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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Body Acceptance

In her new book, Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, Gina Kolata puts forth a version of set point theory, maintaining that for mostly biological reasons, the body has a natural weight that it will return to again and again. She presents case studies and scientific evidence based on research that the body “fails” at dieting because it simply cannot drop below a minimum weight. If she is right, how can you learn to accept your so-called set point—when you’re eating both “normally” and nutritiously—even if you wish it were lower? The fact is, even if you can’t change your body, you can always change your mind. Many heavy people get on with life and don’t become obsessed with losing weight or being fat. They know they’re large, might or might not aim for fitness, and weight is not the focal point of...
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Overeating and Alcohol

You don’t have to be an alcoholic to abuse alcohol in a way that exacerbates eating problems. All you have to do is drink enough to lower your inhibitions, and your desire to eat when you’re not hungry or overeat past full will take over by itself. There’s no question that alcohol is a relaxant that smoothes out your rough edges after a hard day at the office or with the kids. There’s also absolutely nothing wrong with taking a drink now and then to chill out and unwind. However, if you have difficulty relaxing without an external substance and begin to rely on alcohol and food in tandem to do the job, you’re headed for trouble. Let’s say you come home from work on a Friday night after the week from hell. You’re tired, grumpy, wound up, and looking for instant comfort. What’s easier than pouring yourself a tall one...
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Eating Disorders and Food Allergies, Part 2

After it’s been confirmed by your doctor or health practitioner through testing that you have a food allergy or intolerance, it’s time to think about managing it vis a vis your eating problems. If you’re a restrictive eater, you may feel justified in eating little or even less than you have been, or upset that you can’t eat foods you rely on (eg, low-cal yogurt or soy products). Conversely, if you tend toward overeating carbohydrates that contain wheat (baked goods) or dairy (ice cream), you may feel deprived and resent that you have a food allergy or intolerance in addition to dysfunctional eating habits. As a restrictive eater, you must careful not to use a food allergy diagnosis to eat less and will have to work hard to push yourself to find foods that are nutritious and appealing. Because maintaining a healthy weight is essential, you may need to consult a...
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Eating Disorders and Food Allergies, Part 1

It’s very difficult to have food allergies on top of eating problems. Not only must you be mindful of your appetite and the rules of “normal” eating, but you have to deal with the physiological and psychological consequences of eating certain offending foods. Typical food allergies include wheat (gluten), soy, dairy (milk), eggs, peanuts, and shellfish. Studies maintain that some 15% of people in the US believe that they are allergic to certain foods, but that only approximately 1% of adults and 5% of children have true food allergies characterized by an adverse reaction that’s triggered by the immune system. In a true food allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food or a component of a food as a harmful substance. This causes certain cells to make antibodies to fight the culprit food or food component (the allergen). The next time you eat even the smallest amount of that...
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Being Critical of Appearance

Not everyone feels the same way about their appearance. Some people could care less what they wear and how they look. They’re too busy with other things to fuss about clothes, have low self-esteem, or are depressed and lack the interest or energy to make a big deal about appearance. Other people are obsessed with how they look—striving for a perfect body, spending oodles of time and money on the right clothes, unable to leave the house without taking their appearance into account. Some of these people, as well, may suffer from low self-esteem and only feel good about themselves when they think they look their best. In the middle of the continuum are people who have a reasonable pride in appearance, but don’t go overboard . Much of attitude about appearance comes from what we learned in childhood. Think about how your parents viewed their looks. If you had a...
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Self-denial is a learned facility and has its positive and negative sides. In order to function well in society both personally and professionally, we naturally need to say no to ourselves. For example, it’s not okay to break into a jewelry store and grab a Rolex watch even though you may want one more than anything else in the world. It’s also not cool to steal your best friend’s boyfriend or acceptable to believe that you must have every little thing your heart desires. Denying pleasure or gratification in service of a different or higher goal is a valuable skill that is learned through the maturation process. However, being unable to say yes to your desires in balance with saying no is self-denial run amuck. As with anything else, withholding from self can become a bad habit, a rigid, one-note approach, a practice that feeds on itself and generates a life...
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Using Problem-solving in Eating Disorders

Whether you’re a chronic overeater or undereater or yo-yo between the two, you need to harness your problem-solving skills to make progress. Some of you are probably terrific problem-solvers—the go-to people in your company, the family decider and planner, the friend who knows how to clean up everyone’s messes. In that case, you’ll be able to use skills you already have to resolve your eating issues. However, some of you may not shine at problem solving in general. You may not recognize or be willing to acknowledge this deficit and wonder why other people are happier and more successful than you are. If you don’t have terrific problem-solving abilities to begin with, it will be harder for you to resolve eating issues. The first step in problem-solving is, of course, to identify the problem. Pick one aspect of eating that is plaguing you—snacking on high calorie foods as an afternoon pick-me-up,...
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Struggling to Health

The stronger the grip your eating disorder has on you, the harder you will have to fight back. I wrote in The Rules of “Normal” Eating that trying to overcome an eating disorder is not for the faint of heart and I meant it. Fighting to overcome your dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors around food is a battle like few others. The struggle will reach into every corner of your existence and you will have to face off with food—your desire to eat or not eat—many times each day in order to become healthy and learn to eat “normally.” By struggling, I mean tolerating impulses without acting on them, tough work after years or decades of mindlessly following a destructive eating path. Your inner conflict to continue behaving the same way around food as you always have will bump up hard against your growing desire to be healthy and fit. Whether you’re...
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Sugar Addiction

Recently I did some internet research on sugar addiction when the subject cropped up in a workshop. Can a person really be addicted to sugar? If so, does that mean she can never eat it and/or that if she does, she’s bound to go overboard and binge? How do you know if you’re addicted or if you only believe you are? I encourage you all to do your own research on sugar addiction, although the jury appears to be out on the subject. Some evidence indicates that rats seem to become addicted to sugar water based on specific criteria related to increased tolerance, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms, while other studies conclude that the problem is better defined in terms of psychological dependence than physical addiction. Perhaps some day we’ll have a definitive answer and a better understanding of how sugar affects our biochemistry. For now, each of us has to assess...
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An Eating Disorder or Misery

Many of you will not be able to overcome your eating problems until you get out of the unhappy situations you are working or living in. I know this advice is hard to hear, that you fear making major change, and that you will even forgo a healthy relationship with food to maintain the status quo. However, dysfunctional eating is often a reaction to a toxic situation and you won’t become a “normal” eater until you opt out of it. You may hate your job or like it but feel constantly stressed, overwhelmed, pressured, and frustrated. Or you enjoy your job, but not your colleagues who appear to delight in excluding or harassing you and go out of their way to make your life hell. Or you have an ogre of a boss who is chronically mean, condescending, blaming, insensitive, and/or petty, for whom nothing you do is ever good enough...
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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.