Isabel Foxen Duke helps women stop feeling crazy around food. A renowned coach, writer and thought leader in the areas of emotional eating, diet-binge cycling, and food obsession, Isabel is challenging popular beliefs about these behaviors by addressing them through body-positive and “Health At Every Size” perspectives. Traditionally, emotional eating and binge-eating behaviors are seen as a hindrance to weight loss, with the vast majority of self-identified emotional eaters aiming to change their behaviors with food for the purpose of weight management. Isabel thinks this attitude towards emotional eating and binge-eating is actually keeping women in psychological dysfunction with food, as obsession with food is so often the simple flipside of obsession with weight. She aims to help women break free of the obsessive, life-consuming, diet-binge cycle, and the various compulsive behaviors that come with it, in a truly body-positive way — rather than maintaining the currently popular, but self-defeating focus on weight loss as the goal.
We here at Fattitude adore Isabel! Check out her answers to the #sobfl questions:
1. What inspired you to speak out against weight bias?
I struggled with dieting, emotional eating, binge-eating, you-name-it-dysfunctional-patterns-with-food for too many years before it really clicked in for me that perhaps MY body wasn’t wrong — society’s expectations and pressures on me were wrong. Particularly when I was seeking treatment for binge-eating disorder, there seemed to be this myth amongst my doctors and other professionals that if I could just learn to “eat normally,” my body would be “normal” (i.e. thin). I discovered later in life that my obsessive desire to be thin (aka different than I was) was in many ways driving my binge-eating (by virtue of it driving my compulsive dieting and shame around food), and I set out to change the way professionals look at binge-eating and emotional eating to include true body positivity and an understanding of Health At Every Size.
I think weight discrimination is really at the root of 99% of disordered eating — including “compulsive” or “emotional” eating behaviors, which we see the most of in people with restrictive histories with food. Fat men and women are praised for disordered eating behaviors, and then are ridiculed and punished for “lack of self-control” when they are unable to sustain these totally unnatural and dangerous behaviors. On the flipside, thin women struggle with disordered eating out of fear of becoming fat (fear of losing social status), or because they believe they can acquire even more social status through becoming thinner. Our cultural attitudes towards weight have created a system in which ALL people are encouraged to manipulate their food in unhealthful ways as a tool for social mobility. This could be avoided if weight discrimination were successfully challenged.
I think my favorite thing I discussed in my interview was the connection between gender and weight discrimination. All genders are affected by fat-phobia but in different ways, and in differing degrees depending on the moment in history and various other factors. Exploring these differences helps us understand some of the historical roots of weight discrimination in the first place.
4. What do you say in response to people who put themselves down?
First off, I refuse to agree with them, or say/do anything that reaffirms their negative beliefs about themselves. I’m amazed at how many people think they’re “helping” by saying inherently weight-discriminatory things, like “you’re not fat!” etc. My best bet is to act as if the world already were what I hope it will be in the future. Secondly, depending on my relationship with that individual, I may say something to the effect of “I love you just the way you are” or “there’s nothing wrong with you — the system around you is what’s broken.”
5. Name one of your guiltiest pleasures.
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