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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. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

Embracing the Right Kind of Anger

Anger
Driving home from doing an errand, I heard an interview (shout out to NPR) about women and anger which got me thinking about how many dysregulated eaters and people with high weights—not just women—use anger in the opposite way from how it is useful. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if they could channel anger more effectively.  Here’s what I see and hear. In general, these clients (and others as well) are angry at things which don’t merit anger or won’t be changed by it, while they feel accepting of or helpless about things which they have a shot at changing if they direct their rage at it. For example, dysregulated eaters could be angry at the culture and the media which are overtly or covertly pressuring them to diet and hate themselves unless they lose weight Instead, they’re furious at themselves for not being or becoming slimmer.  They could be...
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Distinguishing Thoughts from Feelings

Thinking
Many clients and the children, partners or parents they bring along to sessions have no idea that there’s a distinction between what they feel and what they think. Confusing the two leads to their being reactive and to poor decision-making and problem-solving. Differentiating the two is key to improving your relationship with food and your body. Here are examples to help you distinguish thoughts from feelings.  I ask a client how he feels about his job taking him away from his wife so much of the time and he responds, “I don’t really have a choice about it right now.” A client tells me that when her mother gets drunk, she’s nasty to her and I wonder how that makes her feel. She says, “Mom doesn’t mean anything by it. She’s drunk.” A client reports that his son came out to him as gay and I ask how he feels about...
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Dangers of Ultra-processed Food

Grocery Shopping
If you’re a frequent reader, you know that I rarely blog about nutrition. That’s because my focus is on the how and why, not the what, of eating based on the belief that (almost) all foods can be part of the healthy, “normal” eating.  I try my best to avoid the concept of “good” and “bad” food. Broccoli does not sport a halo above its leafy stalks and no devil’s pitchfork rises out of a scoop of ice cream. One need not be a perfectly nutritional eater; occasional treats of high-sugar/high-fat foods are fine and welcome. Ultra-processed foods, however, are in a category all their own because of the manifold, negative effects they have on our bodies. In “Are Ultra-Processed Foods Making Us Fat: A new study shakes things up” (Nutrition Action Healthletter, July/August 2019, pp 3-6), Kevin Hall, PhD minces no words about the dangers of the likes of “sodas,...
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Fight for Your Life

Fight for your life
I was talking with a client about how easily the good in life had come to him as a long-time underachiever able to get by and find success with little effort, and how this attitude was now a major impediment to becoming a “normal eater”—and to his ability to literally fight for his life. The theme of not trying hard enough in one way or another echoes throughout the histories of most of my clients and is the theme of many sessions.  Not long after this conversation, a friend described hearing some neighbors complain about how people in this country who are poor, uneducated or disenfranchised are that way because they don’t try hard enough. Missing was the understanding of the part that biology and culture play in success, the recognition that we emerge from an unequal playing field, and the compassion for how hard most people do try to improve...
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Can You Really Boost Your Metabolism?

Exercise
Clients who struggle to keep their weight down often ask me how they can burn more calories and boost their metabolism. They’re not asking about exercise. They’re looking for a quick fix—pharmaceutical drugs and illegal methamphetamines to help them lose weight or keep it off. Back in my dieting days, I recall taking some over-the-counter pills myself for that purpose, but all they did was to keep me awake when I wanted to sleep. Devotee of science that I am, it amazes me that people get away with making false or unproven claims that their process or product will boost metabolism. And, let me tell you, these top selling books do better than mine do which are about learning how to eat in tune with appetite. I understand why, but it still makes me angry because desperate people are getting duped into something that doesn’t work. Says Michael Jensen, director of...
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Balancing Emotions

Balancing Emotions
Emotions and personality traits run on a continuum and, to many clients’ surprise, are value neutral. Is it better to be angry or ignore being hurt? Is it healthier to play it safe or take a risk? In both cases the answer is that it depends on the situation. Hence, the view of emotions and traits as value-neutral and relative to what’s going on. My guess is that as a dysregulated eater your emotional reactions cluster at one end of the continuum or the other rather than being situation dependent. Consider the personality traits you possess and the emotions you generally feel and notice how you feel about their opposites. Here are some dyads to get you started. Detached…entangled, impulsive…cautious, fearless…anxious, controlling…passive, prompt…tardy, messy…neat, social…introverted, other-oriented…self-oriented, spendthrift…wasteful, rebellious…by-the-book, pessimistic…optimistic, private…open book, patient…impatient. I could go on, but you get the point.  For sure, we’re born with certain temperaments due to genetics,...
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It’s Time to Stop Our Body Critiques

dance class
I have eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth that all are in decent working order. I proclaimed this aloud one night after waffling about whether I looked okay to attend an evening dance class of people I’ve known for years. My proclamation was my way of saying I’m done worrying about how I look. I really want to be free of this ridiculous pre-occupation. As I tell clients, sometimes we just need to get fed up with our own silliness. Especially as women, we need to stop our obsession with self-grooming. Because I don’t think in all-or-nothing ways, I’m not suggesting that we give up caring about our appearance. It’s fine to care but, as with eating, we need to be able to say when enough is enough.  We acquire this mistaken idea that we need to look a certain way from our personal family experience growing up and from...
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Were You Raised with the Best Tools for Success?

Success
Most of my clients with dysregulated eating weren’t raised with a set of effective life skills that support eating disorder recovery. Worse, when they falter on the way to achieving their goals, they behave in exactly the wrong ways to help them assess why, correct course, and move forward. If you weren’t taught how to pursue goals, yet want to become a “normal” eater, you’ll need to change how you think about success.  Here are some examples from my practice over the decades of the ways that parents fail to model and teach children how to successfully reach their goals. Parents: sporadically stop addictive behaviors such as drinking or taking drugs for a while, then relapse, but refuse to get help, insisting they just need to exert more will power let themselves be emotionally abused by a spouse for whom they make excuses  hate to see you struggle, so they do...
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Stress Eating Due to Caring for Elderly Parents

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One of the major stressors my clients encounter is caring for aging parents needing help due to paring down belongings and moving, sickness or surgery, or simply managing tasks they can no longer do as they grow older. Even if providing help doesn’t drive clients to eat emotionally, it’s certainly a drain on their emotional resources. In the best of relationships between parent and child, this endeavor can be time-consuming and energy-sapping. In the worst, it can feel like a downright burden.  If you were well-loved and well treated by your parents, you probably have similarly positive feelings toward them. You want them to feel safe, secure, and happy and don’t much mind doing whatever you can to make that happen. Although grocery shopping, taking them to medical appointments, taking over bill-paying or calling or visiting them more frequently may take time out of your busy schedule, you don’t begrudge doing...
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My Article on Weight Stigma

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Weight stigma may be more dangerous for higher weight people than carrying around a great deal of weight. Culturally generated, fat blaming and shaming have reached the heights of hysteria in this country. Whether you carry a higher weight or rigidly restrict food or purge in terror of weight gain, it’s crucial that you understand the health and mental health damage that internalized weight stigma poses.  Here’s a recent article I wrote for therapists on treating internalized weight stigma. (“Three Steps to Challenge Internalized Weight Stigma” by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed., https://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/exc_0719.shtml , accessed 7/12/19) As an eating disorders therapist, I treat many high weight clients. Some are 40 pounds heavier than they would like to be, while others weigh over 300 pounds. In either case—in fact, in most cases—clients who weigh more than the norm have internalized culturally-induced weight stigma which is damaging to both their physical and mental...
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