Jeff Steinmann: Hello, everybody. Welcome to the podcast today. We are talking to Karen Koenig. Karen Koenig is an expert on the psychology of eating and how can we think differently about eating and the way we eat and the way we think about food.
Not only that, but she has used that knowledge and that expertise to create a lifestyle that she absolutely loves through her group coaching and her programs and products and one-on-one that she does with her clients. It lets her do something that she loves and is passionate about everyday. And do it in the way that she wants and on her terms. Karen, welcome.
Karen Koenig: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Jeff: Yes. Again, thank you so much for joining me on this podcast. And our listeners love to hear from people like you who are doing really cool things and living a life that they love. So tell me a little bit about your business and your expertise.
Karen: I do a range of activities which I also like, and I feel very fortunate to be able to. I’m a writer. I blog weekly. I have a fifth book coming out in October.
Karen: I try to write as much as I can. I’m a clinical social worker. I’m a therapist. So I see people here. I have a home office which is a wonderful thing to have. I do telephone and Skype coaching on eating all over the world. I do talks. I talk to groups in the county, I talk to all over the United States about how to stop dieting and binging and becoming normal eater. So I think that covers a range of it. And I run a message board. It’s a lot of fun.
Jeff: Okay. Cool. Cool. So, how did you get involved in that? How did you get interested in that topic?
Karen: I was a – what I call a chronic dieter and a world class binge eater.
Jeff: Oh, wow.
Karen: For probably the first half of my life. I’m 65 now, so. I was able to work through my own eating problems and I thought, “Well, gee, I know about this.” And I was writing other things. I was trying to write fiction and had an agent and she said, “Goodness, why don’t you just write about what you know.” And so, that turned out to be how to become a normal eater. And so I came in through the backdoor.
Also, I was running workshops and people would say, “Gee, can I come and talk to you after group?” And I had a master’s in Education. And I thought, well, people are here are – if I’m going to really be dispensing advice, I better go back to school. So I’m back and I got a master’s in Social Work. And my license. So it just all came together beautifully.
Jeff: Awesome. Awesome. So you mentioned that you have a fifth book coming out. So you have four books that are already out, right?
Karen: I do. And I have a number of translations of them as well.
Jeff: Okay. Are they all on dieting?
Karen: Well, they’re – I actually teach anti-dieting, so.
Jeff: Oh, okay. Okay.
Karen: But yes, they’re all food related.
Jeff: I got you.
Karen: Three are for the general public. And I have a Norton book that I was asked to write for general therapists on what do you do if somebody comes to you with eating or weight problems.
Jeff: Okay. Okay. So now, you said something that I thought was really interesting. You started off writing a fiction book. And then you were working with someone who said, “Well, why don’t you just scrap that and write about something you know?” And the thing that I love about this business is that we get to do something that we love to promote our business. And it sounds like you had this desire to write. The desire to write came first, and then you figured out what to write about. And you see, did something that you love. You want to write, and you wrote about something that you love and that you know about, and then you made a business out of it.
Karen: Pretty much, yes. I’ve been probably writing since I’m a little kid. And I’ve written some columns for newspapers. I used to write for a women’s newspaper. And I just loved writing. And so, I started writing books and screenplays, and that’s all hard business. And I was fortunate that I had an astute agent, and I would talk to her actually about eating stuff. Most of us are working on that issue. You think you really know a lot in this area, with my own recovery and a master’s in Education and Clinical Social Work, they were all the pieces. And I love to write, so boy, I was just fortunate that it came together.
Jeff: That’ so awesome. So, how long ago did that come together for you?
Karen: My first book was published in ’05. My second – then we moved from Massachusetts to Florida, and then I had another book and I think 7, 8 and 9, and then this book has taken longer to write. And I have another one half-finished which will come out some time this year.
Jeff: Okay. So you’re kind of overdue to come out with a book based on your previous schedule.
Karen: Yeah. I have been hoping to do one a year but that just – life got in the way. Plus I do so many other things that if I’m going to write, really I like to take up a chunk of time a week writing rough drafts, and that’s how I like to write. So, not everybody enjoys writing that way.
Jeff: Yeah. Tell me about your life a little bit. What is your life like? What do you love about your life and the way that you’ve structured it?
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Karen: Well, I have a great life. First of all, I live in this wonderful climate. I look out my window here, and I live in a subtropical climate. So it’s sunny in there, it’s a beautiful environment.
Typically, I’m not a morning person. And I know a lot of writer who are, but not me. I get up around 9, and I exercise. I have a gym equipment in the house. So, I go through that. I do whatever morning stuff there is. My first appointment of the day, if I have a client, is at 12:15. Right after lunch. If I have clients, I see them. If not, any 15 minutes I have, I have a list of things I want to blog about so just do a blog and save it. In fact, what is it? It’s March. I’ve got my blog done into May.
Jeff: Oh, that is so awesome. How often do you publish one?
Karen: Twice a week.
Karen: And my – the eating disorder publisher that published my first two books, they have a great big blog site. So I hook with them. And if I have errands to do in the afternoon, I do them. If I have clients, I see them, or I speak to them, or I Skype with them. My last client of the day is at 6:15. Religiously, my husband and I take a walk late afternoon or after my last client depending on when the sun sets.
So, it’s just…it’s great for me because I can use what I know and what my passion is, which is to help people with their eating problems. And yet, I’m not forcing it. It works very well for me, and it seems to work well for clients as well. And again, I have clients who are in Australia, in France, in the Netherlands. So, we can work the time issue out.
Jeff: Sure. Sure. Yeah, is that ever a challenge for you? With the time zone issue?
Karen: Sometimes. And frankly, it’s a challenge sometimes here. I literally, my first appointment is always at 12:15. And if somebody’s, “Well, gee, I only have the mornings.” I say, “Well, I’m really sorry.”
Jeff: That is so awesome.
Karen: I’m very protective of my time. I know when I work best. I also try not – when I was younger, I could do six clients in a row. I try not to do more than three in a row because I don’t feel like I can really give them my best effort.
Karen: So, I think setting boundaries is really important. And I’ve become good at that to protect my time.
Jeff: Yeah. I love that. My assistant has a whole one page document of rules about how and when things can be scheduled with me. And that’s one of the coolest things. So Karen, what did you do to make money before you started doing this?
Karen: Well, I was working. I mean, I’ve done a lot of things. But after I got my Social Work degree, I worked at a methadone clinic. And I worked my way up to clinical supervisor. So, I did that.
I’ve done lots of other things. I worked in an ad agency, I was an elementary school teacher, I worked for the Department of Education, and then I really realized I wanted to write more. And I thought, well I could have a private practice. Other people do that. That was in Massachusetts.
So, I left and I developed – I remember I had three clients, then I had five clients. And I was doing other kinds of things. I was working part-time at an agency near us. I did fee for service work. Anything to make money. Signed up for all the insurance panels, and so it was slow. And then I recreated that when I moved to Florida.
Jeff: Okay. Okay.
Karen: I kept some of my clients as phone clients.
Jeff: Okay. So really, it sounds like you worked a lot of sort of traditional 9-to-5 jobs. And then you moved into doing more kind of having your own practice and having your own clients, getting a little bit more control. And now, it sounds like with all the things you do in having your books out there to position you as an expert in your field, you’ve been able to leverage that even more.
Karen: Yes. And I tell you one of the best things in Massachusetts. I was a very avid skier. I would just – I would listen to the weather report. If I didn’t have clients scheduled for that day, I would drive from Massachusetts up to New Hampshire to the closest big ski area. Ski for the day and come home. That’s what did it for me, if I was thinking myself, well I’m not really making a lot of money right now, that was okay to be able to do that and have that kind of freedom midweek. It was awesome.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s amazing. That’s awesome stuff. Well so what – what’s the biggest mistake you’ve made on this journey? What’s the thing that you would warn somebody about who is trying to do this?
Karen: I can – it’s right here in front of me. I do not have any business plan, 5-year plan, 1-year plan. I just – that’s not how I am. I just thought, well, this will work. Or if doesn’t work, I’ll go find a full time job. So but I – looking back, I would have done that and really understood the amount of time and energy and money that market takes.
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Because most writers and therapies don’t say, “Oh great, I love to market, just give me the chance.” They don’t like to do that. So I would say, having a business plan is really important. And having a marketing plan and understanding the commitment because it’s you. You’re not out there letting people what you know, you’re just not going to know it.
Jeff: Right. Sure, sure. So what are some of the things that you’ve done to market yourself that have been successful?
Karen: Well, I’ve hired many different P.R. consultants with very mixed results. And again, this is in Massachusetts in here. But currently, I work with a company here, Nickel Communications. The mom does the P.R., and the daughter does the social media. And they get the whole food things, and we’re on the same wavelength. And so that’s been really helpful.
And I really think what people would look for in social media or P.R. consultants, they have to be very realistic about their expectations. And know that you have to slowly build the platform. It’s local, then it’s regional, and then it’s national. And have really good people. You have to spend the money to get it back.
Jeff: Okay. So, okay so you’re saying that you’ve learned that when you’re building a platform, and that’s kind of largely with media, your recommendation is to start very slow. Be very methodical about what you’re doing and really know the timeframe on which you’re going to do that.
Karen: And to learn about the business. So you really know what you’re doing and what your options are. I did a whole – and I’m not sorry I did them, but I can remember going to book clubs where there were three people in the audience. But you go and you do them anyway. I just – I think you cast a wide net, then you narrow things down. I took every speaking engagement that I was offered to me. I network, I carry cards around with me. It has to be on your mind when you work for yourself 24/7.
Jeff: Yeah, and it sounds like what you’re talking about is what I talk about in my book which is, there’s just – it doesn’t matter, you could talk about social media, mobile marketing, all these new fancy things, even to more traditional things like speaking, but what it comes down to is hustle. You just got to hustle in the beginning.
Karen: Even if I go to a semi-formal affair and I have my little beaded bag, I always have these business cards in it. Always.
Jeff: That’s awesome.
Karen: Because pretty often, people will say, “What you do?”, and I tell them. And they say, “Oh, that’s so interesting.” And I say, “Oh well, if you want to learn more about me or hear about my books, here, have a card.”
Jeff: Yeah, yeah, that’s very cool.
Karen: And I don’t do a hard sell, but that stuff really comes back to you. I have clients who say – in fact, I just started with one. “I saw you speak three years ago, and it’s taken me this long to call.”
Jeff: Okay. So now, you did not spend the last three years calling her, trying to sell her, right?
Karen: No. Nope. Nope, I just go along with my life, and I just assumed there’s going to be a ripple effect as long as I’m doing stuff, for instances, social media P.R. people or doing stuff, that I wouldn’t have the time or the interest to do, and I probably wouldn’t do it very well.
Jeff: Sure, sure. So now, so you pay somebody to do your social media, right?
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Karen: Yeah, I pay every tenth or monthly.
Jeff: Okay. And are you happy with how that’s working out?
Karen: Yes. I am. I am. Again, depending on what your business is, you have to find somebody who’s on the same wavelength and really gets what you’re doing. And I’ve gotten so many different P.R. kinds of people. I did. I used somebody who was great from the west coast, had a name for himself, and he got me on a lot of radio shows. But alas, not on T.V. I’ve done some T.V., but radio has a big reach. So you don’t want to turn it down and just saying, “Oh, I want to be on Oprah.”
Jeff: Uh-huh. Everybody wants to be on Oprah.
Jeff: Everybody wants to be on Oprah.
Karen: Right. Right. And it’s also really important to call yourself an expert. I was really glad when I found this because I would say I worked with overeaters and binge eaters. Just it sounds the same as the psychology of eating. As I work in the field of psychology. And then people will say, “Well, oh okay, well, tell me what to eat.” I don’t do the what. I do the why and the how. And so, being able to see – it started like an elevator speech. You want to be able to succinctly say what is it you’re an expert in? And use the word expert.
Jeff: Yeah, and that’s so important. And also to stand in it as I like to say, with that level of confidence, I really, truly know what this is all about. And one of the things you said I thought was interesting is, it sounds like you toyed with different ways of explaining what you do. And some things work better than others, right?
Karen: Yes. it’s just – it evolved. And I’m really – I’m very big as a therapist on the organic process. So you’re taking a step in, you make decisions, and then you see where that takes you. I don’t like to force anything. So that’s just how it evolved to be expert on the psychology of eating.
Jeff: And really, and that just came from, you just try different things, and gauge the response that you were getting from folks. And just kind of adjust it and adapt it as you went along, right?
Karen: Right. And how Cupid felt to me, that the term. And how easy it was to explain.
Jeff: And that’s cool. And it sounds like you just really went with what felt authentic to you and what resonated with people. And I get the feeling from talking to you, you’re not the person who went out and found what are the best marketing words to use, right? You were just – you didn’t go for that kind of stuff, you were just like, what is really accurate and what really resonates with people.
Karen: Yeah, I often do things in a sort of, I guess you call it as backwards way. Really don’t have goals. I could say I want to sell this many books. Or I want to do this many lectures or have this many clients. I do what I enjoy doing, I take advantage of many opportunities – not all – as I get older and that’s what works for me.
And now, I’ve gotten success. Now, I know other people are really much more goal-oriented. And I have authors, therapists, friends who want to sell this many books, so they have to do this many talks. I would shoot myself if I have to work like – I just would not enjoy it.
Jeff: Right, and that’s the beauty of this business, you work how you want. I love it.
Jeff: Yeah. That’s very cool. Now, you also do some blogging, and you said that you run a discussion group. And you said you really liked doing that. So how has that worked for your business?
Karen: That’s been great. I have about – what’s really interesting, I have about over 700 people on my message board, and about two dozen are active. And the rest are called lurkers. They call themselves that.
But I reach them. And lo and behold, last week, I got an email from one. “I’ve been a lurker for three years, but I think I would like to do some coaching with you. I like what you have to say and it’s like fine.”
I get up, every morning when I get up, I go in the message board, I check it a couple of times a day. I check it when I’m on vacation. Because there may be something important that’s being said. And for the most part, the group runs itself but like any group, it gets into difficult times.
And I like to give my advice, because that’s why they’re there. It’s a free group, so anybody can join. And I enjoy that. And the blogs, I do twice a week. And also use my blogs. I’ve been asked to use my blogs on other websites. For other eating websites, they produce my blogs.
Jeff: Okay. So, one thing that I want to ask about your discussion group is, it sounds like those folks in that group are not only looking to you, but are they also talking to each other and offering support and help for each other?
Karen: Yes. Yes.
Jeff: And that is so cool. That’s one of the hallmarks of a really well-built expert business that’s really mature, is when you’ve actually built a community of the people who are interested in what it is that you have to offer. So that’s really awesome.
Karen: Yes, and I was very lucky that I happen to run into a woman online who really knew how to do this stuff. And she said, “You need a message board.” And she set it up. I have paid her to set it up for me. And then I got to run it, get into time commitment. And I feel personally responsible to everybody on that board, to weigh in, to make sure that the board is running well, that nobody’s feelings are getting terribly hurt.
So and also, everything you do, that becomes another commitment that becomes part of your life. You can’t turn it off at 5 o’clock, if you have a job where you work for somebody else.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. But the cool thing is that you love it.
Karen: I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t care if it’s 11 o’clock before the news and I’m checking in with the message board. Because that’s just what I do and it’s quick and it’s helpful to them. And maybe I haven’t done any other work for the last six hours. I think I was off doing something else.
Jeff: Sure. Sure. What is the biggest piece of advice that you would give to anybody else who wants to start this kind of lifestyle for themselves?
Karen: Well, I guess I’d have to go two ways. Because there are people who are really goal-oriented. And I said, be clear about your goals. Is this realistic considering who you are? I know a lot of people say, “Oh, I want to work for myself.” But they really don’t have the ability, if they’re working at home, to separate out personal from professional, they don’t have a lot of motivation.
So be really realistic about goals. But then, to contradict myself, don’t worry so much about the goals, you just stick into it. And enjoy it, and you can’t ever get into failure mode. So you’re doing it, if you’re still enjoying it, and it seems to be growing, stay with it. You’ll know if it’s not a good fit. And then you’ll do something else. But not to get into this, “Is this working? Is this working? Am I failure?” It’s just not about that. So those are my little bits of advice.
Jeff: That’s awesome. That’s a great, great piece of advice. Where can the listeners go to get more information about you?
Karen: Well, my website, even as we speak, is being redone. And we’ll be up probably by the end of March, but it’s www.eatingnormal.com.
Jeff: Eatingnormal.com. Okay.
Karen: Right. That’s my main website, and all my links are on the links page.
Jeff: Okay. And when is your book going to be out?
Jeff: October, and do you have a title for it yet?
Karen: Yes. And I’m pretty sure this will remain the title. Let me – Starting Monday: The 7 Keys to a Permanent, Positive Relationship with Food.
Jeff: Awesome. Starting Monday: the 7 keys to a permanent and positive–
Karen: Permanent and Positive Relationship with Food. It’s for all those people who had gone hope for a while. The gym membership and they’re eating healthfully, and then they go back to poor self-care, and then they start all over again. It’s to resolve that issue so that you can just keep going forward.
Jeff: Sign me up.
Karen: I’ll let you know when it comes out.
Jeff: I would appreciate that. I would appreciate that. I love it. Well, thank you so much for your time, Karen. It’s been a pleasure. If folks need, want to go to the website, it will be linked below. We’ll also put the book and a link to your Amazon page. Are your other books available on Amazon?
Karen: Sure are. Yes.
Jeff: We’ll put a link out there so that folks can get those as well. But thank you very much, Karen. We’ll stay in touch. And I look forward to seeing all the great things that you’ve got coming up.
Karen: Thank you and good luck with your book. I can’t wait to read it.
Jeff: Definitely. Thank you very much, Karen. Buh-bye.
Karen: Okay, bye.