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Karen Koenig, author of Outsmarting Overeating, focuses her work on the life skills needed to overcome using food as an emotional crutch. There are several questionnaires in the book to help the reader identify places of strength as well as areas of personal weakness. By participating in these quizzes, the reader can learn where they are successful and where they need to continue working in order to see a change towards healthier living.
The first third of the book addresses common sense items. These are the things we have all heard before: eating a diet that has a variety of healthy foods and include appropriate amounts of fruits and vegetables, exercising, and seeing the doctor regularly. Specifically, Koenig addresses "wellness and physical self-care, handling emotions, living consciously, building and maintaining relationships, self-regulation, problem solving and critical thinking, setting and reaching goals, and balancing work and play" (Koenig, 2015, p. 12).
Koenig begins the book by discussing life skills and how they are developed. We gain skills by repeatedly doing something that builds the skill. Our first teachers are our parents, who may themselves have a skillset that supports dysregulated eating. Koenig's work helps the readers understand what healthy skills are and that it takes time to learn those skills and put them to use. It is also helpful to understand that the skills improve with repetition, and this does not occur over night.
The second third of the book addresses how to handle emotions, living consciously, and building and maintaining relationships. Dysregulated eaters look to food to sooth emotions and/or address boredom. This book looks at the myriad of emotions people experience and addresses coping options. Koenig covers topics such as trusting others in order to have an honest relationship with them and accepting honest feedback. She helps the reader recognize what events need support from others as well as life occurrences that may bring out poor behaviors that are often seen as needy by others. This segment of the book covers building one's own emotional competence in order to distinguish when sharing is needed versus over-sharing.
In the section titled Living Consciously, Koenig shares examples of how people live on autopilot and/or the past or future, and then helps the reader live in the here and now – consciously. When we have no idea what the conversation was during a period of time, or are deeply focused on that argument with our spouse, or are worried about something that might happen, these are all signs of living outside of "now."
In the Building Relationships section, Koenig asks pertinent questions about the reader's past to help identify relationship patterns. Again, she shares skills and methods of developing those skills in order to have successful, honest, fulfilling relationships with others.
The final third of the book provides reasons commitments to diets don't work. Koenig also helps the reader learn how to change self-thinking and perception, find value in healthy eating and movements. Throughout the book, Koenig provides examples of how people can deviate from the path of normal use of food and then addresses methods of overcoming those deviations. She provides an excellent example of how to measure progress by considering duration, intensity and frequency changes when considering times of overeating or binge eating.
At the end of each chapter, there are skill booster sections that contain critical thinking scenarios and questions. At the end of the book is another self-quiz that is identical to the initial self-quiz. It gives the reader the opportunity to identify areas of emotional growth and physical/mental health. She closes the book by reminding readers to be gentle with themselves during this journey.
This author recommends multiple readings of the book. While the information appears to be relatively simple on the surface, there are many subtle yet important messages within the writing that need to studied several times in order to be fully absorbed. The language used in the book is in layman's terms and is an easy read. Koenig is also the author of other books related to dysregulated eating.
© 2015 Lynne Trevisan
Lynne Trevisan, D. C., Assistant Professor, College of Health, Human Services, and Sciences, Ashford University