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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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A Little Misunderstanding about What Learning Entails

A Little Misunderstanding about What Learning Entails
I have no doubt that some of you have a misunderstanding of how we learn based on what many clients say to me. Actually, they don’t outright say, “I don’t understand what the learning process entails.” Instead, they say things like, “I can’t stop bingeing,” “This is hard,” “I’ll never learn to be a ‘normal’ eater,” or “I’m struggling a lot.”  When you’re at the beginning of a book or movie, do you know everything that will happen before you get to the end? Of course not. If you did, you wouldn’t need to be reading or watching. You learn what happens by sticking with the process, not by complaining that you don’t know what you didn’t learn yet. Could you drive a car the first time you started the engine or swim the first time you got tossed into a swimming pool?  Learning behaviors or habits is a three-part process...
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Science Says to Stop Blaming Yourself for Your Eating Problems

Science Says to Stop Blaming Yourself for Your Eating Problems
Regarding this blog’s title, I’m not saying that you have no responsibility for your eating or your size or that you can’t improve your relationship with food and your body. I’m saying that early emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect, called Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs, ( https://www.karenrkoenig.com/blog/adverse-childhood-experiences-may-affect-your-life-and-eating-today ) have a substantial deleterious effect on your emotional and physical wellness in adulthood.   According to “How Childhood Stress Makes You Sick” by Adam Piore (Newsweek, 3/6/20, pp. 23-33), “In recent years, epidemiologists, neuroscientists, and molecular biologists have produced evidence that early childhood experiences, if sufficiently traumatic, can flip biological switches that can profoundly affect the architecture of the developing brain and long-term physical and emotional health.” For instance, in a weight study done by Vincent Felitti, head of Kaiser Permanente’s preventative medicine program, “more than 50% of his 300 patients” admitted to a sexual abuse history!  Further studies produced similar results,...
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Should It Be Self-care or Self-caring?

Should It Be Self-care or Self-caring?
Two recent articles made me think about how to speak about the way we care for ourselves: “Diet Is a Noun” (David Katz, MD, Linked In, 8/16/19, accessed 8/23/19, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/diet-noun-david-l-katz-md-mph-facpm-facp-faclm/ ) and “Self-Care Is Not an Indulgence: It’s a Discipline” (Tami Forman, Forbes, 12/13/17, https://www.forbes.com/sites/tamiforman/2017/12/13/self-care-is-not-an-indulgence-its- adiscipline/?utm_source=FACEBOOK&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Malorie%2F#68 22a047fee0, accessed 8/23/19). Katz asserts that “Diet is decocted to ‘dieting,’ and what should be a reference to a dietary pattern that constructs, nourishes, and sustains a lifetime of vitality is reduced to the hokey-pokey of fashion, fad, and folly. In and out. On and off. Loss and regain.” The way we look at food makes it a thing, an act of this or that, a good bet in the moment, be it saying no or yes to food. My point in referencing Katz’s discussion of “diet” and “dieting” is to help you think about how you view eating. These days we call the continuous and steady attitude...
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Be Aware of Levels of Communication

Be Aware of Levels of Communication
There are many levels of communication and it’s essential to speak on all of them. We need to recognize the level on which we and others are speaking and what we seek from each other. Moreover, the more skilled we are at switching from one level to another, the better communication will flow. In “The Four Levels of Communication,” Charlie Gilkey explains ( https://www.productiveflourishing.com , accessed 11/25/19): Social level: “… where we talk about the weather, sports, news, or around the things  we care about. It’s superficial…and allows us to function among strangers and determine whether the people around us are foes or potential friends.”  Mental level: “… where we talk about ideas, facts, non-controversial beliefs, plans,  strategies, and tips. Most of our professional conversations fall into this area…” Emotional  level: “…in which we talk about our wants, needs, aspirations, fears and  joys” and express them in verbal and non-verbal ways,...
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Stop Telling Yourself It’s Hard to Take Care of Yourself

Stop Telling Yourself It’s Hard to Take Care of Yourself
I had another one of those weeks when several clients came in with the same complaint: It’s hard to not binge or overeat, exercise regularly, stop noshing, take “me” time, and do right for themselves. Hearing this grievance three times in three days, I knew I had to blog about this strange phenomenon. How could highly accomplished and competent clients insist it was too hard to take care of themselves? Why did capable people with enough fortitude, talent, gumption and persistence to be doing impressive things out in the world swear they couldn’t say no to a Mars bar or a bag of chips? I’m talking about…Single parents with a gaggle of teenagers at home and a difficult ex-spouse. Medical professionals whom we entrust with our lives. People taking care of aging parents while juggling a demanding career. Clients going to school and working at the same time. Folks who’ve stopped...
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To Achieve, Believe

To Achieve, Believe
If you want to achieve, you’ve got to believe. I heard this line spoken by the initiator and director of a highly successful local Black theatre troupe during its 20th anniversary show. There so much truth in it. If you don’t believe, you will never achieve. Instead you’ll be surprised when good things happen to you or simply wait around for a stroke of good luck. People who are successful didn’t get that way by simply hoping good things would happen. The believed that they could do it—whatever it was—then went after it. Sadly, many clients tell themselves and me that they can’t achieve their eating or other goals and this is exactly what plays out. I understand that they have fears and wish to avoid experiencing failure and disappointment and that their childhoods didn’t prepare them with the skills they need to be successful—patience, perseverance, curiosity (rather than judgment), frustration...
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Our Stories—for Better or for Worse

Our Stories—for Better or for Worse
Is the world a safe place? Are people trustworthy? Our answers to these and other crucial questions depend on our beliefs, even if we’re unaware of them and their impact on our lives. So says research by University of Pennsylvania’s Jeremy Clifton published in Psychological Assessment (“Beliefs about the world can shape a psyche” by Emily Esfahaui Smith, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 10/8/19, p. E22, accessed 10/10/19).  If you’re into self-help books or have been in therapy, you likely have heard this idea before: Our stories are just that—not truth, not fact—but nevertheless are the basis of our feelings and behaviors. Clifton’s research generated 26 primal world beliefs, including whether the world is “good, safe, changing, worth exploring, and intentional.” These beliefs beget the stories we tell ourselves which “predict how happy or depressed we are, how trusting we are in relationships, and the decisions we make.” Consider your beliefs about these...
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What Red Flags Are You Missing in your Life?

What Red Flags Are You Missing in your Life?
Many clients have a “red flag problem.” They don’t see the truth in front of their eyes, then get blindsided by it. Not seeing red flags is a human trait, especially when we’re young and naïve and learning what life is all about. By doing dumb things and getting hurt, we avoid doing them again. That’s how we survive and grow into mature adults.  But ignoring red flags as an adult will only do you in. Below are some possibilities. Feel free to add your own. Are there exceptions to them? Of course. But I wouldn’t chance finding out. Dysfunctional organizations. You go for a job interview and talk to employees who all say they’re unhappy. Your new boss seems demanding, controlling and to care little about his subordinates. You feel a sense of total disorganization and dysfunction that, you’re told, has been that way for a long time and isn’t...
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Co-dependence and Dysregulated Eating

Co-dependence and Dysregulated Eating
Can it be that in all my blogs, I’ve never written specifically about co-dependence? I think that is the case, which is odd considering that it’s a prevailing trait among my clients—dysregulated eaters and otherwise.  According to “6 Signs of a Codependent Relationship: Research explains why the ties that bind are practically unbreakable” by Linda Esposito, LCSW (Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-zen/201609/6-signs-codependent-relationship , 9/19/16, retrieved 9/6/19), co-dependency is “when two people with dysfunctional personality traits become worse together.” Suffice it to say that co-dependence involves poor boundary setting and maintenance, enabling unhealthy behavior, not taking responsibility for oneself, over-focusing on others’ needs to the exclusion of your own, and a general life imbalance around caretaking of self and other. You can read more about it online or in two classics books, Co-dependent No More by Beattie or Facing Co-dependence by Mellody.  For now, I want to talk about how co-dependence and eating disorders...
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How to Thrive During the Holidays

Holidays
I’ve written dozens of holiday blogs and articles over the decades and here’s another. You can check out previous ones in my blog archives on my website. My goal here is to provide simple guidelines for you to follow over the holidays which will help you take excellent care of yourself and make you proud of yourself.  Focus on what’s enough. Whether we’re talking about food, alcohol intake, cleaning, decorating, gift giving or partying, get in touch with what feels like the right amount for you. Ditch all-or-nothing thinking and stay connected to self-regulation. Don’t diet. Holidays are a perfect time to practice “normal” eating. Sure there are more treats around, but that just gives you more opportunity to have small amounts of foods you really love. Have a tapas mentality—a little of this and a little of that is enough. Emotional regulation. Keep tabs on your emotions. If you know...
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Fight for Your Life

Fight for your life
I was talking with a client about how easily the good in life had come to him as a long-time underachiever able to get by and find success with little effort, and how this attitude was now a major impediment to becoming a “normal eater”—and to his ability to literally fight for his life. The theme of not trying hard enough in one way or another echoes throughout the histories of most of my clients and is the theme of many sessions.  Not long after this conversation, a friend described hearing some neighbors complain about how people in this country who are poor, uneducated or disenfranchised are that way because they don’t try hard enough. Missing was the understanding of the part that biology and culture play in success, the recognition that we emerge from an unequal playing field, and the compassion for how hard most people do try to improve...
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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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