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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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Personality Descriptors Are Value Neutral

Personality Descriptors Are Value Neutral
If you’ve read my book, Nice Girls Finish Fat—yes, “boys” can learn from it, too—you’d know that dysregulated eaters share many personality traits. Not every dysregulated eater has all of them, but most possess the majority of these attributes: perfectionism, all-nothing thinking, approval-seeking and people-pleasing, poor self-regulation and self-care, fear of confrontation, being hard on yourself, and being shame- not pride-based.   You may see yourself in this description and think, “Sure, I’d like to change and be different,” but you must understand that different doesn’t mean the opposite of how you currently think, feel and act. This view would be binary, a primary cause of eating and other dysregulation. Examples would be dieting or bingeing, holding in your feelings until you explode or being overly nice even when you dislike someone. Personality traits fall on a continuum and are value-neutral. Nice may be at one end and mean at the other,...
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Really, You’re Allowed to Hurt Other People’s Feelings

Really, You’re Allowed to Hurt Other People’s Feelings
The theme of not wanting to hurt other people’s feelings runs rampant through therapy sessions. In fact, I doubt I’ve met a dysregulated eater without this mindset which goes along with people-pleasing and approval-seeking. When I tell clients that being emotionally healthy means sometimes hurting other folks’ feelings, they’ll often say something like, “Well, I know it’s okay, but” and then describe why they believe, deep down, that it isn’t. Occasionally, they’re gobsmacked, as if they’d never heard such an off-the-wall idea or considered it an option.  Bulletin: It’s okay to hurt someone’s feelings. Emotionally healthy people know this and expect it to happen. They do it when necessary as appropriately as possible and may feel bad but not guilty and they don’t freak out when someone hurts their feelings.  Many dysregulated eaters have learned to stifle their needs and desires or tolerate emotional hurt because they believe they deserve what’s...
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The Importance of a Sense of Self

The Importance of a Sense of Self
What is your sense of self and how might it affect your eating and body image? Do you know what a sense of self means or what yours is? Do you understand what having a healthy one entails? Research by Christopher Basten, Ph.D. and Stephen Touyz, Ph.D. “lends some empirical support for the often-cited observation that eating disorders (EDs) occur in those whose sense of self and identity is weak.” (EDRS Post Presentation Summary 2018 Manual, “The relationship between sense of self and pathology in eating and body image,” Basten and Touyz, accessed 10/20/19). According to them, a weak sense of self includes “lacking a sense of wholeness, authenticity, continuity, and vitality.”  Many eating disordered clients hold a view of themselves that is fragmented, That is, they see themselves as parts that are unintegrated with other parts to form a sense of wholeness. For example, they view their work value as...
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A Little Misunderstanding about What Learning Entails

A Little Misunderstanding about What Learning Entails
I have no doubt that some of you have a misunderstanding of how we learn based on what many clients say to me. Actually, they don’t outright say, “I don’t understand what the learning process entails.” Instead, they say things like, “I can’t stop bingeing,” “This is hard,” “I’ll never learn to be a ‘normal’ eater,” or “I’m struggling a lot.”  When you’re at the beginning of a book or movie, do you know everything that will happen before you get to the end? Of course not. If you did, you wouldn’t need to be reading or watching. You learn what happens by sticking with the process, not by complaining that you don’t know what you didn’t learn yet. Could you drive a car the first time you started the engine or swim the first time you got tossed into a swimming pool?  Learning behaviors or habits is a three-part process...
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Science Says to Stop Blaming Yourself for Your Eating Problems

Science Says to Stop Blaming Yourself for Your Eating Problems
Regarding this blog’s title, I’m not saying that you have no responsibility for your eating or your size or that you can’t improve your relationship with food and your body. I’m saying that early emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect, called Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs, (https://www.karenrkoenig.com/blog/adverse-childhood-experiences-may-affect-your-life-and-eating-today) have a substantial deleterious effect on your emotional and physical wellness in adulthood.   According to “How Childhood Stress Makes You Sick” by Adam Piore (Newsweek, 3/6/20, pp. 23-33), “In recent years, epidemiologists, neuroscientists, and molecular biologists have produced evidence that early childhood experiences, if sufficiently traumatic, can flip biological switches that can profoundly affect the architecture of the developing brain and long-term physical and emotional health.” For instance, in a weight study done by Vincent Felitti, head of Kaiser Permanente’s preventative medicine program, “more than 50% of his 300 patients” admitted to a sexual abuse history!  Further studies produced similar results, that is,...
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COVID-19 Isolation Need Not Lead to Overeating

COVID-19 Isolation Need Not Lead to Overeating
If you’ve felt an uptick in urges to munch and crunch your way through the day since COVID19 has revamped our lives, you’re not alone. It’s hard enough not to fall prey to emotional and mindless eating in the best of times. Enduring sky-rocketing stress while hunkered down, we need compassion for what we’re experiencing and a redoubling of attunement to emotions and appetite regulation in order to stay sane and healthy.    How can we not feel overwhelmed when seemingly overnight our usual host of worries has been transformed into inconceivable horrors: ourselves or loved ones succumbing to COVID19, losing our jobs and financial assets, and wondering when this nightmare will end? As our stress ramps up and routine pleasurable, relaxing activities are cut off one by one, it’s natural to experience feelings of extreme loss of control so that the mere act of eating seems like a magical antidote to...
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Should It Be Self-care or Self-caring?

Should It Be Self-care or Self-caring?
Two recent articles made me think about how to speak about the way we care for ourselves: “Diet Is a Noun” (David Katz, MD, Linked In, 8/16/19, accessed 8/23/19, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/diet-noun-david-l-katz-md-mph-facpm-facp-faclm/) and “Self-Care Is Not an Indulgence: It’s a Discipline” (Tami Forman, Forbes, 12/13/17, https://www.forbes.com/sites/tamiforman/2017/12/13/self-care-is-not-an-indulgence-its- adiscipline/?utm_source=FACEBOOK&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Malorie%2F#68 22a047fee0, accessed 8/23/19). Katz asserts that “Diet is decocted to ‘dieting,’ and what should be a reference to a dietary pattern that constructs, nourishes, and sustains a lifetime of vitality is reduced to the hokey-pokey of fashion, fad, and folly. In and out. On and off. Loss and regain.” The way we look at food makes it a thing, an act of this or that, a good bet in the moment, be it saying no or yes to food. My point in referencing Katz’s discussion of “diet” and “dieting” is to help you think about how you view eating. These days we call the continuous and steady attitude of...
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Be Aware of Levels of Communication

Be Aware of Levels of Communication
There are many levels of communication and it’s essential to speak on all of them. We need to recognize the level on which we and others are speaking and what we seek from each other. Moreover, the more skilled we are at switching from one level to another, the better communication will flow. In “The Four Levels of Communication,” Charlie Gilkey explains (https://www.productiveflourishing.com, accessed 11/25/19): Social level: “… where we talk about the weather, sports, news, or around the things  we care about. It’s superficial…and allows us to function among strangers and determine whether the people around us are foes or potential friends.”  Mental level: “… where we talk about ideas, facts, non-controversial beliefs, plans,  strategies, and tips. Most of our professional conversations fall into this area…” Emotional  level: “…in which we talk about our wants, needs, aspirations, fears and  joys” and express them in verbal and non-verbal ways, showing “trust,...
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How to Deal with People Who Act Like Victims

How to Deal with People Who Act Like Victims
Clients often come to sessions totally exasperated at having had dealings with someone who acts like a victim when they truly are not one. These clients are frustrated and angry, feel victimized themselves and helpless to change others. In fact, they’re so stuck in the problem that they’re not really interested in my solutions. In a dysfunctional emotional domino effect, I end up both frustrated that clients aren’t listening to my solutions and helpless and spent because I don’t seem to be able to help them. When I have this “poor me” experience in a session, I know that therapy has gone awry and it’s time for me to reflect on what’s going on because victimhood can be a contagious condition if we let it be. Person A complains to person B so much that B feels put upon and needs to vent to person C. Person A usually feels better...
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Why We Eat the Way We Do

Why We Eat the Way We Do
Check out “Why We Eat The Way We Do” on NPR’s Hidden Brain which runs just shy of half an hour (https://www.npr.org/2019/11/11/778266536/hungry-hungry-hippocampus-the-psychology-of-how-we-eat, accessed 11/23/19). Here’s what I learned from this entertaining and enlightening podcast.  Psychologist Paul Rozin was being interviewed by Shankar Vedantam, host of Hidden Brain. Rozin, who has spent decades studying “the interplay between food, identity, and culture,” maintains that "Food is not just nutrition that goes in your mouth or even pleasant sensations that go with it. It connects to your whole life, and it's really a very important part of performing your culture and experiencing your culture." This is why we enjoy certain ritualized foods—from birthday cake to Christmas pudding, Hebrew Sabbath challah, and Muslim couscous—and why we have strong associations to traditional or simply familiar foods from childhood. Two discussion points got me thinking. One was the difference between French and American eaters: Americans are focused...
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