Isabel Foxen Duke told her story to Ava Feuer in the above-referenced article in Redbook.
I related to a lot of things in Ava’s article. I’ve had a horribly painful relationship with food my whole life. I’ve been dieting since I was 15 or sixteen years old. Well I wouldn’t say dieting, more like full on anorexia. I was a little overweight as a girl, not horribly but a little. When I was sexually assaulted when I was 15 my life kinda changed. I became dark, sullen, and depressed. I felt so damaged and alone that I just stopped eating. I was 100 pounds at 15 and 16 years of age. I felt I was in control of my life because I controlled what was going into my body. In reality I was so out of control.
The other thing I discovered at 15 was drugs and alcohol. I needed it to cope with life. It was my solution for living. Doing drugs became more important than eating or taking care of myself. I also had crippling anxiety and that made food not that desirable. In other words I was fucked up. From the ages of 17-34 I would either starve myself or over eat. I also became a serial dieter. It became like another addiction.
When I got my drug and alcohol addiction under control at the age of 34, I started to look at my relationship with food. Just like Isabel Foxen Duke did in the above article. I was emotional eating or starving myself. I did some time in Over Eaters Anonymous just like Isabel but never felt home there. It was restrictive and I just didn’t relate to the women who had to polish off a whole cheesecake. I would never touch a cheesecake to begin with. I was blessed with not the greatest metabolism so any sugar or carbs for that matter sticks to me like glue. It wasn’t a matter of how and what I was eating or “abstinent” over, it was a matter of what food meant to me.
Before AA my only solution to my problems was drugs and alcohol. My only solution today as a sober woman is spiritual (my higher power). Don’t get me wrong, it took many years into sobriety for me to deal with my food issues. I had to hit a gnarly rock bottom when I joined yet another dieting plan (Jenny Craig) and had emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder that had over 1,000 stones in it. It was a wake up call. It was then that I started to look at my food problem as a spiritual problem that is when it all clicked for me. Food is now a way to nourish myself and my soul. It is no longer a way to beat myself up or stuff my emotions. I had to get off the shame spiral that food had me on. Now I eat when I’m hungry and I only consume foods that are organic and good for me. I put enough artificial drugs and processed foods into my body that it was time to treat my body well.
I liked what Isabel had to say about her journey with food, “Food had tyrannized my life because I had gotten caught in a cycle of constantly trying to control it, then beating myself up when I failed. Once I understood that this was compromising my sanity, I ceded control and all that brain space opened up. It was like I had quit a full-time job.”
I agree with that. It was only when I took the first step with food and admitted I was powerless over it and my life had become unmanageable that I was able to see a different way. When I gave up the cycle and looked at food in a more spiritual and natural light did I get freedom from the insanity.
One of my great teachers in terms of eating is my husband who also struggled with food issues. He learned to eat healthy, nourishing foods but he doesn’t deny himself either. Every night before he goes to bed he allows himself a bite of a cookie or donut or chocolate. That way he doesn’t feel he is denying himself. He is at a healthy weight and doing wonderful. He is encouraging me not be afraid of sugar and that moderation is the key. One of these days soon I will build up enough courage to have a bite of a cookie. I’m almost there, but it’s progress not perfection.