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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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Food and Socializing

I recently spent a few days with a group of dear, old friends and could not help but notice the role that food played in our time together. As we sat around reminiscing about good times and catching each other up on our lives, we were surrounded by food. Yes, there was plenty of fresh fruit, but there were also candies and baked goods. The hostess is a superb care-taker (physically and emotionally) and made sure we wanted for nothing. Additionally, one of my friends brought some fudge that was to die for. Maybe because we did mostly hanging out, as opposed to going out, food was our constant companion. We ate a formal breakfast and dinner—that is, we gathered at the table for a period of time—but otherwise we sat around in the kitchen or on the back porch off the kitchen. Nothing about this circumstance would have been the...
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Biology, Eating, and Weight

I’ve been doing research for a new book I’m writing for therapists on how to treat eating and weight issues, and am continually amazed at how much of our capacity to eat “normally” and remain at a comfortable weight is rooted in our biology. Some 50-70% (different sources give different percentages) of our weight is predetermined genetically, giving us an inherited predisposition toward fat or thin. Although we can influence biology through stress management, changing unhealthy environments, practicing healthy habits, and getting regular exercise, we all have to work with what we’ve got. Here are some theories you need to know if you’re working on eating and weight issues. As you read them, remember that these are all possible explanations for your struggles and that you still have to do whatever is in your power to achieve eating success. Be careful not to use this information to allow yourself to give...
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Skills Take Time

I bet that none of you would expect to learn to become a dancer or an accountant in a matter of weeks. You’d never dream of becoming an expert ice-skater or teacher without years of practice and experience. Why, then, would you assume you could learn the skills of “normal” eating without a good long period of hard work? Why, indeed. The answer is complicated because the desire for rapid recovery is often based on false assumption: you think you should know how to eat “normally,” or believe the skills are easy to learn. We’ll spend four years in college, more in graduate school, or years apprenticing to build on-the-job expertise because we allow ourselves a grace period for “hard skill” acquisition. But we assume that we should be able to pick up “soft skills” like eating, handling emotions, becoming assertive, or having successful relationships by snapping our fingers. Not true....
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It’s Not About Weight

If you have been heavy your whole life (or most of it), you may believe that your main problem is getting your body to a healthy, more comfortable weight. You may be convinced that your life will be dramatically different when you’re at your ideal size and that you can then kick back and enjoy life. If you are so obese that your size restricts mobility and activity, you may find that life does vastly improve when you reduce your size. Being more comfortable in your body and able to do more may be enough to change how you feel about yourself and put your life back on track. However, even if you lose the weight, you will still have many issues to deal with. My concern is that people who loose a tremendous amount of weight are not changing enough of themselves to become emotionally healthy. It is certainly easier...
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What’s So Scary About Emotions?

Members of the Food and Feelings message board are doing some amazing work on emotions by reading my Food and Feelings Workbook and discussing it online. Reading their posts, I’ve been thinking about what frightens them so about emotions. The main fears people have are of burdening others, getting stuck in their upset, “losing it” and being unable to function, and falling into a deep (or deeper) depression. These fears contain some truth, but are overblown. In my 30 years doing therapy, there have been clients who have endured exceptional trauma who needed to be hospitalized, but were discharged better off than they were before they went in. There have been clients who took a painful, long time to work through old wounds, who felt stuck but were actually doing great work getting unstuck. I have seen clients who needed to focus on themselves for brief periods when they were in...
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Weight Obsessions

Science tells us that when we restrict calories too severely, we automatically rebound by obsessing about food and feeling driven to overeat. This is the body/brain’s way of righting itself and staying in balance. Engage in this process often enough and you’ve got an eating disorder in the making. But there is another way that you can create an eating disorder—by using it to mask the more difficult problems and dilemmas in life. It’s all too easy when you’re in the grip of fanatically seeking that “perfect” weight to make it the focus of your existence. Problems with family, in school, on the job, or within relationships fall by the wayside as you convince yourself that achieving thinness will make all your other troubles disappear. The truth is that if you get to that thin weight, you will still have all the other messes in your life; they won’t drop away...
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Body Self-Hate

I’ve been thinking lately about a comment an overweight client made in an offhand way that seems to capture the intense emotions women have about their and other women’s bodies. She mentioned that while shopping she’d seen a middle-aged woman with a “good figure” who was wearing short shorts. Her first reaction was envy that a woman in her 50s still looked so trim and “like a teenager.” However, when my client looked more closely, she admitted to experiencing “enormous satisfaction” that the woman had some cellulite on her highly visible thighs. My client went on to say that she felt terrible wishing cellulite on someone, but that that emotion was better than the self-hate that overwhelmed her looking at the woman’s seemingly perfect legs. In that moment of “satisfaction,” my client could finally quash the hate she felt toward her body by finding fault with that of another. I would...
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Food and Self-violence

Occasionally I hear a description of eating, especially bingeing, that seems to my ears to be tinged with violence. This may sound like a harsh word to apply to eating, but it is appropriate. Sometimes a person actually uses the term “violence” to describe her binges; other times I can hear the self-hate and self-destructiveness in her tone. Stop and think if you are someone who would use violence to describe the tone of your eating. This kind of behavior is never, ever about food, but indicates your mood and feelings about yourself or others. There is cruelty behind it and masochism, perhaps even the desire not only to obliterate your feelings, but yourself. Because of the aggression of your eating, food might as well be a loaded gun: you want to hurt someone and hurt them bad. Unfortunately, that someone may be you or someone close to you. Violent eating...
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Ambivalence About Intuitive Eating

Although I occasionally meet disordered eaters who have been using intuitive eating consistently for years, more often I run into folks who try it, give up, resume dieting, re-discover that diets don’t work, and come back to attempting to eat “normally.” If you feel like a failure because you’re not where you want to be with food and don’t know what else to do, you may be frustrated because neither dieting nor intuitive eating is working for you. Part of the problem is ambivalence about sticking with the process which leads you to a vicious cycle of restriction or mindless eating, interspersed with buckling down and practicing “normal” eating. If you were a car, you’d be shooting off in one direction, slamming on the brakes, doing a one-eighty, and zooming off in the opposite direction—over and over and over again. What would that do to an automobile? What does it do...
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What Should You Weigh?

Most of you have a general idea of what you would like to weigh and some of you may have a specific number in mind. Your view develops from health information, the media, fashion ideals, looking at other people, and considering what you used to weigh. The messages we receive about weight imply that we should simply pick a number and diet to get there. However, the more I read about metabolism and eating, the more I understand that we have a genetically programmed weight we are meant to be, that is, a range below and above which it is hard to go. The best indicator of what your range might be is to look at your family, because the latest research tells us that 50-70% of weight is genetically determined. I can already hear the sighs of dismay and the shouts (maybe some curses too) of denial—50-70% is a huge...
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