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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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What’s So Scary About Emotions?

Members of the Food and Feelings message board are doing some amazing work on emotions by reading my Food and Feelings Workbook and discussing it online. Reading their posts, I’ve been thinking about what frightens them so about emotions. The main fears people have are of burdening others, getting stuck in their upset, “losing it” and being unable to function, and falling into a deep (or deeper) depression. These fears contain some truth, but are overblown. In my 30 years doing therapy, there have been clients who have endured exceptional trauma who needed to be hospitalized, but were discharged better off than they were before they went in. There have been clients who took a painful, long time to work through old wounds, who felt stuck but were actually doing great work getting unstuck. I have seen clients who needed to focus on themselves for brief periods when they were in...
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Weight Obsessions

Science tells us that when we restrict calories too severely, we automatically rebound by obsessing about food and feeling driven to overeat. This is the body/brain’s way of righting itself and staying in balance. Engage in this process often enough and you’ve got an eating disorder in the making. But there is another way that you can create an eating disorder—by using it to mask the more difficult problems and dilemmas in life. It’s all too easy when you’re in the grip of fanatically seeking that “perfect” weight to make it the focus of your existence. Problems with family, in school, on the job, or within relationships fall by the wayside as you convince yourself that achieving thinness will make all your other troubles disappear. The truth is that if you get to that thin weight, you will still have all the other messes in your life; they won’t drop away...
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Body Self-Hate

I’ve been thinking lately about a comment an overweight client made in an offhand way that seems to capture the intense emotions women have about their and other women’s bodies. She mentioned that while shopping she’d seen a middle-aged woman with a “good figure” who was wearing short shorts. Her first reaction was envy that a woman in her 50s still looked so trim and “like a teenager.” However, when my client looked more closely, she admitted to experiencing “enormous satisfaction” that the woman had some cellulite on her highly visible thighs. My client went on to say that she felt terrible wishing cellulite on someone, but that that emotion was better than the self-hate that overwhelmed her looking at the woman’s seemingly perfect legs. In that moment of “satisfaction,” my client could finally quash the hate she felt toward her body by finding fault with that of another. I would...
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Food and Self-violence

Occasionally I hear a description of eating, especially bingeing, that seems to my ears to be tinged with violence. This may sound like a harsh word to apply to eating, but it is appropriate. Sometimes a person actually uses the term “violence” to describe her binges; other times I can hear the self-hate and self-destructiveness in her tone. Stop and think if you are someone who would use violence to describe the tone of your eating. This kind of behavior is never, ever about food, but indicates your mood and feelings about yourself or others. There is cruelty behind it and masochism, perhaps even the desire not only to obliterate your feelings, but yourself. Because of the aggression of your eating, food might as well be a loaded gun: you want to hurt someone and hurt them bad. Unfortunately, that someone may be you or someone close to you.Violent eating may...
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Ambivalence About Intuitive Eating

Although I occasionally meet disordered eaters who have been using intuitive eating consistently for years, more often I run into folks who try it, give up, resume dieting, re-discover that diets don’t work, and come back to attempting to eat “normally.” If you feel like a failure because you’re not where you want to be with food and don’t know what else to do, you may be frustrated because neither dieting nor intuitive eating is working for you. Part of the problem is ambivalence about sticking with the process which leads you to a vicious cycle of restriction or mindless eating, interspersed with buckling down and practicing “normal” eating. If you were a car, you’d be shooting off in one direction, slamming on the brakes, doing a one-eighty, and zooming off in the opposite direction—over and over and over again. What would that do to an automobile? What does it do...
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What Should You Weigh?

Most of you have a general idea of what you would like to weigh and some of you may have a specific number in mind. Your view develops from health information, the media, fashion ideals, looking at other people, and considering what you used to weigh. The messages we receive about weight imply that we should simply pick a number and diet to get there. However, the more I read about metabolism and eating, the more I understand that we have a genetically programmed weight we are meant to be, that is, a range below and above which it is hard to go. The best indicator of what your range might be is to look at your family, because the latest research tells us that 50-70% of weight is genetically determined. I can already hear the sighs of dismay and the shouts (maybe some curses too) of denial—50-70% is a huge...
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Authenticity

Being authentic may be a foreign concept to many dysregulated eaters. You may not understand exactly what the term means, not know how to be genuine, or find it difficult to connect to your deepest emotions. (A great read on the subject is The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller, a psychology classic.) You may wonder if you have to be authentic all the time and if the word applies to actions as well as emotions. A person is authentic when they are in touch with their true feelings. Being authentic means connecting to your feelings on a deep level, acknowledging what is up for you in the moment, and not chasing that feeling away. Examples of being inauthentic include denying feeling hurt to yourself or others, doing something you adamantly don’t want to do or that isn’t in your best interest only to please others, convincing yourself to...
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What’s On Your Radar?

When you see another person, a friend or a stranger, is their weight or appearance the first thing (perhaps the only thing) you notice? Do you automatically assess how they look or calculate their weight? Perhaps you have such a knee-jerk reaction that you’re unaware that you judge each and every person’s size, clothes, posture, or hair. Or maybe you know you give them the eye test and assume that’s what everyone does. The truth is that what we notice about others (and ourselves) is unique to us. Although you might flinch at a clothing faux pas, someone else might either be unaware of or fail to think much of it. We see what we are programmed to see. For example, you and your friends might be gazing at a ship full of passengers on deck steaming into dock. One of you might wistfully think of a romantic cruise she wants...
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How Culture Affects Eating and Weight

Although growing up in a family that contributes to or reinforces unhealthy attitudes toward eating and weight is enough to set you on the path of destructive eating, cultural factors also play a part in shaping you. Understanding these values is part of the process of changing how you think and feel about food and your body. By culture, I mean not only American society, but also the specific ethnic culture in which you were raised.We live in a highly competitive society in which the norm is to look around and compare yourself to everyone else. If you fall into the trap of constantly evaluating your body according to others, it seems natural to buy into society’s judgment that you’re bad for being fat and good for being thin. Americans also prize individualism, pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, toughing it alone, and succeeding on your own. Adhering to that kind...
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What Are You Willing To Give Up to End Your Eating Disorder?

In this fix-it-quick, make-it-happen-overnight culture, it’s hard to grasp the fact that in order to overcome your eating disorder, you will have to give up doing things (often many things) the way you are doing them now. Some of the surrender will involve thinking, that is, letting go of unhealthy perceptions and assumptions and replacing them with healthier ones. Other kinds of giving up relate to behaviors, food- and otherwise. It’s natural to want to hold on to what is familiar, but you won’t recover from dysfunctional eating by clinging to the same old same old. What are you willing to give up to get healthy? You may be able to get away with small sacrifices—eating while watching TV, weighing yourself daily, checking out a colleagues’ candy dish every day on the way to the bathroom, or browsing through magazines looking at skinny models and celebrities. But it’s highly unlikely that...
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