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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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Overeating versus Loss of Control Eating

A while back, I read about a research project studying loss of control (LOC) eating and got to thinking about the study’s need to distinguish it from garden variety overeating. The subject can be confusing. For example, the concept of loss of control eating may be helpful for overeaters, but it is problematic for highly restrictive eaters who are too in control when they eat and need to cut themselves some slack around food. So for strict undereaters LOC eating might actually be a good thing. To be clear then, today’s blog is for overeaters who lose control around food to their detriment. The way I see it is that all overeating isn’t LOC eating, and all LOC eating isn’t overeating. Overeating is continuing to consume food past fullness or satisfaction. Of course, sometimes we consciously take a few more bites than we really need, but it doesn’t make a huge...
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This Is Not My Life

I was having dinner with a colleague and friend one night and we got to talking about our previous lives and struggles, identifying what helped us progress and how we might use that knowledge to help our clients. With very different histories, both of us had made full recoveries. The more we talked about our transformations, the clearer it became that we did have one very significant thing in common. Neither of us believed that the life we’d been living and the addictive struggles we’d been having way back when were what was meant to be for the rest of our lives. As soon as my friend said, “I just knew this wasn’t the life I was meant to live,” I realized that I had felt the exact same way. There was no chance I was going to spend my life alternately starving and stuffing myself, obsessing about food and weight,...
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Holidays Without Family

It’s hard to watch clients sink into despair about wanting to spend the holidays with family who aren’t very nice to them and who are, frankly, toxic to be around. Clients could feel joyous and proud choosing to be with healthy, loving friends without fear of family dynamics ruining “normal” eating or a good time, but instead, yearn desperately for a happy, functional family that never was or will be. This is a natural concern for folks in their 20s who are just breaking away from home and learning to be independent, but it’s downright self-destructive for people who are older and who need to move on. This blog is for all of you who have yet to emotionally separate from your families, particularly your parents. Separation means viewing them from a mature perspective, ie, adult to adult. You recognize their strengths and weaknesses, no longer expect them to gratify your...
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The 48-Hour Rule

As a therapist, I often get asked what I do with difficult emotions, that is, how I handle life’s rough spots. Although I believe that all emotionally healthy people have a range of techniques for dealing with intense feelings, I know we all have certain skills we rely on. Recently I’ve set up a 48-hour rule about a certain kind of emotion visiting me, and have found it very useful. Not long ago, I had a bunch of bummer things happen to me: being hurt by a friend, problems with a few clients, and a rejection regarding a new writing project. In each instance, I felt some combination of crummy—dejected, angry, helpless, frustrated, misunderstood, devalued, or invalidated. So I followed the 90-second rule (see my 8/21/09 blog), allowing my feelings to flow, no matter how uncomfortable they made me, neither rejecting nor inviting the hurt, but letting it come and go...
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The Role of Bacteria in Weight

I admit, I’m fascinated by the science of eating and weight and thrilled at how far we’ve come from the simplistic notion that slimness is merely a matter of self-control and willpower. The newest headline to catch my eye is “Bacteria in Intestines Play Key Role in Weight Gain, Study Finds”( LA Times, 11/12/09). Its conclusions are enlightening. Reporting on the results of a study on mice in Science Translational Medicine, Thomas H. Maugh II says, “A high-fat, high-sugar diet…alters the composition of bacteria in your intestines, making it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it.” According to researcher Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, of Washington University in St. Louis, 90% of the bacteria in our gut (needed to digest food) falls into two categories: lean rats have more Bacteroidetes and heavy mice have more Firmicutes. Because Firmicutes are more efficient at converting food into calories, mice with more of...
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Emotional Wounding

If you were severely or chronically emotionally wounded in childhood or later life, you may fear “wounding” others if you say no, turn down advice, refuse to be their only support, or simply desire to focus on yourself rather than on them. Many disregulated eaters abuse food (and themselves) rather than hurt another person’s feelings. Hurting someone’s feelings is not a comfortable thing to do, but when appropriate, it is an essential life skill for quality mental health. Even in healthy relationships, it sometimes happens that remarks will be said or actions taken that hurt. We’ve all been on the giving or receiving end of moments like these because we’re human. In unhealthy relationships, however, your heart may get stomped on regularly. In this case, it’s necessary to gently let someone know that they’re hurting you. If they do not get the gentle reminder, be more direct. If they don’t get...
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Chemicals and Overweight

Was it really that long ago that experts insisted that weight maintenance was all about calories in and exercise out? That’s what I grew up believing. Now we know that the issue is incredibly more complex, and that weight programming involves genes, biochemistry, and—according to a 9/21/09 Newsweek.com article by science writer Sharon Begley, “Early Exposure to Common Chemicals May Be Programming Kids to Be Fat”—that even common chemicals in our environment may affect our weight. Begley writes that, “Evidence has been steadily accumulating that certain hormone-mimicking pollutants, ubiquitous in the food chain…act on genes in the developing fetus and newborn to turn more precursor cells into fat cells, which stay with you for life. And they may alter metabolic rate, so that the body hoards calories rather than burning them…” She quotes Retha Newbold of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina: “The evidence now emerging says...
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Food as Fun

Growing up in NJ in the 50s, a special event was going to a diner called Holly’s to have a banana split. Although I looked forward to such a treat, I never classified it as “real fun.” I raise this subject because a while ago on the radio, I heard that Pop Tarts are just that—“real fun.” When exactly did food become major excitement in our lives? Ever since I remember, food has been tasty, yummy, scrumptious and occasionally even deliriously delectable, but when did it morph into an event in and of itself, a happening touted as more wondrous than nearly anything else? Sure, going to Holly’s for a banana split brought me pleasure, but it was one among many I enjoyed as a youth—going to an amusement park, the movies, the circus, ice-skating, bike riding, reading, and swimming in the ocean. Food wasn’t a major topic of conversation except...
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Gratification versus Authentic Happiness

Do you know what constitutes authentic happiness? After all, we receive a barrage of confusing messages on the subject throughout our lives. One of the loudest is that gratifying our needs will make us happy—eat this food, buy that car, take a special vacation, learn this, purchase that. Much of what passes for happiness these days is what’s called short-term gratification and has little nutritive value emotionally. In order to achieve true happiness, it pays to understand how it differs from gratifying needs. When we seek gratification, we are looking to please ourselves in the moment. In psychology, the word is most often used to describe the needs of infants and children who, naturally in these stages of development, know no better than to demand that their emotional and physical needs be met instantly (if not sooner!). They lack the ability to consider whether meeting their needs (for a bottle or...
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Beliefs about Success

Nothing thwarts recovery from food problems more than not believing that it’s okay to succeed—not only that success is acceptable, but that it’s a good thing. It’s shocking how many disregulated eaters grow up with the belief that it’s wrong to succeed, and this belief then becomes a major obstacle to feeling positive about achievement. Whether we’re talking overcoming eating problems or triumphing in other areas of life, what you believe about success is an essential prerequisite to making it happen. Many disregulated eaters have mixed feelings about success because you were raised to think that a trail of accomplishments will lead you to becoming arrogant, boastful, self-righteous, snooty, and unpopular. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We’re talking apples and oranges here. These traits are not a consequence of success, but are characteristics of people independent of achievement or a lack thereof. Let’s take a look at specific unhealthy,...
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