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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]

The Empowerment of Attention

The-Empowerment-of-Attention
Want to know what the key to recovery is? After 30-plus years of treating people with eating disorders, I can tell you that it’s in large part paying attention to what you say to yourself and changing your thinking and self-talk. On a more basic level, we might call it changing your neuronal connections. Although it may not be as easy as flipping an on-off switch, it’s also not nearly as difficult as you might think. This process is described by Daniel Siegel, MD, author of Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence—The Groundbreaking Meditation Practice (TarcherPerigee: NY, 8/18, p. 39): “Where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connections grow.” Another way of saying this is that the areas of your lawn which you water will sprout green, while the parts you don’t will go brown and die. Or consider this: If you had two hypothetical children and you paid...
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Weight, Eating and Microaggressions

Weight-Eating-and-Microaggressions
Ever have someone say to you, “You’re not really going to eat that, are you, when you said you were trying to slim down?,” “You’re so handsome/pretty and you’d look even better if you lost some weight,” or “Whatever happened to that diet you were on a few weeks ago?” These are hardly unusual comments for higher weight people to hear. Many come into therapy sessions depressed or incensed about remarks that friends, family, co-workers or complete strangers have made about their eating or their weight.  Rather than being obvious attacks, these microaggressions can be just as hurtful and damaging to you. They’re sneaky devils that sound as if they’re not meaning to twist the knife and the people who utter them can be equally adept in feigning innocence and blaming others for their unkind utterances. Some great advice comes from an enlightening article about racism and microaggressions that explains the...
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Relapse and Resume

Relapse-and-Resume
Want to guess my most common client complaint? It’s “How come I was doing so well for a while and then I just went back to eating like I used to?” Unfortunately, there’s no short and breezy explanation to that crucial question except to say that changing unhealthy habits generally involves a repetition of the pattern of relapse and resume. I usually feel resistance to using the word relapse and for many years I wouldn’t use it at all. But it feels right when we associate it with a lapse of better judgment or a lapse of doing what you know is best for yourself—like eating three pieces of leftover pizza when you come home from a dinner out or finishing off the pint of ice cream you’re saving for another night. Relapse means to lapse again, but implies the state isn’t permanent. The good news is that relapse is usually...
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What Self Are You Trying to Curate?

What-Self-Are-You-Trying-to-Curate
I’ve been hearing the word curate a lot lately and, though I got the gist of it, I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant until I looked it up. It’s close enough to say it means to collect or arrange things to project a certain image. While essays lament how people are “curating” their images on social media to look a certain way or to create an online identity that has a particular luminous aura, the curation I worry most about is when we create a specific idealization of who we want to be and believe we’re nothing without it.  Rather than let ourselves evolve into who we might be, we grab onto an image and fashion ourselves around it. The process, of course, begins in childhood when the shaping is primarily done by our parents, relatives, teachers and culture taking a smidgen off here and adding a lot more on...
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How Being a Parentified Child Sets You Up for Eating Problems

-How-Being-a-Parentified-Child-Sets-You-Up-for-Eating-Problems
If you did a great deal of care-taking of siblings or parents in childhood, the patterns you developed may have set you up for having an eating disorder today. This type of child is called parentified, that is, you were the parent figure to younger brothers or sisters and maybe even to parents who had mental health or addiction issues. How being parentified makes you seek food for comfort is fairly easy to understand. First, if you were charged with taking care of a parent who could not care for themselves, a role reversal identity was being forged in you, that is, you began to see yourself as needing to care for others in order to get your needs met. This is not about blaming your parent but about understanding how early dynamics set the stage for later ones. Maybe you had to make sure your alcoholic dad got up and...
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How to Evaluate Thoughts

How-to-Evaluate-Thoughts
Because humans do a good deal of thinking, we’re wise to spend substantial time considering our thoughts. Are they worthwhile? Are they helpful? What’s their purpose? How do we decide which ones are keepers and which ones to dump into the trash?  You might even wonder what thoughts are for in the first place. Many dysregulated eaters view thoughts as truth, believing they’re one and the same which they’re not. They are random impressions from the external world as well as reactions to our inner world and emotions. Thoughts come and go and circle around again.  Jon Connelly, PhD, LCSW, creator of Rapid Resolution Therapy (http://www.rapidresolutiontherapy.com), a treatment approach not only for trauma but for whatever ails you, reinforces the idea that we must be careful how we assess our thoughts. To our detriment, he insists that we overfocus on whether things are true or not to the exclusion of evaluating...
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Do Your Tone and Body Language Match Your Words and Intent?

Do-Your-Tone-and-Body-Language-Match-Your-Words-and-Intent
Most of us have run into people who say they’re fine but their facial expression or other body language belies it. We sense that they’re actually unhappy or upset because it’s written all over their faces in spite of their protests to the contrary. My job is to help clients notice when they are out of sync with their emotions and their affect and help them be more congruent with what they feel and the emotion they’re showing. Especially if you grew up with family dysfunction that involved substance abuse, mental illness, or other kinds of emotional problems, you may wear a mask much of the time: you know how you feel, but you want to hide those emotions from others. Alternately, you may be fairly clueless about what you’re feeling, but express it through your tone and body language. To be authentic with yourself and others, it’s vital that your...
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It Isn’t Real Recovery without Major Learning

It-Isnt-Real-Recovery-without-Major-Learning
I read a novel peripherally involving AA and came across a passage which explains the importance of learning what is necessary in any kind of recovery. Here’s the excerpt talking about someone’s struggles with the Twelve-Step Program.  “I’m not sure she’d actually reached Step Nine. I don’t think she’d done all the steps leading up to it.” “Does it matter? Do you have to do them in order?” “You don’t have to do anything, but it sure helps. What would happen if you took first year university then skipped to the final year?” “You’d probably fail.” “Exactly.” You see where this is going, don’t you? Recovery just doesn’t happen. It evolves by learning one thing after another in order. Have you accepted this truth yet or are you still trying to claw your way to a healthy relationship with food without bothering to be emotionally healthier along the way? That’s what...
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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

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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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