Q&A with Nice Girls Finish Fat author Karen Koenig: “After 30 years of working with women’s eating habits, I found that they take care of other people before themselves.”

Jun. 11, 2009

Karen Koenig is a licensed clinical social worker with a master’s degree in education. She’s also an author, psychotherapist, national speaker, eating coach and expert on the psychology of eating. She’s published four books about healthy eating habits. Her newest, Nice Girls Finish Fat, was written right here in Sarasota.

What have you learned about women’s eating habits?
“After 30 years of working with women’s eating habits, I found that they take care of other people before themselves. They’re always trying to be perfect, trying to feel love, not delegating and not being a go-to person. Biologically, women are programmed to be other-oriented, while men are hyper-focused. Women take care of the children, so they’re raised to focus on the family [and they] don’t focus on career. … Food plays into it because there are secret eaters. They do it because it’s not part of who they are — they’re nice girls.”

How do women develop these problems?
“It’s usually how they are raised, but some is biology. It’s mostly family role models and family messages, like when mom drops out of school to take care of the kids. Girls are told to be sweet and kind; the boys are allowed to be rowdy. I think class makes a difference. If you can work part-time and hire a trainer it’s a lot easier than if you have three kids and you’re just trying to make it work. My emphasis really is about giving women a fuller say, reaching their full potential, and not being a good girl all the time. I’m a feminist, and it’s what being a feminist is all about. Women need to lose this whole being nice thing.”

What are some ways women can correct these problems?
“They should add good qualities and change the ones that don’t work. Assertiveness should be added, connecting with their own feelings, delegating and assigning age-appropriate chores to kids, saying, ‘No, I have too much on my plate,’ literally, and not making excuses. Keeping your eyes on your own plate, stop looking at everybody else’s life and trying to fix it. Don’t try to be perfect. You’re going to make mistakes and that’s just fine. Also, self-care that doesn’t involve food. Go to bed on time. They should buy themselves clothes and take care of themselves. When women are depressed they are going to eat more. Women feel they have to do it better than men so they never take a rest. I had my own eating and weight issues growing up and I had to work through them. I was probably nicer then, but I take better care of myself now.”


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