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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]

Satisfaction versus Achievement

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I recently came across an author who suggests that happiness comes from satisfaction, not from achievement and I thought about all my unsatisfied clients over the decades who had achieved so much but rarely felt that what they’d done was enough or was up to par. And so off they went seeking satisfaction with food. Satisfaction is a quirky thing, but hardly elusive. You can feel satisfied watching a spell-binding movie or TV series, reading a book about the Civil War, weeding the garden or making a four-course meal. These are just a few of the activities that can bring satisfaction, as can getting a solid night’s sleep or cleaning out the garage. Satisfaction doesn’t come from the party you’re attending, but from what you bring to it. That is, it comes from a deeply felt sense of pleasure in what you’re doing. It’s not about what you’ll tell people after...
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From Secrets to Sharing

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There’s an AA saying that says “our secrets keep us sick.” It’s true. Personally and professionally, I’ve seen how they harm us. You know it too, how they burrow deep and slowly eat away at emotional well-being. Why do we keep secrets and how can we break free and start sharing them? There are several reasons we keep secrets: We’re ashamed of what we did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say. Because we’re ashamed we believe that other people will see our actions as shameful, and we can’t bear heaping other people’s shame onto our own.We’re afraid of retaliation. Sometimes our secret actions (or inactions) put other people in harm’s way, and they may be angry or retaliate if they find out. We don’t want the punishment they may mete out. We were brought up that what we do is private and no one else’s business. Perhaps we don’t even know...
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Change Your Beliefs and Rock Your World

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I’d wager that most of your problems, eating and otherwise, are due to having erroneous beliefs you don’t even realize are underpinning your emotions and actions. Here’s a checklist of beliefs you want to have in order to live your best life. Moreover, you must believe them unequivocally, with no waffling, to get you where you want to go. I am lovable and worth caring about.I deserve the best that life has to offer.My job is to take excellent care of myself.Everyone doesn’t need to love or like me for me to love myself and be okay.Everyone struggles with emotions from time to time.I can take care of myself and others too.There are many people who will love and cherish me, but I need to seek them out. What happened in my childhood does not define me because I define myself now.Everyone has regrets and wishes things about the past were different.With...
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How Stress Can Harm You

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Many of us feel stressed so often that we don’t realize what it’s doing to us. The fact is that stress is a mind-body response that not only triggers food-seeking to de-stress but may also cause all sorts of major physical and mental damage. According to Dana Sparks in Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your mind and body, stress is a way of protecting us from bodily harm and other threats. Ironically, in this day and age, we are more likely to be harmed by the stress itself. Our bodies evolved the stress response when we lived in a time of near constant peril and we still use it, though most of our lives are not fraught with danger lurking around every corner. Says Sparks, when you encounter a perceived threat, “your hypothalamus, a tiny region at your brain’s base, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a...
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Make Recordings Work for You

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Many clients value hearing what their therapist has to say to help them get over rough spots. “Just the sound of your voice” is what some have said when I’ve made recordings for them. Before cell phones, clients and I would develop a short script and I’d record it on a cassette which they’d play as needed. This is an old therapy tool, and certainly nothing original to my practice. There are other ways to use recordings, especially now that we have cell phones which are easy to use. One is to make one yourself. You’d be surprised how supportive it feels listening to the wise person within you offering advice, providing self-soothing, or reminding you of what’s important in your life. You can make a recording in the first or second person depending on which you think will work best.  Here's an excerpt of a recording my client Charlotte made...
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Micro-aggressions Against the Self

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These days we hear a good deal about micro-aggressions against others but may never think about how we use them against ourselves. The term is defined as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).” I’m using the term loosely here and not attempting to take anything away from interpersonal affronts that do great damage to marginalized groups and the people in them. I’m thinking about micro-aggressions as the unkind to downright nasty things we say to ourselves about ourselves that make us feel marginalized or disconnected from our better intentions. Like micro-aggressions said to others, these words are so subtly embedded in our culture and minds that we barely or rarely realize the harm they do. Here's an example. Lena, a client who’s a real go-getter, was relating all the things...
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What’s the Big Deal about Being Productive?

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I’ve mentioned before how themes sometimes arise in weekly therapy sessions. Well, one recent theme is productivity. So many dysregulated eaters have this intense drive to be productive. I’m not sure if they tell me what they’ve accomplished because I’m their therapist or they’re in the habit of telling everyone. I thought of this need to be productive when I came home from a busy day doing errands and was struck between the difference I felt—simply glad to have the tasks behind me—and the way some of my clients seem to feel—as if they deserved a gold star on their forehead. I suspect they were trained to report in to others, likely their parents, about their productivity early on and continued the pattern without realizing they no longer need to do so (except perhaps with a boss). This desire to be productive for its own sake stems from parents modeling this...
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Tips on Changing Habits

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I blog a great deal about changing habits because, at base, that’s what going from dysregulated to “normal” eating is all about—exchanging one set of behaviors for another. How to Build Lasting Habits for a Better Life has some excellent practical ideas on how to get this done.  Katy Milkman, professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and co-founder and co-director of Wharton’s Behavior Change for Good Initiative, studies habits and explains why habits are hard to break: “We know from lots of research that people are very resistant in general to making a change. We’re comfortable in our ways. Any deviation from what we’re used to doing feels like a loss, and losses tend to loom larger than gains.”  She recommends that you surround yourself with people who have the habits you wish to have and observe what they do. Talk to them about how they acquired...
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It’s Time to Make Waves

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The fact that I live in Sarasota, Florida, a lovely city with panoramic ocean views, has nothing to do with the title of this blog. Rather, it comes from a session with a client in which we were talking about her desire to tighten boundaries with her family by confronting them on various issues. She described being afraid of “making waves” and I suggested that she not only make them but “swim in them.” I suggested she do so by reframing her fears. I know that her major fear was that by making waves she’d metaphorically drown. She has allowed herself to become dependent on family members who also get something out of her dependence. Her fear is that by confronting them about mistreating her, they’ll withdraw their support.  I’d wager that nearly everyone who fears making waves was raised in a family that didn’t support their authenticity or encourage them...
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Practice Radical Acceptance

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Clients often balk at the idea of accepting their bodies or behaviors because they think that acceptance means being okay with things as they are. I’ve blogged about how we can embrace both acceptance and accountability. A movement called Radical Acceptance takes the concept a step further and is worth learning about. “Radical acceptance means recognizing your emotional or physical distress . . . and wholeheartedly practicing acceptance.” (“5 ways to become more accepting,” Sarasota Herald Tribune, 5/18/21, 6E) Why throw yourself all in? Because radical acceptance actually makes you feel better. It helps you recognize that humans are complicated, fragile creatures who have complex feelings and thoughts. When you’re 100% with and for yourself, you’re being your most human no matter what’s going on with you. When you radically accept your thoughts and feelings, you don’t deny or minimize them. They may make you uncomfortable and you may not like...
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Your Inner Voice

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As a child, when my parents wanted me to speak quietly, they’d tell me to talk with my “inside voice,” the kind you’d use in a library or a movie theatre. But there’s a voice that’s even more hushed and personal than that one and it’s called your “inner” voice. According to The Inner Voice by Philip Jaekl, “That voice isn’t the sound of anything.” He explains that this voice replaces that of our parents and other adults as we gradually engage in a dialogue with it, that is, a conversation with authentic selves. According to research, between the ages of two and eight we begin what’s called “private speech.” In fact, “Studies showed that during imaginative play, children’s self-talk helps them guide their own thoughts and behaviour and exert true self-control.” The research of Russell Hurlburt, professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, concludes that ” inner speech consumes...
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The Secret to Building a Better Life

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Many people say, “I’ll eat better to live longer,” “I’ll exercise to lose weight,” or “I’ll meditate to feel less angry.” Although it’s true that healthier eating may contribute to longevity, that exercise may help shed pounds, and meditation may reduce reactivity, those goals miss a more essential point about such practices: that while you’re doing them, you feel better and that by doing enough practices in a day that increase feelings of well-being you make yourselves happier, more hopeful and more proud. Many dysregulated eaters—many people, period—don’t string together enough behaviors in a day or a week to combat stress or keep their mood relatively elevated. Instead they think about and plan down-the-road activities which will boost their spirits: outings and vacations, purchases and external self-care activities such as massages and facials. They contemplate what they’ll drink and eat and where they’ll go to do it. There’s nothing wrong with...
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It’s Okay to Be a Quitter

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Speaking with me about the wonderful changes she’s making in her life, a client mentioned that she took a job and realized after the first day that it was a poor match for her. She reasoned that she had a right to feel good about her work and immediately gave notice and apologized to her boss. After relating this story, she added, “I felt bad because I didn’t want them to think I was a quitter.” Her statement stuck in my craw. This isn’t the first time a client has taken care of themselves and felt a need to assure me (and likely themselves) they weren’t a quitter. As if being a quitter is a bad thing. Once again, this is confusing a situational trait, in this case, the ability to know when to give up on something or someone, with one’s entire personality or identity.  When people have an “I’m...
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Where Are You on the Mental Health Continuum?

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Many decades ago when I’d just started social work school in Boston, a friend became very sad after his wife left him for another man. I knew them both and their situation and assumed my friend was suffering from betrayal and grieving the loss of his marriage. When he continued to feel down and exhibited other distress symptoms, I finally realized that he was suffering from depression with which he still struggles to this day. With my clinical experience now, I would have seen that he was depressed more quickly. But, even with clinical experience, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between someone simply suffering through a difficult time and someone who has mental health issues that need to be treated. And if I’m not sure of the truth as a seasoned therapist, it’s even harder to discern for people without my experience. This dilemma is the focus of...
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Strategic Silence

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Anyone who knows me well would use the words chatty, highly verbal, or strongly interactive to describe me in a relationship—unless I’m employing a technique that therapists call strategic silence. It’s used to help clients sit with and expand feelings by helping the therapist from getting in their way of doing so. This blog is not about how strategic silence is used in therapy. It’s teaching you how to use this technique to improve your interpersonal skills dealing with difficult people. Social discourse generally involves one person saying something and another saying something in return. A back-and-forth volley of words is expected as in playing tennis. When your opponent hits the ball over the net, it’s assumed you’ll hit it back.  To learn to use strategic silence effectively, you must realize you’re breaking a social norm and feel okay about it. You also need a conscious reason for doing so which...
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How to Use Incompatible Response Training to Change Habits

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While reading a mystery book, I came across a child psychologist character describing his use of Incompatible Response Training, briefly explaining to his companion that it works by substituting one emotion for another. I thought the concept interesting and useful and Googled it to learn more about it. Habit Reversal Training, as it’s also called, involves substituting one habit for another. Why not use it with emotions? So I tried out this strategy with a client that afternoon. She’s very anxious, struggling to overcome perfectionism and people-pleasing, and looking for ways to dissolve her anxiety as she eagerly takes on more challenges in life. Raised by a shame-based mother and an insecure father who demanded she overperform to receive his approval, she grew up as the consummate overachiever and with sky-high anxiety. Both due to genetics and socialization, she couldn’t have turned out any other way. We talked about two large...
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The Secret to Getting Things Done

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This blog is for all of you who struggle with getting things done—whether you’re wildly busy or simply have little motivation to do the few important tasks you wish to accomplish. Remember, having alot to do is not necessarily the issue. It’s your inability to execute your (many or few) desires, that is, to go from intention to accomplishment. Be a Schedule Builder, Not a To-Do List Maker by Nir Eyal will put you on the right track by shifting your mindset from checking off to-do lists to structuring your life to suit yourself. Insists Eyal, “It’s time to shed the constant stress and toxic guilt of not checking off enough little boxes and finally understanding why running your life with a to-do list is like running your life on Windows 95.” His point is that we make to do lists to get things we’re ambivalent about doing done. After all,...
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Process Not Product

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If you’re rushing through life on automatic or holding off enjoying it until you’ve accomplished something, you might be focused on product rather than process. This could be the case if you’re highly goal-oriented or intent on success at any cost to yourself or others. One obvious example is thinking only of the number on the scale rather than putting attention on eating mindfully. You yearn for the finished product and don’t much care how you get it: by dieting, fasting or bariatric surgery. Here are examples of valuing product over process. You meet someone who’s your type and kind of nice and go out a few times. Although you notice things about them that aren’t what you’re looking for in a life partner, you ignore them because you’re already picturing yourself married with a house and two kids. Because you’re not valuing the getting-to-know-you part of the relationship, you miss many...
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Get Your Magic Wand in Gear

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In session, not too long ago, a client sighed and said she just wished I had a magic wand and could wave it over her to heal her eating disorder. How often I’ve heard that same wistful plea over my 30-plus years in the business. But this time, rather than smile and say my usual, “I would but my wand’s in the shop,” I told my client that she had her own magic wand but didn’t use it. You all have one. The problem with magic wands is that one can’t simply acquire one and then shove it in the back of the closet and forget about it. Wands need to be used or what’s the point of having one? Do you buy a bicycle and not ride it, spend a fortune on a jumbo screen TV, then never turn it on? I hope not. You have to actually use the...
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How Goals Can Be a Barrier to Bettering Your Health

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Many dysregulated eaters are ardently goal-oriented. They arise each morning with to-do lists at the ready and rush through the day ticking off items, set reminders of when things needs to get done, shift into overdrive to do them, obsess about how to make the future turn out differently than the present and past, and dream about future happiness. If you’re someone who’s goal oriented, everything in life is a project and you spend more time with your mind in the future than in the now. You do great things at work, make sure family members are well taken care of, and serve your community. Then instead of doing what you say you want to do to eat more healthfully or become more active, you put off these activities and end up eating mindlessly instead. You eat ice cream instead of cleaning the house, down a bag of chips instead of...
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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