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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]

Book Review: You Are Not Alone

As an author, I’m sometimes asked to write blurbs or reviews of books on eating, which is a wonderful way for me to keep abreast of what’s out there. For example, YOU ARE NOT ALONE (Vol. 2): THE BOOK OF COMPANIONSHIP FOR WOMEN WITH EATING DISORDERS (with a great music CD) by Andrea Roe. Although the book says it’s for women, it’s really for men, too, so don’t be fooled by the title!   The book’s premise is that recovery is possible and its theme is hope. Anita Johnson (author of EATING IN THE LIGHT OF THE MOON) writes in her introduction how hope is the inspiration for recovery. I would add that hope is not a constant thing, but waxes and wanes. One day we make wise, satisfying, nourishing choices around food and feel optimistic and even mildly confident that we are changing, then the next day, we make poor...
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Disappointment

Let me get this straight. Many of you are afraid to try something because you might be disappointed, right? But so many disregulated eaters are already hugely disappointed in themselves, in their behavior, in failing to achieve their goals. So are you saying you’ll be more disappointed if you try something and fail than if you don’t try at all? Aren’t you disappointed now for not persisting until you succeed? Even if you only achieve half (or a third or an eighth) of what you want, won’t you be proud of yourself for trying? Maybe the problem is thinking not incrementally, but in all-or-nothing terms. Yup, pretzel logic about disappointment is alive and well and living in the hearts and minds of disregulated eaters. I hear it all the time: I’m afraid to try because if I fail I’ll be disappointed. First of all, who says you have to be disappointed...
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Dieting versus Healthy Eating

My message board members have once again raised an interesting issue, and I thank them for keeping my head well stocked with bloggable subjects. The topic this time is the difference between dieting and healthy or nutritious eating. How can you distinguish them? How can you make healthy food choices most of the time and not feel as if you’re on a restrictive diet? As one board member points out, we’re all on some sort of diet. The problem is that diet has two meanings: the way we eat and a way to eat to lose weight. Stop and think about that. When you use the word, which definition do you mean? Can’t you follow a way of eating without being on a diet? I believe you can. It’s all in your perspective. You can follow formal or informal food guidelines—eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, eat small meals often throughout...
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Humiliation or Anger

I was reading a novel in which one of the characters (a female psychiatrist) wonders if she should be humiliated or angry about her husband taking up with another woman, and started thinking about these alternative reactions. Her confusion reminded me of the uncertainty some overweight clients feel when people comment on their size. In that split second after a remark, it may be hard not to feel overwhelmed with shame, but I’m here to tell you that you can choose a far more effective response. Just think about the difference between the two states of shame/humiliation and anger. With shame and humiliation, you turn your disgust/upset/rage inward and with anger, you turn it outward. When someone makes an unkind comment about your weight or eating, you may feel upset with yourself for your eating and believe that what you’re doing or how you look is bad or wrong. In all...
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What Can’t You Bear?

I hear clients say, “I can’t bear to think about it” or “I couldn’t bear to do that,” but I don’t always know what the word means. Will they fall down dead, emulsify on the spot, go catatonic? When you think or say those words to yourself, what exactly is it that you fear will happen? The fact is, telling yourself that you can’t bear something makes it more than likely that you won’t be able to. Conversely, reminding yourself that you’re capable of bearing anything that comes your way ensures that you’ll be able to ride it through. When we say we can’t bear something, we seem to believe two things—that something will make us exceedingly uncomfortable and that this feeling of discomfort will cause us to become dysfunctional in part or whole. Sometimes we think we’ll become so anxious that we’ll need sedation or so depressed that we won’t...
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Something Useful to Rebel Against

For those of you whose eating problems stem largely from having an unbridled rebellious attitude toward anyone telling you what you should or shouldn’t eat, I have an excellent target for your outrage. Instead of directing your ire at dieticians, nutritionists, medical personnel, health experts, and family members for advising you which foods are good for you and which aren’t, put the food industry in your sights and fire away. According to David A. Kessler, MD (former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, pediatrician, and professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California/San Francisco) in his new book, THE END OF OVEREATING—TAKING CONTROL OF THE INSATIABLE AMERICAN APPETITE, the food industry is growing rich by making you fat. They know that just the right combo of sugar, fat, and salt creates food too tempting for many folks to refuse, that selling you on the idea...
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A Guide to “Normal” Eating

Starting out on the path to “normal” eating, you may be uncertain about what the journey entails. You expect you’ll be changing attitudes about and behavior around food, and may think that’s all you’ll be doing. The truth is that going from disregulated to regulated eating is a long, complex, process that requires a shift in numerous aspects of your life, and no one achieves complete recovery without undergoing an enormous, positive transformation. Conversely, without such an overhaul, you will never reach your eating goals. Here are some changes which lie ahead. You will have to acknowledge that moving from chronic dieting and/or overeating to “normal” eating is a lengthy process. It will not happen overnight. Plan on many months to a few years. It will not be an easy process. For many, it will be the hardest thing you ever do in your life. Changes are not only behavioral, but...
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Responding to Emotional Abuse

Over the years, I’ve treated many individuals (mostly women) in emotionally abusive relationships, a major cause of food abuse, and have identified three stages of abusee response. Emotional abuse is everything from constantly or intermittently being humiliated, threatened, yelled or cursed at, ignored, shamed, put down or invalidated. Specific behaviors include the abuser making fun of you, eye-rolling when you speak, walking away when you’re talking, telling you that what you think or feel is stupid or untrue, belittling you, or trying to control you through words, tone, or body language. In Stage One, abused individuals are hopeful, wishful and walk on eggshells. They try to please the abuser and truly believe that if they don’t upset him or her, all will be well, misunderstanding that the problem of abuse resides in the other person, not themselves. They fear standing up to the abuser, so they remain passive, ignoring bad behavior...
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Book Review: The End of Overeating

I highly recommend Dr. David A. Kessler’s new book, THE END OF OVEREATING: TAKING CONTROL OF THE INSATIABLE AMERICAN APPETITE. He was the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1990-7 and writes on eating and weight from a professional perspective, but also as someone who struggles with food himself. Some pertinent points from this very enlightening and readable book. Kessler begins by talking about why it’s hard to resist certain foods: our bodies crave the mixture of sugar, fat, and salt contained in most prepared foods. While we get a dopamine boost from each ingredient alone, the biggest rush comes from a combo of all three. Even the anticipation of eating them triggers a response in our brains, as does unconscious cuing which happens when anything in the environment creates an unconscious or conscious association with food—seeing grandma reminds us of her yummy brownies, cruising by Taco Bell...
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Fear of Failure or Fear of Success?

When I started out as a therapist, I didn’t think much about what we call “fear of success.” I believed that the underlying problem—the real fear—was of failure. Now, thanks to the numerous clients who have educated me about their issues, I understand that people also suffer from a bona fide fear of success, a fear that is common among people with eating problems. As a disregulated eater, it’s crucial that you recognize and deal with the fact that you actually might be afraid of achieving recovery. Success and failure are natural occurrences. Success is, of course, more desirable, but each state is part of life. It’s a no-brainer why people fear failure. When we fail, we may feel ashamed and inadequate, and our self-esteem may plummet. We’ve all failed in minor and major undertakings and most of us never would choose failure over success. There are people, however, who are...
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