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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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Learning Emotional Health from Animals

Want to enhance your mental health—which can’t help but improve your relationship with food? If animals could speak about mental health, here’s the advice I imagine they’d give. If you have a pet, observe him or her to see if you agree.

Animals take the attitude of that’s life. If my cat goes to her dish and it’s devoid of food, she might circle around me once or twice, but then she moves on to other things. She’s got more to do than sulk or be angry or try to analyze what’s wrong with me or the world—or herself—when she doesn’t get what she wants. Instead, she has a snooze, plays with her toys, stares out the window, or heads outside to lounge in a shady or sunny spot (depending on the weather) on our lanai. Here’s what she doesn’t do: ruminate about why I didn’t feed her or whether she’ll ever be fed. You could live like she lives if you gave staying in the present half a chance and accepted that sometimes for no reason you can possibly fathom, life just doesn’t go your way.

Animals live guilt free. Once an occurrence is over and done with (unless it’s highly fear based), it’s forgotten. If I shoo away my cat, she doesn’t sit around wondering if she did something wrong. She simply leaves the area. No matter how much she fails to get her way, she doesn’t question whether she has upset or disappointed me. Did you know that humans are the only animals that feel guilt? And the others do quite well without it. They make decisions in the present based on the reality that confronts them. If you are busy feeling guilty, you actually degrade your quality of life. First, because you’re making yourself miserable for no good reason and, second, because you’re not using the present to make decisions to help you create a better life.


Animals have no use for shame. Even when I reprimand my cat, she doesn’t feel ashamed. She might recall my sharp “No!” when she tries to slip into the bedroom again as we’re trying to keep her out or the scolding I give her or when she drinks water from the pool. She might be trained by “No!,” but she doesn’t think it has anything to do with her value or whether or not she’s a “good” cat. I have read that some higher primates may feel something akin to shame, but it’s in the moment. They don’t spend hours beating themselves up for disappointing others or when others disappoint them.

It sounds hokey, I know, but what about imagining how your pet (or a pet you know) would act when you find yourself making up reasons for why things go wrong in your life, feeling guilty and ruminating about events that are over, or miring yourself in shame for perceived wrongdoings You’ll feel better and may even avoid mindless eating. Thanks to Dr. Jon Connelly and Rapid Resolution Therapy for these great ideas!

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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