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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How to Unstick from Traumatic Bonding

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If you’re being abused and having difficulty breaking away from your abuser, you may be experiencing traumatic bonding. A destructive form of attachment that occurs when, in spite of mistreatment, you still want to be with the person hurting you, it may happen with family, friends, or co-workers. According to Wikipedia, “Trauma bonds are emotional bonds with an individual that arise from a recurring, cyclical pattern of abuse perpetuated by intermittent reinforcement through rewards and punishments. The process . . .  is referred to as trauma bonding or traumatic bonding.” Hotline explains the difficulty of breaking free from abusers as recognizing that they “exhibit ‘good’ behaviors too.” That is, they’re not abusive all the time, but may be kind, caring and loving between abusive episodes. Some partners are even described in glowing terms when they’re not being abusive. Here’s the thing: Intermittent reinforcement is what creates the bonding part of trauma bonding,...
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Tips on Changing Habits

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I blog a great deal about changing habits because, at base, that’s what going from dysregulated to “normal” eating is all about—exchanging one set of behaviors for another. How to Build Lasting Habits for a Better Life has some excellent practical ideas on how to get this done.  Katy Milkman, professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and co-founder and co-director of Wharton’s Behavior Change for Good Initiative, studies habits and explains why habits are hard to break: “We know from lots of research that people are very resistant in general to making a change. We’re comfortable in our ways. Any deviation from what we’re used to doing feels like a loss, and losses tend to loom larger than gains.”  She recommends that you surround yourself with people who have the habits you wish to have and observe what they do. Talk to them about how they acquired...
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It’s Time to Make Waves

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The fact that I live in Sarasota, Florida, a lovely city with panoramic ocean views, has nothing to do with the title of this blog. Rather, it comes from a session with a client in which we were talking about her desire to tighten boundaries with her family by confronting them on various issues. She described being afraid of “making waves” and I suggested that she not only make them but “swim in them.” I suggested she do so by reframing her fears. I know that her major fear was that by making waves she’d metaphorically drown. She has allowed herself to become dependent on family members who also get something out of her dependence. Her fear is that by confronting them about mistreating her, they’ll withdraw their support.  I’d wager that nearly everyone who fears making waves was raised in a family that didn’t support their authenticity or encourage them...
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Book Review – Savor Every Bite

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Savor Ever Bite: Mindful Ways to Eat, Love Your Body and Live with Joy by Lynn Rossy, PhD takes you by the hand and teaches you how to eat mindfully. More than that, it shows you how to be more mindful in all of life because you can’t simply choose one area to be mindful in and expect an improved relationship with food. Regarding eating, Rossy lays out five steps for becoming more mindful: Step 1: Slow down and explore your senses Step 2: Soothe (instead of eat) your emotions Step 3: Surrender limiting thoughts Step 4: Smile and create your own happiness Step 5: Savor every moment Think about these steps and how much sense they make. I’ve never met anyone who overeats or eats mindlessly who doesn’t tell me that they eat too quickly and get so absorbed in doing so that the whole world drops away. Rossy tells...
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Why We Dwell on Suffering

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During a session, a client mentioned a habit she was trying to break: conjuring up the worst possible scenarios she could imagine, in this case with romantic partners, and making herself totally miserable thinking about what dreadful things might happen. Although she recognized that she was spiraling down the rabbit hole, she said she felt as if she couldn’t stop herself from doing so and wondered why. Her words: “I’d sit on the floor and cry and feel sorry for myself 20 years ago, like in a dramatic movie, wishing someone could see me like that and feel sorry for how my boyfriends mistreated me. Now I feel like I get tough/angry/icy when I think about how my exes acted and realize that I allowed myself to be treated like that. I couldn't fathom how anyone could be so mean to me. But I’m learning that those people act the way...
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Practice Radical Acceptance

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Clients often balk at the idea of accepting their bodies or behaviors because they think that acceptance means being okay with things as they are. I’ve blogged about how we can embrace both acceptance and accountability. A movement called Radical Acceptance takes the concept a step further and is worth learning about. “Radical acceptance means recognizing your emotional or physical distress . . . and wholeheartedly practicing acceptance.” (“5 ways to become more accepting,” Sarasota Herald Tribune, 5/18/21, 6E) Why throw yourself all in? Because radical acceptance actually makes you feel better. It helps you recognize that humans are complicated, fragile creatures who have complex feelings and thoughts. When you’re 100% with and for yourself, you’re being your most human no matter what’s going on with you. When you radically accept your thoughts and feelings, you don’t deny or minimize them. They may make you uncomfortable and you may not like...
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Your Inner Voice

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As a child, when my parents wanted me to speak quietly, they’d tell me to talk with my “inside voice,” the kind you’d use in a library or a movie theatre. But there’s a voice that’s even more hushed and personal than that one and it’s called your “inner” voice. According to The Inner Voice by Philip Jaekl, “That voice isn’t the sound of anything.” He explains that this voice replaces that of our parents and other adults as we gradually engage in a dialogue with it, that is, a conversation with authentic selves. According to research, between the ages of two and eight we begin what’s called “private speech.” In fact, “Studies showed that during imaginative play, children’s self-talk helps them guide their own thoughts and behaviour and exert true self-control.” The research of Russell Hurlburt, professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, concludes that ” inner speech consumes...
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The Secret to Building a Better Life

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Many people say, “I’ll eat better to live longer,” “I’ll exercise to lose weight,” or “I’ll meditate to feel less angry.” Although it’s true that healthier eating may contribute to longevity, that exercise may help shed pounds, and meditation may reduce reactivity, those goals miss a more essential point about such practices: that while you’re doing them, you feel better and that by doing enough practices in a day that increase feelings of well-being you make yourselves happier, more hopeful and more proud. Many dysregulated eaters—many people, period—don’t string together enough behaviors in a day or a week to combat stress or keep their mood relatively elevated. Instead they think about and plan down-the-road activities which will boost their spirits: outings and vacations, purchases and external self-care activities such as massages and facials. They contemplate what they’ll drink and eat and where they’ll go to do it. There’s nothing wrong with...
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Teach Your Kids to Eat Better Than You Do

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Over the years, I’ve watched clients with troubled childhoods intentionally parent their children the opposite of how they were raised, eating and otherwise. Sadly, this strategy doesn’t fare any better than mindlessly following the parental modeling they received. Of course, there’s an obvious difference between blindly doing what your parents did to you and considering their approach and finding it lacking. The problem is that too many parents don’t make decisions rationally and, instead, do so in reaction to how they felt being raised a certain way. While retreating from a parental style may avoid one set of problems, going to the opposite extreme creates another. Here's an example. One of my clients was forced to diet and eat the food her mother was into on her various fad diets. Her mother was very strict and, not surprisingly, my client developed an eating problem, including sneak eating and overeating due to...
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It’s Okay to Be a Quitter

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Speaking with me about the wonderful changes she’s making in her life, a client mentioned that she took a job and realized after the first day that it was a poor match for her. She reasoned that she had a right to feel good about her work and immediately gave notice and apologized to her boss. After relating this story, she added, “I felt bad because I didn’t want them to think I was a quitter.” Her statement stuck in my craw. This isn’t the first time a client has taken care of themselves and felt a need to assure me (and likely themselves) they weren’t a quitter. As if being a quitter is a bad thing. Once again, this is confusing a situational trait, in this case, the ability to know when to give up on something or someone, with one’s entire personality or identity.  When people have an “I’m...
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