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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. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

Women, Food and God—and Oprah!

Oprah says she’s seen the light—that diets don’t work, that punishing herself for being fat and overeating is exactly the wrong thing to do, that instead of hating her food problems, she needs to value them as a tool to teach her how to live her best life. Let’s hope that Geneen Roth’s May 12 appearance on Oprah helped switch on the light for Oprah’s entire viewing audience. And that it also gets Geneen Roth’s newest book, WOMEN, FOOD AND GOD, read and reread by disregulated eaters everywhere. Roth’s books were a turning point in my battles with food. How long had I been struggling, you ask. Since always. As a skinny kid, my mother had to trick me into eating by convincing me that my mouth was a tunnel and the food-on-a-spoon a choo choo train. However, not long after, there she was buying me clothes in the chubby department...
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Anger Instead of Anxiety

Many people get anxious around folks who don’t treat them well—a spouse, partner, friend, parent, child, neighbor, boss, or colleague. They’re anxious before seeing the person, while they’re with them, and after the fact. Well, there’s a better way than agita to respond to mistreatment! Some good, old-fashioned anger might just do the trick. Does this sound familiar? You feel anxious when…your date is rude to you, your partner walks in the front door and immediately comes down on you for a mistake you made earlier in the day, your best friend breaks a movie date last minute and calls you oversensitive for getting upset, your father insists you fly out to see him when he knows you’re in the middle of finals, your brother shows up drunk at your birthday party, your colleague misses work repeatedly and you end up picking up her slack, your adult child refuses to move...
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Emptiness is both a physical sensation and an emotion and is somewhat difficult to describe because of its nature—it’s easier to describe something than its absence. However, understanding underlying issues about and resolving discomfort with both types of emptiness will go a long way toward helping you recover from eating problems. Let’s tackle physical emptiness first, the sensation in your belly when you’re hungry—the gnawing, gurgling, and mild contractions telling you it’s time to fuel up. How you feel about this emptiness and how you respond to these sensations makes all the difference. If you perceive stomach emptiness as welcoming and as an invitation to feed your body pleasurably, you’re all set. For you, emptiness is a natural state which can be responded to with food and eating is a self-enhancing act. On the other hand, if you view physical emptiness as dangerous or scary, how will you move on to...
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So many disregulated eaters, especially you nice girls and guys, fear being self-centered—you know, selfish, egotistical, or self-absorbed. Instead, you turn yourself inside out to be self-effacing and other-oriented, as if focusing on you is a sin. In reaction to early care-takers who were too self-centered, you now fail to center on yourself nearly enough. Once again, all-or-nothing thinking rears its ugly head, as if people are totally self- or other-oriented. The healthy among us are both!   Here’s a question for you: If you are not centering on your life, who is? That is, if you are not the center of your own universe, who is? Who could be other than you? How can someone else be the center of your life? They can only be the center of their lives! Not to be redundant, but by a process of elimination, you must be the center of your own life....
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Fixed or Broken

A post on my message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings) a few months ago included the words, “Some of us are broken.” I hear often from clients that they’re “broken”—read as not fixable. However, there is no such thing as a totally “broken” person or a totally “fixed” one. This polarization is an example of unhealthy, all-or-nothing thinking that perpetuates the idea that anyone is wholly defective or entirely perfect. Needless to say, broken is not a good way to think of yourself. We all are lacking in some areas, and most of us excel in others. No one is a mess or completely okay. Each of us has our issues! Think of the most terrific, most together person you know, then consider their flaws. They have them, I assure you. Now think of the most dysfunctional person you know (not you!), then consider what they do well or have achieved. The problem isn’t...
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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 Starbuck...
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Dealing with Difficult Parents

Lots of unwanted eating comes from the stress of dealing with parents who don’t respect our boundaries and who are more focused on their needs than ours. As we mature, the idea is to “separate” from them emotionally, that is, to know that you exist for you and not for them. No matter what your adult age, when parents try to control you, it’s not surprising that you turn to food for comfort. Here is some excellent advice on the subject, not from me, but from a therapist whose blog I was fortunate to read. His wisdom is so right on, I thought I’d give you his words rather than mine. Richard Wade, retired Marriage and Family Therapist, blogs and writes an advice column. With his permission, here is his (edited by me for brevity) response to a young woman whose parents vehemently disagreed with her choice of boyfriend because he...
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Compassion, Acceptance and Mercy

This blog topic comes from a discussion with a client who was often highly critical about her body and overeating and who feared that if she showed herself “compassion” for making mistakes with food and “accepted” her weight, she wouldn’t try to change. Perhaps you too fall back on a sharp tongue lashing or a swift kick in the butt for motivation, rather than non-judgmentally exploring your behavior and figuring out how to do better next time. This client decided, instead, to show herself mercy, a term filled with benevolence, self-love, kindness and forgiveness. Here’s what the American Heritage Dictionary has to say about acceptance and compassion. To accept is, “To receive gladly; take willingly; To receive as adequate or satisfactory.” Compassion is, “The deep feeling of sharing the suffering of another in the inclination to give aid or support, or to show mercy.” Do these sound like synonyms to you?...
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Eating, Fat and Punishment

How many of you self-punish to regulate your eating? Punishment starts with fear, self-judgment, and self-anger. Many disregulated eaters get stuck in this rigid, misguided approach and never move on to more enlightened, self-nurturing, self-loving ways of regulating eating. Here’s what self-punishment does: After you’ve done something you feel badly about, you use words or actions to make yourself feel worse. Double ouch! Fortunately, there is another way of changing behavior. The dictionary definition of punish is to “inflict a penalty.” We learn to punish in two major ways: By being punished a good deal as children and by internalizing the punishing attitude our role modeling parents exhibited when they tried to change their or our behavior. When we call ourselves “bad” or other derogatory words after overeating, we engage in verbal punishment. Punishing attitudes abound in society, especially with people who do not meet certain norms: eg, with food, drugs...
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Not Talking About Food and Weight

In response to one of my blogs, I was asked: “Is it possible to stop people from talking about eating and weight?” Hurray, I thought: “Am I the only one on the planet tired of yakking about this subject?” Short of duct-taping their mouths, we can’t actually prevent people from talking about it, but we can exert subtle and direct pressure on them. Even if our strategies fail, they will help us express our needs, an important skill to practice. There are four ways to handle people talking about eating or weight. First, ignore it. Nod pleasantly while channeling your thoughts elsewhere—to a book you’ve been enjoying, the great sex you had yesterday, resolving a family problem, or writing a grocery list in your head. Sometimes it’s distracting enough to simply take in the scenery or keep your mind blank. Better yet, use the moment to practice deep breathing or body...
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