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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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Just the Facts, Ma’am

Just-The-Facts-Ma-am
While reading an article on people’s reactions to the corona virus, I came upon two statements that struck me as right on target about emotions. They perfectly describe what happens when we don’t view life objectively and accurately but insist on seeing it only through the lens of our experience. Of course, we can’t help but view life through our experience. What gets in the way of mental health is when people are unable to acknowledge that their view (based on emotions) runs against the facts and is purely subjective and often patently untrue. David Ropeik, retired Harvard University instructor on risk communication, tells us that, “Emotions are the filters through which we see the facts.” And Paul Slovic, University of Oregon psychology professor, explains that, “‘Hot buttons . . . ramp up our perception of risk, and sometimes make those perceptions different from the evidence-based conclusions.”  Examples of this process...
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COVID and Beyond—It’s All about Self-Care

Wear-A-Mask
I haven’t blogged much about these days of living with the COVID-19 virus, though I’ve written two pieces, one about eating during the pandemic and another on why people ignore or defy taking //medium.com/@kkoeniglicsw/give-me-liberty-or-give-me-death-599abaf9f0ba">virus precautions. I haven’t written more virus-related blogs because I thought I’d be straying off course and that my writings would be more beneficial to my audience of troubled eaters if I stayed with my expertise.  Then I realized that deciding what or how much to eat and social distancing while wearing a mask all fall under the same umbrella of self-care. It’s wonderful if you’re using pandemic time to focus on staying connected to appetite and minding your portion sizes. Be proud if you’ve put away the scale, are making more of an effort to eat healthier foods, and have gotten into an activity routine that feels right for you. But, honestly, if you’re not wearing a...
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Train Your Brain to Be More Optimistic

Train-Your-Brain-To-Be-More-Optimistic
A major trigger of emotional eating is worry or despair. It turns out that pessimism not only feels crummy and is harmful to your relationship with food, but also may impact longevity. If you’re looking to become more optimistic, you can retrain your brain to think more positively according to “Want to live longer? Be an optimist, study says” by Sandee LaMottte (CNN.com, 8/26/19, accessed 8/27/19,  https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/26/health/optimism-live-longer-wellness/index.html). Says LaMotte, “Optimism doesn't mean ignoring life's stressors. But when negative things happen, optimistic people are less likely to blame themselves and more likely to see the obstacle as temporary or even positive. They also believe they have control over their fate and can create opportunities for good things to happen in the future.” Two key concepts are going on here. First, when things go wrong, stop blaming yourself. Pessimists tend to be blame oriented—hard on themselves or others for causing problems. Second, get...
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What and Where Is the Mind?

What-and-Where-Is-the-Mind
When we say, “I’m going out of my mind,” where is it exactly that we’re going? When we insist that, “Food’s on my mind all the time,” where is it? “Scientists Say Your ‘Mind’ Isn’t Confined to Your Brain, or Even Your Body” by Olivia Goldhill provides some answers along with a definition and general description of “the mind.” (Quartz, 12/24/16, https://getpocket.com/explore/item/scientists-say-your-mind-isn-t-confined-to-your-brain-or-even-your-body?utm_source=pocket-newtab, accessed 2/10/20). Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and the author of the 2016 book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human, defines the mind as “the emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within and among us.” He says that the mind contains our perception of our experiences as well as the actual experiences themselves. “Borrowing tenets from mathematics, Siegel explains that the mind is a complex system and, as such is “optimal self-organization is:...
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How Science Advises Overcoming Procrastination-Part 2

How Science Advises Overcoming Procrastination-Part 2
Here are more tips on how to overcome putting things off from “Why Your Brain Loves Procrastination” by Susannah Locke (https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-your-brain-loves procrastination?utm_source=pocket-newtab, 4/18/16, accessed 2/5/20). Make sure you’ve read part one of this two-part blog which explains why you need to engage in self-compassion rather than self-criticism if you put things off—then, read on. Tim Pychyl, psychologist and Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada professor explains recent research that makes a good deal of sense: “. . . what’s happening with procrastination is that ‘present self’ is always trumping ‘future self’ . . . Some people see these selves as completely distinct, and some people see them totally overlapping. The people who see the present and future self as more overlapping have more self-continuity and report less procrastination.” After reading this article I spent a session with a client who keeps stalling on taking walks that she swears she wants to take....
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How Science Advises Overcoming Procrastination-Part 1

How Science Advises Overcoming Procrastination-Part 1
All week in therapy I hear the following, “If I know what to do, why do I keep putting it off?” or “I can’t get myself to go to the gym even though I really want to” or “What’s wrong with me that I can’t get started on better self-care?” We all procrastinate a little at times, but if it’s a habit, it’s time to understand why we put things off and how to stop. According to “Why Your Brain Loves Procrastination” by Susannah Locke (4/18/16, accessed 2/5/20, https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-your-brain-loves procrastination?utm_source=pocket-newtab), about 5% of the population has a serious problem with it. Rather than being rooted in a moral deficiency, science views chronically putting off doing things we wish to do as a psychological issue: We simply don’t want to do things that make us uncomfortable or that we think will make us uncomfortable. Explains Locke, “When people procrastinate, they’re avoiding emotionally...
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Trash versus Treasure Self-talk

Trash versus Treasure Self-talk
My book on how self-talk heals our relationship with food and our bodies isn’t due out until 2021, but it’s never too soon to learn healthy self-talk. One way to think of it is whether it’s rational or irrational. Rational means it’s based on fact, evidence, reason and logic. Rational self-talk is sensible, settles you down and supports your goals. Irrational self-talk has no logical or reasonable basis. It’s like a bully. It seems to erupt out of nowhere, then tries to overwhelm you with its ferocious emotional intensity and persistence all the while undermining your goals and stomping on your reason.  To separate irrational from rational self-talk, think of them as trash or treasure. We take out the trash so that it’s gone from our lives. We don’t set it in the middle of the living room and worshipfully live our lives around it. When we treasure something, we hold...
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Automaticity

Automaticit_20200424-202505_1
If you’re looking for answers to how to develop eating consistency, Brooke Mathewes and Scott Miller have some great answers. (“Meet You in McGinnis Meadows” (Psychotherapy Networker, Jan-Feb 2020, pp. 46-57) Miller describes what people are looking for as automaticity, or “…doing without having to think about everything we’re doing. Whatever we’re engaged in becomes smoother and with that, our comfort, confidence, and efficiency grows.” It’s performing actions automatically, naturally. Based on their experience training people in attunement, here’s their assessment of who succeeds: “What we can say for sure is that desire explains nothing. Everyone wants to improve their attunement, responsiveness, and outcomes.” I do think that desire is important—The more wholeheartedly and less ambivalently one wants something, the better they will do in achieving it—but I totally agree that simply wanting something, even really badly, won’t get you anywhere unless you follow Mathewes’ and Miller’s assessment of the “qualities...
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Committing to the 100% Rule

Committing to the 100% Rule
Both Jack Canfield, author and motivational speaker, and life coach Susie Moore, (https://www.jackcanfield.com/blog/take-100-responsibility-for-your-life-starting-today/) (https://susie-moore.com/writer/best-advice-have-ever-received/) write about “The 100% Rule” to achieve success. Talking with clients about this “rule,” important questions arise about what’s enough effort to put in to reach goals. So, some clarifications on it.   Here's what Canfield writes: “Take no less than 100% responsibility. Successful people take full responsibility for the thoughts they think, the images they visualize, and the actions they take. They don’t waste their time and energy blaming and complaining. They evaluate their experiences and decide if they need to change them or not. They face the uncomfortable and take risks in order to create the life they want to live.”  Canfield is talking specifically about taking responsibility. He’s not saying that you can’t ever make mistakes or fail or that you need to be right 100% of the time. This is the error in thinking...
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Watch Where You’re Going and Don’t Get on the Wrong Train

Watch Where You’re Going and Don’t Get on the Wrong Train
Most of my clients have heard my train analogy for changing thinking, but I haven’t blogged about it specifically and it’s time to do so. The concept is not original and I no longer recall where I first heard it. It’s about knowing your intent, or said another way, always being clear about where you’re going, and keeping your thoughts in line with moving closer to your destination.  Say you’re in a train station and that you regularly take one from there to a particular destination. If you’ve never been to a train station, think about the buses you’ve taken to regularly go from one place to another. You don’t get on a train for the Bronx if you want to go to Brooklyn; you don’t hop on a bus for Peoria if you want to end up in Toledo. You let all the wrong trains or buses pass by no...
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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, that is,...
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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 of...
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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, showing “trust,...
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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 go...
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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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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