Last week, to kick off the Fall season of my Wellness Wednesday series, I sat down with Isabel Foxen Duke, the founder of Stop Fighting Food. We talked about emotional eating, the diet-binge cycle, and what it takes to finally stop eating an entire jar of nutella at 1am when no one’s looking.
I think there are very few women who can claim that they haven’t been touched by disordered eating at some stage of their lives—even if it was just by way of watching a friend struggle through a troubled relationship with food. It’s certainly not something I’ve openly touched upon on this site, though my philosophy on food—eating a lot of nutritious ingredients, while never depriving yourself of your cravings—certainly stems from a very anti-diet and self-restriction standpoint. But it’s hard to talk someone into adding 1/4 of olive oil to their eggplant, if there are so many questions about food sapping their mental energy.
“We usually define clinical eating disorders, as you know when you get to the point where you’re engaging in really physically self-harming behaviors, right? When you get to the point of throwing up your food. When you get to the point of being so clinically underweight that it’s dangerous for your health. But in reality, there’s a lot of shit that happens before that,” Isabel said during our interview.
These are all the issues Isabel’s program Stop Fighting Food deals with. If they sound at all familiar to you, read on for some strategies that I pulled from our Wellness Wednesday hangout on how to start having a healthier relationship with food. And for more, definitely sign up for the Stop Fighting Food Video Training Series to get Isabel’s 3 free videos!
1. Break the diet-binge cycle by eliminating ‘fuck it’ eating.
When women are obsessed with food they often find themselves trapped in the diet binge cycle. They’ll be really “good” one day and then fall off the wagon and all of a sudden there goes the whole box of chocolate chip cookies when no one’s looking. “There’s a lot of this sort of secretive, hiding behavior, lots of shame around food, particularly when we’re not eating perfectly—which no one ever does.” The guilt perpetuates itself and can further more negative and self destructive behaviors, says Isabel. “It’s like oh my gosh I feel so guilty that I broke my diet or broke the way I’m supposed to eat. Now screw it.”
“I call it ‘fuck it’ eating. I’m going to eat the whole thing and then tomorrow I’ll be good again. It’s a cycle that women find themselves in and most women feel really alone in that cycle. They don’t realize that this is something that huge numbers of women to some degree or another are dealing with because there’s so much pressure on women and food in our society.”
2. Change your language and remove the morality from food.
My ex-boyfriend used to get mad at me when I would call my gluten slip-ups “cheating.” And now I see his point. I was fully aware of the consequences of eating something that my body couldn’t process. It wasn’t a matter of gluten being good or bad by nature.
“Traditional diet culture basically gives certain foods morality,” says Isabel. “It’s righteous to eat one way or another. And it’s that righteousness, that morality around food that ultimately ends up creating this diet-binge cycle, right?”
This is an important mind-set shift that I’ve had to work on within the framework of my own dietary constraints. I can eat gluten, but I know that the result will make me sick. There’s no morality around that choice—I’m not a bad person if I eat gluten. I’ll just be an increasingly less fun one as I retire to the fetal position after dinner. Continue reading