Isabel Foxen Duke on the “Don’t Binge Eat Diet”

Isabel Foxen Duke, the Founder of Stop Fighting Food and the Center for Weight Neutral Coaching, is dedicated to anti-diet nutrition and size-inclusivity. As a diet recovery coach, she combats the misinformation and insanity of the dieting industry. If you’ve hopped from one diet to another and still feel like you can’t control yourself around food, keep on reading and subscribe to The Recovery Warrior Shows for more eating disorder recovery wisdom in less time.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or on your favorite podcast platform. Watch the interview on YouTube here.

Key Takeaway #1: Avoid applying diet mentality to recovery

Diet mentality is a mindset that certain foods or quantities of foods are okay and not okay to eat. According to Isabel, this moralistic mentality of being “good” and “not good” can also creep in on your recovery and as a term she calls the “Don’t Binge Eat Diet”.

Isabel Foxen Duke explains, “trying not to binge actually set me up for the same ‘being good, being bad, on the wagon, off the wagon’ behaviors I experienced while dieting. I started to have peace and sanity around food when I was able to be comfortable with whatever my food was without boundaries or restrictions or judgments or some sort of upper limit. That was when my food actually started to ‘normalize’.”

Trying not to binge actually set me up for the same ‘being good, being bad, on the wagon, off the wagon’ behaviors I experienced while dieting.

Being comfortable around food without boundaries, restrictions, or judgements is the pathway to peace. This is why you want to become aware of the “Don’t Binge Eat Diet” because it is just diet mentality dressed up in the name of recovery but still enforces its boundaries, restrictions, and judgements. There is no failing in recovery or recovery wagon to fall off of. Recovery happens one step at a time.

Key Takeaway #2: Recognize the role of diet culture in treatment

Political acts like the “War on Obesity” is committed to the concept of fat being unhealthy or bad and thin being healthy or good. Unfortunately, most clinicians, therapists, and registered dietitians are trained under this fat phobic mindset and misinformation of health.

Isabel Foxen Duke explains the implications of this conflict of interest when fat people go to the doctor’s office and are treated badly. She says, “The doctor will say you’re fat, you’re gonna die, you need to go on a diet and lose weight right now. If a fat person goes in with a knee injury or an ankle injury, the first thing they say is lose weight.”

When seeking medical care for your eating disorder, or any health concern, it’s important to remember the role that diet culture and fatphobia may play in your treatment. If you’re living in a larger body, you may be prescribed weight loss as a medical treatment even when it is harmful and isn’t relevant to what you’re seeking care for.

It’s important to remember the role that diet culture and fatphobia may play in your treatment.

Thankfully there are more and more doctors, therapists, and registered dietitians who are becoming aware of the science and research behind things like Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size. Seek out and connect with these types of providers when you can. If you don’t have access to these types of professionals, make sure to empower yourself and advocate for yourself when you seek treatment and care from professionals influenced by diet culture.

Key Takeaway #3: Diagnosis isn’t everything

A diagnosis is not required to get better. Nor do you need a diagnosis to know that you could benefit from help and support. Many people struggle with food and body issues without a formal eating disorder or mental health diagnosis. Sometimes this is due to a lack of access to care, or access to the appropriate quality of care. Alternatively, some people receive a diagnosis, but don’t feel comfortable with it.

Isabel Foxen Duke believes in non-diagnostic therapy because mental illness is much more complicated than putting people into boxes. For many people there are gray areas. Isabel recommends “treating the individual and looking at what they’re dealing with without necessarily having to catalog them or categorize them“. Isabel goes onto explain that a diagnosis can be beneficial for some because “a diagnosis can help people feel convicted in their treatment and not being in denial about what’s happening.”

A diagnosis can help people feel convicted in their treatment and not being in denial about what’s happening.

Your food and body struggles are valid whether you have a diagnosis or not. If you prefer a more fluid approach and choose not to embrace a diagnosis, that is perfectly fine. If you feel validated and motivated in your recovery because of a diagnosis, use it as leverage. Ultimately, embrace what works best for you! And remember, a diagnosis is not your identity.

Jessica Flint 0:02 Welcome to recover strong a podcast will transform your recovery from an eating disorder by helping you go from theory to practice to mastery. This is your special time to learn new skills, tools and get the inspiration you need to recover strong. Let’s get started. Good. Time to start today. Keep your head up. Don’t understand your way. Hello, my warrior friends. How are you all doing? Welcome to this podcast. My name is Jessica Flint. I’m the founder and CEO of recovery warriors, a multimedia resource hub for all things related to eating disorder recovery. I personally recovered from an eating disorder and I’m here to inspire you to do the same. I believe recovery is not only possible, but it’s worth it. That is why recover strong exists to help you see and connect to the potential that lies within you to find freedom from an eating disorder. Today we have an inspiring conversation with Isabelle Fox and Duke the founder of stop fighting food and the Center for weight neutral coaching. Isabelle is an expert in helping people peel off old diet brain thinking patterns so their life can stop revolving around food. She has mentored and coached names like Ricki Lake, and is an authority on diet mentality, weight neutrality and Health at Every Size. I love listening to Isabel’s passion and clear sense of purpose and helping others stop fighting with food and their body. And I hope you do too. Jessica Flint 1:50 Welcome to the show is Isabel Isabel Foxen Duke 1:52 Hi, how are you doing? Jessica Flint 1:54 Doing? Well, I just want to start off by saying I absolutely love your writing style. It’s like you Yeah, no, you you really weave it’s like humor and hilarity until a really charged emotional experience. You know, the idea of emotional eating and just the craziness that goes on around food. And I just think it’s like so funny just reading what you like, right? Because it’s like, oh, I got it totally identify like a platter. Isabel Foxen Duke 2:18 Thank you. I tried to I was talking to like Christy Harrison recently who I don’t know if you know Christy Harrison, she’s a fellow podcaster. She recently gave me this very, you know, this wonderful compliment on another podcast that she was on. And she basically says, you know, I loved having Isabel on my show because Isabelle bring sort of brought like levity and lightness and sort of lightened up the whole conversation that prior to had been very clinical. That was the gist. I’m sort of paraphrasing, but I do appreciate that compliment so much because we need to be having human conversations about this. And I think sometimes the language that people use around this topic, it doesn’t really connects with people’s real experience. Like it doesn’t really connect with like, being in the trenches and being like, oh my god, like what just happened, like, I feel totally nuts in XYZ way or I’m like really, really, really struggling, like I can’t fit into my pants. I, you know, I just ate like XYZ and I’m freaking out about it, you know, a lot of times we kind of missed those, those sort of real moments get washed away in the language. And so, you know, I think that the it’s sort of important to always bring it back, you know, when talking about these habits to bring it back to people’s like real daily life experiences with these issues. So I appreciate that, that yeah, how Jessica Flint 3:39 is humor helped you like in your personal experience of going through yo yo dieting and binging and Isabel Foxen Duke 3:47 for the most part in my life, I’ve had very little humor about it up until I started to kind of see it until I was able to really come into start to come into recovery and start to kind of see, for lack of a better word, the ridiculousness of it all, you know, and, and kind of laugh at myself about it, you know, I took food and my body incredibly seriously, to see way too seriously for so long. And I think that it was only kind of in retrospect, looking back, as my recovery started to evolve, I would have these moments where I’d be like, Wow, Isabelle, like, chill out, like, it’s just a cupcake or whatever, you know, I sort of started to have these moments where I could kind of see it as almost funny, that this that that my life revolved around not eating XYZ, right. And so, but in the throes of it in the thick of it, it was anything but funny. I mean, it was incredibly painful. And I took it very seriously. Again, probably too seriously, um, in some in some ways. Again, I think other people struggle with not taking seriously enough. That’s a whole other conversation for another time. But yeah, so you know I think that, you know, kind of finding humor was certainly helpful in my being able to let go of shame, in particular around specific behaviors that I was struggling to accept. And you know, as somebody who really identified as a binge eater for a long time, and again, I firmly believe that binge eating is the flip side of the coin of restrictive eating. And I do not know a simple event. Like I think that those two things are two sides of the same coin. And I don’t mean to separate them by any stretch. But certainly at the time, when I was struggling, I really, I didn’t recognize my restriction as the problem. I was definitely a person who really thought the binging was the problem. And if I could just get my food, right. Everything would be fine, right? Like if I could restrict correctly, which, you know, even if that mean, I remember, like, after I was in rehab for disordered eating, I still kind of had that mentality like, well, if I can stick to my meal plan correctly, or if I can stick to this way that recovery should look correctly. Like it was all still like kind of restrictive mentality that I had the whole whole thing because and recognize how much diet mentality that I was actually even applying to my attempts at recovery. In many ways. The point that I’m making here is I for most of my life, really thought that my problem was that I couldn’t stick to whatever it was, whether it was the diet, which originally it was just traditional dieting, traditional, just wait suppression tactics, or I couldn’t stick at some point it switched to Oh, my God, I can’t stick to the correct recovery plan. You know, like, I can’t stick to my meal plan, I can’t stick to you know, eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full, or whatever the thing was, that I thought was supposed to fix me and make me a quote, normal eater. So I will say humor was really helpful in kind of making me relax, when I would make quote, unquote, mistakes with food, which now I don’t even view as mistakes, like now I just view them as, like, that’s just what you ate that day. It like, it’s just what it is. But, you know, at the time, it’d be like, oh, you know, I, you know, ate a bunch of this or I got really full or my language at the time was I binged, although, again, I’m not even sure I like that language. Because I think people throw that word around in a way that is restrictive and Shamy, as opposed to understanding that it’s just a natural thing. If you restrict you might eat a bunch later. And so yeah, I think that, you know, kind of being able to look at this whole situation, which again, at the time, when I was dealing with it, I took very seriously and really thought was the end of the world if I, you know, ate something that was, quote, wrong, to be able to look at it, and really just be like, you know, no big deal girl, like, it’s okay. It’s just food. Again, it was amazing that I even was able to get to the place where I could even convey, like, talk to myself in that way, and just be like, it’s just food, right? Because that is the exact sentence that for so long, people would say that to me, and I would just lose my mind. What are you talking about? It’s just food? Like it? I can you don’t understand me? You don’t understand my Little did I realize that it take it actively and intentionally trying to take on the attitude of like, Hey, man, it’s okay, is really what sort of one of the many things that sort of helped me get to the other side. And again, there were body image things that were very important in getting there, there were things, you know, various different attitudes around food that I had to take to kind of make this sort of attitude shift or reality. But I guess humor was one of them. I’ve actually never been asked that question. It’s a good one. Jessica Flint 8:47 A lot of the best comedy is really taking these dark issues and bringing light to them. And Isabel Foxen Duke 8:51 Right, right. Again, I think, I think probably the biggest thing that it does, and I’ll speak for myself, certainly with food and body. I mean, I think the biggest thing that humor does is it just takes a little bit of the shame out of it. And I think, you know, with disordered eating in particular, disordered eating is really a, quote, illness of shame, in many ways, right? I mean, this is such a fundamental emotion that sort of drives this whole behavioral pattern, you know, I mean, by definition, right, body shame is sort of at the root of most disordered eating to some extent, or the desire to control our body is for the purpose of trying to control for instance, how other people feel about us or fears around how other people are going to feel of us or not wanting to be seen or issues of vulnerability. I mean, we could go into the complexities of this. It’s not as simple as I’m probably describing it right now. But I think shame is a core emotion that sort of is driving this stuff. So anything that you can kind of bring to the table to help people alleviate shame around food and body related topics, I think is incredibly useful and helpful again, if done smartly, you know, in a in a way that is You know, educated and doesn’t contribute certainly to body shame or fat, fat phobia. And yeah, for me, that was absolutely true, you know, like being able to kind of look at my food and just be like, Oh my gosh, you know, like, kind of, like, see the humor in what my life had become really helped me let go of it and sort of let go and not feel like oh my god, there’s something deeply wrong with me, I am so screwed up, there’s i And there comes a point. And it kind of brings up this other topic, which is, I think a lot of times this sort of eating disorder diagnosis, as helpful as it can be in helping us do things like get treatment and take our recovery seriously, it can also sometimes be sort of a shameful thing and of itself, like Oh, my God, I’m so screwed up, right, there’s something so wrong I’m so it can contribute to the feelings of failure in a lot of ways. And some of us, I certainly bought into that, like I really bought into after I have my sort of EEG diagnosis, you know, there was, again, helpful things that came out of that, of course, specifically lines of treatment. But one thing that I really struggled to let go of, and I’ve written about this before, is, I really, in some ways, it kind of propelled the problem forward in the sense that I really identified with being screwed up, fundamentally screwed up around food. And that was not always useful. And again, this is another complicated topic that I’ve written about. But yeah, you can, you can see how that that would be the case for some people, like, when I densified, as I have binge eating disorder, you know, like, when I was doing that, like hardcore thing, which is a term I rarely use in my work at this point, I actually kind of stay away from diagnostic terms, partly because of this reason. You know, it kind of made me feel like, there was like a feeling of a little bit of like Doom or like, you know, there’s going to be a magic moment when I’m sure there were all sorts of weird mental things that came along with that diagnosis that in some ways weren’t always super helpful. And so I’m really conscious of how the way we think about this problem is really is really critical to recovery. And the way we think about this problem sometimes, you know, is a product of the language that we use around it and those kinds of things. So yeah, Jessica Flint 12:31 even to like if you’re kind of on the cusp of having the clinical diagnosis. So maybe you only do it two times a week, but they’re saying three times. And then it’s like, shame financially. And again, because you can be like, I’m not good enough at this. Yeah. So shame is just all over the place. Isabel Foxen Duke 12:46 Right? That’s yet another reason why I stay away from diagnostics also is because, you know, I think that people don’t realize, I mean, certainly, you know, one of the reasons I rarely, if ever used the term eating disorder, in quotes, in my work directly, right? It’s because there are so many women. I mean, there’s so many women who do not have a diagnosis who want support and want help. And I’m not even necessarily sure that these are people, these are people who are connected with the fact that they need help, they don’t necessarily need a diagnosis, to know that and to seek the resources they need. And they may not necessarily feel super comfortable with the diagnosis, or they’re just not getting it from their professionals because of weight bias within the eating disorder treatment world. I mean, there’s just all sorts of issues that come along with that. So I’m really conscious of sort of when I use the term and when I don’t. And yeah, it is really interesting if you’re, if anyone’s interested. nondiagnostic therapy is sort of an area of therapy that I’ve become really interested in, which is sort of this idea that instead of diagnosing mental illness and kind of putting people into boxes, of like, you have x like you have depression, you have anxiety, you have a disorder, mental disorder, it’s like, you know, the reality of the situation is within mental health, it’s much more complicated than boxes, and it’s much more gray for most people. So let’s like kind of treat people like individuals and look at what they’re dealing with, you know, without necessarily having to catalog them or categorize what they’re dealing with in that way. Yeah, although the one thing that we know diagnosis is really helpful for is helping people not be in denial, which is of course always how I preface I mean, every time I talk about the you know, the issues with diagnosis and you know, non diagnostic therapy, my one caveat that I always say is and it’s the one thing that we know diagnosis is really helpful for is it helps people feel convicted in their treatment and go into treatment and not and not again, again, effectively being in denial about what’s happening. So yeah, Jessica Flint 14:49 important to I really think it does depend on the person though, like the identity sometimes when you realize okay, I have binge eating like you said that diet like then they can be like, Okay, actually, I’m no longer in denial like other People have this and this is the steps to get better. But then for other people, they can not want to wear that label. So then avoid any type of treatment or help at any cost because they don’t want to kind of connect with that identity. So it’s, it’s interesting, like, Isabel Foxen Duke 15:16 right or the identity can become a Frankenstein, which is shirt certainly did for me at one point, which was like, any time, I mean, for me, especially with the binge eating diagnosis, for me, the big problem with the binge eating diagnosis is like, anytime I perceived my food to be like, quote, unquote, over the line, or quote unquote, like, oh, no, that was a bit, right. Like, I was very quick to, to judge my food is whether or not it was a binge. And that in and of itself, it often became a judgmental right or wrong, that I judge my food around. So now all of a sudden, it was like, okay, yeah, like, you know, you can eat what you want, you can, you know, like, you’re not restricting, but don’t binge you know, and it became almost, I started to apply, I call it the jump ng diet was one of the last diets that I struggled with, or it was this feeling of, you know, there’s an amount of food that is not okay to eat sometimes that wasn’t helpful for me either. Because I was always looking for like, I was like, I would use again, things like willpower to try to not fall off the edge into binge eating, which did not work. First of all, but second of all, been propelled the behavior forward. You know, and I was I was judging, I was sort of, I fell into the trap of often always judging like, is my food Okay, or am I binging? Dear God, you know, it again, it sort of became another like thing to not do with food, or like, there’s an amount of food that’s not okay. And that also was problematic. So I think I think that is a trap that sometimes people with the EDI diagnoses can can easily fall into is what I call the quote, dope ng diet, which is another way of saying like, there’s an amount of food that’s okay to eat and amount of food, it’s not okay to eat. And if you crossed the line, you fail. Day one starts tomorrow. And this is all diet mentality. Unknown Speaker 17:04 Yeah. Right. Isabel Foxen Duke 17:05 So I’m very, I think I’m very conscious of that as well. Jessica Flint 17:09 I like that I’ve never really heard the No, no binge type, because it’s truly, because you still feel like there is this certain amount of food. And what I don’t know, if you found this in your personal experience, but like, with the monthly cycles, adminstration and hormones, like there are certain times a month that I eat way more, and sometimes I eat less, and it balances out in the end. But if I was to be in that no binge, like mentality, like, Well, why did you just have so much food today? Because just because that’s what my body wanted that day. Exactly. And it’s hard, Isabel Foxen Duke 17:39 because, you know, I think that most people, you know, every time I ask every time there’s gonna be like, Oh, I binge eat, right? I’m like, Okay, well, how are you defining that? What is it binge mean to you? People will come up with like, all sorts of different things like a binge means like, quote, unquote, feel out of control, and like, Okay, well, how do you define that? Like, what did it but pretty much at the end of the day, it always comes down to then making a judgment about what’s okay or not, okay, based on something somewhat arbitrary that they’re coming up with in their own by definition, eating disordered heads, right. And so, you know, of course, what ends up happening, one of the reasons that this is problematic, I mean, it’s problematic in general, just like on the contest, really, it just perpetuates diet mentality. But I could also argue, right, the second you’ve judged, your food is not okay. Interestingly enough, you’re probably setting yourself up to continue to bet right, it actually propels even binge eating forward, which is kind of like the Grand irony. I mean, that was sort of one of the first big things that I wrote about in my career was this idea of like, the second I have decided that I am off the wagon, even off the wagon of the dump ng diet, the second I have decided that I have failed now, it’s like I’m full on and diet mentality, like, I might as well just like fail harder today that, you know, day one starts tomorrow, I started doing all the same stuff that I used to do when I was just dieting Traditionally, it was still having the same experiences of like, today is ruined, might as well eat everything that’s nailed down. I suck tomorrow, I’m gonna try not to bend. So doing all of those same behaviors, even when theoretically all I was doing was trying not to binge, you know. And so it was just a sort of, like, ironic thing where trying not to binge actually ultimately ended up setting me up for a lot of those same kind of being good being bad on the wagon off the wagon kind of behaviors. And yeah, I think that that’s missed a lot. Often, when people talk about BDD, right, it’s like that is the big pitfall that so many binge eaters fall into is diet mentality around not binging, which ironically, propels the problem forward, rather than heals it. When I was like, You know what, even if I 10 vines of ice cream, whatever, not a big deal, because that guy was able to like Really get there to that place and really just be comfortable with whatever my food was without boundaries or restrictions or judgments of what that meant or without like some sort of like upper limit of like, except when you go to that point, right? That was actually when I started to have these insanity around food that was when my food actually started to quote unquote, normalize. And again, it’s a little shade I basically screwed up what stopped binging when I let go of the dump ng diet, the dump ng diet actually was spurring on a lot of diet binge cycling for me, interestingly enough. Jessica Flint 20:36 Yeah, it’s I like just open. Because it’s almost like when you have this like ceiling or this like cap, and it’s no matter what it’s like you’re going to feel confined by it. And that inner sabotage or rebel is going to at some point, want to say hey, like, I need to bust out of here. Isabel Foxen Duke 20:54 Right? I always say it’s like, you know, is if you’re on a wagon, right? If you’re on some kind of wagon, even the don’t bend G wagon, if you’re on a wagon, if you’re trying to stick to some kind of confines, it is only a matter of before that content is broken, right? It’s only a matter of time before you fall off that wagon. And the second you’ve decided you fallen off the wagon, right? Like now you’re experiencing the same feelings of shame, the same feelings of guilt, the same feelings of failure, potentially the same behavioral consequences of those kinds of feelings, which are not what we want in recovery. Right. And so, you know, sort of the cycle continues. So yeah, that’s, that’s a biggie for for anyone who struggles with the EG binge eating anyone who identifies with any of those terms. And who’s in recovery. Yeah, be aware of the jump and cheat diet, it’s often the last leg of recovery for a lot of people who identify with that term is kind of getting over that hump of the jump into diet not having diet mentality around even the act of getting really full. Yeah, Jessica Flint 21:56 I definitely had that experience myself. And did you have certain emotions that you’ve been able to like kind of totally pinpoint as the main triggers for you in in your recovery, Isabel Foxen Duke 22:05 my emotional struggles pretty much for most of my life have been more on like anxiety spectrum, like, like high arousal, negative high arousal, positive, low arousal, negative, low arousal positive, so what that means is like, there are people who are just like, chill and calm and happy and like, living on the beach, and those would be low arousal, right? Like calm, chill, relaxed, low arousal, positive, like low arousal positive feelings like mood, don’t we all want to live in that land? low arousal, negative would be like depression, right? So if you’re prone to low arousal, negative is like, okay, you know, or may have a negative feeling and like, sad, but um, low arousal, right? It’s not like, not hyper is like, my heart rate slow, but I’m like, sad, you know, those those kinds of feelings, low arousal, negative, and then we have high arousal positive, which would be like excitement. And yeah, I’m so pumped, right? And high arousal negative. So the, you know, anxiety basically, like, scared, oh, Unknown Speaker 23:01 my God, how Isabel Foxen Duke 23:02 do I, you know, I’m worrying, I’m freaking out, what am I going to do about x. So, I typically am more of a higher arousal person, if you haven’t noticed. And so when I’m feeling the negative spectrum, it’s typically more on anxiety spectrum most of the time, right. And again, people can travel around the score square, but I’m just typically speaking for me personally, my, my negative emotions are almost always like high arousal, like anxiety kind of things. And that’s just, you know, the way the cookie crumbles for me because of my life experience. And God knows what else. But yeah, so those are typically my triggers. I think everyone is just different and what their emotional triggers are, you know, people cite all sorts of different steps, loneliness, and I mean, it can be any number of things, and it’ll be different things for different people at different times in their life. And, you know, in many ways, I’m grateful for wrote a blog post a while ago, I’m grateful for emotional eating for giving me like a little hinge like, oh, isn’t that interesting? You’re having a feeling you want to go handle your feelings there. But for the most part, you know, don’t worry, you know, at this point, I’m like, worrying about emotional eating was only just contributing to the cycle, right? It was just like, like, I’d rather just deal with my emotions just make a priority of handling my emotions, wherever my food ends up happening is where my food ends up happening. And what that was a much better strategy for me in the long term. Although scared the shit out of me. When I was dealing with diet mentality and terrified of weight gain, right? It was very hard to quote unquote, not worry about emotional eating and not freak out about emotional eating or even binge eating was absolutely the most challenging part of coming true recovery, right and just sort of letting the food work itself out in quotes, as I let go of dieting accepted my body and just really focused on just living my best emotional life. Most people don’t want to hear that, like most people don’t want to hear. Hey, just like love yourself. Have and work on your emotional life and deal with your feelings and deal with the actual issue at hand, which is your relationship with yourself your relationship with your, you know, people in your life, your emotional health, all those and let the food just be what it is. Most people don’t want to hear that most people struggling with time mentality, like are losing their minds, would you say that again, like most of the real things that work are things that people with diet mentality don’t want to hear, they’re addicted to control, no, just get my food under control, just get my body under control. That is really the core addiction here. Which brings me to my next point, which is the triggers for the emotional eating and binge eating, it’s like, well, at least in my problems, what was much more problematic, and my recovery was much more challenging. And my recovery was dealing with the triggers around going back to dieting because I was fully addicted to trying to control my size. Like I was not okay with just letting my body do what it was, I was not okay, with just like taking time to see where my body ended up when I like, deal with my feelings and bla bla bla, you know, just like pursue healthy self care and just see what happened. I was not okay with that. That was the hardest part of my recovery was just really letting go of my very, very core fundamental addiction to trying to get my food right, right now trying to get my body right right now, you know, that is so you know, in my opinion, that’s the hard part is dealing with that. And dealing with the triggers that propelled me into that desire to control my food and my weight at all times. The triggers that make me anxious, the anxiety and the feelings of like, it’s not okay, that were keeping me from being able to actually just do the thing called relaxed around food. That’s really in my opinion, the issue like triggers around the emotional eating, actually, in reality, were the least of my problems now in retrospect, as I see it, in many and and and I could make the argument in some ways focusing on that so heavily like Oh, my God, Joanie, Joanie, yours, you’re just sad, don’t eat, you’re just sad. Don’t eat. It’s like, okay. Yeah, you’re sad, go deal with that, like, go call a friend, do what you need to do. But like, if you eat a cupcake over it, that’s the least of your problems. Right? Like, let that be what that is, right? And if you are freaking out and stressing out about, like, the fact that you ate a cupcake when you were sad, that’s a way bigger problem for you in the long term, right? Like that diet mentality is much bigger deal. It’s gonna kick you in that way harder in the long term. That’s my schpeel. Jessica Flint 27:37 Totally. How did you start to even recognize that, hey, this is an issue like did you had a rock bottom moment? Or was it like, let’s just see that this isn’t like this isn’t working in my life? Like what? Yeah, what was the process like for you to really transform your relationship to food and dieting. Isabel Foxen Duke 27:53 So So you know, I dieted my whole life and diet binge my whole life. My whole life since a very very, very young age since pre memory I was put on a diet by my pediatrician when I was young. I always say that on interviews just so people know that I have literally no memories of not being on a diet and subsequently not not being obsessed with food, right? Like I was just kind of always either obsessive trying to become thinner, but also on the flip side, like obsessed with eating like I always wanted the food like, if it were up to me, you know, like there would be no greater if somebody could invent a superpower for me, it would be like I want to be able to eat everything and have it have no consequence be the superpower that I would choose because that was like my I was simultaneously obsessed with not gaining weight obsessed with losing weight as obsessed with controlling but on the flip side of that of course I also wanted to eat everything that wasn’t nailed down and I was spent my entire life sitting on my hands just try not eat it was like these two core desires there’s my two loves eating and not eating and they were a conflict with each other all go together right like if you’re not eating you’re also gonna be obsessed with eating because like guess what biology like I don’t know if you have to eat like a depressant you’re gonna binge that’s just how it works. So yeah, so I was sort of doing this you know, yo yoing diet binge like and dive into cycling classically defined fully obsessed with food and also simultaneously fully obsessed with how I could control my food for most of my childhood into like, preteen teen years all the way fast forward to college. And at some point I was just like, you know, I had gained I’d progressively gained weight throughout high school again, I was definitely on binge eating spectrum definitely done a lot of weight suppression metabolic stuff. By the time I got to college, I was I was, you know, for whatever reason, like, heavier and proceed more really, I perceived myself to be And, you know, just too big, you know, and I, you know, like I was just like, I just need to get this weight off, I was a little bit I was bigger than most of my peer group, like most of my direct peer group, and I just really had this narrative in my head, like, the only thing keeping me from being the most popular girl in school is this, you know, X number of pounds. And so I was like, I, you know, you went through all of high school and you didn’t get there and like, now you’re in college, and you just got to do it. And I just got to a point of desperation, a point of desperation to be then where I was like, I’m willing to try anything, somebody introduced me to cocaine. And I was like, the end of the story, like, I just got fully addicted to cocaine as a weight loss drug, as a, as a method of weight control. I lost a lot of weight very quickly, and subsequently got kicked out of school. I mean, like, hand somebody with an eating disorder, Stimulant medications, and like you, they will quickly lose their minds. So yeah, ended up basically getting kicked out of school ended up in rehab. And, you know, it was very obvious to everyone like, okay, like you have an eating disorder, or like, that’s what’s going on. Anyway. So you know, but one of the great things about rehab again, was that it just, I think, I guess sort of like with diagnosis, what we were talking about earlier, is it got me to take that recovery seriously. And it got me to realize like, okay, it’s not, this is not just about you, not being able to stick to a diet like this is something bigger than that. And this is something this is like a mental health issue that we need to find that you know, that I needed to find a solution to. And that for me, that was really what I got out of treatment was just getting to the point where I sort of really understood Oh, wow, this is a, this is a path that I need to walk, I definitely realized after rehab that it wasn’t going to be a short walk. I did not realize that when I went in, as I learned more about how to resize and we definitely very, there were a lot of facts that were either actively withheld for me, which I don’t think was the case, or just literally unknown and misunderstood by my clinicians themselves. Like most, it is still rare to find eating disorder therapists who are really highly educated and Health at Every Size. Like the concept of like health access at Every Size has been around for a while, but the research really didn’t come out in full force until the 90s. But the research is, I mean, it’s so complicated people, there’s so much suppression of that research in the medical establishment. I mean, because the other the other thing about eating disorder treatment that’s so complex, is that eating disorder treatment, by definition is part of the Western medical establishment. And the Western Western medical establishment right now is heavily politically invested in fatphobia. And is heavily politically invested in making people be a quote, right? Wait, our entire health care system revolves around what right whiteness, right like that is our predominant measure of health in our current medical system. So if you think about it, like clinicians, right, again, no fault of their own most IDI clinicians, whether they be therapists, rds, certainly rds, you know, and all these, they’re being trained within the Western medical establishment, which is politically aligned heavily politically committed to the concept of right weakness. So you have what I would call a conflict of interest. Right? Like you have people treating eating disorders who are being trained in institutions and establishments that are by definition, fat phobic, there is no I think there was recently a study came out that the most fat phobic the most weight discriminating industry that exists is medicine is our health care system, right? I mean, like, bad people go to the office, and it’s just like, they’re just going to be treated super, super badly is like, you are fat, you’re gonna die, you need to lose weight right now fat version goes into an office with a knee injury or an ankle injury. The first thing is like my knee hurts lose weight, my ankle hurts lose weight and and that’s all fat people get into, you know, if you’re a person of size, you’re a pleasant person. That’s all you’re here all day long, right? Like that is our intent. And that was not always the case. This is something that has become the case with the war on obesity, there are politics involved in this right, like this is not unbiased science. Right. And so, you know, again, you it’s hard to separate clinical treatment, you know, right now we have a very clinical perspective on mental health. And that’s how mental health is treated mental health issues are treated in the clinical model. And the clinical model comes out of the Western medical establishment, which is very, very, very politically committed to the concept of fat being bad and then being good. Truly bad. So, you know, I mean, I definitely was like one of those people who sort of like when, you know, was intrigued, I was in treatment for years, and I you know, like, and I certainly He made incredible strides like you know, I wasn’t I was not doing drugs, I was not going on sort of these like active extreme diets or anything like that. But I still really suffering from a lot of diet mentality I was really suffering and really struggling with a lot of there’s a right body to have and a wrong body to have. And that bled into my relationship with food, not maybe in the extreme ways that it did before going into treatment. But it absolutely did bleed into my food, it bled into how I felt about my food choices, it bled into, you know, going to bed like was I did I do a good job today? Did I do a bad job today? It bled into shame around, you know, my body just bled and it was like the subtle bleeding into my food choices. And for me as a binge eater that that did mean like I did continue to binge for a long time. Like, you know, I always thought at the time, I was like, I’m not restricting anymore. I’m just binging. I didn’t even realize that I was still restricting, right? Because it wasn’t even really being pointed out. To me that restriction is a subtle thought process. It’s not just about are you on a diet? Are you doing Weight Watchers? Are you counting calories? It’s a subtle thought process, right? And that subtle thought process was really screwing with my food and contributing to continued binge eating. And so it wasn’t just yours. Yeah, it was yours. It was years into my recovery, you know, that I that I stopped even having like really violent binge eating behaviors like today, like, oh, I have days where I’m like, I’m gonna go like, you don’t beats it, you know, and it’s fine. Like, I’m cool with it. Like, I don’t use the word binge. Like, I’m like, That’s me owning my behaviors and doing what I want, and that no one can tell me what to do with my food. It’s using that language, you know, like, it’s fine, you know, but those sorts of really violent, aggressive binge eating episodes that were so clearly a result of just quote falling off the wagon, you know, I full on those kinds of episodes that are just so riddled with shame and so riddled with neg constant negative self judgment. That’s not my relationship with food anymore. And that didn’t shift until I really understood that restriction is not just a physical behavior, it is an emotional attitude. Jessica Flint 37:15 I like that. That’s like, because I, you know, I’d say whatever thought about that way, because you’re still thinking about it. You’re still kind of had the diet thoughts or something like the restriction and the no binge diet to as well. So it’s like all of that. Yeah. I love the way that you talk about it. It’s like, it’s like really say, it’s just you communicate it so well. And it’s, I know that you’re impacting so many women and men’s lives around the world, because of the work you do. So just keep it up. And it’s just yeah, it’s beautiful work. Thank you. Isabel Foxen Duke 37:46 Thank you so much for having me. This was wonderful.

(Last Updated: December 5, 2022)

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1 Comment

  1. says: Elle

    This is just the article I needed to read. I’m six months into recovery from 30+ years of AAN, and my latest setback was when my GP, while referring me to a dietician, said “the difference between you and other people suffering from eating disorders, is that we want them to gain weight, but we need you to lose weight; so I’ll recommend that the dietician puts you on a low fat, low carb diet.” I’m sure you could hear my eating disorder cheering from across the hallway at that.

    Fortunately my dietician and psychologist both subscribe to the HAES philosophy, and are slowly coaching me away from fat phobia and diet culture. Saying that it’s scary territory is an understatement. Trust my body? Listen to hunger cues? Relinquish control?? Gah! But the more I stumble across articles like this, the easier it is to trust their guidance, and to slowly start hoping that there is a chance I will at some point be able to eat like other people do again.

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