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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]

Nature or Nurture

Do you believe that “normal” eating means you never have to engage your brain and make hard choices with food because your appetite will automatically do what’s right by you—signal the perfect time to feed your hunger, flash a bulletin about what food will satisfy you, focus on eating well while your mind is elsewhere, and fling out its arms like a crossing guard to warn you to put down your fork because you’re done? If you believe your appetite needs no help from your better judgment, think again. It’s the old nature versus nurture debate. Are “normal” eaters born or raised? The answer is a little of both. We have evidence that genetics and biology play a major role in appetite regulation, as does stress and trauma in early childhood. We also know that the role models we pattern our eating after and how we’re trained to relate to food...
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Believing in Your Rights

What are your rights? I don’t mean regarding voting or free speech. Rather, what are the unalienable human rights you believe you have? My hunch is that you aren’t convinced you have very many, and that’s why you spend so much time trying to establish that you do—with food, your emotions, with people, and engaging in behaviors which are nothing but self-destructive. Sadly, all your chronic efforts to prove to yourself and others that you have rights only attests to the fact that you’re not convinced. I see this behavior all the time in the food arena. You eat something you really don’t want when you’re not hungry to prove it’s your choice and that you can. Of course it’s your choice. As an adult, who else’s would it be? If you’re frequently/always in “prove it” mode, you’re reacting against the past. Okay, your parents were controlling, rigid, invalidating, and undermined...
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Defining Yourself

I can’t think of better way to start the new year than for you to choose how you’re going to think and act in 2009. You can’t make yourself over in an instant, but you can make decisions about the person you want to become and begin practicing new behaviors right now. Although genetics and environment are powerful factors in promoting or inhibiting change, your beliefs can override them. Of course, after deciding how you want to think and act, you have to immerse yourself in your new attitude and behaviors. Here are a several major areas in which you need to get your head on straight. And, no, you can’t pick and choose among them. This one is an all-or-nothing affair. 1. You are not defective. There’s nothing so basically wrong with you that can’t be fixed and there never was. You lack effective life skills. You received inadequate training...
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More on Rebellion

Can I ever say enough about how misguided rebellion shapes our eating in self-destructive ways? Too many dysregulated eaters consider a rebellious attitude an attribute and are proud of their defiance and stubbornness. Flaunting the norm may promote entrepreneurship or creativity, but it has no place in the eating arena. Au contraire, it’s one of the major causes of unwanted eating. We become rebellious through trying to assert our independence from our parents or care-takers. Rebellion is appropriate, a pre-requisite for separation and authentic autonomy. We often have to work very hard to not be like our parents and not live under their thumbs in order to form individualistic personalities. The harder you had to fight rigid, controlling, manipulative parents to become independent, the more likely it is that today you’re still stuck in battle mode. Rebellion was an adaptive strategy back then to forge your own spirit. However, true separation...
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Self-love and Acceptance

I’ve been thinking about love. Not romantic love. Self-love. I hate to sound simplistic, but if we love something, we lavish caring on it and if we don’t, well, we it neglect or misuse it. Of course, there are gradients between treating yourself well and poorly, but if you love yourself wholeheartedly, you can’t continue to have a destructive relationship with food because self-love and self-trashing are mutually exclusive. Both conditional and unconditional love have evolutionary underpinnings. Because infants and children are not always likeable, the love we feel for them must be unconditional so that we’ll care for them and keep the species trucking. Alternately, adults need to be shaped in order to live in society—humane qualities need to be reinforced and inhumane ones extinguished—so the love we feel for each other is conditional. To be emotionally healthy, self-love needs to be so ingrained, so much a given, that we...
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Looking Back

There’s a saying I once heard that goes something like this: We can’t fully evaluate the meaning of life events in the present, but must wait until its end to understand them. I vaguely recall that the concept had something to do with Western versus Eastern philosophy. The idea is that we get so caught up with what’s wrong with us and how to fix it right now, that we become engulfed by hopelessness and despair rather than take the long view of self-transformation to see where it will lead us. Who would have thought in my worst binge-eating days that I’d become an expert on the subject—an international author and therapist, no less? Not me. But it is my misadventures with food that gave me the experience to become who I am today professionally (and personally). How bizarre that all that dieting and gorging led to something positive. I was...
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Shame-Shifting Behavior

In the scary world of the supernatural, shape-shifters are entities which transform themselves from one thing to another. Shame can circle through life the same way: as soon as you get one aspect of self under control and start to feel proud, up pops another behavior that generates shame and brings you down. Shame-shifting won’t stop until you recognize that shame manifests what you basically feel/think about yourself. Shame is the zinger that warns us we may have done something wrong, bad or hurtful. If we experience that zing and consider that what we did was indeed inappropriate or uncalled for, shame is doing its work to prevent us from acting in a like manner again. In a healthy person who believes she is good at core, perfectly imperfect and of value, this conditioning (like rats getting zapped to deter specific behavior) works effectively. She refrains from repeating transgressions to avoid...
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Nothing Like Family—Not

Boy, a recent headline offering a celebrity’s take on the holidays has me going. It read: “Family is all we have.” Great perspective for all who have few or no family members alive or who live far away from them. Nice outlook for those who are surrounded by abusive or dysfunctional relatives. This is exactly the kind of misguided sentiment that generates unhealthy thinking, feeling and behavior, especially this time of the year, and drives people into potentially self-destructive eating situations. “Family is all we have” is a dangerous message that pervades our culture (more likely, all cultures). It keeps secrets of abuse and other dysfunction from leaking out when we’re children and prevents us from getting psychological help as adults. It dissuades us from moving away from noxious people and toward positive relationships throughout our lives. It trashes our ability to put parental transgressions into perspective and recognize how their...
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Setting Intentions

As many of you already realize, one of the reasons you don’t consistently engage in behavior which will help you reach your eating or weight goals is that you don’t follow through with intentions—activities you want to do, successes you wish to achieve, goals you desire to reach. Some of you have difficulty establishing intentions, while others set, then forget, about them or allow themselves to be derailed. Perhaps you don’t know how to set an intention. Start by reflecting on what you’d like to change about your eating, including thoughts or behaviors. Would you like to stop grazing when you’re not hungry, clear your head of negative chatter, be kinder to yourself after a binge or a purge? It doesn’t matter what your intention is. Just make sure it’s clear, doable, realistic, and measurable (that is, you know when it happens or doesn’t). After identifying an intention, say it aloud...
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Regulating Anger

Some time ago I was talking with a client about her tendency to sit on her anger until it ignites like fireworks. Difficulty with anger is another aspect of disregulation which people with eating problems often have, a manifestation of ineffective emotional management and acting in extremes. Learning to express anger appropriately takes practice, but it can make an amazing difference in your life. The extremes of cutting off angry feelings or letting them rip are learned in childhood. It’s not even always a question of suppressing anger; some people don’t even realize when they’re furious. Maybe you had a parent who stuffed her feelings or one who never thought twice about blowing his top. Or did your parent go from silence and withdrawal when hurt to uncontrollable outbursts? If these were your role models, you’re following in unhealthy footsteps. Lacking appropriate skills, not only could your folks not help you...
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