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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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Why I Like Making Mistakes With My Clients

May 18 why I like making mistakes
Image by Debbie Digioia Here’s a true story about a very good day I had at work. First, a client arrived when I didn’t expect her and kept apologizing for getting the session time wrong. I told her to come on in (the benefits of having a home office) because I happened to be free. Then, when we went to schedule our next session, I saw right in my appointment book that she’d arrived at the correct time and I had misremembered when her session was. After her, I had a difference of opinion with a client about owing me money. Knowing how notoriously poor I am in math, she patiently walked me through the amounts she’d paid, with check numbers and all, until I finally saw the light. A very good day, indeed. Why on earth, you might be asking yourself, would I consider making two bloopers in one day a good...
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Having Faults Does Not Mean You’re Defective

MAY 8 HAVING FAULTS DOES NOT MAKE YOU DEFECTIVE
Image by Debbie Digioia So many dysregulated eaters eat because they make mistakes and feel like failures. Are you one of them? Or maybe you fail at something and fall into depression or give up  taking pleasure in life. Or come down hard on yourself whenever you don’t live up to your lofty standards. Here’s a newspaper column about how not to do that—to take mistakes and failures in stride and, moreover, grow from them. This column is about a manager making some major blunders supervising an employee who manipulated him like crazy, admitting to and learning from his mistakes (“Manipulated manager learns to be firm” by Lindsey Novak, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 12/26/16, p. D17). The manager describes how he got wrapped around the finger of an employee, doing special favors for him and even giving him money, because the guy presented as a sad sack victim who needed help. When this manager happened...
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To Change Habits, Learn to Enjoy Rewards

MAY 4 2017 BLOG ART TO CHANGE HABITS LEARN TO ENJOY REWARDS
Image by Debbie Digioia While listening to an NPR radio interview with Charles Duhigg, the New York Times reporter who researched the scientific and social history of habits for his book, The Power of Habit, a remark he made struck me as particularly pertinent to why dysregulated eaters have such a deuce of a time not using food as a reward. To change habits, he said that we must be able to reward ourselves with something other than the original behavior—food, drink, gambling, drugs or sex. The key word here is reward. Many dysregulated eaters turn to food as a reward which creates problems on a few fronts. Food is nourishment and often pleasurable, but should not be used as a reward on a regular basis. This is how we get into trouble. If we think about food primarily as sustenance that happens to be tasty, then it won’t be our go to...
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How to Build Inner Resources

April 24th How to Build Inner Resources
Image by Debbie Digioia Here it is, four months into the new year and some of you continue to be preoccupied with becoming a “normal” eater and feeling better about your body. The media focus as the year starts, as always, was on “new year, new you” which is worth nothing unless you understand what exactly needs to be different or “new” about you. Rather than start a diet, check out Rick Hanson’s video, “Using Brain Science to Build Inner Strengths,” which lays out the characteristics which will help you grow and explains how to acquire them. (https://psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/1007/video-rick-hanson-on-using-brain-science-to-build-inner?utm_source=Silverpop&utm_medium=email7utm_ campaign=091016_pn_i_rt_WIR_throttled10am). As you read through the list, I urge you to practice several of these abilities—self-compassion, openness, optimism, self-respect, and patience. If you find yourself being judgmental about lacking certain characteristics, stop reading, comes to a place of self-compassion, and continue reading until you’ve digested the whole list. Here goes: Capabilities: mindfulness, insight, emotional intelligence, resilience,...
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From Mortified to Moxie

FROM MORTIFIED TO MOXIE April 17 2017
Image by Debbie Digioia Nearly all of my eating dysregulated clients are highly shamed-based folks. Shame infects not only their eating and their weight, but their entire lives. Doing well makes them feel ashamed because they fear that they might cause envy in others. Doing poorly generates shame because of their belief that they’ve seriously failed themselves and others. Sometimes I believe that my most important job with clients is to help alleviate their shame and support them in moving forward proudly without it. If you’re ashamed of your eating, size or shape, my hunch is that you were a shame-based person long before you had food problems. You felt inadequate, defective, or unable to meet your lofty standards and believed people’s self-serving negative comments about you. Shame is at the core of your being, and you may not even realize it. You may think that everyone feels mortified when they make mistakes,...
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A Proven Way to Become More Resilient

SOMETIMES IT IS NICE DOING NOTHING A proven way to become more resilient
Image by Debbie Digioia We don’t all experience and survive trauma the same way. Though genetics play a part, there are commonalities among adults who come through traumatic childhood or adult experiences and bounce back relatively quickly. Building resilience is one more way to move toward reducing internal distress in order to become a “normal” eater. In “Resilience is about how you recharge, not how you endure” (Harvard Business Review, 6/24/16, https://hbr.org/2016/06/resilience-is-about-how-you-recharge-not-how-you-endure) authors Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan lay out a sadly convincing explanation of how our American lifestyle reduces our ability to be resilient. They describe our “militaristic, ‘tough’ approach to resilience and grit,” saying, “We believe that the longer we tough it out, the tougher we are, and therefor the more successful we will be.” This adage may work for the Marines, but not for the general public. The authors tell us that, at least in scientific terms, this approach to building...
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The Silo Effect and Resolving Eating Problems

March 23 Silo Blog
 Image by Debbie Digioia I was listening to a talk on the dangers of “the silo effect” on U.S. climate change policy and thought about how we compartmentalize our eating problems in a similar way—to our own detriment. According to Wikepedia, “The Silo Effect refers to a lack of information flowing between groups or parts of an organization. On a farm, silos prevent different grains from mixing. In an organization, the Silo Effect limits the interactions between members of different branches of the company, thus leading to reduced productivity (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_silo). In a similar way, we have silo ways of thinking about ourselves that inhibit our efficiency. We think of having eating problems, unhealthy beliefs, emotional problems, or skill deficits, but rarely consider how they impact one and other. For what feels like forever, we’ve regarded problems with overeating and mindless eating as being due solely to lack of self-discipline or self-control. We’ve viewed...
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Persistence Leads to Success

Persistence March 20 blog
 Image by Debbie Digioia Do have persistence to reach your eating and health (and other goals)? Or do you either give up easily? Do you persist for a while, then slack off, and keep up this on-off cycle until you stop trying? If you’ve ever wondered about why persistence is difficulty for you—but gave up seeking to figure it out before you found an answer!—here are some questions to ask yourself about what you learned about persistence as a child:Were one or both of your parents/caretakers persistent or did they cave without a fight or try to reach a goal, stop, resume, then give up their efforts? If you didn’t have role models who persisted in attempting to reach realistic goals, you may have a hard time doing it because you likely picked up the bad habits and patterns of your parents. If they didn’t have stick-to-itiveness, you never saw effective skills...
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Eat Better by Aligning Behavior with Your Values

What do you value in life? Whatever it is can help you change your thinking and behavior around self-care, including food and fitness. Success psychology (yes, there is such a thing) and motivational inquiry both tell us that an effective approach to improving behavior is to tie it to what you hold dear and think important above all else, because then what you value becomes the generator for the behaviors you engage in. Don’t confuse values with goals. We may or may not meet goals, but we generally keep our values no matter what happens. Losing weight specifically for your son’s wedding is a goal (not one I’d endorse), whereas valuing health so you can stick around as long as possible is a value. For instance, if you value staying physically active, even if you can’t do what you used to do (whether from age or injury), you find ways to keep...
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You Can’t Solve a Problem Until You Label it Correctly

One of the biggest and most costly mistakes people make is expending mega energy trying to solve a problem they’ve totally mislabeled. Of course, most of the time, they don’t realize that they’ve made a major blunder in how they’re viewing the problem. They just keep on trying one solution after another or the same one over and over, but never get anywhere. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: Say, Joanie has been struggling for decades to get her husband Ben to understand how hard she’s been trying to lose weight but can’t seem to stay on a diet. She wants his support and he just keeps telling her that she lacks self-control and that something must be wrong with her if she can’t stick to a diet. He shares his happiness about her losing weight and his disappointment when she puts it back on. She defines the problem as,...
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Manage Your Mind, Manage Your Eating

Being unable to manage your thoughts can add substantial difficulty to managing your eating. Said another way, by learning to employ power over mental chaos, you can learn how to make wise choices that guide your food cravings. The interrelationship between the two came to me as I awaited a client who’s a troubled eater and I began thinking about several interactions I’d had with a friend I was doing a project with. I kept emailing her a question that related to the project, and she kept emailing me back without answering it. This happened four times. Each time I tried to be clearer about what I wanted to know, but to no avail. The question wasn’t greatly important to finishing the project, but her lack of response was bugging me no end. I’m usually pretty good with scotching ruminations before they start by immediately filing non-essential issues in my Unimportant...
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True Grit and Success in “Normal” Eating

When I say “true grit,” I’m not referring to the movie of the same name. I’m talking about a quality that is essential to success which many dysregulated eaters need to cultivate. Although I haven’t read the book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, I did read about it in an article on parenting and fostering grit which is a central component to achievement (“The vital role of grit” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, p. B4, 9/13/16). Grit is what used to be called “stick–to–itiveness,” the trait of not giving up until the job is done. It’s also been called perseverance, doggedness, determination, persistence, diligence, being driven, and even stubbornness. It’s when people remain focused on a task until it’s completed, whether they’re trying to untie a knot in a shoelace, learn to make a soufflé, or plug their way through night school to...
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Live Mindfully to Eat Mindfully

I have a fair amount of “Duh!” moments in my life, just like the rest of you. I had one while reading a book on helping clients process traumatic death. Reading a chapter on employing mindfulness to accept grief and other emotions that may follow when a loved one dies under traumatic circumstances, it occurred to me that dysregulated eaters have difficulty with mindful eating because they tend not to live mindfully in general. Most of my clients either rush around all day long trying to check off a lengthy list of items on their “must do” list or float from activity to activity with scant paid attention to the moment. One client with three children, all under ten, confessed how often she has to slam on her car brakes because she’s barely aware of driving, between arbitrating disputes among her kids and fretting about picking them up and getting them...
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Solutions, Not Resolutions

People love to make resolutions—to walk more and eat less, stop yelling at the kids, clean out the garage, find some interesting hobbies, or get a better job. We feel tremendous elation in making these kinds of energizing pronouncements, not just to ourselves, but to our family, relatives, co-workers and, of course, to our Facebook friends. We think that the more often we state our intentions, the more boldly we do it, and the larger the group we do it to, the more successful we’ll be. But, if that were true, you’d probably be off doing something else right now rather than reading this blog. Resolutions don’t work long-term because, as I’ve repeatedly said and human experience proves ad nauseam, we make them only for things we don’t much want to do and for changes we don’t much care to make. We cling to the flimsy belief that the act of...
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Follow Your Values for Better Eating

Values is a word I don’t hear much. Now, we’re all about liking and not liking, dividing the world into “good” and “bad,” and deciding what we should or shouldn’t be doing to live “right” (whatever that means). None of these terms hits the mark for me as well as values, an entirely different kind of animal. When we value something, we believe it’s worthwhile and matters more than lesser things. Our values are the foundation for our happiness and well-being. Valuing is far more than liking. Moreover, we can value something without liking it. For example, I value my health, even though I don’t enjoy having a colonoscopy or a mammogram. Many dysregulated eaters are hung up on being liked rather than being valued or valuing themselves, or needing to find immediate pleasure in activities rather than doing them because they are life-enhancing. Alternately, some people have no clue what...
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Why Changing Beliefs Can Be Challenging

Ever wonder why beliefs—even ones that you know are wildly irrational—are so hard to change? If they don’t make sense, you might think, why the heck do I hold on to them? I’m smart, I want to take care of myself, so why would I let some wacky ideas dictate my behavior and hold me back from eating “normally” and living my best life? I came across an answer to this question in a Center for Inquiry summary of a 2008 study done by neuroscientist Sam Harris at the University of California Los Angeles. He was trying to answer the question, “How is the brain activated differently during a state of belief compared to a state of disbelief” and asked participants in an MRI scanner questions about their beliefs on numerous subjects. He found that “Brain activation, overall, was much greater and persisted longer during states of disbelief. This is important...
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Making Meaning of Lack of Success

Dysregulated eaters often feel like failures because they haven’t lost weight, kept it off, stopped bingeing/overeating/mindless eating, quit obsessing about the number on the scale, or have yet to establish “normal” eating patterns. They feel like failures and tell themselves that they’ll never succeed, and this focus reduces the likelihood of moving forward and increases the odds of backsliding or staying stuck. Here are two quotes by successful men which reframe lack of success. The first is by Winston Churchill: “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” I had this quote taped to my computer for years when I began writing. It helped enormously for me to see it every time I sat down to write, making me feel as if Churchill were my personal coach cheering me on. The second is by Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”...
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No Need to be Good at Everything

As children, our parents generally decide what’s important for us and how good we need to be at activities. If cleanliness and neatness was highly valued by your parents, you probably were expected to keep your room ship shape. If getting all A’s was paramount, you likely felt pressure to ace your tests and be a model student. Ditto for areas like athletics, beauty, manliness or being community minded. Back then, we may not have had much chance to decide which endeavors we wanted to excel at and which we didn’t care all that much about. Fast forward to adulthood when many dysregulated eaters are still stressing out at needing to be an all-star person. You may not even like certain activities—you may downright hate them—but still feel driven to do them well. Stop and think if this describes you: competitive like all get out and needing to be tops at...
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Managing That Voice in Your Head

Let’s say, at a bus stop in frigid weather, you wipe your runny nose with a tissue and a man charges up to you and starts screaming that you’re unclean and spreading germs. He continues to harangue you until the bus comes, then finds a seat far away from you and shoots you dirty looks. What meaning would you make of the encounter? My guess is that you’d assume that he had some mental problems and would, hopefully, feel compassion for him due to it and his unwarranted agitation. Or you might be annoyed or anxious that this could happen again, seeing as you take the same bus every morning. Now, let’s say you start taking guitar lessons in middle-age and are told that you have an exceptional talent by your teacher and others. In fact, people can’t get over your newly discovered ability. So you start to think about winning...
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Give Thanks for Yourself (For a Change)

Around this time of year, there’s much talk about gratitude—for family, friends, health, etc. Some of you may even have a gratitude journal that you dutifully write in daily. But, since many dysregulated eaters don’t have great self-esteem, I’d love to see you scribbling away in your journal about why you’re absolutely tickled pink to be you. The way I see it, being grateful for being more fortunate than others can only take you so far in valuing and loving yourself. Even by saying you have wonderful kids or parents, neighbors or co-workers, a lovely house or a loving community says very little about your worth. It’s all about what surrounds you, even if you view that as what you’ve chosen. The emphasis isn’t on how wonderful you are, how unique and special, how much you admire and respect yourself. Instead, it’s on what you have, not who you are. I...
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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