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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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The Clinician’s View

Ever wonder how your treaters view working with you as a troubled eater? This topic came up at a workshop I taught last week for the Mountain Area Health Education Center and the Center for Disordered Eating in Asheville, NC. Here are some of participants’ sentiments, which are representative of clinicians in general. The clinicians in the workshop—nurses, therapists, and dieticians—work in clinics, private practice, hospitals, and rehabs and treat a range of problems, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, body dysmorphia, nutritional imbalances, depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder, along with medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. All are committed to helping clients: eat more “normally” and healthfully, love their bodies at any size, reduce health risks and increase longevity, decrease food obsession, fight destructive cultural values condemning fat and extolling thin, use their bodies more functionally, turn to people instead of food or weight/food preoccupation when distressed, and live a...
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Eating and Chronic Illness

A message board member ( HYPERLINK "http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings" http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings) asked me to blog about chronic illness and eating. Chronic illness is stressful—intermittent or ongoing pain, medication protocols, doctors’ visits, unexpected reoccurrences, indeterminate remissions, and lifestyle limitations that make "normal" eating difficult due to lack of exercise from pain or limited mobility, being home a great deal surrounded by food, increased depression, and using food for comfort or to reward yourself. Although I’m no expert on chronic illness, my take is that your relationship with food before chronic illness is often (but not always) a predictor of your relationship with it when illness sets in. Ask yourself: how healthy was my relationship with food before my illness? A similar example is that disregulated eaters who develop food allergies have trouble coping with restriction because it generates feelings of deprivation and unfairness, whereas “normal” eaters aren’t so bothered by saying no to off-limit foods....
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Do You Really Love Food?

Clients say that the reason they overeat or eat when they’re not hungry is because they simply “love” food—but I don’t buy it. I know foodies who eat “normally” and folks who eat so quickly and inattentively that they couldn’t possibly enjoy it. Justifying unwanted eating by saying you love food will not help you overcome disregulated eating. A relevant anecdote. At a party over the holidays, I watched a woman shuttle back and forth to the dessert table, piling her plate high with as many sweets as it would hold. Then she’d sit down and chat with friends until the food was gone and do the same thing all over again, telling them, “I love food. I can’t help myself.” My heart went out to her because I used to eat exactly the same way. In the meantime, I’d found some Turkish sweets I hadn’t had in decades, took two...
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Reframing Not Succeeding

When you haven’t succeeded in reaching your eating (or other) goals, does that mean you’ve failed? Does not succeeding signify that you’re at the end of a process or in the middle of one? Does it mean that you’ve tried your hardest and should give up or that you’re simply not there yet? How you answer these questions will predict your success. People who’ve tired for decades to develop a healthy relationship with food or to lose weight or keep it off often complain, “I’m a failure,” “This won’t work,” or “I’ll never be a ‘normal’ eater.” Although it’s crucial to be honest and not deny or minimize reality, believing you’re a failure lays the ground work for it because it stops you from trying. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to totally eliminate the high-voltage word failure from your vocabulary because it so easily can trigger negative feelings about yourself. When...
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Difficulty with Waiting

I was reading a mystery recently in which an impatient character chided her partner for not getting out and doing something to solve a murder. Her partner coolly replied, “I am doing something. I’m waiting.” A valuable perspective, especially for all of you who can’t sit still and insist on charging into the future—or eating because there’s nothing to do. The point is that waiting is doing something. Waiting is what comes before one action and after another, a doing sandwiched between two actions that move you forward, one in the past and one in the future. Sometimes you can’t know what the second action will be because you must wait for a reaction to your first action. Waiting is as important as taking action, but most of us do it poorly. It’s difficult because it makes us feel passive and at the whim of fate, because it churns up our...
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Trends in Animal Obesity

Science writer Sharon Begley is one of my favorite columnists. In Fat canaries in a coal mine (Newsweek, 12/20/10), she tackles the fascinating topic of rising obesity in animals, offering some surprising research on the cause of their weight gain. Begley starts by critiquing societal lifestyle changes as the accepted cause of Americans’ escalating weights: a decrease in physical activity due to less walking to places such as work/stores/school coupled with an increase in caloric intake due to irresponsible food industry packaging and preparation. Then she goes on to seek answers in the research of scientists working with animals. She cites the conclusion of University of Alabama at Birmingham obesity researcher David Allison who has studied marmosets for 15 years: without changes in any other variables, their weight has soared. She cites the conclusion of his collaboration with colleagues who, after reviewing the weights of other animals, including alley rats, mice,...
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Protecting Your Inner Child

The disordered eater within you is really your inner child that’s doing her best to get by in life—a particularly big job if there was trauma in your past. That’s because the traumatized part of you fears experiencing past pain more than just about anything else in the world. And that part of you will use anything, food or purging, to avoid feeling it. Whatever type of trauma you’ve suffered, you probably have all-too-real memories from the past that belong to an intensely wounded part of you. Trauma can shake your world and turn it upside down, even if you don’t realize exactly why at the time, particularly if it happens at a very young age. Remember, as children we’re pretty much defenseless and dependent on our care-takers. When they violate our trust through abuse and/or neglect, it’s natural to feel helpless and scared. In terror, we take the most adaptive...
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Book Review: Bulimia

What a delight to be reviewing the 25th Anniversary Edition of BULIMIA: A GUIDE TO RECOVERY by Lindsey Hall and Leigh Cohn, the publishers of Gürze Books. This “completely revised and updated” edition is not simply a book about how to recover from bulimia. It’s a valuable read for all sorts of troubled eaters. Although I had recovered from 18 months of purging in my early 30s, by the time I read Lindsey’s original book decades later, it still spoke to my heart. By then, I was starting to counsel clients with eating disorders and I know it helped every client I lent it to. This expanded edition will help even more of you, not only those suffering with bulimia. First off, Lindsey’s personal account of her triumph over disordered eating and purging is nothing but inspirational. Her straight-from-the-heart honesty and courage shine through every page. Reading about her recovery will...
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Not a week goes by when I don’t hear clients complain about feeling stuck in improving their eating habits or making other changes in their lives. The truth is, there is no such psychological state as stuckness. Rather, stuckness is the negative perception of a state between inaction and action or between an action taken and a potential action. When you say you’re stuck, what are you really feeling? Here’s my guess: fear, risk-aversion, confusion, uncertainty, frustration, despair, doubt, maybe even emotional paralysis. Those are legitimate emotions and by acknowledging that you feel them, you’re doing yourself a service because then you can figure out the roots of your distress and how to overcome it. If you’re scared, what of? If you’re frustrated, what could generate new motivation? If you’re risk-aversive, what exactly will tip the balance to boost your courage? If you’re uncertain, what could you do to strengthen your...
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Learned Lovability

We believe we’re lovable or unlovable based on our early experiences with people, primarily our parents. If they cared for us lovingly, we come to believe we’re lovable. If, due to their own limitations, they didn’t love us well, we may end up believing we’re unlovable. The whole lovability concept is that simple. Don’t believe me? Read on. Mentally walk out of the apartment or house you grew up in and go four doors down to the right, which we’ll call door #1. Now come back to your front door and travel down four doors to the left, which we’ll call door #2. Next, assuming that you have some sense of who lived there, consider what it would have been like to be raised by the person or people behind both doors. Maybe the folks behind door #1 were terrific—caring, stable, loving, bright, successful, compassionate, and sensible, with good jobs and...
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