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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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Don’t Call It Exercise

Don’t Call It Exercise
Many people balk at what they call exercise. I was recently talking with a client who felt she “should” exercise but mentioned that she was excited about a new line-dancing class that was starting in her community. That same week I had a conversation with a friend who, due to being a child of higher weight who was pushed to be fit to slim down, dislikes the concept of aiming for fitness rather than health. Many people seem to have feelings about words that have to do with moving our bodies, so it’s worth taking a look at what you’re telling yourself to do and how you’re feeling about it. The concept of “exercise” can be a turn off to people, especially if they’ve never been particularly active yet have felt pressured by intimates or society to be so. Exercise has both the denotation and connotation of being active to attain...
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Really, You Don’t Have Time for Exercise?

Really, You Don’t Have Time for Exercise?
“I don’t have time to exercise” is a plaint I often hear. I can almost guarantee that if you think this thought frequently, you will convince yourself that it’s true. “…According to a new study from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducted by researchers at the non-profit Rand Corp. Americans, in fact, have plenty of free time: an average of five hours of it each day.” This conclusion is based on an analysis of the American Time Use Survey, which collects detailed time-use diaries from thousands of people each year. (“Making time for exercise in a busy day,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fitness Q&A,11/12/19, E17, accessed 11/12/19) What is it we do with all this extra time? Hint: it’s not reading, getting out in nature, or meditation. “Instead of exercising, we’re giving over the bulk of our free time to mobile, PC and TV screens.” For the purpose of...
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Power Talk Yourself into Activity

Power Talk Yourself into Activity
Politics aside, 86-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a role model for taking care of one’s body. I recently read that she “never stopped working out” after her fourth diagnosis with cancer…although she couldn’t always complete her full routine.” (“Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she never stopped working out during pancreatic cancer treatment” by Ariane de Vogue and Chandelis Duster, CNN, accessed 10/22/10, https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/21/politics/ruth-bader-ginsburg-workout-cancer-recovery/index.html) Granted the article says that she has a personal trainer, but that doesn’t strike me as important as her strong will to take excellent care of herself. Here’s a woman who lives with cancer on her mind even when it’s not in her body. Recognizing the importance of good health, she doesn’t take it for granted. Someone in her shoes might just give up and most of us could sympathize with them. Why bother to do push ups when cancer might recur any day? The answer...
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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 it. Try using “the ‘peak-end’...
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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, the likelier we...
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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 energy? “Moving quickly makes...
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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 me...
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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 seeing...
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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 and...
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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” and maintaining...
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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 over,...
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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 the lack of ability...
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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 on...
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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 more...
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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 other...
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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 another which...
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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 caring...
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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), focuses...
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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 roughly...
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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, women...
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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