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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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Were You Raised with the Best Tools for 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

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

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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When Old Memories Co-opt the Present

When Old Memories Co-opt the Present
A client and I spent a session getting to the roots of an upsetting reaction she couldn’t shake after a dinner out. Her intense feelings are typical of what happens to us when events that are over and done with rear their ugly heads in the present. We’re unsettled in two ways: first, by whatever happened to cause our distress and, second, by the immensity of our distress over a situation that we know intellectually is no big deal.  Here’s what happened. My client had dinner with friends at a restaurant she loved but hadn’t visited in a while. She enjoyed her selection—mahi-mahi corn tacos with jasmine rice and vegetables—and ate mostly the fish because she craved protein, thinking she’d take the rest home and eat more of it during the night or save it for another time. Satisfied and pleasantly full, she asked the waitress for a doggie bag. At...
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Loving Rather Than Needing

Love and need
When we say we love someone, we may believe that we need them in order to be happy which is not necessarily true. We can go on to be fine when we lose someone we love because loving and needing are not the same animal.  In my view, love develops into mutual caring and allows two people to value each other for being their authentic selves, while need pressures people to be a certain way and not change. Love flows outward toward others, while need pulls others toward us (whether they want to move toward us or not). Love is other-oriented and generous while a need is restrictive and deprivation. When we confuse need and love, we’re usually seeking someone to complete us in a way we may or may not be conscious of. Let’s say . . . We’re painfully shy and socially awkward and find someone who’s gregarious and...
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Stand Up for Your Needs-Food and Otherwise

Friends eating
A client raised a common problem about dysregulated eaters: How to assert food needs when you’re with others. I vividly recall learning to get my eating preferences met in social situations and know that it can be difficult, but not impossible, to do.  First, as someone who’s been fully recovered from emotional/mindless/binge eating and chronic dieting for 30+ years, I still dislike being very hungry or full because they’re reminders of my old messed-up-with-food days. Second, I’m now a far healthier person emotionally and physically than I was back then. Taking care of my body is a job I welcome and enjoy and doing so comes first, before most things and people in life. Here’s what happened to my client who spent the day with a group of people who kept passing on stopping to eat. Though she thought she’d planned well for it according to the schedule of activities, she...
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Reducing Emotions From Wild to Mild

Emotional eating
Not a week goes by when clients don’t come in with stories about how their emotions have gotten the best of them and into trouble with food. They blew up at their supervisor when their feelings were hurt by critical evaluation, then polished off the bag of M&Ms they keep stashed in their desk drawer. They had two large pieces of ice-cream cake at their friend’s birthday party because they didn’t know many people there. They felt so guilty refusing to accompany a nagging, narcissistic parent to the doctor that they picked at food all day long though they weren’t hungry in the least. These are situations in which one might feel mild distress, while emotional eaters often feel wild distress. The goal isn’t to turn off a feeling but to scale it way down to what might be considered natural or normal in a situation, then deal with it minus...
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Can a Genetic Score Predict High Weight—and Do You Care?

Watch out for studies that predict “obesity.” There’s science on both sides of the question, but other issues to consider. One is a person’s reaction to what weight they’re predicted to be. Telling people that they’re genetically inclined to be of high weight, can backfire and cause them to throw up their hands and think “Why bother eating healthfully or exercising? I’m already doomed.” Moreover, shouldn’t we be focusing on health rather than weight, since people can be healthy at different weights?  Researchers such as Amit Khera of Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and his colleagues studying obesity prediction do so in the “hope that the score will help erase the stigma associated with obesity and shed some light on the biology behind the condition. Although people with high genetic risks may have a harder time avoiding weight gain or losing weight, they also might...
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Sleep-care Is Part of Self-Care

How would you rate your sleep-care on a scale of one to ten: 8, 4, 1, minus 6? Getting enough rest and high-quality sleep is crucial to your mental and physical health—and to improving your relationship with food. It’s amazing how many smart and successful dysregulated eaters think of sufficient sleep as incidental to their lives. To me, it’s a sad indication of poor self-care. Thomas Rutledge explains the importance of sleep, especially in relation to weight, in “Three Ways Your Sleep Habits May Cause Weight Gain” (Psychology Today, 6/20/19, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-healthy-journey/201906/three-ways-your-sleep-habits-may-cause-weight-gain?utm_source=pocket-newtab , accessed 6/22/19). Here are some take-aways from his article which assesses the research in the area of sleep’s impact on eating and weight. Sleep-deprived people may be too tired to exercise, even if they try to push themselves to suit up for a run or start the car to get to the gym before it closes. Due to sleep...
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Could More Creativity Heal Your Food Problems?

Could More Creativity Heal Your Food Problems?
I wish I’d engaged in more impassioned activities in my binge-eating days. Back then, other than work, socializing, reading and downhill skiing, I didn’t have much going on to joyfully fill my time. Since then—half a lifetime ago—I’ve become, to my surprise, a highly creative person. If I’d had or pursued more creative interests long ago, I suspect I would have turned to them rather than eating mindlessly. Then, again, maybe my creativity slowly emerged because I wasn’t stuffing myself with food. Who knows? Whether you’re making jewelry or refinishing furniture, writing a poem or designing a garden, when creative juices are flowing, you’re fully engaged, body and mind. This is why creativity is such a powerful antidote to mindless eating: you’re in the moment and yet you’re also inexorably moving forward—on a magical, transformational journey. Never had creativity or had it and lost it? According to Deena Bouknight in “How...
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