Interview with Isabel Foxen Duke, chatting about the connection between rules and binging, what your body does when you stop restricting your food, the role of intuitive eating on binging, and so much more.
When I first started eating keto, I still hadn’t fully healed my relationship with food. If I’m being totally honest, food and I have had a rocky road, deeply rooted in this cycle of controlling and binging. It was something I struggled with so deeply, and it made me feel very alone and ashamed; I often questioned how people could trust me as a food educator when I couldn’t even trust myself around food!
I had to realize that it didn’t come down to control, or even trust — I had to start respecting my body and listening to what I really wanted. I learned that I didn’t have to trust my body in order to fuel it properly, I just had to believe that my body and I, together, were worthy of kindness.
I know that might sound like quite the task if you’re currently struggling with self love and body kindness, but I’m hoping Isabel Foxen Duke’s story will resonate with you like it did with me so long ago. I hope today is the first step in building a loving relationship with your self, your body, and food.
In today’s podcast, I chat with our guest, Isabel Foxen Duke, certified health coach, emotional eating expert, and the creator of Stop Fighting Food.
This episode is all about how to rewrite your relationship with food, the story behind a binge, why weight does NOT equal health, and more.
Let’s get to the interview!
For podcast transcript, scroll down.
Show Notes + Links
- Subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcast app
- Get more from Isabel Foxen Duke on StopFightingFood.com and her website
- Sign up for updates on my super secret project
- How to know your passion of “healthy living” is a disordered relationship with food (24:18)
- The role of intuitive eating on binging (29:22)
- Weight and health as a proxy for health (41:45)
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Transcript for This Episode
Leanne Vogel: You’re listening to Episode Number 73 of the Keto Diet Podcast. Today’s episode is explicit, so if you are sensitive to swear words or you have little ones around, perhaps skip this episode or wait until you are solo. Today we’re talking about the connection between rules and binging, what your body does when you stop restricting your food, the role of intuitive eating on binging, weight as a proxy for health, and so much more, so stay tuned.
Hey, I’m Leanne from HealthfulPursuit.com, and this is The Keto Diet Podcast. Keto is a low-carb, high-fat diet where we’re switching from a sugar-burning state to becoming fat-burning machines. Starting keto and maintaining it long-term can be quite a challenge if you don’t feel supported.
My 60-day program, The Keto Bundle, provides you with clear, step-by-step how-to on successfully adapting to a ketogenic diet, avoiding common ketogenic struggles, and healing your body completely and fully with a ketogenic diet. Go to HealthfulPursuit.com/bundle, and use the coupon code PODCAST all in caps, no spaces to get 10% off your order, exclusive for podcast listeners only. Now, let’s get this party started.
Hey guys, happy Sunday. The show notes and full transcript for today’s episode can be found at HealthfulPursuit.com/podcast/e73. The transcript is added to the post about three to five days following the initial air date of this episode. Let’s hear from one of our awesome partners.
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I got one announcement today, and that is, that for the last 4 years I’ve been working on something super exclusive. It’s almost like a secret project that’s been marinating for a really long time, and I keep going back to it and playing around with it, and then letting it sit for a couple of weeks, and then going back to it.
After the book launched, The Keto Diet, I finally had time to sit down and really build this thing up. And I’ve partnered with a fantastic naturopathic doctor and one of my really close friends, and really bring this program together with not only the knowledge I know about the ketogenic diet, but also the medical scientific pieces that I don’t focus on as much in my practice. What does this mean for you? I’ll be launching this program soon-ish. If you want to know more about it, you can head on over to HealthfulPursuit.com/member to sign up to be one of the first to know more when it becomes available.
Today’s guest is Isabel Foxen Duke. She’s the creator of Stop Fighting Food, a free video training program for women who want to stop feeling crazy around food. After years of trying to overcome emotional eating, binge eating, and chronic weight cycling through traditional and alternative approaches, Isabel discovered some radical new ways to get women over their food issues once and for all, not just by shifting the mindsets of individuals, but by challenging the dominant diet culture as a whole. Her writing and free guide, How to Not Eat Cake, can be found at www.isabelfoxenduke.com, and you can watch her free video training series at StopFightingFood.com.
Today we’re going to be chatting all about solving the binging problem, and this is something that I’ve had to go through personally, over many, many years of work, and I really struggled because as Isabel will mention, I always thought the problem was with the binging, when it actuality it was a problem with the rules I set around my body, my diet, just everything that resulted in binging, and that’s really where we’re going to delve in deep today.
It’s such an honor to have Isabel on the show, because when I was going through this work of trying to figure out how to not be crazy around food, she played such a key role in my ability to overcome the craziness that was my life when all I cared about was food, and my body, and thinness, and being healthy, and all of those things. It’s really nice to have her on the show so that we can share her message to you guys who may not be familiar with her work yet. Without further ado, let’s cut over to the interview.
The Keto Diet Podcast, including show notes and links provides information in respect to healthy living, recipes, nutrition, and diet and is intended for informational purposes only. The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, nor is it to be construed as such. We cannot guarantee that the information provided on The Keto Diet Podcast reflects the most up-to-date medical research. Information is provided without any representations or warranties of any kind. Please consult a qualified physician for medical advice and always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding your health and nutrition program.
Hey Isabel, how’s it going?
Isabel Foxen Duke: Hi. It’s good. How are you doing?
Leanne Vogel: I’m so great, and I am just so honored that you’re on the podcast. Like I was saying before we started recording, you are just amazing, and I’m so honored that we can chat today.
Isabel Foxen Duke: Yay! Oh I’m so glad to hear it. It’s a pleasure to be here. Let’s do this.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, okay. For listeners that may not be familiar with your work, why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself.
Isabel Foxen Duke: All right cool. I, like so many women out there, have been dieting for basically … I had been dieting for about as long as I can remember starting from a very, very, very young age. I actually had an unusually early age that I started dieting. I was put on my first diet by my pediatrician when I was three years old. You’ve probably even heard me say that before in interviews, is kind of like where my story begins, the drama of Isabel’s diet history. As a result, I was sort of always constantly, again for as long back as, from as far back as I can remember, just constantly just trying to control my size. Constantly thinking there was something wrong with my body. Constantly feeling like I was too big, whatever that meant.
I had been told, literally as a very, very small child, “She’s a little high on the baby BMI scale.” My poor parents doing what they thought was ultimate due diligence in parenthood, of course, “We’re going to put her on the broccoli and skim milk diet and make sure our baby is thin enough,” which sounds crazy in retrospect, but this is actually what happened to me, and this is happening all the time. I mean I think it’s actually gotten worse in the past 20 years as there’s been so much confusion about weight and health, and how weight has sort of become this proxy for health. Weight has become this sort of ultimate indicator of health, which historically it was not. This is sort of a relatively new concept that thinness and health are the same thing.
Yeah, just again, grew up. I think everyone’s stories are a little bit different, but most women, at some point in their lives, and I was no different, got the message that my body wasn’t okay, and that I needed to try to become as thin as I possibly could. My entire young adult, my entire childhood basically, into my teen years, through the beginning of college, was just spent constantly trying to lose weight at any cost, just constantly trying to figure out what’s the next thing that’s going to make me thin. What’s the next magical unicorn solution that’s going to get this weight off. What’s the next thing, what’s the next thing, how am I going to finally get thin enough, and how am I going to finally do this, and finally sort of have this magical fairy unicorn life that I associated with thinness? As a result, I was put on these restrictive diets, or put myself on these restrictive diets, which happened pretty early on. I think by the time I was 10 or 11 I was actively restricting on my own. It wasn’t my pediatrician anymore or my parents, I was doing it all by myself.
I would never be able to stick to them. I would be so good for like a week, or a day, or maybe at most a few weeks or a month, or whatever the time frame was. The time frame fluctuated, but I’d be so good, and I’d be in control, and I’d be hanging on. I’d be like, “Hell yeah, this time I got it!” Then something would happen, and I would slip. I would fall. When I would fall, I would fall so intensely, so dramatically. I’d be like ripping through the cabinets, like just looking … eating peanut butter out of the jar standing up in front of the fridge just hoping that no one comes down and catches me. This is the big trope that I often share about my experience with binge eating. It was this frantic mental state of, “Oh my gosh, how much food can I get in before I have to start my diet tomorrow? I’ve fallen off the wagon. I might as well just eat everything that isn’t nailed down, because tomorrow I promise I’m never going to eat peanut butter ever again, or tomorrow I promise I’m gonna get back on, day one starts tomorrow, so today I’m just gonna go, basically, completely ape shit on my cabinets.”
And this was just a pattern that followed me most of my life, until I finally found recovery, which I’ll get to in a moment, but this pattern of, “Okay, just get it together, just get it under control, just get your food right, just stick to your diet, just stick to the thing, whatever the magical thing is this week, just stick to it, just do it, this is gonna be the thing that gets you there.” And then, again, something would happen, life would happen, an emotional trigger would happen, whatever it was, would happen, or I would just crack. I would just crack from hunger in some instances, whatever it was.
I would have a moment. I would fall, I would crack, and when I would crack, it was like I would just fall into this intense depths of binge eating basically. It was either just cracking from hunger, and just like, “Oh my gosh, I just can’t stop myself,” just on auto pilot, just eating all the things. Or it would be, again, like falling off the wagon eating. I’ll go, “Well, I’ve already screwed up, so I might as well just eat everything that isn’t nailed down tonight, and then tomorrow, day one will start again.” And there were all these different … it was like a constant negotiation in my head, of what can I eat today, what can’t I eat today. Oh god, I already screwed up. Oh, we shouldn’t have eaten that. Oh wait, don’t eat that. Maybe don’t go to dinner with so and so, because they’re gonna want to eat dessert, and if you have a bite of dessert, you’re gonna completely lose your mind.
And I was just like, my entire life, at some point, revolved around managing this crazy cycle, of how am I gonna get my weight under control, and then, of course, madly losing control, and then starting again. And, of course, the reality of the situation was, for me personally, my weight was just going up and up and up and up over time. I’d lose weight and I’d gain weight, and I’d lose weight and I’d gain weight, and I’d lose weight and I’d gain weight, but the trend over time was certainly up, not stable or down. The trend over time was certainly up. And I was just … I think the most painful part about this whole thing was like, my whole life revolved around where I was in the cycle, was I being good, was I being bad, was my weight up, was my weight down? That dictated my whole self esteem. It dictated whether or not I had a good day or a bad day. It was full on obsession, really, in my case, which is a little, certainly, a severe case, but I think that anyone who’s ever dieted for weight loss can relate to this to some extent, maybe not as severely as I experienced it.
But yeah, it was just like, this was my life. I sometimes describe it as the ticker tape in the back of my life. I was like, ah, I was going to school, and I was doing family stuff, and this was happening, that was happening, but the ticker tape in the background, all the time, was food, food, food, food, food, food, food. What can I eat? What can I not eat? What I should eat, what I shouldn’t eat. How much did I weigh, da da da da da. That was just the ticker tape of the … it was like the background noise to my life. And, at some point, I ended up getting … Again, progressively, as time went on, I got more and more desperate to lose weight, and more and more desperate to try to control my body. My attachment to thinness at all costs was just increasing and increasing and increasing. And of course, along the way, I just kept thinking, god, what the hell is wrong with me that I just can’t do this. What the hell is wrong with me that I just can’t stick to this? What the hell is wrong with me that I can’t just make myself thin?
I’m supposed to be able to just make myself thin. What the hell is wrong with me? That was sort of an undertone, narrative, was what the hell was wrong with me, that I can’t do this? I certainly, anytime I would, whenever I was on a new diet, I felt like, this will be it, this is the one. But certainly, when things would go badly for me, when I would be in sort of the binge eating, the rebellious phase of the cycle, the undertone was what the hell is wrong with me?
And so, at some point, I got so desperate to lose weight, that I got really heavy into appetite suppressants. I just started doing drugs, basically. It was, again, weight loss at all costs. It wasn’t about health. It wasn’t about anything. It was just about being thin at all costs. And that, ultimately, ended up, thankfully, getting me into rehab. And I ended up going … being diagnosed for the first time in my life with binge eating disorder, which is a little bit of a misnomer, because I think binge eating disorder really is just an eating disorder in which you also happen to be binging as part of your disordered eating cycle.
So yeah, so I finally got treatment, and I finally started actually think, “Oh wow, you have a dysfunctional relationship with food. The problem isn’t that you can’t control yourself. The problem isn’t that you just keep breaking your diet. The problem is that your entire life revolved around trying to be thin, and your entire life revolves around food in some capacity. You have a super disordered relationship with food, and you need to deal with that.” This has become something beyond just, I can’t stick to my diet. This has become craziness. And so, it actually, believe it or not, took me a really, really long time, even though I sort identified as a disordered eater, and I recognized there was something going on in my head, and it wasn’t just about the breaking my diet, and wasn’t just about the binging. I definitely, for many years in treatment, really was convinced that the binge eating was some … was the real problem.
The restriction wasn’t really a problem, it was really the binging that was a problem. And buying into that narrative for so long, even in the context of treatment, which was encouraged in a lot of the treatment places that I went for treatment. And I tried so many different things to “get over this problem.” I spent years trying to get over this problem. After my first stint in rehab, I still struggled for years and years, trying to get over it, but I kept getting conflicted messages. Like one message would be like, “Don’t diet, don’t restrict, don’t diet, don’t restrict,” but then the other message would be like, “But make sure you don’t eat too much, but make sure you don’t eat too much.” So it was like, I always felt like I was constantly straddling this weird line between recovering, theoretically, from restrictive disordered eating, but then also make sure you don’t eat too much. And so, that ended up being a really dysfunctional line that I was straddling for a long time, even in the context of recovery, until finally I was just like, “Oh my gosh, I just can’t do this anymore, I just can’t stay obsessed with trying to control my food and my weight at all costs. I just don’t give a shit anymore. I just can not continue to care. This can not be my life. My life can not revolve around what I ate that day.”
And I sort of, again, this is the short version of the story. There are so many different pieces of the story, that I tell the story a little differently every time I do an interview. But at some point, I just was like, I just can’t do this anymore. The punchline is I just kind of surrendered. I just can not spend my days obsessed with what I ate that day, worrying about whether or not I was gonna gain weight. I just can’t do this anymore. At some point I was just like, you know what, fine, if I gain weight, fine, I don’t give a shit, I can not stand to think about this anymore. I just want to go live my life. I just want to have a life outside of food. I just kind of like … I really did sort of just let go of restrictions. I was like, my food is what my food is. If I eat a cupcake when I’m sad, whatever. If I eat 10 cupcakes when I’m sad, whatever.
I had this deep, very kind of spiritual acceptance of, whatever the hell happens with my food is what happens with my food. I can’t be obsessed with this anymore. I can’t think about this anymore. I’ve gotta move on. I just … fuck it. Excuse my language. And what was so magical, that I wasn’t expecting, was when I made that decision to just be like, my life can’t revolve around this anymore. I can’t care about this anymore. I don’t have the energy to care about this anymore. It was like, my food just kind of fell into place. It just sort of became food. All of a sudden, when people say, and this used to piss me off so much when people would say, “What’s the big deal, just eat, it’s just food!” And I’ve never got that. I would get so upset when people would say that. I’d be like, “You don’t understand, I have an eating disorder. You don’t understand, it is a big deal, blah blah blah!”
And I was like, after this moment, just full surrender, just full acceptance of like, you know what, whatever I eat today is fine. It’s fine. When I decided it wasn’t a big deal, all of a sudden, it wasn’t anymore. It was like, all of a sudden, I got what these people were talking about when they said, food is just food. All of a sudden, food just started being food. It stopped having this magical, mythical power over me. It was just food. Who cares? It was like, all of a sudden, I got that. It really was just food, and if I eat five cupcakes, it’s not the end of the world. Little devils with red horns aren’t gonna come bring me under, it’s okay. I am fundamentally okay, no matter what I eat, no matter what my health status is, I’m fundamentally okay. I don’t need to hate myself for this. I don’t need to spend my life obsessed with this, it really is okay.
And when I was like, when I had that mental clarity, that sanity, that perspective, that perspective that “normal eaters,” they just take it for granted. They’re just running around, just not giving a shit, and their food just is what their food is. And everyone with food issues is like, “How do they do that, blah!” And it’s like, the different between them and you, or them and anyone who’s struggling with food, is really just the level of how much you give a shit. It’s how attached you are to needing your food, to look a certain way, unless all hell will break loose, and your life will be over, and no one will love you. That tension is what creates… It’s the fuel that drives the binge eating and dieting cycling and the obsession and emotional eating and all of this stuff.
And so it’s like, when I finally let go of just the, again, the mental … when I just finally, you know what, whatever man, whatever, I don’t have the … I just don’t have the energy to care about this. I just can’t continue for this. This can’t be my life. I give up. I give up. That was like this massive … it was like, all of a sudden I could operate like all those “normal eaters,” who just didn’t really think it was a big deal, who just didn’t really care, who just ate what they wanted and didn’t really think about it and moved on with their lives. It was like, all of a sudden I could do that. And so, that’s what ended up happening was, my food just became my food. I pretty much … my biological instincts are pretty much running the show. It’s like, when I’m hungry, it’s like oh, it’s time to eat. When I’m full, I don’t really care to keep eating, typically, unless it’s super good, in which case I do get really full, and that’s okay too.
I eat what I want, and the reality of the situation is, because I’m not constantly on some restrictive diet, being told like, “Oh, don’t touch that toy, you can’t have that toy,” I don’t feel the need to grab for the toy all the time. I actually want a variety of different foods, naturally. Sure, sometimes I want the cupcake, but most of the … a good portion of the time, probably most of the time, I actually want balanced meals that make me feel good, and allow me to do my job, and go have fun with my friends. And this is all … this ability to just sort of eat, and “normal eat,” is completely because of a mental shift. I could never have forced myself into that, in that old dieter, crazy diet mentality, that I used to live in, that used to be my life. And so now, that’s what I do.
That’s what I teach, is I teach, how do you actually have a mental shift, how do you actually start to think like these “normal eaters,” who just eat their food and it’s no big deal and they generally make like relatively healthful choices that make their bodies feel good, but also sometimes just eat for pleasure, and that’s cool too, and it’s no big deal. How do you actually teach that, because that’s not … it’s not a diet, it’s not a to-do list, it’s not a one, two, three step, five, six. It is a mental transformation. It is a mental mind shift change, and so that’s what I’m committed to teaching, and that’s what I’ve been teaching pretty much ever since, eight years now I’ve been teaching how to actually think like a “normal eater,” how to actually relax around food, how to actually how to have a healthy, normal relationship with food, rather than a crazy, insane, oh my gosh, it’s the end of the world, oh my god, every bite matters. It’s not like a tense, restrained relationship with food.
People always say, people say love/hate, it’s just this, oh, love, hate, uh, uh. How do you move away? How do you actually not have a love/hate relationship with food, and just have like a, I don’t know, it’s kind of pleasurable and fun, and it’s also not a big deal relationship with food.
Leanne Vogel: More of my interview with Isabel Foxen Duke after this message from one of our podcast partners.
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Yeah, it’s so interesting, because I remember the first time I heard your story years ago, while I was kind of dabbling in, I think I’m pretty fed up with this, but I don’t know how to move on with this, and very much in that same space, I had bulimia, and it was just this on/off thing, from bulimia, back to anorexia, and back again. And I remember hearing your story for the first time, and being like, “I just don’t understand. How is this even possible?” And, for me, it was a little bit different, because it sounds like, for you, it was, thinness is my number one goal. And for me, initially, when I was younger, it was thinness is my number one goal, but then I masked it with, but I’m doing a healthy thing. And it’s all about health, and healthy eating and healthy living. Do you see that a lot in your practice, where women are like, yeah, but this is healthy, so what’s the big deal?
Isabel Foxen Duke: So, I do see it a lot, so here is my question to that. When people say, no, no, no, it’s not about thinness, this is about healthy, number one, I think a lot of the times, that’s bullshit. A lot of people use the words “health” to mask a desire for thinness. It’s like the politically correct way to say “thin” is “healthy.” People will say to me, oh, that low cal thing is super healthy. And I’m like, low cal is super … what are you talking about? You’re clearly trying to lose weight. This is about thinness. This isn’t about healthy, this is about thinness. Or people will be confused by that, because they’ll be like, wait, what do you mean, isn’t thin and health … Doesn’t health and thinness mean the same thing? For a lot of people, there’s that confusion too, thinness and health meaning the same thing, which they don’t, which we can talk about.
I do think, absolutely, in the past, probably 20 to 30 years, or certainly in the past 10 years, there’s also been a legitimate increase rise in anxiety around health, when it comes to food. So “orthorexic behaviors,” meaning people who fully, truly, it’s actually legitimately not about weight, they don’t care about weight at all, they may even be trying to put on weight, for whatever reason, but there’s an enormous amount of anxiety about eating the healthful thing, almost in sort of an OCD kind of a way, like oh my gosh, if I eat something that’s not healthy, I’m gonna freak out. And I actually relate to that. That was definitely one of the behaviors on my carousel of disordered eating behaviors, was panic when I would eat something that I considered to be “unhealthy,” or in my mind it felt dangerous.
I remember having this sort of panic. I would have panic attacks about farm raised salmon. Like, I read somewhere, on some blog, that farm raised salmon increased your chances of some kind of cancer. I don’t even know what I read, but I had this panic about farm raised salmon. It was a full on, oh my gosh, I can’t eat farm raised salmon. And so, yeah, I think that there’s … it’s a combination of all of those things. Number one, I think, again, a lot of people who say that they’re pursuing health, when they’re really getting honest with themselves, are also pursuing thinness, are also pursuing … and specifically, not even necessarily thinness for the purpose of health, but thinness for the purpose of status.
A lot of people who claim to be pursuing health, it’s like health is this great rationalization for pursuing the status of thinness, the “I want to look good to other people and I want other people to think I’m hot.” That’s really what I think, realistically, 90 … I’d say 80% of people who say, oh, I’m just doing this for health, there’s definitely a part of them that’s also emotionally attached to looking a certain way, but then, again, also certainly, even on the health front, there’s absolutely a rise, I think, with sort of the advent of the internet, and the proliferation of health media, that’s sort of come about in the past, let’s call it 10 to 15 years. There is also certainly a rise of “orthorexic behaviors,” or just obsession, or compulsive restriction around health, in a way that is arguably not very mentally healthful. And, quite frankly, also in a way that is arguably dangerous to one’s physical health.
What’s interesting about orthorexia, or obsession with health, mental obsession with maintaining specific diet just for health, and not wanting to veer from that, is that there’s sort of a bell curve. Caring about health is healthy up until … to a point, and then once you hit a certain point in the bell curve, it becomes sort of too obsessive, you actually start to run the risk of missing major, vital nutrients. And a lot of people who struggle with orthorexia, what they actually tend to become physically sick with, are signs of malnutrition, so that’s both of those are possible. But I would, again, I would say, I don’t think I can stress this enough, I find that 80% of people who are like, “I’m just trying to be healthy,” when they’re really being honest with themselves, also have some sort of attachment to their bodies looking a certain way, for the outside world.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, exactly, and so, you chatted a little bit about how you educate people to kind of let that go, and you’re right, it is very much a mindset. And I got to that space too of like, “I legit don’t even care anymore. I can’t care anymore, ’cause I’ll probably die if I think about this for one more day. I can’t continue on this path.” So, for women listening that are … I know when I first grasped this concept even just a little bit, of what you’re talking about, it’s terrifying, because there’s that … you’re teetering on the edge of, I can’t do this, but I don’t understand my life without this. What thoughts do you have when it comes to that, just that terror? It is terror. I remember just being frozen, crying, just like I can’t, but I don’t know … what do I do? What does my life look like?
Isabel Foxen Duke: Well, there’s a few things. I think that the terror is sort of an over-exaggerated terror for most people, in the sense that most people who are experiencing this terror, have only ever experienced extreme restriction followed by binging. And in their minds, not restricting equals binging, equals out of control binging, rebellious, get it in now. For a lot of people, those are the only two modes of operation that they have. For dieters in particular, it’s like our only two modes of operation are on the wagon, off the wagon, on the wagon, off the wagon. So, the idea of not being on the wagon, is really scary, ’cause in our minds, when we’re not on the wagon, that means bad things are happening, food’s out of control, it’s like a total free for all, and everything’s crazy and wild. And I think that there’s this image of, if I didn’t put myself back on the wagon, after those moments, I would be like Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka, I’d be like the blueberry who just grows literally to the point of explosion.
There’s this feeling of, it’s just never gonna end, and I have no ability, I have no satiation point. It’s just, I’ll just eat forever and ever and ever, if I don’t actively restrain myself, if I don’t actively sit on my hands, trying not to eat, I’ll just eat and eat and eat. And so, that’s sort of, I think, how most dieters feel about it. That was certainly my belief for a very long time was, if I let myself just “eat what I want,” I would just eat and eat and eat and eat and eat and eat forever, and I am a “food addict” and it would just never end, and it was would just go on and on and on, and that was my belief.
Now, the reason that was my belief, is because that was my experience as a dieter, as a person who was always restricting. Anytime I would let go of restrictions, that would happen, I would go on these rampant, wild binge eating episodes. And every time I would have a binge eating episodes after a period of restriction, it would sort of solidify this narrative of, I can’t control myself, I’m a food addict, whatever the narrative was.
And so, this narrative of, I’m not to be trusted with food, there’s something wrong with me, I have a chip missing, and I need to actively sit on my hands and try not to eat, or all hell will break loose. And the reality of the situation is, that’s just not in alignment with biological reality. The biological reality is, when we let ourselves eat what we want, at some point, our bodies actually do become full and satisfied. At some point, if we’re underweight, we’ll gain weight up to a point, but then, at some point, we’ll just become a weight. We’ll become our “natural weight,” or what eating disorder professionals call a “set point weight,” which basically just means, your body has a natural weight that it wants to be, that it’s comfortable at. If you suppress it for too long, you’re gonna probably rebound and binge until you get back there.
I think, what’s really challenging, is people say, no, no, no, no, no, I was binging for six months when I stopped dieting, da da da da da, and I think that there’s a lot of reasons why that happens too. Very few people who have that story really are not dieting. There’s also, you’ve probably heard me talk about this concept of emotional restriction. I’m binging, I’m eating everything that isn’t nailed down, but I’m judging myself violently for it, so I’m constantly in this state of last supper mode, where I have … telling myself, I better get this under control tomorrow, and so, of course, I better get it all in now. And so, there’s sort of all these different, both psychological and physiological things that I think dieters experience around food, that create this sense of feeling totally out of control whenever I slip.
But the reality of the situation is, your body does work, you do actually have biological signals that kind of tell you what it needs and when it needs it. And in the absence of these heavy restraints, you will, at some point, just get to a point where food is kind of just happening to you. Your biological instincts will just work. Biological instincts typically just work on their own, unless we interfere with them. So, dieting would be like a heavy interference without biological instincts, like if I try to decrease my food, if I’m trying to control my food, basically, if I’m trying to control my food, it’s sort of like trying to control my breath. There’s only so long I can do it before I’m gonna start gasping for air. But the truth is, when I just forget about my breath, when I don’t worry about my breath, my breath just happens. It’s a biological instinct. I don’t need to be told how much to breathe in, how much to breathe out. My body’s just kind of doing it, like I’m just naturally inclined to breathe in the amount of oxygen that I need, and breathe out the amount of oxygen that I need.
Isabel Foxen Duke: And eating is, actually, believe it or not, functions pretty similarly when we stop screwing with it, when we stop attempting to control it and trying to do the … dance with food, but yeah, I think it is really scary in the beginning. I think that there’s this terrible fear that I’m a special snowflake, my biology is broken, there is something deeply wrong with me, you don’t understand, again, blah blah blah blah, again, all of this stuff of like, no, for me, I really am gonna be a Violet Beauregard, and I am gonna be like a blueberry, who just keeps growing until I literally explode to death.
So yeah, I think that that’s, you know, I always try and sort of have my clients take some solace in the fact that this is a biologically instinctive process. Animals, who have no conscious thought, just eat the amount of food that’s right for their bodies, without even thinking about it. This literally is a biological instinct. You did this perfectly as a baby. It is your birthright to just eat naturally and normally, without really thinking about it, but the second we interfere, the second we try to control it, shit goes haywire.
It’s just kind of, again, if I tried to control my breath, at some point, I’m gonna start gasping for air. Similarly, if I try to control my food, at some point, I’m gonna start “gasping for food.” So I think that that’s number one thing to remember, is your not really, probably, a special snowflake. Your body does work. You did this as a baby, naturally, at one point. The only reason you’re not doing it now, is ’cause you’re so overwhelmed with all the diet noise. You’re so overwhelmed with all the body shame and food judgment and all the craziness, that it’s like you can’t even … you’re overwhelming your natural instincts, when in reality, your natural instincts around food work pretty well on their own, when you just get out of the way. So yeah, that’s sort of like number one, and I think sometimes I do find that, like a practice of intuitive eating, with a practice of listening to your body and actually noticing, am I hungry, am I full, how does my body actually feel, that can be a really helpful way to get through that transitional period, from living in this land of craziness and disordered eating and being scared to let go, and actually getting to the point of letting go.
Because, in the process of learning about intuitive eating, and the process of learning to have a listen to our body’s signals, we realize that our body signals are there. We realize, oh, I actually do have a body that works. I actually do have a body that does things like become hungry, and becomes full. And my relationship with food and my desires for food shift to some extent, depending on how hungry I am and how full I am. I can still want to keep eating when I’m past the point of “full” or whatever, for various different reasons, but it’s … when you’re starting … when you start to just take inventory, just start to observe how your body is feeling, which most dieters don’t do at all. Most dieters are so practiced at just ignoring their bodies, just ignoring the fact that they actually have hunger and fullness signals, just ignoring their biological signals around food entirely, and instead are just trying to just eat what’s on the meal plan or whatever.
When we actually start to just notice, oh yeah, I actually do have hunger signals, I actually do have biological instincts around this, that kind of … I think can help bridge the gap of realizing and recognizing there are so many different sort of safety stops in place, just naturally. You’re not going to become Violet Beauregard, you’re going to become a weight that’s healthful and natural and easy for you to maintain, and that’s probably the weight that you’re supposed to be. And that’s the weight that we do body image work around, because that’s the weight that really is … that’s the weight that’s healthy for you, is the weight that you’re able to maintain easily, without much effort, in reality.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, such good things that you just said, and I think that birthright piece, and something that I had to remind myself of constantly, is I did this without effort for years, before I even knew what my body … I just, I remember moving around when I was a kid, and not caring, and eating what I wanted, and my sister liked to eat all the time, whereas I liked, just maybe eating once or twice a day. I was never the snacker, but then, the diet industry told me, I need to eat every two hours, otherwise my metabolism will slow down, so then I’m like, packing snacks and obsessing about, oh my gosh, when’s my next meal, but I don’t want to eat, but I have to eat. And we’re made not to trust to our bodies, and that comes over time, and for you it happened really young, and for others, it’s like when we’re 20, 30 something, or even women that go through menopause, that ate freely up until they turned 50, and all of a sudden their body’s changing, and now they’re told that they need to watch what they eat, because how could their body know.
Isabel Foxen Duke: It’s so sad.
Leanne Vogel: I know, it’s so sad, and something you see constantly, I’m sure.
More of my interview with Isabel Foxen Duke after this message from one of your podcast partners.
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So, how do we break down the whole weight equals health thing? I know it’s taken me, personally, a couple of years, to kind of get a sense of it, but can we talk a little bit more about how weight doesn’t equal health, and all of that?
Isabel Foxen Duke: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Okay, so, I think, before we even get into health, there’s a lot of sort of myth busting that has to go on. So, I’ll start by just saying, just like there is diversity in skin color and height and eye color and hair color, different body types are actually just biologically, and metabolically, just a little bit different, like different shapes, different amount of muscle, different amount of fat to muscle ratio, different all sorts of stuff. Our bodies are just all a little different. We’re not all supposed to be like iPhone 5’s, like exactly the same, printed on the factory line, and that’s historically always been the case. So even thousands and thousands of years ago, like BC, there was the … actually, you can dig up and you’ll there’ll be little caveman drawings of women who are plumper, versus women who are thinner. There’s just always existed this natural body diversity. I think that there’s this myth that all of a sudden fatness above a size of BMI 25 or whatever is a new phenomenon, like it just started to exist this century, and that’s not entirely true.
For sure, weights on average have risen over the past 100 years, probably because less people are starving to death, and there’s just a greater food supply, and various other reasons as well, that I could go into, but they’re kind of boring. But the reality of the situation is body diversity, that just the idea that some people might naturally be more inclined towards one body type versus another, has always existed, since the beginning of human history. We were never iPhone 5’s, we were never meant to all just be the same size. We were always supposed to have, and we always have had, natural variation and diversity in size, and just size and shape and bigger boobs and smaller boobs and bigger butt and smaller butt and all the things, just natural diversity of size. And so, one, it is actually relatively recently in history, that we’ve really started to kind of try to make everyone look the same, basically decided, “Oh, we see a correlation between certain sizes and certain health statuses, or chronic health conditions, so we’re just gonna decide that being within a certain size range is a solid proxy for health, basically, and we’re just gonna encourage everyone to try and get to that size, and hopefully that will make them have less chronic illnesses,” which is not actually true.
The reality of the situation is, just forcing your square peg of a body into the round hole that society dictates for you, it’s probably not the answer to chronic illnesses, and so I’ll sort of quickly explain that. Essentially, when I say the two things are correlated, so higher body weights tend to be correlated with certain specific kinds of chronic health conditions, for instance, like diabetes or heart disease, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that being higher body, shape, or size causes health conditions like diabetes or heart disease. Correlation and causation are very different things, statistically, so anyone who’s taken a statistic class will understand what I mean. But so, basically what that means is, they often go together, they often happen at the same time, higher body weights and chronic health conditions, and again, often, not always, probably much less than you actually think, but they’re correlated, they go together more often than the alternative, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they cause the same … that one causes the other.
And I’ll give you example, another great example of the difference of causation and correlation. So people, like Linda Bacon, who is the author of “Health at Every Size,” she says, having yellow teeth is also correlated with lung cancer, so these two things often go together. If you have yellow teeth, you’re more likely to have … if you have lung cancer, you’re more likely to have yellow teeth, than if you … than the alternative. They’re correlated. They’re positively correlated. When one goes up, the other tends to go up as well. And so, by this logic, if we decided that correlation meant that one causes the other, and that one is the cause of the other, we would all be racing around, whitening our teeth as a preventative measure for lung cancer. When, in reality, there’s probably this other third party thing going on called smoking, like correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, it could mean any number of things.
So, in the instance of lung cancer and teeth whitening, whitening your teeth probably isn’t going to cure your lung cancer, even though these things are correlated. So, same thing happens with weight and health. There’s this sort of correlation and … sort of in a grand effort to just simplify medicine, and just sort of reduce medicine down to the easy to calculate, let’s spend as little time with patients and getting to know them as we possibly can, and let’s just fit them into boxes, we’re just gonna say, “Oh, you know what, you’re just more likely to have fewer chronic health conditions if you’re around this size range, so we’re just gonna try and tell you to go to that size range,” despite the fact that that size range, A, might not be possible for you, B, might not be healthy for your particular body. Just because one weight is healthy for someone, doesn’t mean that it’s healthy for another person, again, because of the sort of natural diversity that exists, and body sizes.
So this is sort of a really big conversation, but ultimately, there’s a lot of problems in the way that we look at weight and health in our society, and certainly in our medical system. There’s a lot of weight biases in our medical system, that are producing a lot of very, very bad, very dangerous science, where every time a person goes into a doctor’s office, they’re told, lose weight, lose weight, lose weight, like it’s like a full on panacea for every type of possible chronic health condition, when the reality of the situation is, for a lot of people with chronic health conditions, losing weight’s not gonna do anything for them, unless the measures that they’re taking also happen to be correlative behaviors that are improving their health condition. So, when people are like, “Oh, I reversed my diabetes and I lost 50 pounds,” it’s like, well, I don’t know if losing 50 pounds actually does anything about your blood sugar, reverses diabetes, but if you lost 50 pounds because you were eating fewer carbs or whatever it was, then yeah, that might be a correlative behavior that might bring down your blood sugar.
So there’s this sort of third party thing, called a behavior, a health behavior, that people completely overlook. We love to think that health and weight are the same thing, but the reality of the situation is that there’s not a ton of evidence that actual loss of fat cells reduces things like heart disease or diabetes or other “weight related illnesses.” Much more likely, what’s actually making an impact on people’s health, is the fact that they’re changing their health behaviors, they’re eating … they’re balancing their blood sugar in a more effective way. They’re eating more fruits and vegetables. They’ve moving their bodies on a more regular basis, those kinds of things, which just happen to be correlated with both reduced weight and “better health outcomes.” So yeah, so that’s sort of my very … that’s a challenging … it’s a big question that you just asked me, but that’s sort of my first, initial attempts at answering that question.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, it is so complicated, and I know when I started dabbling in the whole health at every size, I really couldn’t wrap my head around it, because it is such a huge topic. Something that Jess Baker said in a random interview, and I was listening to it in the car, driving back from the chiropractor or something, and she said, and very similar to what you just said is, try not to think of health at every size, because it’s a big topic for me. And what she said, was like, it’s healthy behaviors. When you surround your life with healthy behaviors, whatever size you end up being, that’s your health at your size. So instead of thinking of like, health at every size, that’s huge, Jess was like, it’s just about healthy behaviors. And, what’s interesting, is everyone’s healthy behaviors is different. I know that I need to practice yoga every day to feel good and balanced and grounded, and that’s a healthy behavior that I have, but it’s not like I have to practice yoga every day, otherwise I’m not a worthy human, which is the story I used to tell myself. So even though you’re doing the same things, it’s a different relationship with it. Would you agree that it’s … if it’s too big of a concept, ’cause it is very huge, just focusing on behaviors that make you feel good, make you in that head space, to make it manageable for people?
Isabel Foxen Duke: Yeah. I think that that’s, ultimately, my perspective on health is, pursue healthful behaviors. Again, I think what Jess said is like, spot on. Whatever body size you end up at, when you are pursuing healthful behaviors, or when you have a healthy relationship with food and a healthy relationship with exercise, whatever that looks like for you, whatever size you end up at when you are healthy, when you’re actually doing healthy things on a regular basis and taking care of your body, is the size that’s right for you, by definition, and that size could be different for different people, and it will be different for different people. Some people are super healthful, at really various … we have all sorts of different weights, including weights that would be considered, or called fat, or that the doctor would say are unhealthy weights. There are actually really healthy people at “unhealthy weights,” who are running and eating vegetables and moving their bodies and doing all sorts of things, and they’re in great health. All their vitals are awesome, they live a nice, long, healthy life, and they just happen to be genetically designed to be a little bit bigger, and that just is what that is.
On the flip side, you could be a thin person, and not taking care of yourself at all, and suffer from various health consequences, not moving, not eating vegetables, not taking care of your blood sugar, and you just happen to be a genetically thin person. That doesn’t necessarily make you healthier than anyone else, it just means that you’re genetically designed to be thin. But if you’re not taking care of yourself, it just doesn’t matter. So, I think that that’s spot on, and yeah, and I agree, at the end of the day, health is a spectrum. I think, again, it’s very easy to get caught up in your health behaviors being what dictates your self esteem. It’s very easy to get caught up in, I have to do X, Y, Z health behaviors or all hell is gonna break loose. And that actually leads to a lot of dysfunction, it leads to a lot of anxiety, it leads to a lot of mental health problems. So, for me, the way that I like to think about it is, if your health doesn’t include your mental health, we have a problem. Health is a holistic term, in my definition. It must include mental health. If my pursuit of physical health is disrupting my mental health, what’s the point?
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, zero point.
Isabel Foxen Duke: Zero point, yeah, zero point. If I have to be a complete crazy lunatic, like anxious wreck all of the time to be “physically healthy'” what is the point? The whole point of having physical health is to enhance my quality of life, to have less pain, to have more energy, to be, basically, to support me in my pursuit of happiness, because my days are numbered no matter what, so I want to make my time on this earth count. And so, for me, obsessing about how I can live one year longer, what is realistically one year longer, even 10 years longer, but spending my whole life obsessed with how I’m gonna live those extra 10 years longer, is like a waste of the other 70 years. It’s like, what is the point? So, this is all, in my opinion, is like the pursuit of health is all about living a happy, joyous, free life. If your pursuit of health is getting in the way of you living a happy, joyous, free life, that’s something you gotta look at in yourself, just for emotional and mental health around it.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, I’m so happy that you mentioned, also, the years that go by, and if you’re constantly obsessing about it, that reminds me of, I don’t know if you’ve ever done it, but that future self meditation, where you speak to yourself in the future, and I did that meditation years ago, when I was starting this work, and that lady did not care about a lot of things, and her life was so much more fulfilling, and she was doing art, and hiking, and living in the forest, and all these things. And I said, yes, that is the life that I want. And I think a lot of people get stuck up on, okay, so now that I’m not in this space, what do I do instead? And I think a lot of people think, well, then I just won’t be crazy around food, but I’m sure you’ve seen, in your practice, that women go on to do pretty crazy things after the no longer care about this.
Isabel Foxen Duke: You free up so much brain space. It’s like, all of a sudden, the world is your oyster. I used to make the joke, if I had spent half the time that I used to spend trying to figure out how I was going to make myself thinner, if I spent half that time putting that time towards a humanitarian pursuit, I’d have a Nobel Peace Prize. That’s the amount of energy and the amount of time that I used to spend on trying to become thin. Imagine what would happen, what my life would be like, if I put half of that time towards something like actually useful and productive in the world, to something that really matters in the world, even if that thing that matters is just my family and my friendships, my pursuing a big, bold, beautiful, rich life, being here enjoying this life. It’s just such a waste of time, especially, again, it’s like, dieting doesn’t typically make people thinner long term. Dieting just makes people’s weight cycle up and down, up and down, up and down.
95% of people, that is the reality. Most people do not just lose weight and keep it off, and have a happy ending. Most people are just jumping on the dieting cycling wagon, dieting cycling hamster wheel. That’s the vast majority of people’s reality, when it comes to dieting. This is very well documented in evidence. There’s kind of no way around this reality. And so, if you were to just like, okay, this is ridiculous, this is not worth my energy. If I could spend … think about all the energy and time I’m putting into just running on this hamster wheel, that ultimately is getting me nowhere, what if I just spent all of those years and all that elbow grease and all of that mental energy just doing something fun, or doing something like purposeful in the world, or mission oriented, or anything, anything, anything.
When you let go of this obsession with weight, it’s like, all of a sudden, you have your whole. It is like the most incredible freeing up of your calendar that you could possibly imagine. My clients go on to do amazing things. I’ll just speak for myself personally, there is no way I could run the business that I run if I was still dieting. There is no way that I could do … have the relationships that I have, if I was still dieting. I feel like I’m so grateful, I’m so lucky, in this incredibly, healthy, awesome relationship right now, and primary relationship right now, and it’s just like, I can’t even imagine beginning the relationship with this person, if I was like, oh my gosh, please don’t look at my stomach, I have to wear a t-shirt during sex, because I hate my body so much. It’s just that kind of stuff.
So, I think that this … it is really amazing, what life has to offer you, when you let this go. It’s probably not gonna turn into the giant disaster that you think, the reality of the situation is like, you’re not really, probably succeeding at this weight loss goal, to begin with. Most people out there are not very … most people out there are not succeeding at some grand weight suppression tactic. Most people, again, are dieting cycling, and just wasting a bunch of time, and making themselves miserable for no good reason. And, in the meantime, it’s like, okay, on the other side, if you just let that go, and just decided to kind of accept your body for what it is, and get cool with yourself for who you are, on the other side is this thing called all the time that you could possibly ever want.
On the other side is this thing called yeah, you could, you know, it’s like the world is your oyster. Everything you ever wanted … everything … I often think to people, or I often talk about, women are constantly waiting on the weight. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. “When I’m thin, I’ll buy the new dress. When I’m thin, I’ll go on vacation and wear the bikini and take the trip to Mexico. When I’m thin, I’ll go on a Tinder date. When I’m thin, whatever will happen.” It’s like this magical, fantastical thing will happen when I’m thin. If you just got rid of the “when I’m thin,” you could do it now. You could actually have your life now. Nothing’s stopping you, except yourself. So yeah, that’s kind of a big deal, is getting your life back.
Leanne Vogel: Yeah, it’s totally a big deal. I know that, when I first started thinking about this, and I was going through desire mapping, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the desire map stuff, basically my core desire feelings are freedom, spontaneity, and not being tied down, and just being free, but I was always so scared of that. And my husband and I recently sold everything we owned, like everything. We have zero things, and we renovated an RV, and we live in it now, and we travel everywhere, and I would not … to just think of having this life, being so diet focused, there are weeks where we are eating out at restaurants constantly, ’cause there aren’t a lot of options, or we’re traveling, or there’s no Whole Foods nearby, and I can’t the foods that I want, and to just be constantly planning that stuff, I would be insane at this point, had I continued down that life.
So, it’s just interesting to see how, when you allow yourself that space, by not filling it up with, “must create snacks and food, and what am I eating tomorrow, and my meal plan, and how does that relate to my training,” and just that constant frantic-ness, your life just kind of unfolds. I didn’t plan this, it just happened. We were looking at RVs, and we were like, could we live in this, oh my gosh, we could … We should sell everything and live in this! To even have those dreams, and like you said, it’s like, the time is now, your life is now, and you don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow, and I think that was really my turning point, of I can’t have this life, and I don’t care what it costs, I need to see where this path goes, and what’s the worst thing that can happen? I gain weight? That weight gain, to me, was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m so much more stronger and more confident and all those … like it doesn’t even matter anymore. So, I’m so happy that you shared all of this today, and where can people find more from you?
Isabel Foxen Duke: Ooh, yeah. So, if any of this has made sense of you. If you’re like, oh my gosh, I really do struggle with my relationship with food, I need help, my website … excuse me, I have a video training series, that’s like an introduction to my work. 85% of people that find me is through StopFightingFood.com, so StopFightingFood.com is … yeah, it’s just my video … it’s like a free introductory video series to all these concepts. It’s a great way to kind of tip toe, if you’re feeling scare, or nervous, or like. “What does she mean don’t diet?” you can kind of put your toe into the world of not dieting, with the Stop Fighting Food video training series, see how it feels, or my website, isabelfoxenduke.com. My blog is also a great place to go. It kind of reads like a book. My blog is a great place to just sort of learn … get the ropes of these kinds of concepts, the psychological principles, the intuitive eating stuff, all sorts of stuff. It’s definitely where a good portion of people also find me, on my blog. It’s really kind of fun and easy to read, so I’d definitely pop over there to sign up for emails. You’ll get new blog posts once a week. They’re really awesome, and just try to be super helpful and help people just relax, and again, make that mental shift into “normal eating.”
Leanne Vogel: Yes, I totally agree. Your video training series is awesome. I’m part of your newsletter list, so I’ll include all of those links in the show notes for today’s episode, which you guys can find at HealthfulPursuit.com/podcast/e73, and thanks again, so much, for coming on the show. I really appreciate it.
Isabel Foxen Duke: Thank you.
Leanne Vogel: Leanne Vogel: That does it for another episode of The Keto Diet Podcast. Thanks for listening in. You can follow me on Instagram by searching Healthful Pursuit where you’ll find daily keto eats and other fun things. Check out all of my keto supportive programs, bundles, guides and other cool things over at HealthfulPursuit.com/shop. I’ll see you next Sunday. Bye.