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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Stopping Eating When Full or Satisfied

Sometimes it feels as if the worst thing in the world is to have to stop eating, never mind that you’re stuffed to the gills and your brain has gone numb. Of all the rules of “normal” eating, stopping when you’re full or satisfied is the hardest, hands down. However, it does grow organically and logically out of the previous rules. If you follow the first three, stopping is a lot easier. Well, actually, it won’t be easy for a long while, until you’ve done it so often that it’s become habit. It will be very, very hard at first. If you eat when you’re not hungry, you won’t know when to stop because it wasn’t food you wanted in the first place. On the other hand, if you’re too hungry, you’ll snarf down your food so quickly that you’ll have eaten too much before you know it. When possible, eat...
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Weighty Comments

In a recent workshop, members had a lively discussion about what to do when people comment—positively or negatively—on their weight. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are a number of winning responses, depending on the situation. The first step is to identify what bothers you about the comment: Is it a throwback to how some relative in your childhood used to chide you for being too fat or thin? Does it make you feel uncomfortable because it’s tinged with sexuality or a come on? Does it feel fake, competitive, downright hostile, or as if the person envies how you look? Has it been said thoughtlessly, with love, or with obvious mal intent? Is it from a stranger or an intimate? Your response needs to grow from what you’re feeling—angry, embarrassed, sort of pleased and sort of not, violated, scared, devalued, sexualized, self-conscious—and from the context of the situation. For many people...
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Males and Eating Disorders

Most of my clients, book and blog readers, and message board members are women, which is no big surprise considering that women bear the brunt of this society’s pressure to lose weight and be thin, which can be a factor leading to disregulated eating. Until recently, however, we thought that men with eating disorders were a small percentage of our population. It turns out that the number is higher than we thought. According to a Cox Newspaper article, Men Struggle with weight and eating disorders, too, a national study conducted by Harvard of nearly 3,000 adults concluded that one quarter of people with bulimia or anorexia nervosa and 40% of individuals who had binge-eating problems were men. The previous estimate had maintained that about 10% of people with anorexia and bulimia were males. One explanation of this 30% difference is likely under-reporting of the problem because health professionals are more likely...
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Thawing Your Feelings

Emotions are meant to be felt and valued. When they’re not encouraged, validated, supported and understood, we think they’re bad and that we’re bad/wrong to have them. We learn to conform to the family value: don’t think it, don’t say it, don’t feel it. If your parents or primary caretakers frequently demeaned, ignored, humiliated, invalidated, teased, or in any way squashed your feelings, you adapted by numbing out emotionally. Witnessing others suffer as a child can also induce a deadening reaction. Emotionally overwhelmed and lacking the internal resources to manage your pain, you tried not to feel hurt, pretended not to care, and covered your feelings so well that no one knew you had them (even you!). Eventually those feelings became stuck or frozen in time and you adapted to feeling as little as possible. Emotional numbness may have been a conscious goal, but more likely it was a state that...
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What Are You Waiting For?

Procrastinating is one of the unappealing aspects of being human. Everyone does it sometimes. After all, why be unhappy today when you can put it off ‘til tomorrow, right? Well, that might work with making an appointment to have your teeth cleaned or doing your taxes, but if you keep postponing these activities, your teeth will rot and the IRS will be camping on your doorstep. We think we can ignore unpleasant consequences because they’re off in the future, but every day brings us closer and closer to them. Many people talk about changing their eating habits but do little or nothing about it. Understandable: change hurts, is hard, and rocks our boat. Fortunately, in my practice and classes, I work with individuals who are eager to learn new attitudes and behaviors. But, what of you folks who keep saying that you’ll get into therapy or join an eating support group...
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Information Overload

I happened to read the results of a recent Harvard University Medical School/McLean Psychiatric Hospital study on eating disorders as well as an article by Michael Pollan entitled “Unhappy Meals” on the same day that a bunch of my husband’s health and nutrition newsletters arrived. The Massachusetts study announced real news (to anyone not in the field of eating disorders, that is)—that binge-eating disorder is the biggest eating disorder in the U.S.; the Pollan article made the refreshing point that, among other things, we’ve become a nation fixated on nutrients rather than food and pleasurable eating. The health and nutrition newsletters, however, contained the same ole same ole: eat your fruits, vegetables and whole grains and nix the fats and sugars. It occurred to me, not for the first time, that while we’re bombarded with health and nutrition information daily, Americans are getting fatter and sicker as their relationship with food...
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Do You See What I See

My job as a psychotherapist is to crawl inside someone’s head and look out at the world through their eyes. Through that process, I’ve learned that many people with eating problems are hyper-self-conscious and -self-critical about their food intake because they assume that others are as focused on and negative about it as they are. The same holds true for many overweight people and those who fear weight gain who, hating fat, assume that they’re being judged in the same pejorative way that they judge others. It usually comes as a surprise when I tell them that there are folks out there who don’t care very much about what others weigh, and that the majority of people don’t pay much attention to what others eat or don’t eat. Those kinds of things are not even on their radar screen!One of the limitations of life is the lens through which we see...
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Recover = Cover Again

To re-cover means literally to go back over developmental ground that is lost to an eating disorder, especially if yours began in adolescence or young adulthood. In the normal course of maturing through your teens and early 20s, your work is to develop internal resources and practice effective interpersonal skills to be more independent, take risks, rebound from mistakes and failures, think for yourself, and make meaning of your life. Through dysfunctional eating, however, your emotional and social growth gets stunted as you substitute focusing on food for feeling and experiencing life. If you developed an eating problem in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, you’ll need to go back and acquire the life skills you missed the first time around. Don’t feel badly—no one reaches adulthood fully formed emotionally or socially. Everyone has to go back and re-cover what they missed. The point is to identify the gaps and not hesitate...
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Understanding Your Anger About Food

You may not realize how angry you are when it comes to food and eating. Although your feelings may be justified, they could be preventing you from becoming a “normal” eater. When you’re stressed or upset and insist that you deserve to eat, your struggle is with deservedness, not food. You’re fighting old battles when you adamantly maintain, “No one can tell me what I should or shouldn’t eat.” You’re stuck in old wounds when you declare, “I shouldn’t eat such and such” or “I know I should eat because I’m hungry” but don’t follow through. What are you really fighting for or against? Perhaps, as a child, one or both of your parents—intentionally or unintentionally, overtly or covertly—tried to control your natural, normal food choices to the extent that it made you angry, but you couldn’t do much about it because you were dependent on them. Instead, to please them...
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What’s Your Story?

Everyone has a story, even if they don’t realize they’re living it out. It’s our view of our history—the reasons we are as we are and why we cannot be who we want to be. A story may be that you’re the exceptional one in your family, the overachiever, the one who made it and must remain perfect so that others can enjoy your success. Or that you’re the black sheep, the one left behind when everyone else went on to fame and fortune. Or that you’re the rebel flaunting convention, the idealist tilting at windmills, the drummer marching to her own beat. When eating goes awry, we look to our stories to understand how we entered the dysfunctional food arena in the hopes of finding an exit. Sometimes the process helps us find out way out, but often, instead, we become invested in the telling of the tale as the...
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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.