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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Control versus Controlling

I get some of my best ideas for blogs from counseling clients. For example, one day in a session with an anxious client who tries her hardest to control what will happen in the future, we got to talking about whether by giving up excessive control she was letting go of all control. My take is that you can stop being controlling—of the future and the present—without relinquishing control over your life. Many of you view control as all-or-nothing—you either have it or you don’t. To reduce anxiety and feel confident and secure that things will work out, you work diligently to get people to do exactly what you want, make rigid, must-follow plans, or need to do the “right” thing. You’re trying to ensure that when you get to the future, all will be well, and the only way you know for that to happen is to micro-manage your life...
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Food on the Brain

Here’s a question I received when I asked readers to email me topics to blog about: How to get food off the brain. A trying issue with relevance to both under- and overeaters. As you well know, an obsession with food and weight can lead to highly disregulated eating and ruin the quality of your life. So, how to get food off your mind? Food may be your main agenda because you’re used to thinking about it. You may not realize when your focus shifts to eating, weight, fatness or thinness or you may be all too aware of how these thoughts intrude and fill up the space in your head. Thinking about food and weight are bad habits born of anxiety. When you’re comfortable in your body and with your appetite, you have no need to obsess about them. To eliminate this preoccupation, stay aware of your thoughts and actively...
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Problems in Childhood and Chances for Recovery

What makes recovery more or less likely? Is it true that folks with disregulated eating who’ve had a really rough childhood have more problems recovering than those with a less difficult childhood? My answer to this question is both yes and no. On the one hand, if you’ve suffered trauma, abuse or neglect in life, especially growing up, you are not starting your recovery from the same place as others who did not have such maltreatment. Trauma, abuse or neglect can change your brain chemistry by putting you in a state of chronic alert and messing with your cortisol and neurotransmitter responses. This can lead to chronic anxiety or depression, difficulty self-soothing and regulating affect, and interpersonal problems relating to trust, dependence, vulnerability, setting boundaries, abuse, and intimacy. There are numerous studies showing a correlation between early abuse and eating disorders. So if you’ve had a hard childhood, encountered later trauma,...
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Friends, Mirroring and Contagion

I admit it—when the theory that friends can make friends fat came out a few years ago, I raised my eyebrows in disbelief. How could that be, I wondered—until I read Daniel Goleman’s SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE: THE NEW SCIENCE OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS, which explains how over time spent with someone, our brains tend to synchronize and mirror each other. Now I understand the need to hang out with healthy people, not merely because they raise our self-esteem and make us feel good, but because they may shape our lifestyle and habits. By the way, Goleman is also the author of EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, a classic about our internal emotional world. According to research, in part due to peer pressure and in part to how our brains adapt to and synchronize with one another’s, who you spend time with might encourage positive eating and exercise habits or put you in danger. Consider these questions....
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Expanding into Life

Other than for work, since my recovery from binge-eating disorder and chronic dieting in the first half of my life, I really don’t like discussing food and weight very much. Maybe I hear enough about it from clients, but I think the rub is that food and eating, for the most part, are personal and individual subjects and not all that interesting. Does anyone really care what I ate for breakfast yesterday? Do I really care (other than professionally) what someone might eat at a dinner party tomorrow? Not so much. The problem with being obsessed and preoccupied with food, weight, eating, and nutrition is that we tend to blather on about it. We can’t stop thinking about calories, fat grams, complex carbohydrates, or protein when we’re alone, so the conversation spills over into our relationships. My point in blogging about this problem (and it is a societal problem, to be...
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Diet-think versus Health-think

One of the reasons clients have difficulty eating nutritious food is that it feels as if they’re dieting. Instead of thinking, “Hey, this is a yummy, healthful food for me to nourish my body,” they grumble inside about being stuck eating something low-cal or low-fat—again. You can see how this mindset would prevent you from making wise choices. Of course, you can’t change the eating until you change the beliefs behind it.   Take a minute to consider whether nutritious food equals diet food for you. What foods fit into this category: salad, anything low-fat or low-cal, vegetables, fruits? Ask yourself what would make an item a diet food or, well, a regular food? Is there really a distinction or is it something artificial that keeps you in a diet mentality? What are your beliefs about diet foods versus healthy ones? Here are some possibilities: Salad is diet food and I’m...
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Fighting Food Compulsions

On my Food and Feelings message board, members have been talking about what it takes to struggle in the moment to resist unwanted eating (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings). There’s no easy formula that will make it happen, but understanding why you fail to struggle, struggle harder, or struggle until your rational self beats out disordered thinking will help you make wiser decisions. Along with learning essential life skills and reframing irrational beliefs, there’s nothing more valuable in overcoming disregulated eating than struggling in the moment with food decisions. What do I mean by “struggling”? I mean using your best self—the cognitive part of your brain that knows what is healthy, the memory of all your unhappy experiences with unwanted eating, the incentives of your personal goals for fitness and well-being, the wise self-mother who wants to nurture you, your commonsense that knows you’re hurting yourself—to battle disordered thinking that so seductively and manipulatively tries...
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Weight-loss Surgery

I don’t think I’ve blogged about weight-loss surgery before, or at least not in a long while, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps because I don’t have extensive medical knowledge about it. What I do have is experience with clients who have had bariatric surgery, but who still sought me out to resolve post-surgery eating problems. Although I’m not totally against it, I believe it should be an intervention of final resort. Here’s why. The post-surgery clients I’ve treated continued to have disregulated eating problems decades later. Some remained morbidly obese while others were some 20-50 pounds overweight. As one client said, “My stomach is still big enough to eat a Snickers bar, and ice cream slides down real easy.” Each was an emotional eater with a history of food problems dating back to childhood, and although they had been on many diets, none had ever really explored why they ate...
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How Therapy Works

You may be wondering how therapy could help you and how it works. Here’s a snapshot of one of my cases, a client who recently ended therapy because she felt she’d made a great many changes and no longer needed our sessions. Specifically, she used to eat mindlessly, but now ate consciously most of the time. She used to turn to food to quell her feelings, but now explored and experienced them and saved eating for times that she was hungry. She used to obsess about losing weight, but now focused on eating “normally” and the pounds were coming off. Here’s how she succeeded. For the first year or so w met weekly. Although she occasionally had to change a date or time to suit her work schedule, she made it clear that our sessions were a top priority. If she had to cancel an appointment, she rescheduled right away. She...
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The Stress Identity

Do you have an identity based on how much you do, how productive or successful you are, how well you care for others, or how stressed you feel? Sadly, too many people define themselves almost exclusively by how busy and selfless they are, and have enormous trouble giving up such an identity. If the description fits, it may be one of the major reasons you’re having difficulty with food. Here’s why. First, of all, doing, doing, doing 24/7 keeps you perpetually stressed out. It’s hard to feel as if anything gets done because there’s always oodles more to do and nothing’s ever done as well as you would have liked because you’re a perfectionist. Your stress level sky-rockets for two reasons: you hardly ever rest or relax and you’re generally unsatisfied with the quality or quantity of your achievements. Your typical thoughts aren’t calming and relaxing; they’re driven by deep feelings...
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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.