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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Genes and Your Sweet Tooth

Ever wonder how some people easily pass up sweets while you can’t seem to say no? Part of your response is from the way you were raised and your beliefs about food, eating and weight, but there also may be a physiological component to your problem. Nothing about food is ever simple, is it? An article entitled “Sweet Tooth” from February 2009 on Self.com explains: “Some of us really can’t have just one sugary treat. A gene that tells our brain when we’ve had enough is less sensitive to glucose in certain people, so they may overindulge, a study from the University of Toronto reveals. People with this gene variation are more likely to have a higher body-mass index than those without it, but they aren’t doomed to be overweight. ‘Factors you can control, like the snacks you eat, have a bigger impact on eating habits,’ says study author Ahmed El-Sohemy....
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Thinness and Lovability

If you believe you must be thin to be lovable, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. Two interesting things happened during a recent afternoon which prove my point. First, there I was on the supermarket checkout line gawking at trashy magazine headlines and photos of unhappy looking, but thinner than thin, celebrities. Some of these sad souls were being ditched because their spouses or partners had found someone new, while others were being abandoned because their lovers had had enough of their nasty dispositions, bizarre behavior, or running around. Second, later that day, I was thumbing through a Sarasota magazine and saw this positively glowing overweight couple on the wedding announcement page. Although the groom was bit pudgy in his suit and the bride was definitely chunky in her white wedding dress, what stood out was that they were beaming and obviously gaga in love. I was so thrilled to have...
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Diligent Joy

Here’s a phrase I came across and fell in love with instantly, more so when I found out what it means: “Diligent Joy.” It makes me smile to say it aloud, and comes from the book EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert (which had positive and negative points and which I’m not recommending). The phrase, however, is a keeper because it hits the nail so squarely on the head. Sure, we have genetic tendencies and formative experiences in childhood, but, thankfully, chemistry is far from the whole story when it comes to whether we’re smiley faces or not. Diligent Joy, if I’m interpreting Gilbert correctly, means working to forge a happiness mindset every minute of every day. A lot of work? You betcha. But it also takes a heap of effort to make—and keep—yourself miserable as well. You have to repeatedly focus on life being unfair and how no one can...
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Satisfying Food Choices

One night as I was heading for the kitchen cabinet containing the fat-free chocolate chip meringues I usually enjoy while watching the 11:00 news, I realized they weren’t what I was in the mood for. Usually they hit the spot and I was surprised that my body was saying, “Sweets, yuck. Go get yourself some protein.” So I had a yummy chunk of cheddar cheese and boy did it ever hit the spot. Those moments reminded me that we can become so stuck in food routines that we tune out what our bodies really want. Although we don’t know exactly what factors go into producing a strong craving for a particular food or food group, we have a pretty good idea of the influences: hunger level, hormones, foods eaten earlier in the day, activity level, mood, blood sugar, and what’s available, to name several. It’s natural to slip into food routines—a...
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A Negative Attitude Can Be Addictive

Did you know that a negative attitude can become addictive? Of course, you won’t go into withdrawal without it and won’t have to join a 12-step program to recover, but regularly underestimating and putting yourself down is an attitude you’ll keep returning to again and again (mostly unconsciously) if you’re not careful. At best, it’s a bad habit that guides your thinking and promotes ineffective decision-making. At worst, it’s a mindset that shuts out hope and creates a lifetime of unhappiness and despair. It’s natural to think poorly of yourself if your caretakers chronically maligned or neglected you. You probably believed what they said about you at the time. However, you now know that what your parents and relatives taught you about yourself is simply untrue. You now understand that they put you down to make themselves feel better or because they didn’t know how to be better care-takers. You recognize—don’t...
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Spirituality -- Or Not

An interesting discussion went on a while ago on my Food and Feelings message board (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings) regarding the role of spirituality in helping people change their relationship with food and their bodies. Obviously, change can happen with or without being a spiritual person. I’ve seen amazing transformations by folks who are highly religious and those who are total non-believers. What’s important is for you to identify and utilize what works for you. The dictionary definition of spirituality is, “devotion to spiritual things instead of worldly things,” with spiritual defined as “having something to do with the spirit or soul.” People who are spiritual usually think of themselves as having a part of themselves that is not physical, a divine soul or essence. They may look for a “greater” meaning or purpose in life and see themselves as guided by and in the hands of God or a higher power. They might use prayer...
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Fear of Failure

I was talking to a phone client about her stuckness and she admitted that behind it is a giant fear of failure. You, too, may believe that your history is your future, especially if you’ve struggled with food for decades and gained and lost weight repeatedly. Dread of once again not achieving or maintaining your goals may keep you from pursuing them. Fear of failure stems from experience. You’ve tried and never gotten very far with “normal” eating or have shed pounds only to see them creep back on. When this has happened, you’ve been ashamed of your inability to maintain a healthy weight or of the fact that you’re still struggling to have a positive relationship with food after all these decades. You don’t want to get your hopes up (again), don’t want to put all that energy into thinking you dreams might come true (again), don’t want to face...
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Difficult People

We all have difficult people in our lives—family members, neighbors, co-workers. Notice that I didn’t mention friends or romantic partners because we can choose them and shouldn’t be cozying up to folks who are regularly hard to deal with and don’t bring us oodles of joy and pleasure. One of the triggers that provokes you to abuse food might be the difficult people in your life, so it pays to learn to how to handle them effectively. Let me say straight off that VDPs—Very Difficult People—are just that. They rub many, if not most, folks the wrong way. Sure, they may have a few die hard fans who defend and embrace them out of fear, warped loyalty, or entrenched dysfunction, but most mentally healthy people steer clear of them. Unfortunately, shutting them out of your life isn’t always possible, particularly if one is a boss, sibling, parent, business associate, or next...
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Forgiving versus Forgetting

Forgiveness can be tricky business. Societal messages encourage us to forgive so that we can move on. Plus, we know in our hearts how painful it is to nurture a grudge. Although being unforgiving of others hurts us, so too can the automatic reaction of wiping the slate clean prematurely. Forgiveness is a nuanced subject, not an all-or-nothing affair, whether we’re talking about our own transgressions or those done to us. Why forgive? Because it hurts to harbor painful feelings against ourselves and other people, because we can get stuck in rumination, vengeful thoughts, and I-should-have- said-this and why-didn’t-I-do-that. A major reason forgiveness is troublesome is that we often couple it with forgetting, disappearing a distressing occurrence as if it never happened. We wonder: If I pardon myself for eating too little or too much food, how will I remember to eat right? Don’t I need a constant reminder of the...
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To Cry or Not to Cry?

Some people may think that tears are what healing and therapy are all about, but that’s not necessarily true. I see two types of clients: those who cry easily and those for whom shedding a tear is like pulling teeth. Both sets suffer from emotional management problems, and my goal is to help each move toward a healthier middle ground. Some clients begin to cry the minute they sit down on my office couch. Either they’ve been holding in tears until they see me or they’ve been on crying jags throughout the day (or week) and can’t get a grip. Others let loose the minute we touch on painful subjects such as childhood abuse, the death a loved one, frustration with their weight, or family or work problems. They complain about lacking control over when and where they cry: the tears just come unbidden. Most end up feeling ashamed, out of...
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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.