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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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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Needing to Be Sure

Many disregulated eaters hold dysfunctional beliefs about needing to be sure and dong things right. They must be absolutely certain a choice is correct before making it, or need assurance that previous action was what they should have taken. Although it’s important to make well informed choices and refrain from regularly acting impulsively, we can’t know that what we do or have done will work out the way we hoped. What are you afraid of when you relentlessly seek certainty, especially by asking others’ opinions—pain, making mistakes, failure, or being thrown off course by the zigs and zags of life? If things go wrong, do you believe you’ll be punished by someone or overwhelmed with shame and remorse? Don’t get me wrong. It’s essential to know how to ask for help and to feel comfortable taking in the wisdom people have to offer. But none of that can give you a...
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What Are You Really Ashamed About?

I was talking with a client last month about her history with multiple aspects of shame regarding eating and weight. She’d initially thought that what she felt most strongly was shame about being fat, but it turned out that her feelings were more complicated (they usually are!). I bet there’s more to your story of shame as well. For those of you who as children were fat or average weight but made to feel fat by family members, there’s a long trail of shame behind you—being different, lacking acceptance, suffering exclusion, not understanding what’s wrong with carrying around extra pounds, and feeling powerlessness to change your body. Being teased, shamed, bullied, degraded, or humiliated leaves lasting psychological scars. You weren’t, as your parents may have insisted (for their own reasons), being “too” sensitive about your size. Growing up with non-body-based shame can haunt you as well. Maybe you were shamed for...
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Healing Old Wounds

When people come to me for therapy, it’s most often about eating and weight problems (although I treat the gamut of mental health and relational issues). Clients generally recognize that their poor relationship with food is rooted in childhood dysfunction, but may not know what to do with that information. In fact, understanding the dysfunctional events in one’s history and connecting to the emotions they evoke are two different animals. Clients frequently become stuck because they have difficulty facing the past or doing whatever is needed to heal from it. Don’t let that be you. If specific people—Mom, Dad, a sibling, boss, neighbor—or certain types of people—authority figures, competitors, manipulators, victims—continue to trigger your abuse of food, it’s time to turn back the clock and discover why you’re locked into such intense reactions. That means exploring your early emotional relationship with parents and other family members. Does anyone in the present...
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Focus on One Change

Changing longstanding eating patterns can feel like an overwhelming job. Sometimes there’s so much to pay attention to and get a handle on—hunger, food selection, nutrition, mindfulness, satisfaction, fullness, emotions—that you don’t know where to start. It helps to find one focus and stick to it for a while until you make progress. What you pick doesn’t matter very much, only that you make a commitment to that choice. Here are a list of behaviors that lend themselves well to a productive focus. For a whole month, put your energies into developing positive habits in one of these areas. If you succeed, great, move on to another behavior. If not, figure out what’s not working (like you’re not really trying or a more specific reason), and refocus for another month.Hunger: Use a scale of 1-10 and eat only when you’re moderately hungry.Diet Mentality: Purge your mind of thoughts about “good” and...
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When You Eat

Safe to say that most of us have a typical eating schedule whether we realize it or not. Hopefully, it’s an intentional, mindful pattern, but it may also develop without much thought—when the ice cream truck rings its bell or when you stroll by Starbucks. Do you set your own schedule with an eye toward hunger, health, and satisfaction, or have you simply fallen into eating at certain times, well, just because? The answer to this question may help determine your weight. According to Prevention Magazine (March 2009), not only what or why you eat, but when you eat has a strong impact on healthy weight maintenance. Want to guess which kinds of people do better at keeping the number on the scale steady? Through a study of 3,607 women and men, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden determined that people who eat consistently at the same time every day without missing...
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Confirmed, Diets Don’t Work Long Term

A Los Angeles Times article confirms what research has been saying for decades. In “In War on Waist, Any Diet’s A Winner,” writer Shari Roan talks about the diet wars and which diet comes out on top, then concludes (the envelope, please) that the answer is “any diet.” The article’s take away message—that it doesn’t matter what you call your eating as long as it reduces calories. No surprises there. Roan goes on to say that, “any diet that is low in calories and saturated fats and high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and that an individual can stick with, is a reasonable choice for people who need to lose weight.” This conclusion is from a study—the biggest, longest and “most rigorous” of popular weight loss alternatives— published in February, 2009 by The New England Journal of Medicine. Although I’m thrilled folks are being encouraged to trust common sense, reduce...
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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.