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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. 

How Our Food is Losing Nutrients

You may think that eating lots of vegetables, fish, and plant-based foods means you’re getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy. That may have been the case decades ago but, according to Irakli Loladze, Ph.D., the quality of our food is decreasing because of the quality of what it is fed or feeds on due to climate change. (“The great nutrient collapse,” Helena Bottemiller Evich, 9/13/2017, Politco, accessed 9/16/17, http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/09/13/food-nutrients-carbon-dioxide-000511 ) There is a complicated answer to what’s been going on, but I’ll try to keep it simple.     Loladze explains that “Plants rely on both light and carbon dioxide (CO2) to grow” and that scientists have known for decades that CO2 levels have been rising in our atmosphere. “Every leaf and every grass blade on earth makes more and more sugars as CO2 levels keep rising…We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere...
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More on Food and Mood

Do you think of your food as effecting your mood or only that your mood influences your cravings? “Connecting Food and Your Mood: What you eat (and drink) may affect your state of mind” (Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, 6/17, vol. 35, No. 4) tells us that both statements have truth to them.   Scientists have “found that there may be a relationship between the risk of common mental health issues—including depression and anxiety—and our diet quality. Robin Kanarek, Ph.D., a Tufts psychology professor, says, “The role of diet in mental health may be particularly important for populations who are vulnerable to nutritional shortfalls, such as infants and the elderly, and those consuming a less-than-optimal diet.” Her food recommendations should not surprise you—“nutrient-rich plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and omega-3-rich foods, such as salmon and flax seed—because they’re associated with a decreased risk of depression...
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Can What You Eat Make You Happier?

If you were convinced that certain foods could increase your happiness, would you eat them? Science tells us that there’s a link between the foods we eat and how good we feel (HealthNews, “Want to Feel Good? Eat More Fruits and Vegetables,”10/16, p. 3). It might surprise you to find out what those foods are. Dysregulated eaters might assume that foods that are high in sugar and fat would raise our spirits. The fact is that a “new study (from the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health) reveals that eating up to eight daily servings of fruits and vegetables provides a ‘happiness’ factor that kicks in within 24 months.” Wait two years, you may think, to feel happy? No way. Fortunately, that’s not what the study is saying. It states that, “Happiness, or well-being increased incrementally for each extra daily serving of fruit and vegetables, up to...
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How Your Eating Can Cause Brain Fog

We all suffer from brain fog occasionally, often when we’re fatigued or stressed, so I wouldn’t worry if this is a rare occurrence. I’d be concerned, however, if this condition happens to you regularly. According to “Brain fog and diet” ( Environmental Nutrition , 10/16, p. 3), this condition can occur due to certain behavioral patterns. The symptoms of brain fog are “difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, fatigue, reduced mental acuity, and a feeling of ‘haziness’ around cognition.” Although there aren’t a slew of scientific studies on the subject, the article explains that certain nutrients foster “brain health and cognition, including B-vitamins, fatty acids, vitamin E, iron and zinc, among others.” Many restrictive eaters only pay attention to calorie, fat or sugar content in foods because they’re focused on weight loss. When this happens, they may miss out on the numerous nutrients that support clear thinking. Here are some tips to...
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Why Diet Soda Is Unhealthy for You

I’m always surprised when I speak to people who say they eat healthfully but drink diet soda. We’ve known for a long time that diet soda isn’t healthy for us, so it’s surprising that so many folks keeping drinking it. Here are some very good reasons not to. According to “The skinny on diet soda” by Mandy Oaklander (Time Magazine, 3/30/15), what we like about drinking diet soda is the rush it gives us—without the calories. The truth is that while we’re believing that diet soda is helping us slim down, it’s actually fattening us up. When you intake genuine sugar, your brain registers satiation with it and gets “full” on sugar. Says, Dr. Helen Hazuda of the University of Texas Health Science Center, “Your body is used to knowing that a sweet taste means you’re ingesting energy”—that is, calories—“and that if you don’t burn them off, it’s going to...
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Foods to Help You Feel Satisfied

Sometimes we have only a short time to eat, and know we won’t be getting any nourishment for a long while. Other times we’re ravenously hungry, and want foods that will fill us up quickly and healthfully. “Top foods to boost satiety” (Environmental Nutrition newsletter, 10/15, p. 6) gives us the best choices to eat in these situations. The article tells us that “satiety-boosting foods are rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats…because these components are digested slower in our bodies, we feel full for longer. Such foods also prevent a blood sugar spike and subsequent crash, which can cause feelings of hunger shortly after eating.” Here are the recommended: Oatmeal: The high level of soluble fiber fills you up by forming a gel in your stomach to slow down digestion. Eggs: Eggs provide lots of protein for relatively few calories. Almonds: They’re high in healthy fat, protein and fiber....
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Do You Need to Eat Breakfast?

I frequently have discussions with clients about whether or not to eat breakfast. Although we’ve been told repeatedly that we “should” eat it, many people simply have little appetite in the morning or, wanting to save time, prefer to have breakfast when they get to work. Here’s the latest on your morning meal. The debate rages in “Breakfast Downgraded From 'Most Important Meal of the Day' to 'Meal'” by James Hamblin (MSN news, originally printed in the 8/22/14 issue of The Atlantic). One small nutrition study from the University of Bath, “found that resting metabolic rates, cholesterol levels, and blood-sugar profiles were the same after six weeks of eating or skipping breakfast. Breakfast-skippers ate less over the course of the day than did breakfast-eaters, though they also burned fewer calories.” Another study concludes: “300 people ate or skipped breakfast and showed no subsequent difference in their weight gained or lost.”...
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The Skinny on Fats

For decades we’ve been taught to be wary of fats—especially saturated fats—because they cause heart disease and weight gain. Now we’re told that they’re not such villains after all. “Don’t blame fat” (Time, 6/23/14, pages 28-35) gives us the history of the anti-fats movement as well as the reasons for the scientific turnaround in thinking. A few points stand out in this article that are relevant to becoming a “normal” eater. One is an explanation of how certain carbs can hurt you. According to Dr. Dariush Mozzaffarian, incoming dean of nutrition science at Tufts University, “It has to do with blood chemistry. Simple carbs like bread and corn may not look like sugar on your plate, but in your body, that’s what they’re converted to when digested.” This doesn’t make carbs bad, but it’s helpful to understand this process when trying to cut sugar intake. If you’re trying to eat...
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Cues to Eat Healthy

Most of my blogs are on the psychology of eating—the why and how of it. However, there’s a different set of whys and hows that are based on perceptions regarding food—how it’s presented or served and why our appetites react as they do. In addition to changing our brains, we can change our environment to eat more healthfully. According to author Brian Wansink, a professor in the fields of consumer behavior and nutritional science (“Fooled by Food,” Nutrition Action Healthletter, 4/13, pp. 3-7), people overeat or choose non-nutritious over nutritious foods for many reasons, some of which are outside of our awareness. Here are his easy, effective suggestions. Did you know that you’re better off using a tall, thin bowl or glass than a short, wide one? According to his research, people eat less using the former than the latter. Make nutritious foods more visible and non-nutritious foods less visible....
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The Importance of Phytochemicals

Raise your hand if you know what a phytochemical is! I didn’t know the half of it until I read Fat-Phyting Phytochemicals (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 3/27/12). No, I’m not encouraging you to focus on weight loss. The neat thing about phytochemicals is that they keep you healthy and, as a byproduct, may help you lose weight. The article describes phytochemicals as “a huge group of nutritious plant-derived compounds and powerful antioxidants found in many fruits, vegetables, beans, cereals, and beverages like tea and red wine.” Eating them in “small, steady amounts from several sources” can actually promote weight loss while enhancing your health. According to Stephen Pratt, MD, these types of foods target total fat mass, drive up fat-burning metabolism, and “mimic the effect of caloric restriction” without negative effects. Your body has some 40 billion fat cells, about 1/10 of which die each year and are replaced by new ones....
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Food As Nutrients

Although I’m anti-diet, as you know, and am disinclined to follow health gurus, an article by Dr. Mehmet Oz in TIME MAGAZINE (9/12/11), The Oz Diet, highlights a sensible approach to eating. Even though he calls it a “diet,” he doesn’t focus on restriction. In fact, what he talks about sounds suspiciously like “normal,” healthy eating to me. To review terms, “normal” eating follows the rules for hunger, food preference, conscious eating, and satiation. Healthy eating involves choosing foods because they are nutritious and generally avoiding those that aren’t or are harmful. I recommend that disregulated eaters engage in successful “normal” eating for many months—at least three to six—before focusing on making healthier food choices because a push in a healthy direction may feel like dieting or restriction, sparking rebellion or rebound eating. Returning to Dr. Oz, his sensible assertion is to ingest sufficient and proper nutrients to be healthy....
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Protein and Burning Fat

As I’ve said a gazillion times, I’m fascinated by research on eating and weight. We’ve come so far scientifically since I had my food struggles decades ago and all we knew about how to fix them was based on the simplistic theory of calories in and energy out. Now we recognize how complex and complicated this subject really is. For example, an article in Science News (1/15/11), entitled “Mice missing protein burn more fat: research suggests molecular way to rev up body’s furnace” by Tina Hesman Saey, reinforces the fact that all bodies are not created equal. Studies at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston led by Yuxiang Sun conclude that “Mice lacking a protein that responds to the hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin burn more energy in their brown fat than other mice.” In terms of caloric expenditure, this means that brown fat is good fat, that is, rather than...
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Chocolate and Depression

Most of us agree that chocolate is a special food. Sure, occasionally we find people who can take it or leave it, but they’re the exception. Delicious as it is, what do we make of the link between depression and craving chocolate? Does it relieve symptoms or worsen them? What do we really know about the effect chocolate has on us? According to a July 2010 article in the TUFTS UNIVERSITY HEALTH AND NUTRITION LETTER, although people who have depression generally crave chocolate, it might make the condition worse. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine says the jury is still out on whether chocolate eases or exacerbates symptoms of depression. Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD of the University of California-San Diego and the studies’ other authors are unable to discern the effects of chocolate on depression. They do tell us, however, that “people who are clinically depressed are more...
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Food Labeling and Consumption

I don’t know about you, but I have mixed feelings about including nutritional information on menus. People all over the world manage to be “normal”—even healthy—eaters without knowing precisely how many calories, salt, or fat grams food contains, so why can’t Americans? On the other hand, reading nutritional information alongside menu selections might be just what is needed to break through denial and help folks make better choices. At any rate, here are preliminary results of research on the subject. Experts admit that because menu labeling laws are fairly new and not well studied, what is known about their impact on diet is inconclusive. Moreover, study results vary wildly. One study in the January issue of the Journal of Pediatrics focusing on families concluded that “mothers made better choices for their children when provided with calorie numbers, but didn’t make those same decisions for themselves.” A Stanford University study on...
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Sugar Questions Yet Again

A while ago, a client asked me what I thought about whether or not sugar is addictive, and I said I wasn’t sure. Then I read yet another article about sugar which said that it hadn’t been proven addictive. A confusing issue, one which has a direct impact on our thinking, and often our behavior, around sugar-laden foods. I blog on this subject to help you decide how you want to make choices about them. Here’s the verbatim text from the article, “EN Answers Your Most Pressing Questions About Sugar,” from the highly respected journal, Environmental Nutrition (March 2010): “Scientists believe that the preference humans seem to have for sweets is probably a long-cultivated, protective mechanism against poisonous substances, since many poisons taste bitter while many safe, nutritious foods, like fruit, taste sweet. But does that mean humans have a natural tendency to crave sweets? According to a paper published...
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Diet and Your Mood

An article in the January 2010 issue of the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Newsletter ( http://www.tuftshealthletter.com/ ), FOOD AND YOUR MOOD, contains fascinating information about how what we eat affects our emotions. Most likely, those people who have depression or anxiety problems and turn to food, had mood difficulties before their food issues. But, the fact is, we can also depress or elevate our mood, not only with exercise, but with what we choose to eat. For instance, the article states that “foods high in protein tend to make you more alert and carbohydrates can relax you—hence the term “comfort food.” This is important information: carbs do change your mood and that’s why you choose them. You’re not undisciplined or lacking in self-control. You simply want to feel better. No crime in that. Of course, there are more effective and less deleterious ways to feel better, but the point...
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The Connection Between Food and Mood

In addition to what you eat affecting your brain chemistry, mood, alertness, energy level, and performance, we’re now learning that how much and when you eat also has an impact. You may know this intuitively from the post-Thanksgiving dinner crash you experience, but not think about how food affects you every day of the year. High-fat/high-calorie meals slow down absorption of food needed for energy, hence that logy feeling that hits us mid-afternoon or after a heavy meal when blood is re-directed away from the brain to the stomach to aid digestion. It makes sense that a dearth of blood to the brain would cause fatigue. So if you’re tired a lot, could be that your stomach is getting more blood than your brain is and you might consider whether your food intake, timing, and meal size could be the cause. Our circadian rhythms (changes in physical and mental characteristics...
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Color, Mood and Food

An interesting article on how colors affect the brain in the May 2009 issue of Mind, Mood & Memory (published by Massachusetts General Hospital) might help tweak your eating for the better. Scientists concluded that certain colors stimulate creativity, focus, attention to detail, problem-solving, and relaxation. This information is not earth-shattering, but I offer it in the hope that you can use it to make your kitchen and dining area the most supportive it can be for “normal” eating. Here’s what the article (“Color Me Creative: How Colors Affect the Brain”) has to say: RED is stimulating, increases blood pressure, pulse and respiration rate; energizes, increases attention and vigilance; promotes anxiety, improves memory; promotes interest in food and sex. ORANGE increases blood pressure, respiration, heart rate; increases appetite, reduces fatigue, fosters sociability. YELLOW stimulates memory, awareness, and perception; raises pulse and respiration rates; engenders hope and optimism. GREEN is soothing,...
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Genes and Your Sweet Tooth

Ever wonder how some people easily pass up sweets while you can’t seem to say no? Part of your response is from the way you were raised and your beliefs about food, eating and weight, but there also may be a physiological component to your problem. Nothing about food is ever simple, is it? An article entitled “Sweet Tooth” from February 2009 on Self.com explains: “Some of us really can’t have just one sugary treat. A gene that tells our brain when we’ve had enough is less sensitive to glucose in certain people, so they may overindulge, a study from the University of Toronto reveals. People with this gene variation are more likely to have a higher body-mass index than those without it, but they aren’t doomed to be overweight. ‘Factors you can control, like the snacks you eat, have a bigger impact on eating habits,’ says study author Ahmed...
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More on Sugar Addiction

There’s always new information coming out on eating and weight. Here’s recent evidence which indicates that sugar might very well might be addictive. Study Suggests Sugar May Be Addictive, by Amanda Gardner. WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10, 2008 (Health Day News) -- Science is verifying what many overeaters have suspected for a long time: sugar can be addictive. In fact, the sweetener seems to prompt the same chemical changes in the brain seen in people who abuse drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The findings were to be presented Wednesday at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology's annual meeting, in Nashville.   “Evidence from an animal model suggests that bingeing on sugar can act in the brain in ways similar to drugs of abuse,” lead researcher Bart Hoebel, professor of psychology at Princeton University, said during a December 4 teleconference. "Drinking large amounts of sugar water when hungry can cause behavioral changes and...
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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