hits
  0 Comments

How Often Are You Triggered by Memories?

memories
Clients spend most of their time telling me about situations which have been or might be very upsetting to them, what I call recall or memory triggers. My job is to teach them how to recognize triggers before, during or after the fact. I’ve blogged often about how to identify slipping into recall, but that’s not enough. You need to know what your triggers are. Remember, you can identify them because they are your emotional reactions that are out of proportion to or in excess of whatever is occurring in reality. Here’s a paragraph from one of my previous blogs. “To stop recall triggers, make a list of troubling memories regarding how you were hurt in childhood: being shamed, abandoned, neglected, compared unfavorably to others, fiercely competed with, ignored, teased, undermined, invalidated, feeling unheard or  invisible, regularly being forced to do things against your will, being manipulated, etc. Recognize that similar...
Continue reading
0
  725 Hits
  0 Comments

What’s the Difference Between Constructive and Destructive Emotional Discomfort?

What’s the Difference Between Constructive and Destructive Emotional Discomfort?
Emotional discomfort is a complicated subject. Is it a feeling to take seriously, to ignore or to overcome? Does it serve or hinder us from growth? How can we learn to distinguish constructive from destructive emotional discomfort? After two sessions in a row discussing emotional discomfort with clients, I began thinking more about it. In the first session, a client said that she overate because “I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable stopping.” This led to discussion of why and whether she could have managed her uncomfortable feelings in order to avoid experiencing a different kind of discomfort, that is, over-fullness. In my next session, a client expressed pride that when she’s with certain kinds of people—mostly narcissists like her father—she’s now able to see them for what they are (from her emotional reaction to them) and either distance herself from them or manage being in their company. For certain, emotions are...
Continue reading
0
  994 Hits
  0 Comments

Self-attunement

Self-attunement
I can’t recall where I learned about it, but somewhere I read a while back about successful people being attuned to themselves. There was a study or bunch of studies which came to this conclusion (having no citation, you’ll have to trust me on this one). Right away I thought about my clients—which ones were more or less connected to themselves and how they related to their progress in eating disorders recovery. Clinicians learn and generally talk a good deal about attunement in terms of how connected/in sync parents are to their children. When a parent on a long car ride finds her child crying, he might respond with understanding that children get fidgety strapped into car seats and need distraction. When a child comes home from school saying she’s fine but looks anxious and anger, an attuned parents asks if things really are okay.  Parental attunement to children requires time,...
Continue reading
0
  886 Hits
  0 Comments

Let’s Hear It for Uncertainty and Confusion

uncertainty and confusion
What is it that scares some people so about being confused or uncertain? Why does not knowing throw too many folks into a tailspin or make them want to crawl into bed and pull the covers up over their heads? What if you were to value not knowing what you want or what to do and not stress about it but hang in their and learn from it? William Blake, the English poet, painter and printmaker, is quoted as saying that “Without contraries, there is no progression.” Author David Robson of The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes tells us that, “The latest neuroscience…shows that we learn best when we are confused.” Blake is saying that we need to engage with contraries (feelings, ideas, etc.) in order to emerge from them to make progress. Robson explains how we learn best when things are a bit tough, through “desirable difficulties”...
Continue reading
0
  778 Hits
  0 Comments

Self-deception

baking cookies
Self-deception is a funny thing in that most of us would swear we don’t engage in this behavior, which is a way of showing that we do. One theory about self-deception is that it’s an anomaly or glitch in the 200,000-year-old brains of Homo Sapiens. However, evolutionary psychiatrist Randolph M. Nesse (author of Good Reasons for Bad Feelings), maintains that lying to ourselves has a function in the survival of our species, that is, to move us along in our primary task of procreation. As you know—if you’re honest with yourselves—the eating arena is rife with little lies. In Johare Window terms (Google it), this construct involves “what you don’t know you don’t know,” information that’s out of consciousness, aka your blind spot. Most of the time we’re unaware it exists because acknowledging it would hinder our need to feel okay. In the case of dysregulated eaters, that lack of consciousness...
Continue reading
0
  600 Hits
  0 Comments

Embracing the Right Kind of Anger

Anger
Driving home from doing an errand, I heard an interview (shout out to NPR) about women and anger which got me thinking about how many dysregulated eaters and people with high weights—not just women—use anger in the opposite way from how it is useful. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if they could channel anger more effectively.  Here’s what I see and hear. In general, these clients (and others as well) are angry at things which don’t merit anger or won’t be changed by it, while they feel accepting of or helpless about things which they have a shot at changing if they direct their rage at it. For example, dysregulated eaters could be angry at the culture and the media which are overtly or covertly pressuring them to diet and hate themselves unless they lose weight Instead, they’re furious at themselves for not being or becoming slimmer.  They could be...
Continue reading
0
  593 Hits
  0 Comments

Distinguishing Thoughts from Feelings

Thinking
Many clients and the children, partners or parents they bring along to sessions have no idea that there’s a distinction between what they feel and what they think. Confusing the two leads to their being reactive and to poor decision-making and problem-solving. Differentiating the two is key to improving your relationship with food and your body. Here are examples to help you distinguish thoughts from feelings.  I ask a client how he feels about his job taking him away from his wife so much of the time and he responds, “I don’t really have a choice about it right now.”A client tells me that when her mother gets drunk, she’s nasty to her and I wonder how that makes her feel. She says, “Mom doesn’t mean anything by it. She’s drunk.”A client reports that his son came out to him as gay and I ask how he feels about that. He...
Continue reading
0
  1196 Hits
  0 Comments

Balancing Emotions

Balancing Emotions
Emotions and personality traits run on a continuum and, to many clients’ surprise, are value neutral. Is it better to be angry or ignore being hurt? Is it healthier to play it safe or take a risk? In both cases the answer is that it depends on the situation. Hence, the view of emotions and traits as value-neutral and relative to what’s going on. My guess is that as a dysregulated eater your emotional reactions cluster at one end of the continuum or the other rather than being situation dependent. Consider the personality traits you possess and the emotions you generally feel and notice how you feel about their opposites. Here are some dyads to get you started. Detached…entangled, impulsive…cautious, fearless…anxious, controlling…passive, prompt…tardy, messy…neat, social…introverted, other-oriented…self-oriented, spendthrift…wasteful, rebellious…by-the-book, pessimistic…optimistic, private…open book, patient…impatient. I could go on, but you get the point.  For sure, we’re born with certain temperaments due to genetics,...
Continue reading
0
  644 Hits
  0 Comments

Stand Up for Your Needs-Food and Otherwise

Friends eating
A client raised a common problem about dysregulated eaters: How to assert food needs when you’re with others. I vividly recall learning to get my eating preferences met in social situations and know that it can be difficult, but not impossible, to do.  First, as someone who’s been fully recovered from emotional/mindless/binge eating and chronic dieting for 30+ years, I still dislike being very hungry or full because they’re reminders of my old messed-up-with-food days. Second, I’m now a far healthier person emotionally and physically than I was back then. Taking care of my body is a job I welcome and enjoy and doing so comes first, before most things and people in life. Here’s what happened to my client who spent the day with a group of people who kept passing on stopping to eat. Though she thought she’d planned well for it according to the schedule of activities, she...
Continue reading
0
  580 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