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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. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

Were You Raised with the Best Tools for Success?

Success
Most of my clients with dysregulated eating weren’t raised with a set of effective life skills that support eating disorder recovery. Worse, when they falter on the way to achieving their goals, they behave in exactly the wrong ways to help them assess why, correct course, and move forward. If you weren’t taught how to pursue goals, yet want to become a “normal” eater, you’ll need to change how you think about success.  Here are some examples from my practice over the decades of the ways that parents fail to model and teach children how to successfully reach their goals. Parents: sporadically stop addictive behaviors such as drinking or taking drugs for a while, then relapse, but refuse to get help, insisting they just need to exert more will power let themselves be emotionally abused by a spouse for whom they make excuses  hate to see you struggle, so they do...
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Sleep-care Is Part of Self-Care

Sleep
How would you rate your sleep-care on a scale of one to ten: 8, 4, 1, minus 6? Getting enough rest and high-quality sleep is crucial to your mental and physical health—and to improving your relationship with food. It’s amazing how many smart and successful dysregulated eaters think of sufficient sleep as incidental to their lives. To me, it’s a sad indication of poor self-care. Thomas Rutledge explains the importance of sleep, especially in relation to weight, in “Three Ways Your Sleep Habits May Cause Weight Gain” (Psychology Today, 6/20/19, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-healthy-journey/201906/three-ways-your-sleep-habits-may-cause-weight-gain?utm_source=pocket-newtab , accessed 6/22/19). Here are some take-aways from his article which assesses the research in the area of sleep’s impact on eating and weight. Sleep-deprived people may be too tired to exercise, even if they try to push themselves to suit up for a run or start the car to get to the gym before it closes. Due to sleep...
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Could More Creativity Heal Your Food Problems?

Could More Creativity Heal Your Food Problems?
I wish I’d engaged in more impassioned activities in my binge-eating days. Back then, other than work, socializing, reading and downhill skiing, I didn’t have much going on to joyfully fill my time. Since then—half a lifetime ago—I’ve become, to my surprise, a highly creative person. If I’d had or pursued more creative interests long ago, I suspect I would have turned to them rather than eating mindlessly. Then, again, maybe my creativity slowly emerged because I wasn’t stuffing myself with food. Who knows? Whether you’re making jewelry or refinishing furniture, writing a poem or designing a garden, when creative juices are flowing, you’re fully engaged, body and mind. This is why creativity is such a powerful antidote to mindless eating: you’re in the moment and yet you’re also inexorably moving forward—on a magical, transformational journey. Never had creativity or had it and lost it? According to Deena Bouknight in “How...
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What Are You Most Proud Of?

  Shame often fills every molecule of airspace in my office. It comes in waves off clients describing making small mistakes that are gigantic in their minds, transgressions that occurred years or decades ago that remain alive in their memories today and imagined harm they’ve inflicted on others that under the spotlight of exploration becomes nothing of the sort. To combat dysregulated eaters being shame-based, I focus on pride and what clients are proud of. Prying this information out of them is no easy task. When I ask clients what makes them proud of themselves, they usually go silent and need to think long and hard to give me an answer. Sadly, some have no idea what I’m asking about—do I mean what they’ve achieved, done well, what others like or praise them for? Pride is the positive feeling of doing something well according to your own standards . Sometimes these...
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How Has Your Eating Disorder Helped You Cope?

  I have a client who binges and purges whenever she’s stressed. If this describes you, consider this: What if it’s the best way you know of to cope with the vicissitudes of life? What if you’re trying to save yourself from worse pain by these actions? I don’t know if you know the story of Aron Ralston who cut off the lower half of his arm to free himself from being pinned by a boulder in the Utah desert. I remember hearing his story and thinking that he believed amputation to be his last resort or he wouldn’t have done such a painful thing. Most people, I assume, probably agreed. Ralston’s heroics drifted into my consciousness when I was talking to my client about her stress-induced binges and purges. I asked what words came to mind when she thought about them and she blurted out, “Disgusting, repulsive, shameful, foolish, disheartening,...
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Chronic Pain and Food Seeking

Whether you have pain that’s short-term, say a severe headache or a broken bone, or chronic and long-term, as can happen with fibromyalgia or neuropathy, you may be using food as a crutch to get you through the day. Being in pain can steer you toward the refrigerator in several ways, but you can learn not to let it do so—and improve your health at the same time. You may turn to unhealthy food: · For comfort from pain because you hurt badly and wish to feel better. Who could blame you for that? However, food is not meant for comfort, except occasionally. Especially if you’re suffering is ongoing, you may be telling yourself it’s okay to eat lots of sweets and treats because you feel so miserable. Or because life’s not fair. But, it’s not okay to mistreat your body when it’s already feeling awful. It’s far better to find...
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What to Do to Feel Contentment and More

I spend a good deal of therapy time talking with clients about how to self-soothe and talk themselves down from the ledge when they feel heightened anxiety. Ours is not at heart a culture that teaches or helps us do that in spite of all we hear about meditation, yoga, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. We’re not exactly a deep feeling culture. We’re externally rather than internally focused. But Norwegians seem to have found a way to do what we need to take classes to learn. The word they use to describe what they call their national pastime is “koselig.” (“Why are Norwegians so happy? In a word: ‘koselig’” by David Allan, CNN online, 5/1/19, accessed 5/1/19). Allan says, “You could roughly translate koselig (pronounced "koosh-lee"), as ‘coziness,’ but that leaves out crucial components of it, like enjoying the company of others and a connection with nature.” Neither of these pastimes should be...
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What to Do When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn

I can’t believe I’ve lived this long and never heard of the essay, “Welcome to Holland” written by Emily Kingsley in 1987 (Texas Parent to Parent, Austin, TX, accessed 4/30/19.) When you read it, you’ll see why it needs no introduction other to say the author is talking about having a child with a disability. Here it is: “When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like you’re planning a vacation to Italy. You’re all excited. You get a whole bunch of guidebooks, you learn a few phrases so you can get around, and then it comes time to pack your bags and head for the airport. Only when you land, the stewardess says, ‘WELCOME TO HOLLAND.” You look at one another in disbelief and shock, saying, “HOLLAND? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? I SIGNED UP FOR ITALY.” But they explain that there’s been a change of plan, that you’ve landed...
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What Crisis Can Mean in Your Life

Many people come to therapy because they’re “in crisis.” Usually, they see the crisis as something terrible, perhaps the worst thing that ever happened to them. I get it, but my job is to try to help them see this “crisis” as something more, maybe even positive. It’s not a new idea to view “bad” things that happen to us as possibly being good in the long run. Philosophers, spiritual leaders and experts in human behavior have written about this subject for ages. Yet, when something unpleasant or unsettling happens to us, we generally go right to thinking about how awful it is and how terrible it will be for our lives. To be clear, I’m not talking about fatal health or medical problems, the loss of a loved one, fire or flood demolishing your home, or severe traumas like being raped. Here are some examples of what I mean. Your...
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What Do You Want Most in Life?

I spend my days listening to what clients want. Sadly, I rarely hear them sharing wanting to be mentally healthy above all else. That is what I want for myself and for all of you. Setting a goal to achieve as much mental health as you can means that you may need to sacrifice other, lesser goals. This doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile pursuits. It means that their exclusive pursuit may be what’s holding you back from growing mentally healthier. In and of themselves, there’s nothing wrong with desiring them. But they’re not the whole shebang is what we want to strive for. Here are some goals that dysregulated eaters and clients say they want: To be heard and seen . To be sure, this is an admirable, very human goal. Who wishes to go through life feeling that you don’t matter and aren’t worth a whit? However, it’s important to...
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Becoming Who You Want to Be

There’s a process that goes on in recovery that’s more subtle than overt and which is full of greater complexity than most dysregulated eaters can imagine. I know, as I was one of them. One barrier to this reality is a major trait of troubled eaters: all or nothing thinking. More often than not, clients come to me with the stated or unstated wish or belief that if they just try hard enough, they’ll become “normal” eaters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Another aspect of misperception is that it’s very hard to imagine being any different than we are. We can fantasize about it, but we can’t deep down have the experience of what we’re not yet. Which leads me to point out the gradual transformation that happens in healing and recovery. Initially, people try out different skills and inevitably have difficulty with them. They forget to practice them;...
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Be Brave

I sometimes wonder if I talk enough about bravery when it’s one of the most significant qualities a person can have. I know that with clients, we discuss their anxiety and worry, fears and frustrations. But the other side of the coin is just as important: to recognize the acts of bravery that we engage in and even those we consider engaging in which someday may come to fruition. Why bravery? Because so many dysregulated eaters don’t realize they need to be brave to overcome their eating disorders. Here are 20 large and small acts of bravery relating to food and your body to aspire to or pat yourself on the back for if you’ve already engaged in them: Stop dieting. Leave an abusive relationship. Quit weighing yourself. Seek therapy. Throw out food when you’ve eaten enough. End relationships in which you’re mistreated on a regular basis. Eat high-calorie/high-fat food in...
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Why We Do What We Do

We act in certain ways because we’re driven by what we call human nature. Over the centuries, there have been varying views of what that entails. “The bad news on human nature, in 10 findings from psychology” by neuroscientist Christian Jarrett (Aeon, 12/5/18, adaptation of an article published by The British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, accessed 12/7/18) may help you understand more about why we and others say and do things that are not always in our best interest. Here are some evidence-based conclusions about our baser desires and reactions. · We believe that people deserve their fate and blame the less fortunate for what happens to them. In part, this may be why many dysregulated eaters are hard on themselves and confuse taking responsibility for their actions with self-blame. · We are not particularly rational, open-minded creatures. Remember this when you’re arguing with someone and the facts that you present...
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What Constitutes an Adult?

This blog came about thanks to (another) lively and enlightening discussion I had with a client about what qualities make us feel like adults. Even when we’re chronological adults, we may not know how to act maturely or may have only a hazy idea of how adults ought to conduct themselves. After all, our concept of adulthood is rooted in a template of how our parents and other important grownups acted when we were children. Many dysregulated eaters may not have bothered to update this view, even long after they have become adults themselves. The discussion with my client on adulthood grew out of the conversation we’ve had on more than one occasion about her feelings when we touch on whether or not she acts childishly. This time, rather than focus on what behaviors or reactions might be childish or childlike, I headed in another direction: How did she feel about...
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Is It a Chore or a Challenge?

Twice in one day, I had clients complain about exercise and eating healthily being chores. They had nothing but negative things to say about how they felt about engaging in these activities. Obviously, the intense feelings they had about these activities are only made worse by filing them in the category of “chore” in their brains. Would it, I wondered with them, make a difference to categorize them as “challenge”? According to the English Oxford Living Dictionaries, a chore is either a “routine task, especially a household one,” or “a tedious but necessary task.” (accessed 1/21/19, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/chore ). Even here we have leeway. Thinking of exercise as a routine will get the job done. It’s something you do frequently and regularly, so much so that you have no need to even think about it. The second meaning is more like how my clients view chores: as one big “Ugh!” They give...
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What Is Secondary Gain and How It Can Hurt You

I’m often struck by the fact that psychological concepts that I recognize like the back of my hand are unknown to many clients. I don’t know why I’m surprised, considering that the education of a therapist is based on possessing a thorough knowledge of psychology. One of these concepts that people don’t readily see and often need a therapist to point out to them is called secondary gain. To put it simply, a primary gain is one we’re conscious of and a secondary gain is one that is generally unconscious. The term is often applied in relation to poor health. The primary gain from going to the doctor would include getting proper diagnosis and treatment. The primary gain from telling people about your sickness might include informing friends about why you’ve been isolating or even finding out if they’ve gone through what you’re experiencing. With primary gain, we have an intentional,...
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Time to Raise the Bar on Deservedness

I feel sad for my clients who settle for so little in relationships and in other aspects of life. You may do the same thing if you compare what you have now to what you had growing up and think this is the best you can do—with friends, romance or work. In childhood, you may have been neglected or physically or sexually abused. Now you put up with emotional abuse or indifference thinking, “At least I’m not being hurt physically.” You may have suffered emotional abuse at the hands of your parents and now accept romantic or friend relationships with people who are sometimes nice to you but mistreat you at other times. You stay because this is the best you’ve been treated to date and are grateful that at least someone isn’t awful to you all the time. You stay because life has improved. But you’re still not getting the...
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Fake News—In Your Head

What happens when we believe fake news and what happens when we take as truth the random irrational thoughts floating through our minds day in and day out is pretty much the same thing. When we stop even trying to distinguish fact from fiction—within or without— and go with how we “feel,” we surrender rationality and suffer grave consequences. When our eating behaviors are the product of mental flotsam—denial, fantasy, pretzel logic, and irrational fears—we can forget about growing healthier or wiser. The fake news being generated by our brains (aka eating disordered thinking) will keep us chained to the merry-go-round of emotional and mindless eating forever. The only way off this very unmerry go-round is to take charge of our minds and start separating fact from fiction, fake news from real news. Here are the top 10 hits being broadcast 24/7 on the fake news channel of dysregulated eaters: I...
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What Is Instead of What If

One of my clients said that she’s practicing staying focused on “what is” rather than on “what if,” and I thought that was a great phrase and way to live. Living according to this creed, she’s making changes in her current life rather than agonizing about the future. What if you stopped obsessing about “what if” and made “what is” your primary focus? There is, of course, nothing wrong with considering what might happen in the future in order to try to make better decisions in the present. In fact, this is the best way to problem solve. But, there’s a big difference between intentionally thinking about consequences and putting your life on hold or not experiencing it to the fullest. Here are some examples of how these major differences play out: Some people have little direction in life and only the broadest of goals such as wanting to be happy....
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The Best Decisions Are Based on Rationality

Reading a book about how strongly human nature inclines toward irrationality and the importance of fighting to be rational made me think about illogical beliefs that clients bring into therapy. Although their lives are problem-laden or they can’t reach their eating and other goals, they are often upset when I challenge these irrational beliefs. Because my job is neither to placate nor make them feel good in the moment, but to get and keep them mentally healthy, I challenge them anyway. If you want the health, happiness, and success that other people achieve, you can’t hold these beliefs:   That will never happen to me. It’s understandable how this thought takes root. How reassuring to believe that bad things happen to other people and not to us. Or that bad things may befall us, but they only protect us from worse things happening. If we believe that unfortunate things happen only...
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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