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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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Focus on Change, Not Your Problem

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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...
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How Your Brain Can Change for the Better

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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...
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How Co-dependence Leads to Non-hunger Eating

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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...
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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...
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A Communication Lesson

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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...
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How to Become More Motivated

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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...
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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...
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The Difference Between Being In and Out of Your Body

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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...
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Don’t Believe Everything You Think

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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...
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What’s Missing From Your Life?

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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...
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What Do You Want More Than Food This Year?

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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...
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The Difference Between Force and Power

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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...
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When You Need More Than Therapy

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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...
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So What If Change Takes Effort

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Lately it seems that more clients than ever are complaining about how hard it is to change. It’s likely that the stress of the pandemic is a contributor to life being more arduous and generating a larger chorus of frustrations. But there’s more to it than that. Thinking about this issue brings me back to when I was getting my Masters degree in Education. I had some minor problem and asked to see my professor about it. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it boiled down to my insisting that something was unfair. As if it were yesterday, rather than the late 1970s, I clearly remember her response as she looked at me in astonishment and asked, “Whatever made you think life was going to be fair?” Her comment was a game-changer for my life. Why indeed? A similar question could be asked about why many of us feel...
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What I Wish I Knew During My Eating Disorder

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My days as a chronic dieter, emotional/binge/over-eater and person with bulimia were more than half a lifetime ago. At 73, that’s more than three decades gone by and it seems like it. The eating patterns I have now are chosen consciously and with an eye toward health and well-being. I’m both a “normal” eater and a nutritious eater.  Some background. A chubby child, I had to finish all the food on my plate as per my father’s edicts and snuck food whenever I could. I dieted and binged my way through adolescence and my 20s. After discovering purging, I did that for about 18 months. In my early 30s I discovered that I could, with effort, become a “normal” eater.  Here’s what I wish I’d known when I was in the throws of my food and body struggles.  No therapy or therapist or program would do the work for me. I...
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Your Poor Self-care Hurts Others

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Here’s a letter I wish I could have written back in July. Instead I turned it into a blog.  Dear Woman Behind Me at CVS Pharmacy: Yes, you, the 30-ish woman with the dark hair and black-framed glasses standing behind me on line at the prescription pick-up counter. Remember me, the white-haired woman speaking to the pharmacy assistant about how COVID-19 cases were falling in upstate New York while rising like crazy here in Florida. You seemed to think it was fine to pipe up and contradict me, butting in with, “It’s because of more testing that numbers are going up.” If you recall, I turned around to face your mask-less self and insisted, “No, not really” (the truth at the time). I left it at that because I live in a state where it’s legal to conceal carry a gun and didn’t want to start an altercation which would leave...
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Becoming Body-wise and Media Literate

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When you look at images of women and men, what’s your response? Do you see them as more beautiful/buff/handsome/pretty/toned than you are and feel less than? Or are you media literate and know that most of them have been air-brushed into looking so perfect, and wonder what they really look like? If you’d like to learn how to recognize what the media does to images to make us feel badly about ourselves, read on.   In “Why teach media literacy to teen girls?” (About-Face, https://about-face.org/why-teach-media-literacy-to-teen-girls/?mc_cid=4a819dcb05&mc_eid=00a877d57d, 7/20, accessed 8/9/20), About Face Executive Director Jennifer Berger explains how we’ve gotten hoodwinked by the media and the damage it’s done to girls and women: “Sure, in the 1970s, airbrushed photographs made women’s skin poreless and ageless, setting an impossible beauty standard. But today, Photoshop not only banishes every “imperfection”, it also sculpts inches off celebrity thighs and waists – often without the women’s consent and against...
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The Truth about Eating Disorders Recovery

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Do you want to know why you still have your food problems after years of struggling to end them? You might not understand why, but I do, all too well. The answer is actually quite simple. As I write in The Real Reasons You’re Not Becoming a “Normal” Eater, you are not consistently doing all you are advised to do to recover.  To your credit, many of you are in therapy, attend regularly, and are changing in many areas of your life. You’re thinking and acting differently to generate the changes. Nearly all clients make interpersonal changes more easily than food ones. For instance, maybe you’re getting along better with your mother/colleague/son/spouse because you’re letting more of their remarks slide when you used to become defensive or challenge them more often.  Many of you have underlying anxiety or depressive disorders. Some of you are trauma survivors. And most have suffered from...
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Why People Don’t Believe the Facts and Believe Falsehoods – Part 2

Why People Don’t Believe the Facts and Believe Falsehoods – Part 2
If you’re someone who leans toward believing falsehoods and lies in the news or those spouted from the mouths of ignorant people, you might not like the reason why this might be so. Of course, you not liking it might be the reason you tend to be so easily flimflammed. Humans, some more than others, want to believe we’re smart and can distinguish truth from fiction, which is part of the problem.    According to Cognitive Ability and Vulnerability to Fake News, research on why people persist in believing fake news says, “a person’s cognitive ability reflects how well they can regulate the contents of working memory—their ‘mental workspace’ for processing information. This theory holds that some people are more prone to ‘mental clutter’ than other people. In other words, some people are less able to discard (or ‘inhibit’) information from their working memory that is no longer relevant to the...
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Why People Don’t Believe the Facts and Believe Falsehoods – Part 1

 Why People Don’t Believe the Facts and Believe Falsehoods – Part 1
I spend a good deal of clinical time explaining to clients why things they’re doing or people they’re with aren’t good for them. Sometimes they even tell me that friends or family agree, and admit they ignore advice and still cling to the belief that all will be well.  Then, not long ago, I came across an explanation for this dynamic in “Bad Thinkers: Why do some people believe conspiracy theories? It’s not just who or what they know. It’s a matter of intellectual character” by Quassim Cassam, PhD. Bad thinkers include conspiracy theorists, Holocaust deniers, people insisting they’ve been abducted by aliens, and astrology adherents, to name a few. In my work, I’d throw in chronic dieters who’ve regained lost weight but continue to diet and people who stay with abusers. Cassam says that “Intellectual character traits that aid effective and responsible enquiry are intellectual virtues, whereas intellectual vices are...
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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