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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. 

Quiet Place Inside

Do you know what makes you afraid to stop and feel? Dollars to donuts, whatever it is, you’ll be able to tolerate it. As children, we really do get easily overwhelmed with emotions and they rightfully terrify us. We don’t have the brain mechanics to handle emotional intensity. For the most part, as adults, what we feel is pain with much less terror. The irony about abusing food to avoid emotional hurt is that by tolerating the pain, you avoid future pain—recriminations which follow food abuse. You’re also listening to your heart to find out what you really need. When I ask clients and students to sit quietly to see what comes up, they often look at me as if I’ve spoken in tongues. Be still? Maybe their parents were in ongoing emotional chaos or walled off their emotions, so they have no idea how to be still. Perhaps they...
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If You Couldn’t Make Choices

Every time I see my neighbor who’s a quadriplegic, I think to myself, I bet she’d give anything to have a choice about whether to exercise or feed herself. We take so much for granted as we muddle along, especially using the easy way out and deciding by doing nothing and letting things happen. Letting the chips fall becomes a way of life. Think, what would life would be like if choices were taken away from you? As the saying goes, use it or lose it! Do you live as if you have forever to be different—unconsciously, blocking out how your food intake in (or lack thereof) might damage your future health? It’s one thing to be present to the moment; it’s another to be barricaded in it and act as if now is all you have. Consider this question: If you had to be in a wheelchair for the...
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Opaque versus Transparent

If you have difficulty regularly regulating your food intake, you probably have problems with the flow of your emotions as well. The goal is to become so emotionally flexible that you know, as the song says, when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. That doesn’t mean becoming perfect at handling emotions, just that, for the most part, you’ll be able to appropriately let go of or contain intense affect depending on what’s necessary. I think of people who don’t show feelings as opaque. They cut off emotions so quickly that they barely and rarely feel them. No matter what angle you use to try and connect with them, no feelings shine through. They are often cerebral and intellectual people or such busy bees that they (intentionally) never have time to stop and feel. At the opposite end of the spectrum are people I think of as emotionally transparent....
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No Such Thing as A Perfect Eater

It’s easy to understand how anyone who’s had under- or overeating problems for a long time would think that there are people out there who are perfect eaters. You know, the ones who never overeat or allow themselves to get too hungry, who always know exactly what food they want and don’t ever feel disappointed by a poor choice, who eat nutritiously 100% of the time and never struggle over food decisions. Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s no such thing as a perfect eater. “Normal” yes, perfect no. “Normal” eaters misjudge their hunger and get ravenous or end up eating when they’re not hungry. They make unsatisfying food decisions and get stuck eating foods they don’t like. Sometimes they lose track of what they’re doing and eat too much or get side-tracked and take in too little. Their clothes may hang a little loose when they’ve been...
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Stopping Eating When Full or Satisfied

Sometimes it feels as if the worst thing in the world is to have to stop eating, never mind that you’re stuffed to the gills and your brain has gone numb. Of all the rules of “normal” eating, stopping when you’re full or satisfied is the hardest, hands down. However, it does grow organically and logically out of the previous rules. If you follow the first three, stopping is a lot easier. Well, actually, it won’t be easy for a long while, until you’ve done it so often that it’s become habit. It will be very, very hard at first. If you eat when you’re not hungry, you won’t know when to stop because it wasn’t food you wanted in the first place. On the other hand, if you’re too hungry, you’ll snarf down your food so quickly that you’ll have eaten too much before you know it. When possible,...
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Weighty Comments

In a recent workshop, members had a lively discussion about what to do when people comment—positively or negatively—on their weight. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are a number of winning responses, depending on the situation. The first step is to identify what bothers you about the comment: Is it a throwback to how some relative in your childhood used to chide you for being too fat or thin? Does it make you feel uncomfortable because it’s tinged with sexuality or a come on? Does it feel fake, competitive, downright hostile, or as if the person envies how you look? Has it been said thoughtlessly, with love, or with obvious mal intent? Is it from a stranger or an intimate? Your response needs to grow from what you’re feeling—angry, embarrassed, sort of pleased and sort of not, violated, scared, devalued, sexualized, self-conscious—and from the context of the situation. For many...
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Males and Eating Disorders

Most of my clients, book and blog readers, and message board members are women, which is no big surprise considering that women bear the brunt of this society’s pressure to lose weight and be thin, which can be a factor leading to disregulated eating. Until recently, however, we thought that men with eating disorders were a small percentage of our population. It turns out that the number is higher than we thought. According to a Cox Newspaper article, Men Struggle with weight and eating disorders, too, a national study conducted by Harvard of nearly 3,000 adults concluded that one quarter of people with bulimia or anorexia nervosa and 40% of individuals who had binge-eating problems were men. The previous estimate had maintained that about 10% of people with anorexia and bulimia were males. One explanation of this 30% difference is likely under-reporting of the problem because health professionals are more...
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Thawing Your Feelings

Emotions are meant to be felt and valued. When they’re not encouraged, validated, supported and understood, we think they’re bad and that we’re bad/wrong to have them. We learn to conform to the family value: don’t think it, don’t say it, don’t feel it. If your parents or primary caretakers frequently demeaned, ignored, humiliated, invalidated, teased, or in any way squashed your feelings, you adapted by numbing out emotionally. Witnessing others suffer as a child can also induce a deadening reaction. Emotionally overwhelmed and lacking the internal resources to manage your pain, you tried not to feel hurt, pretended not to care, and covered your feelings so well that no one knew you had them (even you!). Eventually those feelings became stuck or frozen in time and you adapted to feeling as little as possible. Emotional numbness may have been a conscious goal, but more likely it was a state...
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What Are You Waiting For?

Procrastinating is one of the unappealing aspects of being human. Everyone does it sometimes. After all, why be unhappy today when you can put it off ‘til tomorrow, right? Well, that might work with making an appointment to have your teeth cleaned or doing your taxes, but if you keep postponing these activities, your teeth will rot and the IRS will be camping on your doorstep. We think we can ignore unpleasant consequences because they’re off in the future, but every day brings us closer and closer to them. Many people talk about changing their eating habits but do little or nothing about it. Understandable: change hurts, is hard, and rocks our boat. Fortunately, in my practice and classes, I work with individuals who are eager to learn new attitudes and behaviors. But, what of you folks who keep saying that you’ll get into therapy or join an eating support...
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Information Overload

I happened to read the results of a recent Harvard University Medical School/McLean Psychiatric Hospital study on eating disorders as well as an article by Michael Pollan entitled “Unhappy Meals” on the same day that a bunch of my husband’s health and nutrition newsletters arrived. The Massachusetts study announced real news (to anyone not in the field of eating disorders, that is)—that binge-eating disorder is the biggest eating disorder in the U.S.; the Pollan article made the refreshing point that, among other things, we’ve become a nation fixated on nutrients rather than food and pleasurable eating. The health and nutrition newsletters, however, contained the same ole same ole: eat your fruits, vegetables and whole grains and nix the fats and sugars. It occurred to me, not for the first time, that while we’re bombarded with health and nutrition information daily, Americans are getting fatter and sicker as their relationship with...
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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