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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]

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?

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?

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 powerlet themselves be emotionally abused by a spouse for whom they make excuses hate to see you struggle, so they do your homework...
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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 health....
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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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