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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Regret and Guilt

So many troubled eaters suffer from excessive guilt, about eating and other behaviors. If you are overwhelmed with guilt when you think you’ve done something wrong, consider replacing it with regret. In fact, what you feel, more often than not, actually may be regret and not guilt to begin with. Chapter 5 of my FOOD AND FEELINGS WORKBOOK is all about guilt. The goal of this emotion is to signal that you’ve done something wrong so that you won’t repeat the behavior. Here are things you may feel guilty about: hurting a friend’s feelings, playing hooky because you hate your job, telling your roommate or partner you’ll do something for them and purposely not doing it, eating when you aren’t hungry or eating beyond full when you are, lying in a self-serving way. Well, I could go on and on. Dysregulated eaters are all too familiar with guilt and need no...
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Eating Frequency

I’m often asked, “How often should I eat?” and this is a subject that frequently crops up on my message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings). It’s an important question lacking a one-size-fits-all answer. When people ask me how often they should eat, I know immediately that they are looking for an answer in the wrong place—outside themselves—rather than reflecting internally on what is right for them because the only person I can answer for is me! How often you want to (not should) eat depends on your lifestyle, hunger and activity level, interest in food, and its availability. Some people love having three meals and three snacks a day. Other folks (like me) don’t like to be hungry or full and have multiple food encounters during the day without counting. As a writer and therapist with a home office, I can take frequent breaks and have foods I love readily available. My husband generally...
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Stable Sense of Self

Many disregulated eaters lack a stable sense of self—an ongoing, permanent self-reflection of being okay and a good person all the time. Internal stability helps you tolerate negatives feelings about yourself because you view yourself as basically good enough. Because people with food problems often eat when they aren’t happy with themselves or to punish themselves, a stable sense of self reduces unwanted eating.   Here are some questions to help you assess your sense of self. When you do something you deem worthwhile, do you think of yourself as a “good” person? Alternately, when you do something you view as hurtful to yourself or others, do you believe you’re a “bad” person? Does your judgment about your self-worth depend on how others view (read, approve or disapprove of) you? Do you base your self-esteem on how much or how well you’ve done or are doing? Does your view of self...
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Pre-eating Meditation

If you want to put yourself in the right frame of mind for eating, try a meditation beforehand. Don’t let the word scare you. A meditation can be anything you focus your physical and mental attention on. By saying aloud the message you want to program into yourself right before eating, you increase your potential for responding to it while you’re eating, thereby heightening your awareness to better connect to appetite signals. Here are a few ideas but, please, feel free to create what suits you, because your own words will speak most passionately to your heart. “I am relaxed and peaceful and anticipate enjoying a glorious meal. I will choose foods to enjoy, then savor them. I will honor my body by giving it as much nourishment as it needs and as much pleasure as I want. I will listen to my appetite and trust it to tell me when...
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Book Review: It’s Not Your Fault

Books that tell you to change unwanted attitudes and behaviors by “just doing it” don’t generally work for readers with traumatic childhoods. That’s why I like It’s Not Your Fault: How Healing Relationships Change Your Brain and Can Help You Overcome a Painful Past by Patricia Romano McGraw, Ph.D. She explains in readable language and through case-based examples what happens to a child’s brain growing up in a stressful, dysfunctional (ie, traumatic) environment and describes how therapy can actually change the brain and heal the heart. As so many disregulated eaters are trauma survivors—whether you recognize yourself as one or not—this book will help you understand why it’s so difficult to establish and maintain new eating habits. McGraw presents the concept of templates—models or patterns on which things are based—that are physically laid down in the brain through childhood interactions we have with caretakers, primarily our parents. Because neural pathways grow...
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Time and Self-care

Do you tell yourself you don’t have time for food shopping or preparation, eating healthily, sleeping sufficient hours, or exercising regularly? Do you lament that you’re so stressed and overwhelmed, there’s not a minute to take care of yourself? You may place the blame on there not being enough hours in a day but, really, time isn’t the problem. Your beliefs are! Until you recognize and debunk the lies you tell yourself about being too busy, you won’t resolve your food, weight, and self-care problems.   In truth, there are people who lead super demanding lives who take excellent care of themselves and folks who do next to nothing all day who treat themselves poorly. Regarding self-care, time is a factor, but not the most crucial one. It’s just a common and handy excuse for not doing right by you. When things are important, you carve out a space in your...
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Weight and Genetics

Generally whenever I mention the statistic from Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin that 50-70% of our body weight is inherited, I receive such dirty looks that I often add that there have been challenges a plenty to this conclusion. Now, however, The New England Journal of Medicine has weighed in on the subject by publishing the conclusions of a twin-study on eating and weight, and it looks as if Kolata was right on the mark. The NEJM study had male identical twins consuming 1,000 extra calories per day for 84 out of 100 days. Theoretically, each volunteer should have put on 24 pounds but, lo and behold, although each twin in a set gained about the same amount as his brother, there was a striking difference in weight gained between twin sets, within a range of 9.5 and 29 pounds. The researchers’ explanation was that “40% of our weight may be determined...
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Trauma and Food Problems

Traumatic childhoods, those that involve chronic neglect, emotional/physical/sexual abuse, or sudden abandonment by a parent, make it harder to recover from eating disorders. These occurrences which happened decades ago continue to have major reverberations in our current lives and often get played out in difficulties with food, self concept, relationships, and impairment of effective life skills. I regularly explain to clients who are frustrated with and disappointed in themselves that people like them who’ve experienced serious, denied, unattended, ongoing or intermittent emotional wounding in childhood will take longer to work through their eating (and other) problems than people who did not suffer in these ways. This conclusion is based on decades of scientific research with trauma survivors, but clients rarely believe me. Instead, they beat themselves up for making the same mistakes with food or relationships over and over and easily fall prey to hopelessness. If you experienced trauma, abuse or...
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Eating Fast and Overweight

For 30 years I’ve been teaching people to slow down while they’re eating. It seems like common sense. After all, what’s the big rush? How often are we really (really, really) so harried and hurried that we can’t take time to enjoy food? Fast eating used to be just a bad habit. Now science is ringing the alarm bell and warning us that eating quickly and past full puts us at risk for becoming overweight. According to a study published October 21, 2008 in the British Medical Journal, folks who both eat quickly and until full have a three-fold risk of becoming overweight compared to people who eat more slowly and stop before fullness. The study included 3,000 Japanese adults, males and females ages 30-69. It focused on the speed with which they ate and whether they stopped before or after fullness, then correlated these activities with their BMI (Body Mass...
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Book Review: Will I Ever Be Good Enough?

I read as many psychology and self-help books as time permits to keep expanding my knowledge base and make targeted suggestions when clients need help. Some books relate directly to eating, others have a peripheral link. As you probably know by now, food and weight problems are connected to many facets of life. Here’s a review of a relatively new book about mothers and daughters which has been helpful to my clients. Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride, Ph.D., is a terrific addition to the literature written about the clinical diagnosis of narcissism and how having a narcissistic parent can detrimentally affect you throughout life. Written by a psychology professional and daughter of a narcissistic mother, the book explains: what a narcissist is (and isn’t), the underlying causes of narcissism, why and how daughters of narcissistic mothers suffer, and what they can...
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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.