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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. 

Book Review—The Power of Agency

Reviewed by:  Karen R. Koenig   (Originally published at New York Journal of Books) https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/power-agency The Power of Agency: The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms “If you’re looking for a read that spotlights exactly how to take control of your life, this book provides a tidy amalgamation of theory and practice that’ll get you up and running with the tools you need.”  The Power of Agency provides the essentials for managing your life by referencing and recapping the best ideas that have been written on the subject over the past few decades. The authors keep us engaged with brief, to-the-point case examples and studies, check-list suggestions at the end of each chapter, and readable language that explains theoretical concepts by getting right to the point. The book includes a handy inventory/self-assessment on the components of agency at the start of...
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Make Family Out of Friends

The day after my husband and I had a couple we know quite well over for dinner, she emailed her thanks, including the heartwarming sentiment that they enjoyed spending time with us because we felt like family. I was enormously touched. Growing up as an only child, this was as meaningful a compliment as she could make and it got me thinking about how important close friends are in our lives—and, often, to our eating. Too often, intimate friendships are sadly lacking in the lives of dysregulated eaters. Many complain of being lonely and so they eat to feel better. As adults halfway through life, many don’t want to stay as (overly) attached to their parents as they are, but can’t seem to break away because they have so little outside support. Some have never known how to make friends while others have been so burned by disappointments and betrayals that...
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Didn’t Cause It, Can’t Fix It

If I had to generalize, I’d say that I spend a large chunk of the therapy hour trying to persuade clients that they can’t change the feelings or behaviors of other adults. Talk about continuing education. My best shot at helping clients accept this tough-to-swallow concept is to tell them, “If you didn’t cause it, you can’t fix it and if you didn’t start it, you can’t stop it.” They seem to get this idea on a theoretical level but find it hard to put into practice in specific instances. Here are some ways this theory might be applied. I treat a great many clients who have abusive (leaning toward sociopathic) partners. To a person, these abusers had awful, dysfunctional childhoods full of neglect and/or abuse. My guess is that these abusers’ parents had pretty crummy beginnings themselves. So, my clients meet someone at age 19 or 27 when their personalities...
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One More Time—Forget Self-control and Will Power to Change Eating Habits

If I could wave my fairy godmother wand to abolish certain thoughts, I’d eradicate those having to do with self-control and will power. Science is telling us repeatedly these days that they don’t work long-term to change eating or exercise habits. Please let this concept go so that you can learn what does help to establish better ongoing self-care. One research-based article is “Why willpower is overrated” by Brian Resnick (Vox, 4/25/18, https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-willpower-is-overrated-2029766008 ,   accessed 11/28/18). It describes a 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that says, paradoxically, that participants “who most readily agreed to survey statements like ‘I am good at resisting temptations’ reported fewer temptations throughout the study period. To put it more simply: The people who said they excelled at self-control were hardly using it at all.” A study of students in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science concluded that, “It...
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What Makes Us Angry?

I’ve been working with clients to help them identify what makes them angry in order to reduce emotional eating. I don’t mean why specifically—becoming angry when a spouse is late for dinner or getting mad because a friend blabs a secret shared in confidence. I mean recognizing that reasons for anger fall into broad categories and knowing which ones trigger you in order to avoid emotional eating. (“Parenting: helping kids manage relationships” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, Sarasota Herald Tribune , 11/26/18, accessed 11/28/18). According to Stahlmann and Hagaman, we get angry for five reasons (they provide no source for them). Let’s look at how anger might be dealt with appropriately for each one. Pain: When we’re physically uncomfortable, we’re vulnerable to feeling irritated. Hence the term “hangry” (hungry plus angry). When we’re tired, we set ourselves up for life getting on our nerves and for being reactive. And, certainly...
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Beware of Flights into Health

What is a “flight into health” and why is it the opposite of what it sounds like and a dynamic to avoid? It is: “In dynamic psychotherapy, the early but often only temporary disappearance of the symptoms that ostensibly brought the patient into therapy; a defense against the anxiety engendered by the prospect of further psychoanalytic exploration of the patient's conflicts. (Flight into Health - Medical Definition from MediLexicon, https://www.medilexicon.com/dictionary/34029 , accessed 11/24/18) I see “flights into health” often in my practice. All psychotherapists do. So that you can recognize them in yourself and people you know, here are some examples. A client prone to depression who has no meaningful work and hasn’t found the right man comes back from a vacation abroad and is jazzed and hopeful about her future because of her experience. After a while, her depression returns. She’s been in therapy for years and this vacation →...
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The Benefits of Rupture and Repair in Therapy

You might think that the word “rupture” couldn’t possibly be included in the lexicon of therapeutic terms. “Repair,” sure, because that’s the business of therapy. But, rupture? In fact, “rupture and repair” is an often-used clinical phrase, which applies to a breach in the therapeutic relationship followed by its restoration and positive continuation. A rupture may be caused by an overt disagreement between therapist and client, a client holding onto negative feelings about something a therapist said or did or didn’t say or didn’t do, or any disturbance in their cordial equilibrium. This dynamic is not something that client and therapist need to avoid. In fact, it’s something they should both welcome as proof of the strength of their connection and bond. Moreover, the repair part of the process is not only about fixing what’s gone awry with therapist and client. It’s a way of illustrating through new, healthy experiences that...
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How to Snap Out of Traumatic Memories

I often blog about Rapid Resolution Therapy to treat trauma memories, and encourage readers wishing to resolve old issues quickly, or simply improve their lives, to learn more about it at http://www.rapidresolutiontherapy.com . In the meantime, try this practice next time you’re upset or don’t want to feel so emotional. Some background: We often feel distress when we confuse actual events going on in the present with emotion-laden memories of events that are stored in our amygdala. Its job is to automatically warn us of incoming threats by being alert to situations and events which are similar to ones we’ve experienced as fearful and disturbing. Casting an ultra-wide net and using general criteria, it triggers a warning every time an event in the present comes close to being like a scary one from the past. The problem is that when the amygdala gets triggered, memories from previous painful situations flood through...
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How (Not) to Give Advice

About a million times a week (okay, that’s a slight exaggeration), I hear clients tell themselves that they need to do something. They also share with me what they direct other people about to do—stop smoking, go back to college, see a doctor, quit playing the lottery, etc. They order people around the same way they order themselves around and it doesn’t work for others any better than it works for them. So, it was with great delight that I read a recent column by Dr. Ellen Glovsky, “Giving Advice in Motivational Interviewing” in a recent newsletter. Here’s her advice on giving unsolicited advice: “The truth is that most people will become more resistant when confronted and in this way the clinician’s behavior can cause resistance. I know it feels urgent in a situation in which the client is highly likely to harm themselves. It is very important to not push for...
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What Makes Us (Truly) Happy?

As a therapist, I spend a lot of time talking about happiness. I’ve written blogs about it, posted numerous articles on it, and have a smattering of books on the subject sitting on my bookshelves for clients to borrow to learn more about the subject. Though information abounds about happiness, many of my dysregulated eating (and otherwise troubled) clients have problems finding and holding on to it. “Is happiness genetic?” by Jen Christensen ( www.cnn.com , 7/30/13, accessed 11/13/18) helps us understand why. There are two types of happiness: hedonic and eudaimonic. The hedonic type comes pleasurable experiences or instant gratification—that jolt or a bolt of happy which washes over you. This is the buzz we get from eating high-sugar/high-fat foods, shopping, or receiving a text from a beloved. The other type of happiness, eudaimonic, derives from a sense of well-being that arises from working towards and achieving goals which give...
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