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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Eating Message Boards

If you discovered my “normal” eating blogs through an eating message board, then you know what a support they can be for recovery. If you have never been on one, you are missing out on a terrific tool for education and self-discovery. A message board is a cyber space where people can talk about their eating and weight concerns. You can read other people’s messages or post one yourself. You can remain anonymous or identify yourself. There is no pressure to “speak,” and you can say as much—or little—as you’d like. You can bring up a topic or follow a thread which someone else raised. One rule of thumb is to avoid hurting other people intentionally. You can use message boards in various ways. You can ask questions about people’s experience with food, hunger, diets, nutritionists, or how they react to medications. You can post your own experiences with any of...
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Are You Getting Better?

I often hear people working hard at recovering from eating problems say that they feel as if they’re getting worse, not better. More often than not, this complaint is based on subjective experience rather than objective evidence. When people say they’re feeling worse, it usually means that the behavior they’re trying to reduce or eliminate has increased in frequency, duration or intensity, that they haven’t noticed sufficient change, feel hopeless, or that they are in more emotional distress. First off, people with eating issues often don’t recognize their progress. Problems—they see ‘em all; progress they miss. So I honestly don’t consider their assessment of “worse” as necessarily valid. They could be making strides in many areas that seem trivial and not worth noting—bingeing less often, speaking up, catching themselves in their stinkin’ thinkin’, learning more about their motivations and internal conflicts—and so they miss the fact that they are actually getting...
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Balancing Praise and Criticism

Ideally all of us would be able to take in compliments and criticism in a balanced way. When someone remarks that we did an outstanding job on a project or looked smashing, we’d feel proud and glow inside. When someone expresses disappointment that we hurt their feelings or left chores undone, we’d feel badly that we let them down or failed to live up to reasonable standards. We wouldn’t expect to never make mistakes, nor assume we’re always in the wrong and can’t do anything right. In my work, I use an analogy which seems to help people envision what I’m talking about. I imagine that emotionally balanced people have two equal strips of Velcro inside them: one each for positive and negative comments they receive. Whichever comes their way, praise or criticism, it sticks to the appropriate Velcro strip. In this way, we’d get to learn about ourselves and how...
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Greener Grass

One of the ways we become dissatisfied with ourselves is by believing that the grass is greener in other pastures. We imagine how happy others must be, observe couples and assume they have fairy tale relationships, envision the lives of certain—rich, thin, wealthy, famous—folks as flowing from one flawless moment to the next. And, sadly, we view bodies the same way: this one looks just perfect, that one’s the American ideal. We see a person with a “perfect” body and assume she achieved it effortlessly, naturally, whereas she may suffer from anorexia or bulimia, have had plastic surgery, may spend hours at the gym body sculpting, or may put excessive amounts of time and money into getting clothes to look just right. Just as we aren’t privy to all the snags in relationships—the fights and nights couples go to bed angry, their disappointments and regrets—and can’t know about the enormous job...
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Food and Socializing

I recently spent a few days with a group of dear, old friends and could not help but notice the role that food played in our time together. As we sat around reminiscing about good times and catching each other up on our lives, we were surrounded by food. Yes, there was plenty of fresh fruit, but there were also candies and baked goods. The hostess is a superb care-taker (physically and emotionally) and made sure we wanted for nothing. Additionally, one of my friends brought some fudge that was to die for. Maybe because we did mostly hanging out, as opposed to going out, food was our constant companion. We ate a formal breakfast and dinner—that is, we gathered at the table for a period of time—but otherwise we sat around in the kitchen or on the back porch off the kitchen. Nothing about this circumstance would have been the...
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Biology, Eating, and Weight

I’ve been doing research for a new book I’m writing for therapists on how to treat eating and weight issues, and am continually amazed at how much of our capacity to eat “normally” and remain at a comfortable weight is rooted in our biology. Some 50-70% (different sources give different percentages) of our weight is predetermined genetically, giving us an inherited predisposition toward fat or thin. Although we can influence biology through stress management, changing unhealthy environments, practicing healthy habits, and getting regular exercise, we all have to work with what we’ve got. Here are some theories you need to know if you’re working on eating and weight issues. As you read them, remember that these are all possible explanations for your struggles and that you still have to do whatever is in your power to achieve eating success. Be careful not to use this information to allow yourself to give...
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Skills Take Time

I bet that none of you would expect to learn to become a dancer or an accountant in a matter of weeks. You’d never dream of becoming an expert ice-skater or teacher without years of practice and experience. Why, then, would you assume you could learn the skills of “normal” eating without a good long period of hard work? Why, indeed. The answer is complicated because the desire for rapid recovery is often based on false assumption: you think you should know how to eat “normally,” or believe the skills are easy to learn. We’ll spend four years in college, more in graduate school, or years apprenticing to build on-the-job expertise because we allow ourselves a grace period for “hard skill” acquisition. But we assume that we should be able to pick up “soft skills” like eating, handling emotions, becoming assertive, or having successful relationships by snapping our fingers. Not true....
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It’s Not About Weight

If you have been heavy your whole life (or most of it), you may believe that your main problem is getting your body to a healthy, more comfortable weight. You may be convinced that your life will be dramatically different when you’re at your ideal size and that you can then kick back and enjoy life. If you are so obese that your size restricts mobility and activity, you may find that life does vastly improve when you reduce your size. Being more comfortable in your body and able to do more may be enough to change how you feel about yourself and put your life back on track. However, even if you lose the weight, you will still have many issues to deal with. My concern is that people who loose a tremendous amount of weight are not changing enough of themselves to become emotionally healthy. It is certainly easier...
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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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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.