#72: Health at Every Size, Diet Culture & BURNING THE WAGON! with Isabel Foxen Duke.

isabel foxen duke

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My guest today is a badass and a half. By day, Isabel Foxen Duke helps women stop feeling crazy around food – specifically women who are trapped in “diet land.” And by night, she practices what she preaches, which is intuitive eating, health at every size and filtering her social media to maintain a positive body image. She also eats a lot of Burmese food, which, in case you dunno, means grub from various regions of Myanmar. I could’ve talked with Isabel for hours and hours, which is why this episode is especially long, because as you’ll hear, I needed my own crash course in diet culture with a side of fat phobia 101. I am so jazzed up about the work Isabel does and I love more than anything her tell-it-to-em-straight, no BS tude, dude! K, now grab a healthy snack, put on your suspenders and nudge those nerdy glasses up your nose because school is in session.


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SHOW NOTES!

Isabel’s background is kinda cray. She was put on a low-carb diet diet at the age of 3 because her BMI was on the “high end for her height” – (as she says – our culture has an obsession with not being on the “margins”). And later she was clinically diagnosed with “binge eating disorder,” which makes sense because since age 3 her whole life to really revolved around losing weight.

I mean, on her diet she was allowed to have one candy bar per week, and obviously it was all she looked forward to.

As she got older, she had no clue how to trust her own hunger and she felt as though her hunger wasn’t trustworthy.

The cycle she’s seen from the work that she now does (helping ladies stop feeling crazy around food!) is that we first get message that our body isn’t okay – then we go on diet – then 95% of people rebound in some capacity – then we feel like shit about ourselves – then we feel the need to restrict MORE and this all creates more extreme rebound on the other end]!!!

When I asked her to define binge eating:

She said that people have all sorts of definitions, most of which she thinks are not useful

She says binge eating is → A reaction to deprivation. An “I shouldn’t eat the chocolate…but screw it I’m going to eat 10” type of thing.

It’s really actually a natural response to hunger and restriction that dieting can create, hence why binge eating ITSELF is not a problem in isolation – it’s a symptom/response to extreme restriction around food!!!

When I asked her “what’s emotional eating?”

She said it’s straight up an “I’m bored so I want a cupcake” type of situation.

Or, it’s any reason you might choose food to soothe yourself or any discomfort you might be experiencing.

We can start with emotional eating, and then transition into binge eating

Intuitive eating can be a great place to start for people who are doing the dieting/deprivation cycling thing

For people who have been dieting for a long time, the concept of not dieting is almost absurd

She thinks a lot of people are dieting, but instead saying they are just making “healthy choices”

What is diet culture?

Isabel says that

“we live in a culture in which dieting is normal – “if you think you’re too fat, you just don’t eat the stuff, right?” That is the thinking our culture has made normal.”

Food is not a willpower issue since eating is a biological instinct!!! At some point your instincts will override your “willpower.”

Isabel practices ‘Health At Every Size’ – she treats herself well, eats well, and pursues health and wherever her body ends up is the healthy size for her.

When I asked Isabel how she knew she’d reached a weight that was appropriate for her unique body….

She first decided to pursue recovery from all these toxic messages and treat herself the way she would treat a little daughter.

Then, she pursued “weight-neutral” health.

She says that there was a period of adjustment, but then after a couple years, her weight stopped changing. She does not do anything to make herself her current size, aside from treating herself well.

She says:

“Your weight is designed to regulate itself in the absence of extremes.”

What is intuitive eating vs. normal eating?

Intuitive eating = the intentional practice of listening to your body’s biological signals (hunger, fullness, etc.) rather than following the dictates of some external diet pushed upon them. It’s a tool to transition out of dieting.

Ultimately, it’s an education or process of getting to know your own body signals.

BUT the probs is that some people can turn intuitive eating into a new set of rules!! Like, when Isabel felt like she was failing intuitive eating, she would go “off the wagon.” What’s the wagon? Why is there a wagon? BURN THAT WAGON DOWN!

Normal eating = an emotional state in which we relinquish the diet mentality and diets in the physical sense – “diet-less” eating.

Fat Phobia 101:

As a general idea, people are terrified food because people are terrified of fatness in our culture.

“Disordered eating wouldn’t exist to the same extreme if our society wasn’t so fat phobic!”

Like, “plus size” in clothing can mean size 14 and up, but apparently half of the country is over a size 14. And for models, outside of 4 is “alternative” modeling – and now there is a whole movement on Instagram for these types of models.

“It can positively change the way you think about bodies to see body diversity in the media.”

How can you work to improve your body image?

A great first step is increasing your exposure to body diversity in the media! As she says:

“stare at bodies your size or bigger”

You can also try to tune out diet conversations since “the conversation around dieting is often what sets people up for dysfunctional eating patterns.”

And of course, be conscious of stereotyping people 🙂


Her favorite plant party restaurant: Burmese food in San Francisco! She loves a tea leaf salad.

Her favorite plant to eat: She prefers fruit over vegetables and is loving citrus lately! Her favorite vegetable is romanesco

A book that has inspired her in some awesome way: When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron 

STAY IN TOUCH WITH ISABEL VIA HER WEBSITE/NEWSLETTER

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