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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]

Permanent Change

I was talking with a friend over dinner one night about how she and I were proof that enduring change around food really does happen. She and I were serious binge-eaters earlier in our lives, decades ago. She even wrote about her food excesses in a national women’s magazine! Now in our 50s and 60s, we’re radically different people than we were in our food-hazed days. We eat mindfully and enjoyably, with attention and care. Our wild and crazy eating life is long gone—we have changed our brains permanently! I blog about permanent change for those of you who are just now thinking about improving your relationship with food to let you know that this huge transformation is definitely doable over time. When you’re in the initial stages of trying to quit bingeing, purging, or overeating, the endeavor seems enormous and impossible. You start out with a teensy sliver of hope...
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Behaviors of Slim People

Keeping in mind that some 50-70% of our weight may be genetically predetermined (Rethinking Thin—The New Science of Weight Loss and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, Kolata, 2007), survey studies identify that a number of behaviors slim people do that keep them that way. Although I could quibble with one or two findings, the point is that biology is not destiny and that there are folks with some of the most challenging weight-related DNA on the planet who manage to stabilize weight at a comfortable level and still enjoy eating and life. Dr. John Foreyt, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine, maintains that people who remain thin “are eternally vigilant with daily or weekly weighing, they monitor calorie intake and they’re highly active exercising at least 60 minutes a day.” Hmm, so what of the many “normal” eaters I’ve met, whether they’ve ever had an...
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Cravings and Addictions

A message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings) member asked me to blog about cravings, compulsions, and addictions. Here’s my take. Over recent decades, scientific research has concluded that brain chemistry dictates far more of our behavior than we had previously thought. Alternately, it also stresses that we still retain free will and, fortunately, that changing behavior can modify brain chemistry. When you hear the seductive voice of leftover birthday cake calling to you from the refrigerator two rooms away, can’t stop obsessing about a watch you found on E-bay that you don’t need and in no way can afford, or feel the repeated stab of yearning for your old flame who was bad through and through, what’s going on? When you crave a food, biology is often at work—your body is triggered by low blood sugar or surging hormones or has a neurotransmitter imbalance and you seek food to alter your mood. What of...
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Backbone, Not Wishbone

One of the my clients made a comment that keeps running through my head. It goes something like, “I’ve got to stop wearing my wishbone where my backbone ought to be.” Profound, huh? I couldn’t have said it better. How many of you spend your life, like the old song says, “wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’”? Oh, did I forget eatin’? Conversely, how many of you stand up for and go after what you really want? In part, it’s natural to wish that unhappiness would simply go away on its own or that another person will change so that you’ll be happy. However, that only happens in fairy tales. Wishes have little to do with dreams coming true. If they did, you wouldn’t seek wisdom from my blogs. What creates change is lots of hard work until you reach your goals. So many of you have been emotionally hurt,...
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Books to Avoid

There are so many pop psychology, clinical, and self-books written nowadays, that I can’t keep up. Most of the time I’m amazed at what, after 30 years in the field, I still can learn. However, occasionally I’m appalled by some of these books which can be detrimental to certain kinds of clients and reinforce their problems, not only with food and weight, but in other areas as well. Most self-help books are written for the general population—people who are having trouble changing their thinking and behavior in various settings—not for trauma survivors. Yet, more and more, the people I treat come from childhoods that are traumatic, at worst, and seriously dysfunctional, at best. Most already compare themselves intensely unfavorably with others, have major issues with self-esteem, self-worth and self-image, and have spent decades trying to improve their emotional health. considering their backgrounds, nearly all have made incredible strides, but too many...
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Taking the Sting Out of No

If your parents did a poor job of saying no to themselves when they needed to—with food, alcohol, material goods, etc.—you got short-changed on two counts. You missed out on having role models that teach self-restraint as part of good self-care, and you likely failed to receive appropriate comfort when you were told no or guidance and support when you were expected to restrain yourself. These deficits put you at a disadvantage in adult life, where saying no is as necessary a life skill as saying yes. Let’s face it, when we’re told no as children, it hurts. Our will and desires are pitted against those of powerful parents. We have little or no idea what’s good or bad for us, but we sure do know what we want. We’re not using the cognitive part of our brains when we cry for this or that, only our impulses and irrational desires....
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Hunger and Exercise

The last thing I want to do is deter anyone from exercising. In one form or another, I engage in it daily and strongly believe that activity is an integral part of mental and physical health. So the conclusions of an article in the May 2009 issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter came as a surprise and were, I confess, a bit of a downer. “Exercise? I’m Hungry” sums up a study reported in the journal Obesity. Here’s what it has to say: ”If a clever experiment in college students holds up, just seeing advice to exercise might make you eat more. Scientists showed roughly 50 students posters with messages to exercise (like ‘Go for a walk’) or other messages (like ‘Make friends’). Those who saw the exercise ads ate more from a small bowl of raisins than those who saw the non-exercise ads. In a second experiment, students ate roughly...
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When to Let Go and Move On

The life skill of knowing when you’ve had enough and it’s time to let go and move on from situations—eating, relationships, jobs, groups and organizations, beliefs—is an essential one. In fact, the more you practice sensing when to let go and move on in non-eating situations, the more you’ll gain competence and confidence with eating just the right amount. Remember, though, the process is more art than science. For instance, how long do you stay in a relationship which is unloving or abusive before getting out? How long do you cling to the hope that a parent will love or approve of you when every shred of evidence throughout your life points to the fact that they won’t? How long do you remain in a group (political, religious, sports, therapy, hobby, message board, etc.) when your heart says you’ve outgrown it? How long should you stay in a job you hate?...
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Color, Mood and Food

An interesting article on how colors affect the brain in the May 2009 issue of Mind, Mood & Memory (published by Massachusetts General Hospital) might help tweak your eating for the better. Scientists concluded that certain colors stimulate creativity, focus, attention to detail, problem-solving, and relaxation. This information is not earth-shattering, but I offer it in the hope that you can use it to make your kitchen and dining area the most supportive it can be for “normal” eating. Here’s what the article (“Color Me Creative: How Colors Affect the Brain”) has to say:RED is stimulating, increases blood pressure, pulse and respiration rate; energizes, increases attention and vigilance; promotes anxiety, improves memory; promotes interest in food and sex.ORANGE increases blood pressure, respiration, heart rate; increases appetite, reduces fatigue, fosters sociability.YELLOW stimulates memory, awareness, and perception; raises pulse and respiration rates; engenders hope and optimism.GREEN is soothing, relaxing, calming; reduces anxiety; fosters...
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I’ve blogged about reacting versus responding, but recently have been reminded of another word that needs to be thrown into the mix: reflecting. Many people have scant idea what the word means and rarely, if ever, reflect upon their thoughts and actions. Other people confuse reflection with dwelling on or obsessing about issues or emotions. Reflection is an essential tool for living and recovering from food abuse. We all know what it means to react. Words fly out of your mouth before you even realize you’re speaking or know what you’re saying. You hit the brakes when a squirrel races across the street in front of your car. You reach for a slice of birthday cake at a party before asking yourself if you’re hungry or like this kind cake. It’s healthy to react quickly in certain life-threatening situations but, frankly, most of life is hardly made up of events in...
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