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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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More on Self-love

Part of being an emotionally healthy, mature adult means achieving permanent self-love so that you don’t channel energy into looking to others for approval, validation and love. I blog away on this subject because it’s essential to eradicating food abuse and establishing healthy body attitudes and because self-love is difficult to come by if you’re a disregulated eater who had a childhood in which you were emotionally mistreated. If you had parents who were highly critical and frequently mistreated you by invalidating your feelings or by putting their emotional needs before yours—never mind being cruel and abusive—you couldn’t learn to love yourself because we learn self-love through being loved by our care-takers. If you are loved well, you’re likely to grow into someone who loves her/himself well. If you are loved poorly or unloved, you’re likely develop into a person who loves her/himself poorly. In too many cases, parents don’t focus...
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Thwarting Fat Phobia

I was watching CSI NEW YORK recently and one of the characters, a black doctor, was confronted with slurs from a racist skinhead. The doctor didn’t fly off the handle, hurl an insult back at the skinhead, nor seem the least bit perturbed. Rather, he shrugged off the insult, explaining to another character that someone’s racist attitude wasn’t his problem but theirs. My first thought was, How can overweight people learn to respond in a similar fashion? Granted being born black and becoming fat are not the same thing. I get that. However, many blacks (and other people who’ve been stigmatized) have learned over time to handle hurtful comments well, and that makes their attitude instructive. Some may say that our culture is now what’s being called post-racist, but throughout history, people have had to contend with being picked on, excluded from the mainstream, and abused in various ways because of...
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More on Trauma

As we learn more about the workings of the brain, it’s evident that childhood trauma often plays a crucial role in the development of lifelong emotional—and emotional management—problems. They manifest themselves not only through eating, mood, and anxiety disorders, but in addictions and unhealthy relationships. The greater your understanding of how trauma affects your sense of self, the better your chance of making changes in adulthood to overcome early dysfunctional influences. In Children of Trauma: Rediscovering Your Discarded Self, author Jane Middleton-Moz makes a powerful point: “Children live out what they see reflected in their parents’ eyes. If what is reflected is the disdain and unacceptability of the developing self, that self will be discarded in order to meet the image in the reflective mirror of the world.” This means that if your parents regularly mistreated you, you may have come to believe that there was something intrinsically wrong with you...
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Book Review: Beating Ana

BOOK REVIEW: Beating Ana: How to Outsmart Your Eating Disorder and Take Your Life Back by Shannon Cutts (HCI, 2009) Author Shannon Cutts has created a smart little book in Beating Ana for anyone struggling with eating issues. The theme of the book, which I whole-heartedly endorse, is developing relationships to replace eating disorders. Cutts couldn’t be more on target when she says that we need to “feed our minds and hearts with the empowering stories of others.” To extend the metaphor, the book is a most satisfying meal. The focus of Beating Ana is on mentoring. Cutts defines a mentor as “one who is recovering who understands and can give hope and support from an insiders’ perspective.” This concept is the foundation of the “Anonymous” organizations and works well for recovering from a host of problems and addictions. As Cutts underscores, it is precisely our isolation and shame that keep...
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Book Review: Nice Girls Finish Fat

My fourth book, NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT—PUT YOURSELF FIRST AND CHANGE YOUR EATING FOREVER (Fireside Books, a division of Simon and Schuster), hits the shelves tomorrow, June 2! It’s the first book to link up doing too much and eating too much, and was written for all of you women who take care of others with your warm hearts and generous natures and take care of yourselves through multiple trips to the refrigerator. “Nice” men who abuse food will benefit from reading the book as well. NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT developed from my gradual realizations about the excessive niceness of the women I treat for food problems—smiling all the time, dutiful about keeping appointments, guilt stricken when they can’t pay me on time, apologizing for half the session for coming a few minutes late, and spending much of our time wailing about how much they have to do, how imperfect they...
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Are We How We Look?

A Newsweek article (4/6/09), “Tales of a Modern Diva,” made me sick to heart how women will ever shake societal pressure to be thin and beautiful. It describes how younger and younger girls are obsessively focused—moreover, being focused by the media and their parents—on their appearance. I’m not saying that men don’t have pressures to look good, too. They do, but nowhere near the burden that women feel. The article quotes Susie Orbach (former therapist to Princess Diana!), author of ON EATING and FAT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE (which gave a generation of women—including me—permission to stop dieting and listen to their appetite). In her new book (which I’ve yet to read), BODIES, Orbach maintains that, “…good looks and peak fitness are no longer a biological gift but a ceaseless pursuit. And obsession at an early age fosters a belief that these are essential components of who we are (ital mine).”...
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Challenging Hurtful Remarks

One of the hardest parts of being over- or underweight and recovering from eating problems is figuring out how to deal with unkind or merely unhelpful remarks. While some assertive folks never put up with inappropriate commentary directed toward them on any subject, others stand up for themselves in every aspect of life except eating or weight. Learning how to handle improper comments is an essential life skill. Assuming that someone has the cognitive ability to change, it’s reasonable to expect that people who say they love you and with whom you are on an intimate basis (friends, partners, and family members) will be able to learn to treat you appropriately. It’s all in what you say and how you say it. The biggest problems I see with clients is either that they sit with hurt feelings so long that they eventually blow up and become ineffective communicators, or that they...
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Pain Is Unique to Individuals

It’s time for another reminder that we are highly unique individuals. Although we have a great deal in common physically and emotionally, each of us has a different emotional pain threshold that may promote or encourage tolerating discomfort in the eating arena. This is why it’s so dangerous to compare your progress to that of others. Remember, your psychological pain may be greater or less than someone else’s. Folks who have a healthy balance of neurotransmitters, particularly natural brain opioids and neuromodulators such as dopamine may feel less emotional distress than others. If you have a history of trauma or abuse, you will likely be far more sensitive to emotional upset than a person who had a more functional childhood. That’s why some individuals can fairly easily tolerate the discomfort of saying no to foods and others have a tougher time. That’s also why many disregulated eaters turn to food at...
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How exactly do we acquire our identity and how does it shape our eating? Much of who we are is dictated by our genes—temperament and talent, for example—but what of other factors? Are you who you think you are, who other people think you are, or a composite of both? If a major part of your identity is feeling unloved and unlovable, how does that affect your ability to overcome food and weight problems? Maybe you’re like my many clients who are kind, other-oriented and compliant, but live in fear of somehow “becoming” unkind, selfish, and demanding. How would this happen: Would you sneak up on yourself at gunpoint and force yourself to be different? Of course not. This fear is irrational. Personality traits don’t simply appear and disappear magically overnight. You have to work on developing qualities—or not. You’re won’t become something you don’t want to be because you won’t...
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Recently I read a book describing attachment styles and was reminded of the importance of our earliest relationships which teach us how to connect to and trust in ourselves and others. Not only is your learned attachment style predictive of how you will relate to people in adulthood, it also plays a part in how you attach to yourself—to your internal world—and has a direct bearing on how you may use food in your life. British psychiatrist John Bowlby described four “attachment styles” that develop between children and their care-takers and get played out in life. Note that by neatly summarizing them, I’m over-simplifying a complex subject and that styles are not as black and white as portrayed below. Secure is characterized by people with high self-esteem, positive self-image, and good mental health. They have the ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.Anxious resistant is found in people who have difficulty...
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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