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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Childhood, Sexuality, and Intimacy

We may assume that only clear cut sexual abuse in childhood can cause problems with sexuality and intimacy in adulthood. Although there’s a strong correlation (not a cause and effect) between childhood sexual abuse and eating disorders, this is not the whole story. Abuse, neglect, or any kind of mistreatment—overt or covert—all fall on a continuum and can shape your attitude and influence your behavior as an adult. Obviously, sexual abuse would have a strong impact on your view of your body, but what of other behaviors which may not fall strictly into the “abuse” category? What if your parents couldn’t keep their hands off each other in front of you—not just a quick kiss, hugs, or hand-holding, but touching each other inappropriately? What if a parent regularly got drunk and made sexual advances towards neighbors or relatives with you watching? What if you saw your parent making strangers uncomfortable by...
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Waiting for Answers

Check out this quote: "...I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet. This quote is for all of you who are living and dying for answers about the questions in your life. You ask me, you ask your friends and family, you search for certainty in books and seminars. You beg, you...
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Pain and Pleasure

A client made an interesting comment which strikes at the heart of receiving pleasure, with food or otherwise. We were discussing why she doesn’t go all out to pursue joy and passion, and she said, “Well, you know, the price of pleasure is pain.” Ouch! As soon as I heard her response, I knew this was a core belief that both inhibited her ability to eat “normally” and prevented her from creating a happier life for herself. Do you believe that the price of pleasure is pain? Or that there is any price to pay for pleasure? You may not be aware that this is your assumption, so take a minute to examine it. Do you throw yourself into enjoyment or do you get anxious during or after you feel it? According to your belief system, how okay is it to feel joy and have fun? Are pleasure and pain connected...
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Why It Can Be Hard to Lose Weight

A major disappointment and frustration for many overweight clients is working hard to eat “normally” without pounds slipping off quickly or at all while watching others lose weight more easily. Fortunately, science is beginning to give us answers to why some people lose weight more effortlessly than others. A report in Duke Medicine HealthNews, May 2010 details the discovery of a molecular mechanism that “controls energy expenditure in muscles and helps determine body weight.” Researchers from the Mayo Clinic, the universities of Iowa and Connecticut, and New York University found out that, “The mechanism is controlled by adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-sensitive potassium channels (KATP). ATP is the ‘energy currency’ used by cells in the body; the channels can sense ATP stockpiles and regulate heart and skeletal muscle performance accordingly. Animals which lack this mechanism burn more stored energy by dissipating more heat when at rest or when normally active. Excess energy from...
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Make “Normal” Eating Your Project

One of the biggest problems in becoming a “normal” eater is working at it for a while, then giving up and going back to mindless eating or dieting. If you stop and start, no wonder you feel as if you aren’t getting very far. No innate defect is preventing your success, however. Rather, you’re underestimating what you need to do to change. You’ve been to school and know that gaining proficiency in a subject takes focused attention for months or years, but generally this isn’t the mindset you use for learning to eat “normally.” Instead, you dabble at acquiring skills, become overwhelmed at what you don’t know and can’t do, feel disappointed, believe the process won’t work for you, and give up. Better to tell yourself, It will take time to become highly skilled, so I guess I’ll have to hunker down, put “normal” eating in the forefront and make it...
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I’ve been writing about self-regulation for decades, mostly in the realm of eating—I find the term disregulated more accurate than disordered, and regulated more accurate than intuitive—but also in terms of monitoring emotions and behavior. Recently, I’m pleased to see the terms self-regulation and dysregulation cropping up in more and more articles. The better you understand how to regulate yourself, the better your life will be. To self-regulate is to adjust behavior consciously, specifically to not allow it, outside of your awareness, to bounce you from one extreme to another. Whether you’re opening or closing your heart, your mouth, or your wallet, the idea is to make decisions only in your best interest. If you want to do/say/eat/spend/work/play, etc. too much or too little, that’s okay, as long as you make the decision consciously. If you want to spend time at either extreme—in what I’ll call an open or closed position—fine,...
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Needing Each Other

A New York Times article on human communication and touch contained a sentence which caught my eye. Although the article was about how positively people respond to touch, what grabbed my interest was more general—about why we need each other and relationships in the first place. One more reason to reach out and touch someone. Here’s what psychologist James A. Coan from the University of Virginia says: “We think that humans build relationships precisely…to distribute problem solving across brains. We are wired to literally share the processing load, and this is the signal we’re getting when we receive support through touch.” Hardwired to share the load—that’s a powerful statement which makes complete sense. When we problem solve with others, we multiply our chances of finding a solution. More brains, more brain-storming, more potential for varying solutions, and more likelihood that one of them will lead to success. Of course, the above...
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Book Review: The Brain That Changes Itself

An enlightening new book, THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF: STORIES OF PERSONAL TRIUMPH FROM THE FRONTIERS OF BRAIN SCIENCE by Norman Doidge, M.D., is not about eating per se, but I recommend it because it is all about mental change. Although the title may sound daunting and dry, the book is anything but. THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF teaches us about how plastic—malleable and changeable—the brain is. For most of history, it was thought that the brain’s workings were fixed and permanent, that because we’re hard-wired, that’s how we stay. Although we do have instincts and a good deal of hard-wiring inherited through our DNA, there is much about ourselves and our lives that can be altered by thinking differently and taking actions in ways that reshape and rewire the brain’s neural pathways. One relevant chapter in the book is devoted to stopping worries, obsessions, compulsions, and bad habits. Doidge writes,...
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Learned Self-consciousness

Overweight people may be uncomfortable with their appearance due to a concept called learned self-consciousness. Of course, a person can be any weight and self-conscious or plus-size and cool with it. With learned self-consciousness, you are hyper-aware of your body or appearance, uneasy being looked at or even noticed, and become twitchy when people focus or comment on your body. You’re dying to blend in, be invisible, shrink into nothingness. Self-consciousness is a learned trait—and you can unlearn it. Children are notoriously unselfconscious—they scream, dance around, run naked, make silly sounds, and pick their noses in public. They would continue this behavior on into adulthood and probably take it to their grave were it not for the intervention of adults who socialize them into thinking that certain behaviors are unacceptable and off limits. A good deal of the teaching is about our bodies, so that we become preoccupied with how they...
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Emotional Dysregulation and Reregulation

It’s probably not uncommon for someone to say or do something that sends you, a dysregulated eater, into an emotional tailspin—which then propels you, immediately or even hours later, to the refrigerator. If you have some self-awareness, you may make the connection between a person’s actions or words and your distress. If you have little or no self-awareness, you might feel a vague upset, but not necessarily relate it to someone triggering your distress. However, this is exactly what happens. I recently read an article which explains how you get set off. The author, Janina Fisher, Ph.D, explains how, because we are social animals, people who are disregulated can all too easily disregulate others. Disregulation occurs when someone’s emotions, and not their good judgment, are running the show. They don’t realize or can’t control how upset, distressed, enraged, fearful, or anxious they are and their presentation shows it. They yell, sulk,...
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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.