WOW! In today’s podcast, Annie introduces Isabel Foxen Duke, the founder of www.stopfightingfood.com and you will be amazed by this information-packed interview. From a young child, Isabel began a relationship with food that trapped her in an unhealthy, vicious cycle of binging and dieting and the feeling of her body not being good enough. Isabel shares a perspective that could be a game changer in the way you see food. Find out how alcohol addiction and food addiction differ and also what traits they share.
Isabel is doing for food what I have been helping people with for alcohol with This Naked Mind. Find out more about This Naked Mind and start reading for free today.
Luckily, our paths just actually crossed in real life recently, and I’m like, geeking out, because I’ve been super fan girl for Isabel. But anyway, welcome Isabel Foxen Duke, thank you for being here.
Stop Fighting Food
I used to think it was really unique, and that there was something deeply, uniquely wrong with me around food. And now I realize I’m actually not that unique, and there are lots of people who have a very similar story to mine, slightly edited from little details here or there.
Basically, I was put on my first diet when I was a really, really young kid. I was a chubby baby, so to speak, I was high on the BMI scale. My pediatrician at the time said, “You gotta watch her weight,” so I was put on my first diet when I was really, really young. And as a result, I was constantly, since the beginning of time, since literally the beginning of time that I can remember, felt like my body wasn’t good enough, felt like I really had to be careful around food all the time, I had to be just constantly worrying, okay, don’t eat too much. Don’t eat this, don’t eat that. There was always a new way I had to control my food and try to control my weight. Constant body issues growing up as a kid.
This is how most women to some extent feel for one reason or another. The degree to which this happens might change, or maybe the time that it might happen might change in a person’s life. But this is a really common experience.
Women going on diets in our culture, not uncommon. But one of the things that happened as a result of my dieting was again, this feeling like I had to constantly control myself around food. One of the results of that was that I constantly felt like my hunger was insatiable. If I didn’t actively try to control my food, I would eat everything that was in sight and I would just never stop.
One of the things that ended up happening is I would literally have moments where I would just fall off the wagon. It would be like okay, the floodgates have opened, and I would just rummage through my cabinets eating everything that wasn’t nailed down.
So these periods of “Gotta stay in control, gotta lose weight, gotta stick to whatever plan, gotta not do this with food, gotta just only do this other thing with food,” those periods of being in control would be followed by these periods of being really out of control, really feeling quite out of control. Eventually I learned this language of binge eating, basically. I had periods of being really in control. Periods of sticking to the thing, this time I’m gonna get it. This time I’m gonna lose the weight and keep it off, this time it’s gonna be different.
On the other side of it, at some point I just couldn’t sit on my hands trying not to eat any longer. It would be like I would be overcome by this energy of food! Food! Food!
I would see something, I would see a piece of something out of the corner of my eye, or I’d be at a dinner party at work, something would happen, or I’d just have an uncomfortable emotion, an itchy feeling where I’d be like ah! I couldn’t hang on anymore, this willpowering to try to control my food, I just couldn’t do it anymore. And I would just completely just go the other way. These oscillations between dieting, controlling, restricting, hanging on, willpowering, muscling through it, what’s the right diet? What’s the right plan? Maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that. I couldn’t stop fighting food.
Those periods of being on the wagon and those periods of being off the wagon, these oscillations back and forth, on and off, would get more and more severe in either direction as time goes on. As I got older, moving through middle school, high school, etc., these oscillations would get more intense. The restrictive periods, the “I’m gonna do it this time” would get even more fervent. I’d be even more convinced that this time I’m gonna get it. Then the binges would be even more intense. The binges seemed to mirror the intensity of the diet almost. It was like the more I dieted and the longer over the course of my life that I dieted, the more intense and the more aggressive the binges would be.
This is the common experience for those looking to stop fighting food. This diet/binge cycling, which now is the language I use to describe it, is progressive. We actually as a species get typically worse at dieting over time. We have less capacity to hang on over time, and the binges get more intense. There’s evolutionary reasons for this, and all psychological reasons for this, and all sorts of reasons for this.
But basically this diet/binge cycling got so, so intense that long story short, eventually I ended up in rehab for binge eating disorder. That really started what I would call the second half of the story, where it was like, what’s the solution to this? Really having trouble finding the solution in traditional clinical paths. Lots of confusion around how to treat binge eating disorder in our culture.
Our culture embraces dieting. We commit to a “You can do it! Just hang on, willpower!” state of mind. That is the status quo, even in the medical field, around weight management and all these things. So now I recognize, these periods of being out of control are actually quite connected to trying to get our food under control, and that they’re actually two sides of the same coin.
How Do I Stop Fighting Food?
It took me quite a long time to understand that. Not only understand that basic concept, but the nuances psychologically of what’s involved in that. Letting go of dieting and letting go of control around food is just incredibly terrifying in our culture for people. People are like, “Oh my god, what’s going to happen to me? All hell is going to break loose.”
Because again, that’s usually the dieter’s experience. The second they let go, it’s like all hell breaks loose. Recovering from a restrictive, hanging on, willpower model is quite complicated emotionally for people. It requires a lot of changing of thinking about how we operate around food, and getting back in touch with oh, you’re actually a human animal. You have biological instincts around food. You’re not necessarily meant to sit on your hands trying to eat. Mindfulness work, and connecting back with yourself. All these sorts of different issues that really in the end collectively became what I found to be the real solution.
The reason I do this work is because it was so hard to find those answers in a culture that is constantly encouraging the problem, rather than encouraging the solution. So that’s the shortest version of my story I think I’ve ever given. Keep listening to find out more about how to stop fighting food.
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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