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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How Therapy Helps

Every time a client alters how they think about and behave around food, I realize all over again what a difference therapy can make in the life of someone with eating problems. Of course, as a therapist for nearly 30 years, I’m naturally biased. Yet, I don’t believe I’d keep on meeting with clients day after day, year after year, if I didn’t see people transform their lives before my eyes. I know that the idea of going to therapy scares people—it’s a frightening process to open up to a stranger, hope that life could be better, and work hard to make it happen—but it’s essential if you’ve never been to therapy (or haven’t stayed long enough to benefit) to understand how it helps. On a concrete level, a therapist offers a new view of yourself through eyes which are compassionate and hopeful. Her job is to listen non-judgmentally and empathize...
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Romance and Body Image

I hear the same story over and over from clients: I want or wanted to lose weight to meet a man. Although I haven’t heard this exact sentiment from male clients, they have said that they felt if they were to divorce, at their current high weight, they feared no woman would want them. Ironically, in the case of the women, their problem with romance was never really their weight; it was that they were consistently choosing the wrong men, which is a statement about their self-esteem, not their size. These clients were so preoccupied with looking attractive, looking thin, and looking for love and approval, that they never stopped to ask themselves how they managed to unerringly find dates and mates who treated them poorly, showed little ability or desire for emotional intimacy, and who, to a person, ended up causing them to feel inadequate and rejected. They were paying...
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Trauma and Food

Those of you who have suffered trauma in childhood may find yourself having problems regulating your food intake. Psychology used to lump together all trauma, but now distinguishes between what is called Big T trauma and Small t trauma. The former includes rape, sexual/physical abuse and continual/excessive emotional abuse, severe neglect, living through war, and major catastrophe striking at a young age. Being badly injured in childhood, losing your family, or having to abandon your home through abrupt dislocation are all examples of Big T trauma. They are the stories that make headlines. However, Small t trauma can affect you as strongly as (maybe more than) Big T trauma precisely because you probably underestimate its impact. Examples of Small t trauma include frequently living in fear, suffering low level but continual emotional abuse, growing up in a home in which there is drug and/or alcohol abuse or other kinds of destructive...
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Emotional Undercurrents

We live in a larger-than-life culture—over-the-top celebrities, high drama on the big or small screen, and screaming headlines. All this excess may make you think that emotions, too, must be huge and pack a wallop to merit attention. Not true. It’s not always the mega stars that shanghai you into abusing food; sometimes it’s the minor characters that lurk right your proverbial nose. In fact, if you’re constantly searching for emotional divas like dread, rage, jealousy, intense shame or the like, you may be missing out on some mighty important bit players playing around with your heart. The best way to interact with emotions is to keep a loose, running tab on them. Stay closely tuned to your emotional channel 24/7, then turn up the volume when you feel some static. Your emotions are as accessible and as identifiable as your thoughts if you remain aware of what you’re feeling on...
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When Feeling Deprived Makes You Depraved

Narry a week goes by when I don’t hear a mention from clients or students about feeing deprived around food: they didn’t eat something they wanted and spent the rest of the day angry and resentful or, fearing they’d feel deprived, they caved in and ate when they weren’t hungry. Concerns about deprivation run rampant through struggles to eat “normally.” Or they fought feeling deprived by pretending they didn’t care about the food in the first place. Feeling deprived around food is generally about far more than eating. However, sometimes it does come from a childhood in which you were often hungry or had little food choice. Maybe your family couldn’t afford large amounts of food or lacked the time or resources to vary meals very much. Fewer choices (or none at all) may have left you feeling deprived of options and perhaps nutrients as well. Or maybe family members were...
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The Price of Success

Some of you might be fairly close to eating “normally,” and wonder why you still have bouts of bingeing or rigid restrictive eating when most of the time you do pretty well around food. You might recognize that you’re sabotaging your success, but can’t imagine why. This phenomenon is not as unusual as it sounds. After all, there is a price to pay when you give up an eating disorder and become a “normal” eater.The price is subtle: recovery means giving up suffering and struggling which may be all you ever have known eating-wise. Because being disorder-free may have been your goal for years or decades, perhaps you can’t imagine a downside to having a peaceable relationship with food. Growing up, you may have been taught that it’s wrong to rest on your laurels, be content with success, feel satisfied with your achievements, and not keep pushing your limits. When you...
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Struggle On

You won’t become a “normal” eater without internal struggle, and I mean tons of it. You know, those head-banging conversations you have with yourself that go like this: I really want it but I know I shouldn’t eat it, and I’ll feel so much better if I take care of myself but it’s so hard, I don’t know if I can except if I don’t learn how I’ll have food problems forever. Or like this: I hate being afraid to eat but I can’t stand the idea of gaining weight, but I know that a few pounds won’t really make me fat except I’m scared that if I start eating I won’t stop and soon I’ll be big as a house. These inner dialogues may make you want to scream, but they’re absolutely essential for growth and change because they shake you out of your comfort zone. Do things mindlessly, the...
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Early Family Stress May Cause Eating Problems

It came as no surprise to me to run across an article entitled “Constant family arguing can lead to childhood obesity” by Herb Scribner (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 4/24/15). I had that kind of experience and know that it had a huge effect on my eating, especially when the arguing happened at the dinner table. Although I never became obese, I had eating problems and weight concerns from my teens through my thirties. A study published in Preventive Medicine concludes that “The effects of too many family arguments can have a lasting impact on a person’s health” and “that constant family conflict can lead a child toward obesity.” Dr. Daphne Hernandez cites the main causes of stress in families as: “arguments, what happens after a family member gets divorced, remarried or incarcerated, financial stresses, and poor maternal health.” The study conclusion is shocking: “girls from families who had constant arguments—independent of the...
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Hurdles on the Road to “Normal” Eating

People often come to see me individually or attend my “Quit Fighting with Food” workshops unconvinced that dieting isn’t the answer to their eating and weight problems. They’re scared to give up structure and being told what to eat. The first hurdle they need to leap over is understanding that dieting is an unrealistic way to eat for life and, therefore, a weight loss dead end. I know there’s been an attitudinal shift when they stop talking about whether or not to embark on another diet and start grumbling about the hard work of becoming a “normal” eater.The second hurdle, related to dieting, is coming to terms with the fact that there are no good and bad foods. We usually have to bat this issue around for a quite while before they get it. While sympathizing with their yearning to label what’s okay and what’s not, I encourage them to look...
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Seeking New Understandings

While watching the annual Kennedy Awards presentations last year, one of the recipients, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, commented (and I’m paraphrasing here) that every day he seeks new understanding. Part of his greatness is learning new musical styles and ways of making music, and seeking understanding obviously contributes to that process. It may even be one of the factors that makes it possible. How can a mindset of seeking understanding help you resolve your eating problems, that is the question? Do you awaken every day without judgment about yourself, eat without self-condemnation, engage in self-reflection as naturally as breathing, lead with curiosity about yourself and the world? Or do you keep a closed mind and mull around only what’s in it—often negative thoughts about your relationship with food? Imagine awakening every day like Yo-Yo Ma and making it a priority to seek new understanding. You’d look at your family/neighbors/co-workers differently. You’d...
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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.