All posts by Isabel Foxen Duke

“Dieting” is not an action — it’s a state of mind

While there is shockingly little conclusive research about “emotional eating” (i.e. eating over feelings), one thing we know is that dieters tend to eat their feelings, and non-dieters tend to not-eat their feelings.

In other words, we have reason to believe that dieting in and of itself encourages emotional eating (which makes perfect sense for a variety of reasons, some of which I described in last week’s blog post).

The question then becomes,

if “dieting” is contributing to or even directly causing us to eat emotionally (a distinct possibility), what does “dieting” really mean and how can we avoid it??

I hear women say to me over and over again: “I gave up dieting and now I can’t stop eating Nutella out of a jar…”

And I can’t help but say back,

But did you REALLY give up “dieting?” Or did you just start eating bread again, and thought that would “fix” it? 

Let me explain…

One thing I find over and over again, is that 9 times out of 10, women who “give up” dieting, are still thinking like dieters — their emotional response to food is the same as it would be if they still were actively manipulating their food…

They’re still conscious of everything they eat (and usually judgmental of what they eat),

They feel ashamed whenever they think they’ve “eaten too much,”

They’re often still trying to control themselves around food even if not “technically” following a specific plan of eating,

And, generally speaking, they maintain a moralistic and fear-based perspective on food, rather than deriving gratitude, joy, and pleasure from the life-sustaining force that food actually represents.

You see, “dieting” (and the compulsive behaviors associated with it), has little to do with what you are or are not putting in your mouth — and everything to do with how you feel and think about what you put in your mouth. 

Unless your thinking changes, neither will your behaviors. 

(I also talk about this at length in this blog post about the real difference between “normal” and “emotional” eaters).

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What “Body Love” Actually Means…

body-as-artI recently heard a client say that it’s easier to love her body when she’s working out, “eating well,” or otherwise perceives herself to be succeeding at society’s “thin rules.”

And I get it.

In a world that’s constantly telling you that your value in society is directly related to your performance of the thin ideal,  it may feel easier to find yourself attractive or fashionable in those moments you’re conforming to, and validated by, the normative culture around you.

That being said, this definition of “body love,” meaning, to have a certain opinion of yourself—whether it be attractive, fashionable, or any other opinion—is not, in my experience, the deepest expression of the word “love.” 

I want you to really think about what the term “love” means to you. I want you to think about the people that you love in your life—your children, your parents, your sisters or brothers.

Maybe you find them attractive, maybe you don’t. Maybe you find them aesthetically pleasing, maybe you don’t. Maybe you approve of their shape, maybe you don’t.

But are any of those things what it means to love them? Or is loving them something entirely different?

A mother doesn’t love her baby because she thinks it’s cute. She loves her baby, because it’s her baby.

She was put on this planet to love that baby, whether it kicks and screams or goes to sleep easy; whether it goes to college, or drops out; whether it gets tattoos, takes drugs at school, or f’ing murders someone, she loves that baby, for no other reason than because it’s her baby. 

It’s an unconditional, selfless kind of love—a love of someone because she is part of you, because she is your family, because she beats your heart for you. 

I’m talking about something greater than fashion, or aesthetic approval

…although, I also know that finding something beautiful or attractive almost always feels easier when you’re awake to this deeper kind of love.

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Why “taking a warm bath” doesn’t keep people from eating…

photo (1)The most common way that people try to “end emotional eating” (and btw, it’s very unlikely that you will ever “end” emotional eating entirely— even the most natural eaters in the world eat emotionally sometimes), is by attempting to replace emotional eating with another coping mechanism (e.g. “call a friend” or “take a warm bath” instead).

However, this “replacement” technique often backfires.

Why? Because most dieters (or newly ex-dieters) are out of practice in dealing with their feelings in other ways, and when dealing with stress or discomfort, usually want something easy andfamiliar. In other words, stressful situations are not often the most realistic time to take away your go-to coping mechanism. 

Additionally, sitting on your hands trying not to eat over stuff (or beating yourself up for eating over stuff), often sends people into deprivation mindset, which often leads to rebellious binge-eating in the long run.

So what’s the solution?

Practice new coping mechanisms, without the unrealistic expectation of “not eating” right away. 

That is, practice new coping mechanisms regardless of whether or not you also use food as a coping mechanism when things get hard.

This allows you to diversify your coping mechanisms and sharpen your self-care skills, without falling into diet-mentality around emotional eating or setting yourself up for failure when emotional eating feels like your best option.

When we get into the habit of taking care of ourselves in diverse ways, regardless of whether or not we also “use food,” food naturally become less and less of a “go-to” over time, because our reliance on food as our exclusive coping mechanism becomes less and less.

Today, commit to practicing new methods of self-care, and letting go of the guilt if emotional eating still pops up. A focus on adding new coping mechanisms, rather than subtracting, is more realistic, and less likely to lead to rebellion in the long run.

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The “New Age Thinking Will Make Me Thin” Diet

unicorn4Today I want to talk about the last diet I ever went on before I actually threw in the towel on dieting for real, and that was,

The “New Age Thinking Will Make Me Thin” Diet. 

For those of you not completely saturated in “wellness culture,” this is the hot new diet on the block. 

In it’s various versions, such as…

The “Spiritual Fulfillment Makes You Thin” Diet
The “Positive Thinking Makes You Thin” Diet
The “Body Acceptance Makes You Thin” Diet
The “Meditating, Writing In Your Journal, or Healing Your Relationship With Your Mom All Make You Thin” Diet

Or my personal favorite…The “When You Stop Trying To Lose Weight, You’ll Lose Weight” Diet.

Right…because the Universe is an evil genius, and is actively trying to fuck with you.
I say, when you stop trying to lose weight you’ll just be happier and whatever weight you’re probably meant to be, but that’s another post for another time. 

These “diets” are usually honest attempts by life coaches to help women overcome compulsive or emotional eating — however, these attempts may or may not work, and do run a substantial risk of backfiring if weight loss is posed as the goal, or if someone feels shamed or wronged for their emotional eating patterns.

These “diets” may also be well-intentioned, albeit misinformed, attempts by health professionals to explain why a perfectly healthy person might not be within a BMI range of 21-25. 

(Contrary to popular belief: lots of healthy people have a BMI of greater than 25

Now, while I do believe that healing your relationship with your mother, working towards more positive thinking, and/or making peace with your body, are all probably good ideas whether you lose weight or not,

am concerned the weight loss motive and messaging of this “diet” may be keeping some women from fully making peace with food.

Because of lot of my readers mistakenly think I AM a new-age-thinking-diet-guru, I feel compelled to address this issue —

I worry the “New Age Thinking Will Make Me Thin” Diet may be keeping women from fully enjoying true, honest, body acceptance, which in my opinion is a requirement for ending the diet-binge cycle and feeling truly comfortable around food.

I worry that women are continuing to judge their food, their behaviors, and generally experiencing a lot of emotional deprivation on account of their weight loss goals.

I worry that this way of thinking promotes the very dangerous and stigmatizing idea that one’s weight is an indicator of their mental health…when believe it or not, super happy, spiritually fulfilled and mentally healthful people come in all shapes and sizes.

I worry that women are being made to feel like failures when their attempts at improving their mental or spiritual health do NOT produce permanent weight loss.

I worry that women are not doing the deep-level body image work they need to do to move on from their obsession with food, because they believe a magical-thinking solution will one day make them thinner.

And ultimately, I know that the new-age-thinking diet is still an active attempt at body control, which could very well lead to frustration and rebellion (i.e. binge-eating) in the long run.

Hope that clears up my stance on this popular diet trend!

And if you’re like my good friend Gina, who after reading this post had no idea what I was proposing instead of the New-Age-Thinking-Will-Make-Me-Thin Diet, what I’m proposing is…

ACTUAL body acceptance, without the side of “but please God make me thin.” 

In ACTUAL body acceptance, you have a far better chance of truly healing your relationship with food, and ultimately, arriving at whatever weight is natural for you — whether that be up, down, or the same, I don’t know… every BODY is different.

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