Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. – Nice Girls Finish Fat

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My most recent book, published by Fireside/Simon and Schuster in 2009, is entitled Nice Girls Finish Fat: Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever. It is a real hit with women who take care of others with their warm hearts and generous natures and comfort themselves with multiple trips to the refrigerator. Written with humor and plain talk, it has been or is in the process of being translated into several foreign languages. NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT teaches women how to add new skills such as self-assertion, saying no, and decreasing perfection into their repertoire to better take care of themselves and reduce their abuse of food.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m an expert on the psychology of eating–the HOW, not the WHAT of eating–with 30+ years of experience working with people who are overeaters and overweight. I’m a licensed social worker, an eating coach, a national speaker, an international author, have a therapy practice in Sarasota, FL, and do telephone therapy all over the world. I was a chronic dieter and binge-eater for the first half of my life (I’m 63) and use my own recovery from eating problems along with my two masters degrees and substantial clinical experience to help people recover from theirs. I also blog weekly at http://www.eatingdisordersblogs.com/healthy/ and run two Yahoo message boards on eating.

I started out writing fiction–novels and screenplays–and found success when I had my first non-fiction book published in 2005: THE RULES OF “NORMAL” EATING–A COMMONSENSE APPROACH FOR DIETERS, OVEREATERS, UNDEREATERS, EMOTIONAL EATERS, AND EVERYONE IN BETWEEN! It uses a cognitive-behavioral approach to teach troubled eaters the skills that “normal” eaters use naturally to maintain a healthy weight for life without dieting. THE RULES was followed in 2007 by THE FOOD AND FEELINGS WORKBOOK–A FULL COURSE MEAL ON EMOTIONAL HEALTH. It takes troubled eaters through the seven emotions that cause them to use food inappropriately and teaches them how to connect with and manage uncomfortable emotions to improve their lives. My third book, WHAT EVERY THERAPIST NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT TREATING EATING AND WEIGHT ISSUES, came about when W.W. Norton Professional Books asked me to write a book for the general therapist about how to diagnose and treat eating problems.

What inspired you to write this book?

I wrote NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT because I could see that my clients, students and book fans were having difficulty changing their behaviors around food because they didn’t want to give up being nice, didn’t wish to hurt people’s feelings, and could not sustain putting their needs before those of others. I had a ball writing the book because it pulled together much of my knowledge and experience and let loose my innter sass and humor.

How did you choose the title?

The title of NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT came to me when I was bored stiff sitting in a lecture about trauma. When the title made me laugh out loud, I felt an inner ping and thought, “That’s it!”

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

Because I have an agent and this is my fourth published book, the process was actually delightfully easy.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I’ve been writing poetry since I was a pre-teen and loved writing long letters to friends when I was at camp and in college. I tried writing short stories, novels, and screenplays, but wasn’t able to achieve the success I wanted. I found an agent who saw talent in me and suggested I write about what I knew: eating problems and clinical concerns.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I do what most experts tell writers not to do, which is I stop often when I’m writing to rework previous pages. Hey, that works for me! Also, when I get stuck trying to nail down a thought or a phrase, I don’t agonize but, instead, get up and do some mindless task. That almost always frees up my mind to figure out what it wants to say.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

Writing NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT helped solidify and codify my knowledge of what keeps nice girls stuck in food obsession.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

Not a thing!

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I enjoy literary fiction and many kinds of mysteries. I’m a sucker for a good story, and it helps if it’s well written.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I have an outline for a children’s eating book in proposal stage, have written a book on life skills troubled eaters need to acquire to stop abusing food, and am halfway through a manuscript on the unresolved, unconscious conflicts that disregulated eaters have which prevent them from healing from their eating problems.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

The usual…Write for your own enjoyment, not for an audience. If you keep saying you want to write, but don’t do it, figure out what fears/mixed feelings are preventing you and resolve them rather than telling yourself you “should” be writing and feeling badly that you’re not.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

For NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT, the ideal reader is a woman who is not comfortable putting herself first, has poor or inconsistent self care, and is a people-pleasing, approval-seeking perfectionist with weight or eating problems.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?