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]

Eating and Neural Pathways

I’m fascinated by brain chemistry and behavioral change, especially knowing that we can learn to think/act/feel in new ways. In fact, more and more scientific evidence points to the brain’s amazing neuro-plasticity. That means that it’s time to stop saying you think/feel/behave a certain way regarding food or weight and, therefore, must continue—and start thinking and talking about doing things differently.

You’ve probably heard that “neurons that fire together wire together,” meaning that paired activities, or activities and thoughts or feelings, bond on a biochemical level the more they occur at the same time. Such as habituating to snacking as soon as you walk in the door after work, mindlessly having a dish of ice cream every night while watching the news, or thinking about being fat as shameful and disgusting. Repeated pairing of these activities reinforces neural pathways that will stay paired.

Whether or not you’re aware of this cause and effect doesn’t matter. Whether or not you say to yourself, “It’s three o’clock, time for my candy break” or find yourself robotically chomping away on a Snickers bar around that time every day without even tasting it, your brain mechanism still works the same way. Ditto for feeling like a failure because you’re not married/haven’t lost weight/don’t have a high-paying job/drive an old car/can’t have children/are divorced. If each time you think about these situations and pair them with “I’m a failure,” that coupling, though totally erroneous, grows stronger.

To change behavior, you must develop new pairings. Come home from work and put on some music or sip a cup of tea. At three o’clock at work, get up and take a walk or do some neck rolls. Reframe lack of success as an unsolved problem and come up with new solutions . Rather than view unwanted eating as a pleasurable activity, do something that really is pleasurable (with no downside) or pair unwanted eating with the displeasure you’re going to feel after it’s happened.

Make a list of the unhealthy pairings about food, weight, and appearance you have running your brain right now. Write the activity and what outcome it’s paired with. If the outcome is desirable (eg, to relax), find a new activity to pair with it such as reading a book or doing deep breathing. If the outcome is undesirable (eg, weighing yourself), stop doing it and focus on improving your eating instead. Mix it up. You get to choose what goes with what. Create new pairings and keep hooking them together and soon you’ll have a whole new, healthier brain map.

Book Review: The Gift of Our Compulsions
Caring Distance

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.karenrkoenig.com/

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.