Isabel Foxen Duke. OMG. She is kind of the best. I love her an awful lot and am probably going to have Mexican food with her at some point in the near future. Or pasta. Both, probably. I'm beyond happy she agreed to speak with me about her body positive educational series Stop Fighting Food and the work she does to help spread the word that food isn't the enemy — calling it the enemy is the enemy.
Isabel. For real, you are one of my favorite people ever. Your candor, your intellect. You are doing it right, lady. Let’s talk: I’m obviously going to ask you about your background. I know about you and I think it’s SO important that our readers know where you come from. It’s a vital part of this story.
Like many others, my story starts with my personal struggles with food all my life starting at the age of 3 (mainly, diet-binge cycling and emotional eating), leading up to my eventually being diagnosed and treated for binge eating disorder. I was treated pretty ineffectively for many years, even after seeing the “best of the best” therapists, clinicians, and attending some of the most reputable in-patient treatment facilities in the country. I thought I was going into treatment to learn to “control myself around food” — only later to find out that my incessant attempts at food control were the very thing that always lead me back to binge-eating, and were heavily correlated with my emotional eating patterns.
The words “Health At Every Size” or “Body Positivism” were not uttered in my treatment 10 years ago, nor really was the idea of weight discrimination as a social justice issue. It wasn’t until I fully understood the cultural roots of my “food problem” that my behaviors with food really started to change. In my personal experience, and my experience with several hundred coaching clients, most compulsive behaviors around food are rooted in and encouraged by cultural beliefs around food and weight — ways of thinking about food and weight that keep us stuck in maladaptive behaviors — and changing our relationship with food permanently requires challenging those cultural beliefs.
Thankfully, more therapists and clinicians are beginning to get hip to this now, and I hope to be a part of that change — by offering a sociological perspective on a problem that has historically been treated as strictly psychological.
How was Stop Fighting Food born?
Stop Fighting Food is a free video training series that outlines some of the basic concepts I teach in my coaching practice. After being overwhelmed with private clients, I decided to release a public educational training (for free, and affordable to all) that introduces some of the basic ideas behind what I believe is necessary to overcome binge-eating, poor body image, and generally “feeling crazy around food.”
In addition to three free training videos, Stop Fighting Food includes free coaching emails that share these teachings in short, punchy blog post format once a week.
Anyone can sign up to watch these free videos and get free weekly coaching emails at stopfightingfood.com.
My eyes light up when I see you in my inbox. Can you tell us a little about how SFF helps folks?
SFF helps people better understand the roots of their dysfunctional relationships with food — which are unfortunately rampant, with 70% of women in the US identifying as having poor body image — and offers a new way of thinking about food and weight that is more conducive to true healing, particularly of binge-eating and emotional eating patterns, but really, all forms of “feeling crazy around food,” including food obsession and restrictive patterns as well.
About 25,000 people are currently receiving Stop Fighting Food emails, many of whom are therapists and wellness professionals themselves, looking to more deeply understand this complex issue, but most of my readers are regular ladies (and some men!) who are simply “sick and tired of being sick and tired” around food, and want personal relief from binge-eating, emotional eating, and obsessive or restrictive patterns around food.
What is the future of SFF? I know EVERYONE is asking you why you haven’t written a book yet. WHY, ISABEL?
Hahaha, well, I’m sure a book will happen one day! But I’ve got enough on my plate right now, and to be honest, the opportunity for propelling this important message forward just feels bigger on the World Wide Web. Sharing Stop Fighting Food and developing my program offerings around it is definitely the priority right now. We’ll see what happens in the future!
You’ve recently relocated from NY to SF. What’s THAT like?
I love San Francisco SO much. It’s like NY, but more beautiful, less anxiety-provoking, and generally more pleasant to be in. After starting Stop Fighting Food three years ago, I recently got a little burned out and decided to get more serious about creating work-life balance. That just seemed more manageable in SF versus NY — which, in my opinion, is where workaholics go to binge-work. Trying to create work-life balance in NY is like trying to overcome a gambling addiction in Vegas.
If you could impart ONE piece of wisdom to our readers...
Remember that your body is a human mammal. Probably the closest one to you on this Earth.
Cake or pie? Or neither? Or both?
Flourless Chocolate Cake or Pumpkin Pie.
Or Cheesecake. Or Pumpkin Cheesecake.
Do you like pasta?
Hell yes. I’m allergic to wheat though, so I eat the GF kind.
If yes, can we eat some together? If no, do you like Mexican food (I’m flexible)?
Give me a taco on a toasted corn tortilla any day of the week.
Since we are talking about people we love, who are some people you are loving?
I’m pretty sure I’m Virgie Tovar’s biggest fan. So big in fact, that I moved to SF in part to be her new best friend (‘cause she’s here too! Points for SF!).
I also read Ragen Chastain’s emails religiously, and if Linda Bacon spit on my shoe I would, I would probably lick it off.
Deb Burgard is the coolest ED therapist I know. And I recently read this interview with body positive photographer Substantia Jones and kind of want her to adopt me now.
You are a beautiful human and I love Virgie for introducing us.
Ditto. And if anyone reading this wants a little help ending the “food crazy,” here’s the link once more for the Stop Fighting Food Free Video Series!