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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 to Create Emotional Safety in a Relationship

How do you create emotional safety in a relationship? It’s not a 1-2-3 process, but it’s also not so complex that there aren’t guidelines for making it happen. Obviously, you want to avoid sarcasm, accusations, name-calling, defensiveness and offensive body language. Read on for guidelines on what makes for genuine emotional intimacy. Most couples come to see me and want to jump right into talking about major relationship problems: he doesn’t spend enough quality times with the kids, she’s negative and critical, she hoards every penny, he can’t spend money fast enough. But talking about differences can’t be done in a productive way without feeling safe enough to share your honest emotions and thoughts openly. That can happen only if you believe that no harm will come to you in doing so—not only physical harm (that goes without saying), but emotional harm as well. If there’s a fear of any type...
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Myths and Facts on How to Eat Less and Still Feel Nourished

Many people ask me how to eat just the right amount to feel nourished without experiencing over-fullness. There’s a good deal of information out there on the subject, all the way from flat out wrong to inconclusive to tentative but needing more research. “How to Eat Less: What Works, What Doesn’t” by Caitlin Dow (Nutrition Action Healthetter, Jul/Aug 2018, pp.6-8) provides some evidence-based answers. Are smaller plates the answer?: According to Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State University, “Focusing on plate size is a diversion” because studies tells us that people often don’t eat less when using smaller plates. They eat about the same quantity of food they’d eat on larger ones. However, if you mindfully choose to use a smaller plate as a reminder to eat less, they can be helpful. The goal is not to heap your plate with foods you love in order to feel as...
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The Scientific Reason That We Can’t Keep Weight Off by Dieting

For all of us who have dieted and for those of you who frequently or occasionally feel tempted to restart a diet, here’s a simple explanation of why most people cannot keep weight off by weight-loss dieting . It makes perfect sense. Your mind might want to be dieting (although most minds sensibly dislike giving up culinary pleasure), while your body inevitably starts to fight back when you deprive it of calories on a regular basis. It’s time to face facts and recognize that learning to be a “normal” eater is the only way to become healthy and fit, establish a comfortable weight for life, and enjoy a positive relationship with food and your body. Here’s the skinny on why diets don’t keep weight off long-term according to “How Did We Get Here? Explaining the obesity epidemic” by Kevin Hall ( Nutrition Action Healthletter , July/August 2018, pp. 3-5). Describing the...
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Family Fiction Can Teach Us A lot

I’m a huge fan of novels. Mostly I enjoy literary fiction and mysteries. Family dramas, in particular, are engaging because they’re generally so psychological: why characters act in certain ways, the loving and hateful dynamics common to us all, how childhood shapes without our realizing it, what gets passed on from parents consciously and unconsciously. Well written novels act as mirrors for us all, normalizing what we feel, as well as helping us see aspects of ourselves we’ve been fighting not to see. Celeste Ng, the author of Everything I Never Told You (and Little Fires Everywhere) is interviewed at the end of her book and has some profound comments on families that are as true as anything I’ve read written by psychotherapists. I want to share some of her remarks with you so that you can reflect on them in terms of your own life. On sibling relationships. “You have...
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The Dangers of Counter-dependence

I recently discovered that I’ve blogged about dependence and independence, but not about counter-dependence. I suspect that many of you don’t know what this dynamic entails, although it’s rampant in the eating disorder community. Read on to learn more. A simple definition of dependence is reliance on others, while independence means relying on oneself. Obviously, none of us can be completely one way or the other. As adults, we’re expected to do many things for ourselves, assuming we are able. Your spouse or friend might spoon some ice cream into your mouth for a taste, but it’s unlikely that anyone will take on the job of feeding you when you can feed yourself. Likewise, we can be highly accomplished and autonomous, but we can’t do everything ourselves (perform surgery, pilot an airplane, grow all our own food, fix our own cars). Counter-dependent people will do just about anything to avoid relying...
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Different Types of Dysregulated Eaters

While talking to a client about her dysregulated eating, it struck me how many ways we can get into trouble with food. Here are three categories I came up with. Of course, you may not engage with just one but two or all three. Not to worry, each has solutions. Emotional Eating: This type of eating may be intentional or unconscious. You may have a fight with your boss/friend/child/partner/parent/neighbor/colleague and be so irate that you feel justified in food-seeking because you tell yourself you can’t stand how you feel or think you’re entitled to a treat because you’ve been wronged. Alternately, you may not realize how much someone or a situation upset you and think you’re fine, but still be food-seeking to avoid or lessen your distress. Two ways to avoid emotional eating are to stay connected to your feelings and to find effective ways to comfort and cope. Mindless Eating:...
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Lessons from a Slice of Cake

I was at a dinner meeting at a restaurant when the focal point of discussion became the cake slices set out on the table. The meal had not been served, but there, diagonally to the side of every plate, sat a slice of cake. It was a real attention-grabber. Aside from wondering why it was out so early when we hadn’t even ordered drinks, we all seemed compelled to give voice to its appeal or lack thereof. It wasn’t even a particularly attractive slice of cake—kind of yellowish, double-layered with common white frosting on its sides and top, sitting in a pool of mustard-colored sauce drizzled around it. Nothing to write home about in my book (I was hoping for tiramisu or something equally exotic), but not everyone agreed. Here’s what was said about the cake as best as I recall and, at dessert time, how speech turned into action. •...
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How to Handle Difficult People

You know how certain people leave you tongue-tied or frequently seem to best you in arguments? They need to dominate or “win” every discussion—when you didn’t even know there was a battle going on. The more you go at it, the more your frustration grows, leaving you feeling helpless, frustrated and emotionally drained. The solution is to change the focus of your response and redirect the conversation by making a comment or asking a question about the process or dynamics occurring rather than by addressing content. To put yourself in the driver’s seat, instead of responding to a statement or question by responding to what a person is saying, address only what’s going on between you by questioning his or her motivation or the way he or she is coming across. Here’s an example. Note how a process response disrupts the pattern and shifts the power of the discussion. SOMEONE: I...
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Stop Asking Why People Won’t Change

Humans are meaning-making creatures with built-in curiosity about people and the world to help us survive and thrive by learning new behaviors and putting new ideas into practice. One kind of persistent answer-seeking that is regressive is wondering why someone doesn’t or won’t change. Though you may feel dismayed or dissatisfied because my explanation isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, it’s still the truth, one which you eventually will need to accept to become emotionally healthy. Let’s say that Mom regularly invalidates your thoughts and feelings, insisting that you think and feel as she does, or she becomes angry. You try hard to explain yourself over and over, but she still acts as if what your saying makes no sense or is wrong. So, you ask her repeatedly, “Why don’t you understand me?” or ask yourself, “What can I do to get her to understand me?” Nothing. Not a darn thing....
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Cultivating Doubt to Find the Truth

As I’ve written in my Food and Feelings Workbook, most of us feel uneasy with doubt and some people turn to food when it gnaws at them. We adore certainty because we believe it will lead us away from harm and towards safety and comfort. In reality, the opposite also can be true. Doubt helps us seek the truth, while certainty based on insufficient doubt often leads to false information and practices. Doubt is usually viewed negatively when it is actually valued neutral. We need some, but not too much of it. Here are (some) ideas on the subject from a presentation by David Allison, psychologist and Dean of Indiana University’s School of Public Health, to graduating students in June 2018. (IU School of Public Health-Bloomington (http://blogs.iu.edu/iusph/2018/06/07/doubt-and-truth-take-center-stage-in-dean-allisons-remarks-to-iusph-graduating-students/, retrieved 6/23/18) Allison says that: “It takes courage to admit doubt. It takes intelligence. It takes humility. Some of the greatest minds have embraced...
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