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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. 

How to Enjoy Exercise More

Would you like to love exercise? Would you settle for enjoying it a bit more, enough to do it regularly? To do so, you’ll have to erase the concept of “no pain, no gain” from your mind and follow the wisdom in “Maybe You’d Exercise More If It Didn’t Feel So Crappy” by Kathrine Hobson (538, 12/5/2017, www.538.com , accessed 12/13/17). Here are some interesting highlights from this article.   “Research by David M. Williams, a clinical psychologist and professor at Brown University, and his colleagues has shown that how you feel during exercise predicts both current and future physical activity levels.” Most health coaches, trainers and therapists, including myself, try to motivate people to exercise by encouraging them to focus on how they’ll feel after exercise, not during it. Apparently, that’s not too helpful. Instead, researchers say that the goal is to find exercise more pleasurable as you do...
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Could Exercise Avoidance Be Hardwired?

If you’re someone who dislikes exercise and is tired of feeling like there’s something gravely wrong with you, perhaps there’s something very normal going on. You may be in sync with our human ancestors. Or, so says Daniel Lieberman, Harvard professor and expert in human evolutionary biology in “Hate exercise? Maybe you’re only human” by Colby Itkowitz (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 10/4/16, E26).   “In a 2015 paper entitled “Is Exercise Really Medicine? An Evolutionary Perspective,” he poses the possibility that there is something unnatural about the idea of exercising simply for health reasons. Interesting, because we’re told all the time (and you may have even heard it from me on more than one occasion), that we should want to exercise to stay healthy. His explanation is based on the concept that humans developed in such a way as to want to conserve energy. The more energy we conserved for important activities,...
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Do You Know All the Health Benefits of Exercise?

How sad that we’ve learned to associate exercise almost exclusively with weight loss. Sure, we may know in a vague way that it promotes a better quality of life or helps prevent cancer or heart disease. The truth is that exercise can help improve not only whatever ails us, but contribute to longevity as well. So say the experts in “The new science of exercise” by Mandy Oaklander ( Time , 9/12/16, pp 54-60). The good news is that, though the recommendation still stays at “150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise weekly and twice-weekly muscle strengthening,” shorter intervals—10 minutes at a time!—seem to be just as beneficial as longer ones. Here are some of the ways that activity keeps us healthy: Got pain? Depressed? “Increased blood flow to the brain creates new blood vessels and triggers the release of chemicals that dull pain and lighten mood.” Wish you had more...
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What Does Exercise Mean to You?

Many of my clients aren’t sure how they feel about “exercise.” The topic truly is confusing. Is there a difference between sports or dance and exercise? Does any activity constitute exercise, including vacuuming and gardening? Is exercise simply moving our bodies or is it only about improving them? One of my clients said that growing up no one in her rather sedentary family mentioned or engaged in exercise except her mother when she wanted to lose weight. Then, she spoke incessantly about “needing to get more exercise.” This client, quite naturally, associated exercise with weight loss—and hardship. Oddly, she didn’t associate the long walks she loved to take by herself in the woods as a child as exercise. They were peaceful, interesting, and invigorating, a comforting getaway from her troubled family. Another client, who identifies herself as heavy, adores riding horses. Very little makes her happier. She’s never said to...
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Doing Activities for the Wrong Reasons

Clients often complain, “I’m going to the gym three times a week, so why haven’t I lost weight” or “I’ve cut way back on sweets, so how come my pants are still tight?” I really don’t know what to say to them. Frankly, I don’t have an answer that will make them less disappointed and frustrated. But, I do have a response that will help them think in a healthier way about cutting back on sweets and continuing to go to the gym. If you’re still engaging in health care behaviors to lose weight, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Linda Bacon, PhD, researcher and author of Health At Every Size and Body Respect says that we disregulate our body by dieting and binge-eating and that it can take a year of “normal” eating for the body to re-regulate. So, I suppose that’s one answer for why clients aren’t...
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What Is the Best Motivator for Exercise?

Previous research has said that the best motivator for exercise is the desire for good health, but new studies point to an even better motivator. “Rethink exercise as a source of immediate rewards” by Jane Brody (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 7/28/15, E28) focuses on research by psychologist Michelle Segar who directs the Sport Health and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan. Her studies and others conclude that, “Though it seems counterintuitive…people whose goals are weight loss and better health tend to spend the least amount of time exercising,” but that “immediate rewards that enhance daily life—more energy, a better mood, less stress and more opportunity to connect with friends and family—offer far more motivation.” This conclusion makes sense because, let’s face it, most of us want instant gratification. It’s not enough to know that our blood test a few months from now will show that our HDL, LDL...
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Succeeding at Fitness

Do you cringe at the word “fitness”? Do your eyes glaze over and does your mind slam shut because the subject seems so overwhelming? Does the word sound like a chore, drag, or even punishment? Quick: In a sentence, what’s your purpose for fitness? In How to Think About Exercise, Damon Young (“Your thinking about fitness is all wrong” by Mike Plunkett, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/3/15, page 20E) helps us clarify our thoughts on fitness. According to him, changing your thinking about it is essential to becoming and staying fit. Young is neither a trainer nor was he a physiology major. Rather, he uses “philosophical inquiries to explain how we in the West came to think about exercise and fitness and how that way of thinking is a major barrier to being fit.” He makes sense, arguing that “much of our thinking comes from the philosophical separation of mind and body”...
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Keeping to Your Activity Schedule

It can be enjoyable to visit and stay with friends and relatives as well as for them to be guests in your home. However, whether you’re host or guest, these events may disrupt your activity schedule—but only if you let them. If you’re determined to take care of yourself because you wouldn’t have it any other way, this situation is no problem at all. Years ago, I got together with old friends for a few days at one of their homes. Because I try to do some form of activity daily, I made a point of suggesting we walk rather than sit around (which usually led to mindless snacking). After all, you can catch up with people walking as easily as you can over coffee, wine, beer, or a meal. One morning while my friends were lingering at the breakfast table (and picking at leftovers) long after the meal was...
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Do You Have an Exercise Addiction?

How do you know if you have an exercise addiction? After all, one hallmark of addiction is denial that it exists. In “Fit or Fanatic: When Does Exercise Become an Unhealthy Obsession?,” authors Carolyn Costin, MA, M.Ed., MFCC, CEDS and Dawn Theodore, MFT of Monte Nido and Affiliates lay out the criteria to use in making your assessment. Here are 11 questions to ask (adapted from Yates, 1991 and Maine, 2000): Do you maintain a high level of activity, not resting or taking time off even when ill or injured? Do you depend on exercise for self-definition, self-worth and mood stabilization? Do you judge your day as good or bad based on how much you exercised? Do you have an intense, driven quality to you exercise? Are you resistant or angry about any suggestion to reduce the amount of exercise you do? Do you seem to have or even express...
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How Being a Couch Potato Can Hurt You

Every time I go to blog about why it’s important to stay active and the dangers of being sedentary, my biggest fear is that readers will hear my words as one more lecture, one more poke in the back to remind them of what they’re not doing to be healthy and fit. So, I’m telling you upfront, I’m not trying to make you feel badly about yourself. I’m giving you information in order to help you take better care of yourselves. “Is it a brain, or a couch potato” (Health and Fitness, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/4/14, p. 16E) tells us that inactivity is capable of remodeling the brain and—you guessed it—not in a healthy way. Yet another rat study advises that “being sedentary changes the shape of certain neurons in ways that significantly affect not just the brain but the heart as well.” After almost three months, rats who missed out...
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Exercise and Self-image

As a woman carrying excess weight, if you notice that you feel a bit differently about exercise than your slimmer peers, you’re not imagining the discrepancy. Or so says an article entitled “The influence of self-image on exercise” by Gretchen Reynolds (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 1/28/14, Health & Fitness, 18E). The International Journal of Obesity published a study in which “scientists affiliated with the Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality at Southwest University in Chongqing, China” concluded that the brains of thinner and heavier women show different activity when asked questions about exercise. Lean and heavy female participants were shown images of people engaged happily in activity and told to imagine themselves doing the same and also shown images of people being sedentary. “The resulting readouts revealed that overweight women’s brains were put off by exercise.” They also showed that the part of the brain that deals with negative emotions lit up...
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One More Reason to Exercise

When most disregulated eaters think about genes, they look at them as static predeterminants of body weight, but there is more going on than meets the eye. Did you know that you can actually change your cellular structure by exercising? “How exercise changes cells is a mystery” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 8/27/13, p. 18F), reminds us that some of our genes turn on and off—called expression—“depending on what biochemical signals they receive from elsewhere in the body. When they turn on, genes express various proteins that, in turn, prompt a range of physiological actions.” For example, it turns out that something called the “methylation process” is substantially driven by lifestyle choices. This process is important because “differing methylation patterns resulting from differing diets may partly determine whether someone develops diabetes and other metabolic diseases.” So, it’s not as simple as thinking that you have or don’t have a gene for diabetes or...
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No Need to Over-exercise

Recently I came across an article on exercise which will help set you straight if you believe you must live at the gym or run marathons to lose weight. Rather than pushing a weight loss focus here, I’m sharing some enlightening and surprising research on exercise and shedding pounds. I’m a firm believer that the primary purpose for activity and exercise should be fitness, good health, and enjoying body movement. “Less exercise may do more to shed pounds” by Gretchen Reynolds (NY Times, 9/25/12) offers an unexpected take on exercise. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark “found that exercise does seem to contribute to waist-tightening, provided that the amount of exercise is neither too little nor, more strikingly, too much.” For the study, participants, all male, were discouraged from consciously changing their diets and divided into one control group which didn’t exercise, one which did moderate workouts, and...
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The Pleasure of Eating Healthfully and Being Fit

I was talking with a friend from Massachusetts (where I used to live) at the start of the new year and he mentioned that he’d been walking every morning before work even in five degree weather. Mentally shivering, I commented on how brave he was. His response: that he found great pleasure in walking and being fit. I agreed. So many of the disregulated eaters I work with see becoming and staying fit as a chore, a drudge, a bother—a frank pain in the butt. Many feel the same way about trying to eat healthfully. This is such a far cry from what a positive self-care attitude about health and fitness is that I want to let all know that there’s another way. When you eat nourishing food and keep your body active, you get a rush of good feelings. Some come from the sheer pleasure of movement and making...
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Focus on Fit, Not Fat

Most of my clients who carry more weight than they’d like believe that they cannot be healthy or fit because they are fat. They hyper-focus on weight, shape, body discomfort, and how others view them, and feel helpless and despairing over their size. They believe that fat equals unfit. Research tell us this is not the case, so listen up. A study published in the March 2009 issue of BMC Public Health proves that some people can be fat, yet fit. Their research concludes that both overweight and obese individuals can have healthy cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels if they eat healthfully and exercise. A Mayo Clinic study (American Heart Journal, 3/11) “found that overweight, high fitness (determined by cardiopulmonary exercise testing) subjects had a much lower risk of dying compared with normal-weight, low-fitness subjects.” Another study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (9/11),...
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Hunger and Exercise

The last thing I want to do is deter anyone from exercising. In one form or another, I engage in it daily and strongly believe that activity is an integral part of mental and physical health. So the conclusions of an article in the May 2009 issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter came as a surprise and were, I confess, a bit of a downer. “Exercise? I’m Hungry” sums up a study reported in the journal Obesity. Here’s what it has to say: ”If a clever experiment in college students holds up, just seeing advice to exercise might make you eat more. Scientists showed roughly 50 students posters with messages to exercise (like ‘Go for a walk’) or other messages (like ‘Make friends’). Those who saw the exercise ads ate more from a small bowl of raisins than those who saw the non-exercise ads. In a second experiment, students ate...
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Body Image and Workouts

Research says that the exercise women select may contribute to attitudes about their bodies. Although I encourage you to do whatever exercises you enjoy, it’s interesting to consider which of those might—and might not—help improve your body image. Studies at Australia’s Flinders University surveyed women who attend health clubs. Their findings might surprise you: “Taking cardio classes was linked with mood uplift, but greater time [italics mine] spent on individual cardio workouts predicted body image concerns. Women who spent more time lifting weights and taking yoga or other mind/body-oriented classes were less likely to perceive the body as an object to be modified for the judgment of others.” Researchers concluded that activities which focus on body awareness, mental health, centering, and calmness are more likely to help women connect to the reason they exercise (for fitness and to feel good) and, therefore, work to improve their body image. Of course,...
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Barriers to Exercise

Not a week goes by without someone I know commenting on disliking exercise. Although it’s likely that certain folks are born with more of an inclination move their bodies, that’s not the whole story. What’s important is to understand your story, you know, the one you tell yourself (and others) about why you don’t exercise. You probably have the best of intentions and recognize that exercise contributes to health and longevity, so knowledge isn’t the problem. How could any adult in this society not have gotten the 30-minutes-a-day message by now? Well, then, if you recognize the benefits of exercise and have the intention of doing it, what stops you? Although there are general answers, exact barriers are unique to each of you. Make a list of what stops you from exercising or regularly, intentionally keeping your body moving by walking, dancing, gardening, going to the gym, gyrating to a...
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Exercise

A report in Prevention magazine (5/10/08, page 10) has got me going—“Research shows that typically half of all women drop out of exercise programs within the first 6 weeks of starting one. Most women say having little free time, a lack of confidence when exercising, and supportive friends and family are the main reasons they stop short of achieving their goals.” Superficially reasonable answers, sure, but based on my years of professional experience, researchers need to dig deeper to get at the real issues. Yes, many women are pressed for time. Working in and out of the home, trying to live up to cultural expectations, they’re overworked, overextended, and exhausted. But women with an all-or-nothing mentality generate an inner pressure to do everything and do it perfectly which prevents them from exercising—if they can’t do it all, they do nothing, if they can’t do it well, they don’t even try....
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Move Your Body

An article in the April issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter on the correlation between moving your body more and weight loss intrigued me. James Levin, professor and researcher in the Division of Endocrinology at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, heads something called the NEAT lab which studies the effect of body movement and expending energy on weight. NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, which is any movement that is not exertion for the sake of physical fitness. Levin’s studies conclude that by keeping moving we can burn off calories without formal exercise. Not that he eschews the activity; rather he encourages people to use NEAT along with exercise, saying, “If you look at an average sedentary person, 60% of total daily energy expenditure is basal metabolic rate, 30% is NEAT, and 10% is the thermal effect of food—the calories you burn to digest, absorb, and store the food...
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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