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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Why Your Brain Shuts Down

We all experience brain freeze at one time or another. But did you know you may be exacerbating the problem by overloading yourself with information, and that cognitive overload makes non-anxious people anxious, and anxious folks even more so? Not what any of us need, and certainly detrimental when making decisions about food. Here’s an example. Ever sit down with a menu—a really large one with a dizzying array of items—and draw a blank on what you want to eat? How much easier when the menu has variety but not so many choices that your head begins to spin. According to a March 7, 2011 NEWSWEEK article entitled “I Can’t Think” by one of my very favorite writers, Sharon Begley, “The booming science of decision making has shown that more information can lead to objectively poorer choices, and to choices that people come to regret.” The problem is that the brain’s...
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Purity and Purging

In my work, I’ve met many women who are relentlessly driven toward purity. To be sure, there are men out there as well who yearn to be flawless or perfect, but the need seems to come with the cultural territory of being female. It’s a compulsion that can take over your life, ruin your chance for happiness, and make being a “normal” eater impossible. Purity isn’t quite the same as perfection. Without heading for the dictionary, let’s say that purity makes us want to be sparkly clean inside. We never want to have an untoward thought or an unkind feeling. We want to be holy and better than, to rise above it all—whatever “it” is—and be a flesh-and-blood ideal of humanity, a contradiction if there ever was one. As you read this description, does it seem natural and healthy to you? Moreover, does it seem doable? If so, at what cost...
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Rationality

How rational are you about your eating and weight? Perhaps you haven’t given much thought to the subject. If so, you won’t get far in changing your beliefs or behaviors. Some thoughts from a winter lecture I attended on rationality and intelligence. The American Heritage Dictionary defines rational as “based upon reason; logical,” and irrational as “contrary to reason; illogical.” Being human, we have the capacity to be both rational and irrational; it’s part of our genetic make-up, coded into our DNA. An interesting note: you might assume that there’s a correlation between being intelligent and being rational. In fact, IQ does not equal RA (rational quotient)! Ironically, highly intelligent people are more likely to cloak illogic and false assumptions in sophisticated illusions to shield themselves from seeing the truth. There are two causes of what’s called disrationale. One is that our brain relies on short cuts to take care of...
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Weight and Menopause

An article on weight gain during and after menopause in Environmental Nutrition (April 2011, vol. 34, no. 4) caught my attention because it contains important—and surprising—information for all women, whether they’ve reached menopause or not. The article states that “The transition through menopause is typically burdened with significant weight gain—about 1.5 pounds per year during the middle years, regardless of initial age, initial body size, or ethnicity, according to data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), a multi-ethnic, community-based, longitudinal study of more than 3,000 women. However, there is broad debate among scientists over why and how this weight gain occurs.” According to one researcher, fat cells are protective because they produce estrogen. As it declines in a woman’s body, fat cells take over the process of helping her get through what may be a difficult transition. Another researcher challenges this conclusion by saying that the estrogen...
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Competence and Self-esteem

At a dinner meeting I attended, the topic of self-esteem arose and generated quite a lively debate on what it is and how it develops. The answer to these questions are highly relevant to troubled eaters who generally exhibit low self-esteem and are looking for ways to raise it. Here’s a how-to from the so-called “father of self-esteem.” According to Nathaniel Branden, author of THE SIX PILLARS OF SELF-ESTEEM, “Self-esteem is the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness.” Self-esteem isn’t about feeling good arbitrarily nor is it about loving yourself unconditionally. It comes from achieving competence which gives you confidence which, in turn, reinforces competence. To raise your self-esteem in the eating arena, you have to achieve competence which means learning and practicing skills until you are very, very good at them. Competence evolves from hard work, repetition, and tolerating...
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The Basics of Leptin

Some of you may have heard of leptin and some of you may be hearing the word for the first time. Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells that signals your brain that you’ve had enough food. If you’re serious about understanding appetite and weight-related body chemistry, here’s the quick-and-dirty on leptin. According to an ENVIRONMENTAL NUTRITION (February 2011) article, Lessons About Leptin, Weight and Your Eating Environment, when you eat more calories than your body needs, they are stored in fat cells as fat. As fat is socked away, your leptin levels elevate and are released into your bloodstream, alerting your brain that you’ve consumed enough nutrients. Conversely, by losing weight through reducing fat stores, your leptin levels plummet, signaling your brain to believe that your body is in starvation mode which increases food-seeking behavior. Throughout history, this balance of stored calories evolved to help us take in the...
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When Is It Going to Click

When is it all going to click? I hear this question a lot. Clients and message board members want to know when they’re going to consistently and automatically engage in “normal” eating behaviors—stop eating when satisfied, prevent a binge, feel full but not purge, keep going to the gym even when they’re busy, or not regain weight they struggled hard to lose. The answer to this question may not be what you want to hear. It’s natural to want the effort you put into “normal” eating and growing mentally healthy around food and the scale to pay off. But, in my experience, troubled eaters can get so hyper-focused on when things are going to get easier and “click,” that they become distracted from the hard work that leads to this eventual transformation. The fact is that the click comes at the end of a long, nose-to-the grindstone process. It doesn’t happen...
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Taste and Your Other Senses

Eating problems can be exacerbated by a lack of sensory stimulation in general, that is, by using food as your primary outlet for sensual delight. Unwittingly, you may rely on taste, only one of your five senses, rather than using them all to increase intensity and joy in life. If so, by engaging all five senses, you may reduce unwanted eating. If you eat from boredom or to de-stress, you’re ignoring ways in which your other senses—smell, sight, hearing, and touch—could better help you amp up or chill out. One reason for this dependence is that you’ve fallen into a rut: food is cheap, accessible, and requires no thinking or creativity. With a little inventiveness and energy, however, you can learn to get all your senses working for you at maximum efficiency. Let’s start with smell. There may be no scientific evidence that aromatherapy promotes relaxation, but certain aromas seem to...
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Faith and Recovery

I rarely blog about religion, but here’s a dilemma a client encountered which those of you who are using faith and prayer to heal yourself may run into. Because dilemmas, aka unresolved internal conflicts, impede recovery, it’s important to identify and work through them all. Although resolution involves a great deal of self-honesty and emotional discomfort, it will free you up to pursue other recovery issues. Let’s say you believe there is a God and, beyond that, also believe in miracles which, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, are defined as “events that appear unexplainable by the laws of nature and so are held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God.” By entertaining the possibility of God performing a miracle to cure your eating disorder—anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating—you hold out hope of one day being a “normal” eater and maintaining a healthy, comfortable weight for life. This hope...
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The Last Word

We all know that there’s a rational part of ourselves and another part that’s got its own silly, and sometimes harmful, ideas. These aspects of self often battle with each other over food and other decisions: rationality asserts one thing while irrationality says quite another. This is a natural and inevitable process that we go through in making choices. What determines health over lack of it is which thought we let win each skirmish. Clients often confess that they did think about stopping eating when full, going to the gym, saying no to an unreasonable demand, standing up for themselves when they’ve been hurt, etc., but then this “little voice” told them to finish what’s on their plate, let the gym slide for another day, cave to the demand, or remain silent to avoid an argument. If we think of the first voice as the rational one and the second as...
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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.