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. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

Counting Calories and Fat

A while ago a question came up on my Food and Feelings Workbook message board about whether counting calories and fat grams makes a person a dieter. Do “normal” eaters never count calories? Do they ever think about the amount of fat contained in food in making choices? Merely because a person considers caloric or fat content, does that automatically make them a dieter rather than a “normal” eater? Does eating intuitively preclude eating intelligently? This subject is complex and requires letting go of black-and-white thinking. Attending to nutritional information is not a question of always focusing on calories and fat or never noting them. The difference between dieters and “normal” eaters is how the information is used to make satisfying, healthy eating decisions. In a nutshell, dieters and restrictive eaters base food decisions exclusively on whether a food is high or low in calories or fat. If it’s high, they...
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Fear versus Self-loathing

Last week I was talking with a client about her sometimes poor self care, specifically an apparent lack of fear regarding negative consequences around food and health areas. Surprisingly, she reported feeling no fear of harmful consequences when she’s about to eat unhealthy food when she’s not even hungry, is “too lazy” to floss her teeth, or fails to sunscreen up though she’s had skin cancer. What she does feel is “self-loathing” because she’s not doing what she should. I got to wondering how many of you have a compromised fear response: not feeling or using fear to assess consequences before making choices, and, instead, berating yourself for not caring for yourself. Used appropriately, fear is a healthy, adaptive, survival-necessary response to potential or imagined emotional or physical threat to self. An automatic reaction, it occurs when we believe something bad might happen to us. However, if you spent childhood chronically...
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Taking Advice and Suggestions

This blog is for you dysregulated eaters who aren’t doing all you can to help yourself overcome your eating problems. My purpose is to help you learn what stops you, especially why you have difficulty taking advice and following through on reasonable suggestions that will help you recover. Until and unless you’re able to take the steps that are recommended, you’ll be saddled with unhealthy eating and emotional problems that prevent you from reaching your eating—and other—goals. I’ve learned through my professional experience that clients who succeed follow through on most, if not all, my suggestions. They may not be convinced at the outset that an idea will help them, but they trust that my decades of experience in the field in general and knowledge of them in particular will move them in the right direction. Many are ambivalent at best and scared at worst, yet take a deep breath and...
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Willpower Gene

For years overweight people have been scolded for lack of will power. If they had more, thinking went, they’d eat less and not grow fat. The term has always made me think of a product, as if out we could go and buy a box of Will Power somewhere (you know, sitting there on the shelf next to the Elbow Grease). At the least, it seemed as if we should be able to scrounge up more of it if we tried hard enough. Now a study at the State University of New York at Buffalo (Allure, May 2008, “Body News”) has discovered where will power comes from and the reason some of us have it and others don’t. Big surprise—it’s in our genes! What researchers discovered is actually an anti-will power gene variant, rather than a gene for it. They found that overeating was linked to a gene involved in chemical...
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The Good Body

Last night I saw Eve Ensler’s The Good Body here in Sarasota. If Ensler’s name rings a bell, it’s because she’s the creator of The Vagina Monologues. From its title, you might guess that The Good Body is about women’s quest for one and you’d be right. In fact, perhaps the show should have been called The Perfect Body. However, the word “good” works because many of these women are struggling desperately to be good girls as well. Sound familiar: trying to be good woman and have a good body? The show’s main character, Eve, is overweight and obsessed with her fat stomach. We meet her critical father, in the ice cream business of all things, and come to see how her disturbed relationship with food and body came about. Eve diets and overdoes it on the treadmill, but can’t get rid of her round mound of a belly. She even...
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Control Issues

Eating problems are about nothing if not control. Exerting too much control around food leads to desires bursting out which causes us to clamp down again—and round and round we go. Rather than micro-manage food intake or let loose completely, “normal” eaters focus on regulation. Regulation connotes flexibility and an appropriate response to internal and external forces to regain balance. Sure “normal” eaters occasionally cut back on food or go overboard, but the thought doesn’t lodge into a permanent attitude. Control is a major issue for us all: around safety, security, happiness, success, etc. These issues go way back to childhood. If yours had a great deal of unpredictability and chaos from abuse, neglect, arbitrariness and unfairness, abandonment, etc., you may try to avoid feeling helpless because it sends you into despair. Having little or no control in childhood over basic needs—including love, affection, and attention—creates adults who either give up...
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Some folks readily do what’s advised to help them recover (from anything) without much flak and fuss. They feel cared for rather than lectured to when a doctor suggests they exercise, enlightened rather than annoyed reading an article on the dangers of fried foods, grateful rather than coerced when a therapist recommends that they join an emotional eating support group. Lacking a negative reaction, they take advantage of new ideas and at least try what’s advised. Do you? Or do you feel resentful? Chronic resentment is a serious road block to “normal” eating and emotional health. Are you someone who resents the hard work you have to do to reach your eating goals? Do you act as if tried-and-true suggestions offered by professionals are for everyone but you? Do you ignore or try to find a way around them? If so, you’re bound to stay stuck in your eating problems until...
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Default Settings

One of the ways to view human programming is that we each have default settings, ones we return to over and over unless we are able to override them. Overriding takes a great deal of effort and can only happen when we realize that we’ve slipped back into default and that functioning in this mode is not in our best interest. The good news is that when we recognize and reprogram automatic responses, the sky’s the limit. We all have to pay attention to our reactions 24/7 (yeah, it’s a drag, but it’s a must do) in order to identify what our default settings are, to assess whether they enhance our lives or we need to change them. For example, say you generally don’t have faith in people helping you with distressing feelings because your parents weren’t exactly there for you and you pretty much had to lick your own emotional...
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Eating Habits

An article in the May/June 2008 issue of AARP’s magazine called “Eat Smart” provides interesting information about ways to change your eating if you’re looking to lose weight. My purpose in blogging about these ideas is not to emphasis a weight focus, but to help you pay more attention to your eating habits and dining environment. One area mentioned in the article is the amount and kind of noise around when you’re eating. According to studies in Northern Ireland and Canada, people eat more when there’s background noise, and loud, fast music increases consumption. It makes sense that eating would accelerate to keep pace with the music. Alternately, these studies conclude that slow, soft music isn’t optimum for eating either because it encourages us to eat slower than what we need for healthy digestion. Unconsciously, our eating either slows down or speeds up to the beat. Slow music also keeps people...
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Being Bad

“Being bad” is an attitude that runs rampant in eating situations and is bound to get you into a heap of trouble. The behavior is so common and accepted that you might not realize its destructiveness and that it lies at the heart of acting out and self-sabotage. This kind of immature rebellion—using “being bad” to feel good—arises in all sorts of realms: shopping, money, work, chores, and living by rules in general. The attitude is summed up in the words, “I’m being bad” accompanying behavior that flaunts rules or principles or any perceived set of “shoulds.” Such as...Although your bank balance is low, you buy that new cell phone because of its bells and whistles, and while forking over the plastic smirk and think, “I’m so bad.” Angry at your boss, you sneak an extra 15 minutes on your lunch break as, “I’m being bad, but so what?” flashes across...
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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.