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]

Where Are You on the Mental Health Continuum?

Where-Are-You-on-the-Mental-Health-Continuum
Many decades ago when I’d just started social work school in Boston, a friend became very sad after his wife left him for another man. I knew them both and their situation and assumed my friend was suffering from betrayal and grieving the loss of his marriage. When he continued to feel down and exhibited other distress symptoms, I finally realized that he was suffering from depression with which he still struggles to this day. With my clinical experience now, I would have seen that he was depressed more quickly. But, even with clinical experience, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between someone simply suffering through a difficult time and someone who has mental health issues that need to be treated. And if I’m not sure of the truth as a seasoned therapist, it’s even harder to discern for people without my experience. This dilemma is the focus of...
Continue reading
0
  273 Hits
  0 Comments

Strategic Silence

Strategic-Silenc_20210628-211338_1
Anyone who knows me well would use the words chatty, highly verbal, or strongly interactive to describe me in a relationship—unless I’m employing a technique that therapists call strategic silence. It’s used to help clients sit with and expand feelings by helping the therapist from getting in their way of doing so. This blog is not about how strategic silence is used in therapy. It’s teaching you how to use this technique to improve your interpersonal skills dealing with difficult people. Social discourse generally involves one person saying something and another saying something in return. A back-and-forth volley of words is expected as in playing tennis. When your opponent hits the ball over the net, it’s assumed you’ll hit it back.  To learn to use strategic silence effectively, you must realize you’re breaking a social norm and feel okay about it. You also need a conscious reason for doing so which...
Continue reading
0
  282 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Use Incompatible Response Training to Change Habits

How-to-Use-Incompatible-Response-Training-to-Change-Habits-
While reading a mystery book, I came across a child psychologist character describing his use of Incompatible Response Training, briefly explaining to his companion that it works by substituting one emotion for another. I thought the concept interesting and useful and Googled it to learn more about it. Habit Reversal Training, as it’s also called, involves substituting one habit for another. Why not use it with emotions? So I tried out this strategy with a client that afternoon. She’s very anxious, struggling to overcome perfectionism and people-pleasing, and looking for ways to dissolve her anxiety as she eagerly takes on more challenges in life. Raised by a shame-based mother and an insecure father who demanded she overperform to receive his approval, she grew up as the consummate overachiever and with sky-high anxiety. Both due to genetics and socialization, she couldn’t have turned out any other way. We talked about two large...
Continue reading
0
  303 Hits
  0 Comments

The Secret to Getting Things Done

The-Secret-to-Getting-Things-Done
This blog is for all of you who struggle with getting things done—whether you’re wildly busy or simply have little motivation to do the few important tasks you wish to accomplish. Remember, having alot to do is not necessarily the issue. It’s your inability to execute your (many or few) desires, that is, to go from intention to accomplishment. Be a Schedule Builder, Not a To-Do List Maker by Nir Eyal will put you on the right track by shifting your mindset from checking off to-do lists to structuring your life to suit yourself. Insists Eyal, “It’s time to shed the constant stress and toxic guilt of not checking off enough little boxes and finally understanding why running your life with a to-do list is like running your life on Windows 95.” His point is that we make to do lists to get things we’re ambivalent about doing done. After all,...
Continue reading
0
  349 Hits
  0 Comments

Process Not Product

Process-Not-Product
If you’re rushing through life on automatic or holding off enjoying it until you’ve accomplished something, you might be focused on product rather than process. This could be the case if you’re highly goal-oriented or intent on success at any cost to yourself or others. One obvious example is thinking only of the number on the scale rather than putting attention on eating mindfully. You yearn for the finished product and don’t much care how you get it: by dieting, fasting or bariatric surgery. Here are examples of valuing product over process. You meet someone who’s your type and kind of nice and go out a few times. Although you notice things about them that aren’t what you’re looking for in a life partner, you ignore them because you’re already picturing yourself married with a house and two kids. Because you’re not valuing the getting-to-know-you part of the relationship, you miss many...
Continue reading
0
  469 Hits
  0 Comments

Get Your Magic Wand in Gear

Get-Your-Magic-Wand-in-Gear
In session, not too long ago, a client sighed and said she just wished I had a magic wand and could wave it over her to heal her eating disorder. How often I’ve heard that same wistful plea over my 30-plus years in the business. But this time, rather than smile and say my usual, “I would but my wand’s in the shop,” I told my client that she had her own magic wand but didn’t use it. You all have one. The problem with magic wands is that one can’t simply acquire one and then shove it in the back of the closet and forget about it. Wands need to be used or what’s the point of having one? Do you buy a bicycle and not ride it, spend a fortune on a jumbo screen TV, then never turn it on? I hope not. You have to actually use the...
Continue reading
0
  381 Hits
  0 Comments

How Goals Can Be a Barrier to Bettering Your Health

How-Goals-Can-Be-a-Barrier-to-Bettering-Your-Health
Many dysregulated eaters are ardently goal-oriented. They arise each morning with to-do lists at the ready and rush through the day ticking off items, set reminders of when things needs to get done, shift into overdrive to do them, obsess about how to make the future turn out differently than the present and past, and dream about future happiness. If you’re someone who’s goal oriented, everything in life is a project and you spend more time with your mind in the future than in the now. You do great things at work, make sure family members are well taken care of, and serve your community. Then instead of doing what you say you want to do to eat more healthfully or become more active, you put off these activities and end up eating mindlessly instead. You eat ice cream instead of cleaning the house, down a bag of chips instead of...
Continue reading
0
  448 Hits
  0 Comments

Focus on Change, Not Your Problem

Focus-on-Change-Not-Your-Problem
A colleague sent me this quote I hadn’t heard before which was allegedly said by Socrates. When I checked, it actually wasn’t his, but I love the idea behind it: The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. If you want to know one small way to succeed in recovery, there it is. I spend too much time listening to people talk about their problems and how much they want to overcome them. Then, when I share solutions, they often give a perfunctory nod to them and go right back to talking about what’s wrong. This is a bad habit, nothing more. I know clients want me to understand how difficult their eating problems are. I know they’re frustrated and disappointed in their inability to change to date. But how can complaining about a problem do anything to...
Continue reading
0
  453 Hits
  0 Comments

How Your Brain Can Change for the Better

How-Your-Brain-Can-Change-for-the-Bette_20210422-225732_1
An enlightening book I read, 7-½ Lessons about the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett, explains how our brains are sadly mismatched for current times. Remember, Homo sapien brains evolved to be as they are 35,000-100,000 years ago. Living in caves, we were hunters and gatherers suffering constant physical and mental stress from the elements, starvation, and other humans. I’m sure it had its moments, but for the most part, life was neither life nor pleasant and we had little control over it. In order to survive, we had to be exquisitely attuned and reactive to threats in our environment.  That’s why our brains developed as predictors. If we could predict what would happen, we could have power over our lives and a better shot at surviving. In fact, the premise of Dr. Barrett’s book is that the function of thinking is to predict and that we do this through learning. She...
Continue reading
0
  419 Hits
  0 Comments

How Co-dependence Leads to Non-hunger Eating

How-Co-dependence-Leads-to-Non-hunger-Eatin_20210326-011101_1
A discussion with a client who was having difficulty finding enough pleasure during the COVID pandemic got me thinking about what makes for resilience under stress. Why are some people thriving and others going down hill fast? Why are some people enjoying having time to themselves and others feeling depressed or frantic? Part of the problem is due to co-dependence. My client even described the state by saying, “I always focused on other people and got pleasure from doing that. My parents never encouraged me to think about what I wanted and so I never did. Now that I’m alone and have all this time to myself, I have no idea what to do with it.” This led to talking about how co-dependence—over-focusing on the needs and wants of others to the exclusion of your own—left her lacking skills in her current situation. Fortunately, she was eager to discuss what might...
Continue reading
0
  597 Hits
  0 Comments

Stress and Self-care

Stress-and-Self-care
Recently I’ve come to understand what’s not working in clients’ view of self-care and stress. Hopefully this blog will give you a clearer perspective on how the two fit together. Here's what I hear from clients: I’m too busy for self-care right now, but when I’m less busy, I will certainly get right to it. You could also substitute the word stressed for busy with the same kind of thinking. Self-care is something that will happen in the future when stress somehow miraculously disappears on its own.  Here’s a typical example. A client we’ll call Julia has two kids, a part-time job working from home, and a husband who works hard but does little in the way of parenting. Julia has at times run marathons and eaten healthfully on diets. She loved how she felt when she ate with intention and mindfulness and exercised regularly. During this time she also made...
Continue reading
0
  601 Hits
  0 Comments

A Communication Lesson

A-Communication-Lesson
How many of us simply speak to others as we have been spoken to for most of our lives? Oh, about 100%. If we were raised by parents who were loving and skilled at effective communication—to others, to us and in their self-talk—we are likely to pick up their positive interpersonal habits. For the rest of us, well, unless we learned it somehow or other along the way, we need to understand what constitutes civilized exchange. In my view, novel writer Louise Penny’s main character, Armand Gamache, is a fine teacher, instructing his police trainees as follows: “Civility,” he says, “How can we expect it if we don’t give it?” Before speaking, he recommends that we consider what we’re about to say by asking ourselves: “Is it true? Is it kind? Does it have to be said?” Is it true? It matters that what we say about someone is true for...
Continue reading
0
  508 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Become More Motivated

How-to-Become-More-Motivated
Several times a week, I have discussions with clients about why they’re not fulfilling promises they made to themselves about better eating, moving their bodies more or improving self-caring. Having spent much of the first half of my life involved in similar internal debates, I understand the distress you’re in, so here’s some advice: figure out what’s preventing you from having sustained motivation. In my view, motivation has two phases: jump-start and maintenance. The first thing to figure out is which phase you’re having problems with. Some folks just can’t seem to begin, forever standing at the starting line but never crossing it. Others begin again frequently, stopping and starting over. Whichever problem you have, you’ll want to determine what’s been preventing you from starting on keeping on. Here are my ideas:  You have mixed feelings about doing whatever it is you propose to do: cook more healthfully, walk three times...
Continue reading
0
  618 Hits
  0 Comments

Will Accomplishing Goals Make You Happy?

Will-Accomplishing-Goals-Make-You-Happy
Ah, the beginning of a spanking new year and, per usual, there’s much talk about goals. Whether it’s doing more of this or less of that, most folks believe that reaching goals will make them happy. Unfortunately, science tells us that this idea is but a half truth. According to Happy New Year! Your Resolutions Won’t Bring You Joy, “Changing circumstances won’t make you hugely happier,” said Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside. In other words, the folks who are virtuous enough to keep their resolutions aren’t necessarily enjoying their lives more than the rest of us. And, if they are happier, it’s not because they kept their resolutions — it’s because they made the right resolutions in the right way.”  She goes on to advise that, after basic needs for food, shelter and safety are met, “Life events like marriage (makes you happy!) or divorce...
Continue reading
0
  656 Hits
  0 Comments

The Difference Between Being In and Out of Your Body

The-Difference-Between-Being-In-and-Out-of-Your-Body
Having had an eating disorder, I can attest to the fact that it’s literally an out-of-body experience. This is quite a paradoxical statement, considering that we view eating problems as body disorders. The truth is that they are actually problems of the body and mind and that the root of them is not being connected to both.  Eating disorders develop when we become untethered from the sensations and cues of our bodies. They become, what is called in the trade objectified, not only by others (but generally first by them) but by us. It’s as if the body is way out over there and we are viewing it in order to act upon it—as if it isn’t part of us.  There is a distinction between thoughts and feelings that are about the body (when we view and treat it as separate from us) and those that are in the body (when...
Continue reading
0
  700 Hits
  0 Comments

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Dont-Believe-Everything-You-Think-
I love this quote by author Robert Fulghum: “Don’t believe everything you think.” So succinct, so direct, so true. Whether you take this statement as truth or not will make all the difference in how well or poorly you live your life, so take a moment to consider on which side of the divide you stand.  If you don’t believe it, well, then you’re stuck with your false thoughts til you die and that’s that. This means you’ll be at their mercy to make you miserable and do things that aren’t remotely in your best interest. Sadly, you will think you’re a victim when you’re actually choosing to not develop and use the powers which will transform your life. If you do believe that you can manage your thoughts, great. That brings us to not believing everything you think. If we don’t need to believe every thought that wanders across our...
Continue reading
0
  681 Hits
  0 Comments

What’s Missing From Your Life?

Whats-Missing-From-Your-Life
If you’re drawn to food when you’re not hungry, something may be missing in your life. Or maybe more than some thing, but several somethings. You might be lacking: People Many dysregulated eaters are lonely and don’t realize it. They tell me, “I’m private and like to keep things to myself,” “I don’t want to be a burden,” or “I don’t trust people because I’ve been stabbed in the back too many times.” They believe that they should bear all of life’s hardships themselves and that they’re weak if they reach out for help. They engage in activities with people, but fear sharing authentic feelings. Some prefer the role of listening to others’ problems to opening up themselves. Some have lots of “friends” who are really only acquaintances and others don’t have even that. They yearn for intimacy but, fear it as well, and so remain disconnected, alone and lonely.  Purpose...
Continue reading
0
  564 Hits
  0 Comments

What Do You Want More Than Food This Year?

What-Do-You-Want-More-Than-Food-This-Year
I hope you understand by now that food is not what you really want whenever you’re not hungry and grab something from the fridge or swing by the fast-food drive-thru window. Food only meets your needs when you’re hungry. Whatever else you want is something important to you, essential for your well-being and living your best life, and foundational to your happiness.  Make this the year that you finally find out what’s driving your food obsession, what’s underneath your need to clean your plate, what’s causing your secret and sneak eating—whatever you’d be doing if you weren’t focusing on food and weight every minute of your life. The question is not only what you really want, but what you want more than food. What will satisfy you more than any sweet or treat ever could? Stop reading for a minute and answer this question.  Here’s another: What are you afraid to...
Continue reading
0
  612 Hits
  0 Comments

The Difference Between Force and Power

The-Difference-Between-Force-and-Power
One of my favorite mystery writers, the Canadian author Louise Penny, brilliantly captures why some people fail and others succeed by differentiating between characters who merely exert force against and those who harness power from within. In A Great Reckoning, one character says of another, “He was more powerful than anyone she’d ever met because he wasn’t at the mercy of the elements.”  In order to avoid being at their mercy, one must have a firm moral core, a rooted center that is strong, resourceful and resilient. Power draws from deep within by formulating intention and sticking with it, strategizing about your best shot, and not self-indulgently reacting to people or situations, not falling for cheap tricks or grabbing onto quick fixes.  Then there’s force. I bet that each of you has tried to force something open (a bottle, a drawer, a key in a lock). Maybe you’ve been lucky and...
Continue reading
0
  452 Hits
  0 Comments

When You Need More Than Therapy

When-You-Need-More-Than-Therapy
Although I value psychotherapy tremendously, both personally and professionally, sometimes it’s not enough to heal clients from eating disorders. Therapy is certainly a “cornerstone” or “lifeline” for building a better life, but by itself may not produce the successes clients seek and deserve. Here are some adjunctive activities that are enormously helpful for a true and full recovery from eating and body image disorders. Group Therapy “involves one or more [psychotherapists] who lead a group of roughly five to 15 patients. Typically, groups meet for an hour or two each week. Some people attend individual therapy in addition to groups, while others participate in groups only. Many groups are designed to target a specific problem, such as depression, obesity, panic disorder, social anxiety, chronic pain or substance abuse. Other groups focus more generally on improving social skills, helping people deal with a range of issues such as anger, shyness, loneliness and...
Continue reading
0
  583 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