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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]

3 Keys to Achieve Success

One of the major reasons—if not the one—that people fail to achieve success is that they focus on exactly the wrong things to make it happen. According to success psychology, there are three ways of thinking to help you attain and maintain your goals. I bet they’re just the opposite of what you’ve been doing! Here they are.Focus on what you’re doing wellMost dysregulated eaters focus almost exclusively on what they’re doing or have done wrong. They obsess over their food failures—binges and mindless eating—and minimize their successes—stopping occasionally when full or making healthier food choices—if they acknowledge them at all. In fact, I usually need to drag their successes out of them. Successful people feel good about what they’re doing well, focus on it, and enjoy the pride they experience from their achievements.Learn from, then stop focusing on, what you didn’t do wellErrors are a typical and often exclusive focus...
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Try Intentionally Adapting to a New Normal

I was watching the news when there was a shot of a man in a hospital bed. I don’t recall what had happened to him—Had he broken bones, lost a leg, or been badly burnt in a fire?—but his words were instantly etched in my mind, “I’m going to get used to a new normal.” I’d heard the phrase before (it’s around for a long time), but this time it hit me how we all need to do that because there’s really no other way to live well. I specifically think of this man’s determination when I sit with clients who fight change. They’re in there mad as hell and come out swinging with both arms, as if by struggling hard enough against change, they can stop it from happening. Well, good luck with that. Heaven knows, we’ve all put up this fight at one point or another. I certainly have. Think of...
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Setting Firm Boundaries with People to Improve Your Relationship With Food

A major problem I run into in treating dysregulated eaters is an inability to set firm boundaries with people. They get taken advantage of, walked on like doormats, ignored and neglected. And, then, when they feel hurt, they turn to food for comfort. Make no mistake, setting and maintaining firm boundaries is a skill. I’ve written about it in many of my books, including Outsmarting Overeating and Nice Girls Finish Fat. It’s a learned behavior, like most of our life skills, from childhood. Either we learn that it’s okay to have needs and say no, or we learn that it’s unacceptable through love or approval being withdrawn when we assert ourselves. Often our same gender parent role models poor boundaries—Dad can’t refuse a request for help no matter what else is going on in his life or Mom keeps on doing for others until she’s depleted and depressed. Strategies for maintaining boundaries run...
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Selfish Versus Self-Care

Many people confuse selfishness and self-care. This mix up crops up often among dysregulated eaters. Is saying no to visiting a sick friend selfish or self-care? Is not answering your phone after a long day self-care or selfishness? This dilemma arises often with clients because distinguishing between the two is far from clear cut. My thoughts on the subject are not meant to give you rules for making a determination between selfish and self-care, but are to get you to think before you say yes or no to anyone so that you don’t do it automatically and are making an intentional choice. My goal is to get you to stop flagellating yourself (and eating to quash misplaced guilt), when you feel selfish but are actually engaging in self-care. Knowing dysregulated eaters as well as I do, my hunch is that much of what feels selfish to you might actually fall under the...
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Why We Need Both Intelligence and Knowledge to Make Healthy Choices

An author I enjoy noted in passing the difference between knowledge and intelligence. Though I recognized this truth, the statement stuck in my head because I’d just had a session with a distraught father who was struggling with his teenage son. Several times during the session, I’d suggested that the father read books on child development and, specifically, on parenting an adolescent but, each time I raised the subject, this client more or less let me know that he wasn’t interested. This client is a good provider and passionately loves his son, wanting the best for him. I’ve assumed that this father is fairly intelligent, yet was struck by his determination to avoid the knowledge that he desperately needed to get along better with and help his son. I’ve come across other people like him in my professional and personal life who absolutely refuse to acquire fairly easily accessible knowledge and would...
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Anger is an Essential Part of Self-Care

Many of my clients have difficulty tolerating their anger and, not surprisingly, with self-care. That’s why I write about anger a good deal. They get into relationships or take jobs in which they’re mistreated. They’re all about forgiveness and compassion and shy away from feeling wronged—even when they are. Sadly, one of the major reasons that they get into unhealthy situations is that they are not in touch with and fear their anger. Here’s an example. I was talking with a client about standing up to people and she said that she kept feeling badly for others and didn’t want to be angry at them. I hear this a lot, as if anger is a bad thing. We feel anger automatically when we’re being, were or will be harmed. That’s healthy. That’s how things are supposed to work because recognizing that we feel endangered is vital to surviving and thriving. Anger tells...
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What’s Wrong With Being Wrong?

Whether I’m working with couples or families, I find that too many people absolutely hate being wrong. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that any relationship you’re in, including those at work, will improve dramatically when both parties become more comfortable with being in the wrong. This improvement will automatically decrease stress and the urge to comfort yourself with food, so you’re getting a two-fer with it. What is it about being wrong that makes people feel so uncomfortable and defensive? It’s a strange phenomenon, this attachment to a state of correctness. Do you recognize what upsets you when you’re wrong? Is it the actual experience of it or is it what others say to or about you when blame is being thrown around? Here’s my take on the subject based on working with (most) couples who are all hung up on who’s right and who’s wrong. In...
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Wanting To Be Normal Or Healthy

Many people confuse what’s normal with what’s healthy. I hear from clients frequently that they don’t know what’s normal or have always wanted to be normal. Taking a closer look at these terms can help you figure out what you really want to be. As children, especially those who are raised in dysfunctional families, we often wish to be like other children. We want to fit in and being like others is one way to do it. If our parents are different from other parents—that is, they don’t take good care of us, they drink or do drugs, they can’t keep their jobs, or they abuse or neglect us—we are aware of this consciously or unconsciously and naturally yearn for normalcy. We want a father who helps us with our homework rather than one who shuts himself in the den drinking and watching TV or a mother who attends our school activities...
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Why Do You Lie To Yourself?

I came across an aphorism by social and moral philosopher Eric Hoffer, which speaks to a truth that we all need to be aware of: “We lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves.” Now, before, you insist that you never fib to yourself and always attempt to be honest, consider if that might be a lie in itself. Read this blog and, then, see if your assessment changes. Moreover, see if you can accept the truth that we all lie to ourselves without any self-judgment and, especially, without self-condemnation. To understand our behavior, the question we might ask is why we would lie to ourselves. Aren’t we taught from toddlerhood that lying is bad and wrong? Aren’t we often shamed and punished when we tell falsehoods intentionally or inadvertently? The major reason that we lie is because, in the moment, it brings more emotional comfort than telling the truth. If we say...
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Manage Your Focus and Better Manage Your Eating and Your Life

Recently, a 70-something, highly successful, charming client came to his first session with me and talked non-stop about how his father regularly had berated him for both over-eating and under-exercising in childhood. Not surprisingly, these “problems” had become the focus of his life. Perhaps, you, too, have difficulty focusing your brain on positive things in life and would like to learn how to manage your thoughts effectively. If so, world-famous coach Tony Robbins, has some sound advice for you to follow. (“An Interview with Tony Robbins” by Rich Simon, PhD, Psychotherapy Networker, Nov-Dec 2017, p. 47) He maintains that there are three tests of focus:“First, do you tend to focus more on what you can control or can’t control? If you’re always focused on what you can’t control, you’re going to be stressed.”“Do you focus on what you have or what’s missing? The vast majority of people focus on what’s missing. And...
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How to Manage Your Control Issues

Let’s face it: We all want control over our lives. It’s encoded into our DNA and hardwired into our brains. We want it because we believe it will help us survive and thrive, although that’s not what’s foremost in our minds when we try to shape life to our liking and get other people to change so that we don’t need to. In those moments, we’re thinking why the heck our spouse won’t lay off the booze, our neighbor won’t quit playing that awful loud music, and our parents won’t stop treating us like children even though we have grown kids of our own. We have no interest in surrendering our desires, and see nothing wrong with asking others to make major and minor alterations in themselves so that we can go along on our merry way exactly as we are. It doesn’t even occur to us that we might to be...
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Go-To Self-Talk That Gets Me Through Everything

Clients sometimes ask me what I say to myself to reduce stress and distress. I use three major phrases, which are based on truths I firmly believe in. It’s crucial to have a set of phrases or mantras, because you want self-soothing self-talk to kick in as soon as you need it and don’t want to be wondering what’s going to work to settle you down or set you straight. Occasionally, I’ll say something else to myself to suit a particular situation, but these are my routine go-to messages: I’m doing the best I can: I say this to myself often, as a quick-fix antidote to perfectionist tendencies, which I have on occasion. Many of us keep pushing ourselves until we’re hurt or exhausted and for what? Usually to come close to or reach some abstract ideal. However, what if, due to inborn limits, our best isn’t going to get us that...
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More Benefits From Meditation

I confess that it took me a while to see the value of meditation. When it was first touted as a stress reducer, there weren’t a whole lot of studies to back it up. But now, the more I read about it, the bigger fan I’m becoming—especially since so many anxious clients ask me, “Can we really change our thinking? Is it truly possible to change our brains?” Science tells us that the answers to these questions are yes and yes. According to “Meditate on this: a mindfulness practice promotes better health” (Healthy Years, vol. HY16H p. 5), a practice of meditation has health benefits beyond simply reducing anxiety and stress, not that that’s any small feat, particularly for emotional and stress eaters. The article states that “Science is still not clear how meditation influences the brain,” but that it helps in “decision-making, planning, abstract thinking, and regulating emotions.” “A study in JAMA...
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Do You Know the Signs of Emotional Abuse?

I treat many clients who’ve been or who are being emotionally abused. Some have eating problems and some don’t. Most are or were partnered to individuals suffering from Psychopathy and or the less dangerous Narcissistic Personality Disorder. None of them expected to become victims of emotional abuse and many stayed too long in their destructive relationships. Fortunately, the majority are now on their way out—for good.  One type of abuse called “coercive control” is used to dominate partners. It is described in “The domestic abuse that leaves no mark” by Abby Ellin (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 8/2/16, Wellness, p. 6) as “a pattern of behavior that some people—usually but not always men—employ to dominate their partners.” It is “an ongoing and multi-pronged strategy with tactics that include manipulation, humiliation, isolation, financial abuse, stalking, gaslighting and sometimes physical or sexual abuse.” “Coercive” individuals make a constant effort to control their partners: where they go, how...
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It’s Not Your Job to Make Everything Okay

As children, we often turn ourselves inside out trying to make things go well for us. If Mom yelled a lot when she was stressed, you gave your all to being nice and behaving better. If Dad frequently acted disappointed in you, you tried harder—and harder—to gain his approval. If your brother ignored you, you did all you could to get his attention. If your sister teased you for being a baby, you redoubled your efforts to act grown up. When we’re mistreated as children, intentionally or not, we attempt to fix the situation by changing ourselves. That’s all we can do and we fervently hope that doing so will improve our lot. If we do just what she says, Mom will stop yelling at us; if we raise our grades, Dad will be proud of us; if we pretend to like our brother’s interests, he’ll be more attentive; and if we...
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It’s All in How You Frame Your Eating Decisions

Most dysregulated eaters have difficulty switching from the diet/weight-loss mentality to a “normal” eating mindset. If you find this shift a challenge, you’re not alone. It will take time and an understanding of the process to reach your goals. If you don’t give up and, instead, keep at refining your thinking, you’ll get there—most likely not in the time frame you wish, but gradually and eventually. This is how change works for all of us. Take my client who was “struggling” with not thinking about calories and the scale, and who was unsure of how to frame her thoughts when making food decisions. She said several times in a session that although she wished to be a “normal” eater, she also still wanted to lose weight—as if we both didn’t know this after years of working together (on eating and family issues). I finally asked why she kept repeating that she wanted...
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How Are Your Thoughts Like Bananas?

Why is it that so many people try to control so much in life, but let their thoughts run rampant every day? How come people can be such super managers of their time, workplace or households, yet don’t even consider the fact that they can also manage their thoughts? What is it about our thoughts that make us believe we’re at their mercy, when we actually have the power to manage them in a gently empowered way? If you wish to learn to master your thoughts, recognize that they are electrical impulses in our brain—not truth, not fact, not reality—that come and go. Some thoughts are constructive and others are destructive. Some will take us where we want to go, such as to achieving our goals or generating pleasant emotions, while others will do the exact opposite and ensure that we fail to reach our goals, keeping us in a perpetual state...
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What’s Best Versus What’s Right For You

Many dysregulated eaters have an unhealthy preoccupation with doing what’s “right”— take the job offer, stay with the spouse, invite Betty Sue to the party, or go with low-fat over low-carb foods. Big and small decisions are focused on what the correct thing to do might be. Hope of being right and fear of being wrong underlies difficulty figuring out what and how much to eat along with being overly-oriented toward pleasing others. What if there is no “right” answer to many questions, no “right” response to certain problems, no “right” way to eat or to live? In order to become a mentally healthy person, you need to consider this possibility. More often than not, there is no “right” way to do something, but there’s often a “best” way—and a world of difference between the two. “Best” means making an informed choice by gathering all the evidence you can and making a decision...
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Being Too Nice Can Ruin Your Relationship with Food

I taught an eating workshop this fall in southwest Florida to a wonderful group of women. They exemplified the positive traits of the “nice” girls I write about in my book Nice Girls Finish Fat: Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever), as well as the problems caused by having nice as a singular identity. I’m blogging about them for all the women and men (yes, there are men who are too nice for their own good) who tend toward being overly nice in any situation, then end up struggling with dysregulated or unhealthy eating because of it.    (An aside: When I came up with the book’s title in 2009, I thought it was catchy and my publisher, Simon & Schuster, loved it. Now I feel that it’s insulting to use the word “fat” so pejoratively. In truth, I would never choose that title now, but the book is stuck...
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Be Really, Really, Really Proud of Self-Care

Sometimes you may feel as if you’re doing a terrible job of managing your life. You’ve just been dumped by your lover or lost your job, fight constantly with your parents/children/spouse/partner, and hate your body and the relationship you have with food. All you can think of is what mess your life is and so you make it worse by getting down on yourself which, of course, makes you feel more ashamed. One way to reverse this spiral is to focus on excellent self-care which makes you proud. You don’t need to engage in some grand gesture like go to a spa for a week or run out and buy a new wardrobe. The point is to act in ways that you know are healthy and make you feel better. However, you must not only do these things, but urge yourself to feel proud that you did them. You can’t brush them...
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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