karen header 3

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]

Faith in Yourself Is the Key to Recovery

What does a young African girl walking 8 miles to and from school every day have to do with you recovering from your eating disorder? Read on and find out. No matter what stage of recovery you’re in, you’ll learn a great deal about how to move forward in the face of adversity and succeed by watching We Will Rise (www.cnn.com/shows/cnn-films-we-will-rise), a documentary which highlights Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn Initiative to help girls in poor countries get a decent education. Narrated by her, Meryl Streep and news anchor Isha Sesay, the film interviews girls from Morocco and Liberia to find out what it takes to persevere when all odds are against you. It turns out that the keys to success are the same no matter what the endeavor: Perceive adversity as a challenge not a barrier: Each of the girls who spoke about fighting for educational opportunity, as well as...
Continue reading
0
  1011 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Stop Taking Irrational Eating Thoughts Seriously

As a therapist trained in the 1980s, I was taught to take everything the client says with utmost seriousness. By validating clients thoughts and feelings and asking probing (hopefully, insight-generating) questions, I learned to do my job. But, somewhere along the way, I realized that everything that a client says does not merit equal weight and that sometimes both the client and I were better off if I was the gate-keeper who decided which thoughts and feelings warranted major discussion and which ones were so irrational that they didn’t deserve to be taken seriously. Looking back on my own binge-eating days, I wish I’d had a therapist who could have helped me pick and choose which random thoughts that ran through my head and which feelings that drove my actions were worth paying attention to and which ones were just plain silly, as in too ridiculous to listen to. Among others,...
Continue reading
0
  1174 Hits
  0 Comments

A Clear Vision and a Flexible Process Lead to Recovery Success

During an interview of Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show, he was asked questions about how his show, known for political satire, came to be such a success. He attributed his success in part to using a “clear vision and a flexible process” to get where he wanted to go. I spent some time mulling over his comment, and it hit me that this is exactly what dysregulated eaters need to do to become “normal” eaters. Dysregulated eaters can be very rigid in their thinking and behavior, not just around food, but in general. Unfortunately, rigidity is not a trait that generally contributes to success. In fact, in terms of evolution, those who were most flexible were the ones who survived and thrived. But that flexibility must be accompanied by a firm and clear vision. How often do I hear clients say vaguely, “I want to eat better” or...
Continue reading
0
  928 Hits
  0 Comments

Improving Life Skills to Decrease Upset and End Emotional Eating

Need some useful strategies for handling upsetting situations more effectively? The stronger your skills, the better you’ll be at handling life without needing to turn to food as a crutch or comfort. Reduce procrastination. We often eat when we wish to put off a task we deem unpleasant. We tie the task to negative feelings—it’s too painful, difficult, time-consuming, etc., and, therefore, put off doing it. Instead, associate tasks with positive feelings such as pleasure, fun, or pride in achievement. Duke University Professor Ariely had to give himself painful daily injections for 18 months which made him sick well into the next day. Initially he procrastinated, but then he started renting his favorite movies to enjoy while he was recuperating from the injections. (Dan Ariely’s The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home) I have little time to read fiction and one of my...
Continue reading
0
  587 Hits
  0 Comments

Simple Steps to Happiness

I’ve written a number of blogs on happiness over the years. All have been useful reminders that, although a happy, healthy childhood and a genetic tendency toward happiness (called resilience) are important, our every day choices are major contributors to our moods. Here are highlights of what an AARP article says about happiness, (“A conversation with researcher and author Sonja Lyubomirsky,” AARP Bulletin by Hugh Delehanty 6/2016, p. 30). “People get happier as they get older. The least happy are probably teenagers and people in their 20s.” That’s because older people, through trial and error, find out what actually makes them happy. Happiness is as individualistic as appetite. Only you (not your parents, friends, spouse, or partner) know what rings your chimes.Many people appear unaware that they have the power to change their mood. We’ve all met folks who act as if they’re victims and their pleasure seems to come from...
Continue reading
0
  1123 Hits
  0 Comments

What Makes an Eating Disorders’ Therapist Sad

As this is my 1000th blog, it seems appropriate to write about my experience being an eating disorders’ therapist for three decades. I don’t pretend to speak for all therapists, but I know enough of them as friends and colleagues to assume we all share much of the same experience treating troubled eaters. Let me begin by saying that it’s really painful to see clients of whom we’re truly fond, who have so much going for them, pin their happiness on losing weight or being thin. I’m not talking about clients who wish to lose weight to be more comfortable in their bodies, but about those who minimize or discount all the wondrous things about themselves and can’t stand to look in the mirror. Want to know what saddens me? Meeting with a caring dad who attends therapy regularly to improve his marriage and parenting skills, and is willing to answer...
Continue reading
0
  1293 Hits
  0 Comments

The Benefits of Play and Fun

If you engage in mindless eating, you might be short on play time and not know it. Many dysregulated eaters don’t much value play or engage in enough of it and end up turning to food for pleasure. Society may assume that overeaters are hedonistic pleasure-seekers while, in fact, they’re often perfectionistic, over-achieving, productivity addicts. Both work and play have implicit value and neither is more important than the other. The purpose of work is to learn something—information or a process— and engaging in an activity to reach a goal. Play, on the other hand, is doing an activity solely for the pleasure/joy/fun of it, with no goal in mind; not yearning or aiming for improvement or to accomplish anything. If you’re an Olympic swimmer, you view swimming differently than if you’re lazily doing laps in your backyard pool for the sheer enjoyment of feeling your body weightlessly slice through water....
Continue reading
0
  1418 Hits
  0 Comments

Why Fake It Til You Make It Works

A frequent disagreement I have with clients is about the dynamic of faking it until you make it. While I encourage this behavior, they insist that they can’t possibly do something they don’t believe in or believe isn’t truly true of them. I understand their discomfort, which I view as a failure of imagination. If we can imagine being a certain way—brave, calm, powerful, engaging—we have a leg up in becoming this way.If you watch the Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are/Ted Talk you’ll learn how deliberately changing our body language can improve the way we feel about ourselves and alter how we are viewed by others. Cuddy is a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School and author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. Although I’ve yet to read her book, I want to share with you some of the points she made...
Continue reading
0
  866 Hits
  0 Comments

Feeling versus Acting Like an Adult

Do you ever find yourself feeling like a child though you’re acting like an adult? Do you often have the sense that other people know how to make—and do make—effective decisions and that you don’t? This is a common dynamic with dysregulated eaters. Talking with a client about her self-doubts, insecurity, and lack of self-trust, I thought it would be instructive for her to see if she actually had been acting in ways that ought to generate doubt and a sense of inadequacy. So together we assessed how she’d handled her life over the past few years. Here’s what she’d done: moved a few times, each time taking a better job and making new friends; gotten along far better with her very difficult father, even handling his temper tantrums; managed to visit and stay in touch with her mother who was deteriorating from Alzheimers even though they lived hours apart; finally...
Continue reading
0
  596 Hits
  0 Comments

Self-care Is Not a Part-time Job

If you’re like many dysregulated eaters, sometimes you take care of yourself well and sometimes you don’t. You know, you get psyched for and engage in self-care and then either gradually or suddenly give it up. Beyond this blog, for a fuller picture of understanding and stopping this yo-yoing pattern, read my book Starting Monday. When you feel 100% deserving of effective self-care, you don’t need to push yourself to do it. You do your best for your mind and body all the time. Sure, occasionally you may need to remind yourself to get to the gym or brush your teeth before falling into bed exhausted. But most of the time, self-care, including eating behaviors which are healthful, are generated from a deep love for and valuing of yourself. Ever wonder why your self-care behaviors start and stop? One reason stems from how you were treated as a child. So many...
Continue reading
0
  898 Hits
  0 Comments

Learning to Satisfice Yourself

You may have read the title of this blog and thought I’d misspelled a word, but I didn’t. “Satisfice” is a term coined by Nobel Prize-winning cognitive scientist Herbert Simon (“The Bleh Lagoon” by Amy Alkon, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 5/19/16, p. E47). It’s the perfect way to describe the sense of enoughness that dysregulated eaters yearn for. The term melds the concepts of “satisfy” and “suffice” and beautifully describes the way to make a choice or decision that is best for you. Simon explains that we can arrive at feeling “satisficed” by considering a minimum level of okayness (aka good enough). To arrive at feeling satisficed, one must “Forget about what you ‘should’ need.” He’s absolutely right. How can you ever know what is the best amount of anything (food, hours at work, down time, money, etc.) when you’re thinking about an arbitrary quantity as a landing place? What’s enough for...
Continue reading
0
  886 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Not Recover from Your Eating Disorder

Many people don’t recover from dysregulated eating because they insist on doing things exactly as they always have done them and can’t seem to break out of that rut. My hope is that writing about what to do in order to stay stuck might actually help you get unstuck. Toward that goal, here are 10 ways to ensure that you will not recover. 1. Believe that it’s better to heal yourself than to garner support from others. Expect that you can make your eating disorder miraculously go away without telling anyone about it and not getting help.2. Be very hard on yourself and beat yourself up for every eating “mistake” you make. Think that if you could only be harder on yourself, you’d get better quicker.3. Believe that you’ll outgrow your eating disorder someday because it’s a phase you’re going through. This is similar to the belief that substance abusers have...
Continue reading
0
  575 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Make Effective Decisions

Making effective decisions is key to reducing stress and paving the way for “normal” eating. Here are some excellent ideas which you can use when you’re faced with your next big (or small) decision. In “Learning how to decide” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 5/5/16, p. A11), columnist David Brooks notes that it’s “incredibly important to learn to decide well, to develop the techniques of self-distancing to counteract the flaws in our own mental machinery.” He cites ideas from Decisive, a book by Chip and Dan Heath. One of their suggestions is to use Suzy Welch’s 10-10-10 rule, which encourages you to think about how you’ll feel about your decision 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years from now. This is similar advice to making eating choices by noticing how food feels in your body as you’re eating, later in the day, and the next day. What both these rules foster is the idea...
Continue reading
0
  864 Hits
  0 Comments

What One Thing Can You Do to Heal Your Eating Disorders?

Obviously there’s not just one thing to do to end your food problems. We all know that eating disorders are complex and connected with many aspects of life. However, there is often one action you could take that would have more impact on your recovery than other actions. What is that one act for you? Here are some examples. Clients often don’t want to tell anyone about their eating or mental health problems, but sharing your secret may be the most powerful step you can take to begin healing. Yes, I know the thought makes you cringe, but that’s the whole point of this behavior. You’re scared because you’re ashamed, and telling someone—the right someone who is kind and compassionate—is exactly what’s needed for you to lift the shame and begin to replace it with self-compassion.Many people have difficulty stopping dysregulated eating because they're under tremendous stress in a relationship: their...
Continue reading
0
  465 Hits
  0 Comments

How to Keep From Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

An Annie’s Mailbox advice column letter, in which a reader commented on a woman who’d written that she was confused about whether to stay in or leave a relationship (http://www.arcamax.com/healthandspirit/lifeadvice/anniesmailbox/s-1819799) reminded me of the many unhappy clients I treat who get into terrible relationships that have oodles of red flags flapping about, then are miserable, and turn to food for comfort. The reader questioned why this woman would stay with her fiancé who “is twice divorced, has had four DUIs and likes to watch porn. They met online. The guy moved in with her and took control. She supports him financially” and he has asked her to bring “another woman to join them” sexually. Let’s take these items one at a time. I have friends who are twice divorced and found their perfect mates in marriage number three. As to the ménage a trois and porn viewing, each to one’s own...
Continue reading
0
  776 Hits
  0 Comments

Book Review – Self-compassion

One of the most useful books I’ve read recently—for myself, clients, and blog readers—is Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristen Neff, PhD. This book is for all of you, no matter what kind of dysregulated eater you are or where you are in your recovery. Whether you know it or not, self-compassion is key to recovering from dysregulated eating. This is one trait we can never have enough of. Aside from presenting research supporting how increased self-compassion helps us improve our lives in myriad ways, offering practical advice about learning to be kind to ourselves, explaining the implication of research studies in lay terms, and providing easy-to-identify-with case examples, this book details Neff’s own journey from being hard on herself to giving herself loving kindness. She explains what self compassion is (meeting suffering with kindness) and what it isn’t (letting yourself off the hook, feeling sorry...
Continue reading
0
  1042 Hits
  0 Comments

Knowing the Difference Between Productivity and Creativity

So many dysregulated eaters are also folks who feel a pressing need to stay busy all the time. Not just busy doing anything old thing, mind you, but filling their time with properly productive endeavors. Sadly, many are potentially or highly creative individuals who have let their need to be productive co-opt their creativity. In order to honor their imaginations and inventiveness—and curtail mindless eating—it’s important to understand the difference between being creative and being productive. Productivity certainly may be pleasurable, but it can also be enormously tedious and stressful. Productivity is all about working hard and achieving goals. Maybe they’re small goals, like scrubbing the kitchen floor, or large ones, like developing a budget for your home or business. When we’re productive we feel as if we’re doing something to better ourselves, family, workplace, community or the world. The point in productivity is to get things done. Sometimes they’re only...
Continue reading
0
  1337 Hits
  0 Comments

The Best Part of Your Brain to Use for Decision-Making

Two discussions about the brain and decision-making that I came across in one day made me think about the part of the brain dysregulated eaters could use more for decision-making. Wise, rational thinking makes all the difference between arriving at healthy or unhealthy choices, not just about food, but about health care in general. First, I read “Slight of hand” by Advice Goddess Amy Alkon (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, E55, 4/14/16) in which she talked about why we react so quickly, before we can think. “Because fear comes up fast and there’s all this energy behind it,” she says, “it’s easy to believe it’s telling you something you need to hear—and follow.” True that: When emotion comes barreling up from within, it feels like a powerful missile of truth that we ignore at our peril. She says, “…emotions are automatic reactions to something in your environment. They rise up (out of a sea...
Continue reading
0
  528 Hits
  0 Comments

Keeping on Because

For months, every day walking in and out of the front door, I pass by a small plant in my vestibule. I don’t recall its name, but each time I see it, I pinch off the sprouting buds, the new green growth, because, I’m told, that will make the plant fill out more near the bottom and ensure that it doesn’t grow leggy. And nearly every day, somewhere on the plant, I spot new buds emerging. Sometimes they’re so tiny that I need to wait until the next day to pinch them off, but there they are like clockwork, taking care of business. Their persistence reminds me of the way people overcome obstacles. They keep doing what they know is best for themselves because, well, why wouldn’t they? Of course, my plant doesn’t know that I’ll be pinch-pruning it whenever I pass by it. We can’t say that it possesses courage...
Continue reading
0
  647 Hits
  0 Comments

Which Stage of Change Are You In?

Most of us probably were raised to believe that if you want to change, you simply need to try hard enough and you will. In some circumstances, that can be true. Pushing yourself a wee bit more can sometimes initiate or accelerate change. But most of the time that we say we want to change, we’re still actually deciding about whether or not we want to. When you first think about or express a desire to change, that is just the beginning. Change itself comes only after you’ve gone through the following stages. There are Six Stages of Change according to The Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska, J.O., Butterworth, S., Redding, C.A., Burden, V., Perrin, N., Lea, Michael, Flaherty, Robb M., and Prochaska, J.M. (2008). Initial efficacy of MI, TTM tailoring, and HRI’s in multiple behaviors for employee health promotion. Preventive Medicine, 46, 226-231).1. Pre-contemplation (not ready): You’re attracted to the idea of...
Continue reading
0
  646 Hits
  0 Comments

shelf new

EBProfessionalBadgeLarge

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