Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester and an expert in the psychology of eating. She is President of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and the founder of the worldwide Bright Line Eating movement.
On average, participants in her program lose a significant amount of weight in just two months and are able to maintain that loss for years to come. Equally astounding, published research shows that through her approach, post-menopausal women lose weight as quickly as women in their 20s and 30s. To date, 100,000 people from more than 100 countries around the world have participated in her online weight loss programs.
Her first two books, including “Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free,” became New York Times bestsellers and instant Hay House favorites. Her work weaves the neuroscience of food addiction with powerful insights from Positive Psychology, IFS, and 12-Step Recovery to outline a roadmap for achieving true integrity and self-authorship around food. The Bright Line Eating mission is to help one million people around the globe discover lasting food freedom and have their “Bright Transformations” by 2025.
Susan Peirce Thompson’s Experience with Food Addiction
I turned to drugs to try to manage my weight problem when I was 14 years old and it escalated to crystal meth, cocaine and crack cocaine. By the time I was 19 years old I was a high school dropout and a prostitute and a homeless crack addict. I got struck clean and sober when I was 20 and haven’t had a drink or a drug since then which is the biggest miracle of my life by far. That deep experience with addiction enabled me to be able to tell, years later, that I was addicted to food, eventually becoming obese by my mid twenties.
Fast forward to eight years ago, I lost all my excess weight and I had been teaching a college course on the psychology of eating for many many years. I was in my morning meditation and had a booming mandate that said, “Write a book called Bright Line Eating.” and I had never heard the words “Bright Line Eating” before. This led me to start the email list which is now close to 2 million people, the Bright Line Eating boot camp program and now a membership.
I had already lost the excess weight 10 years prior to starting the company and had been practicing the guidelines I teach but I had never been taught the science behind it. It took me a while to piece together the science between the brain and weight loss.
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Food addiction is very real but not everybody is affected by it. Not every brain is equally susceptible to an addiction to any kind. The predispositions are genetic and environmental. One third of the population is just not susceptible to any type of addiction. The middle swathe of the population is somewhat susceptible to addiction and the high end of the population are profoundly susceptible to addiction. But, just because you’re susceptible to addiction in general doesn’t mean you develop a food addiction in particular.
Who Bright Line Eating is Right For
I think the best candidates for Bright Line Eating are 8’s, 9’s and 10’s on the susceptibility food addiction scale or people who are lower on the scale but are motivated to lose their weight and who really want a cut and dry solution that really works. There are certain personality profiles that prefer that.
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The Difference Between an Addiction VS Habit Forming
A lot of people say that everyone is addicted to something and I would beg to differ. Certain brains just don’t go all the way to addiction. They might have powerful habits that feel counterproductive.
There were times in my eating where I didn’t want to eat addictively so badly and I knew the consequences would be devastating. There’s a level of harming one’s self when they reach the level of addiction.
Whether someone has a bad habit or an addiction might be hard to tell. I often suggest trying to leave it alone for a long period of time, like a month or 6 months. When it comes to addiction, no matter the stakes, you usually cannot seem to stop.
What exactly is Bright Line Eating?
I teach people how their brain is blocking them from losing weight. You can’t look at Oprah and say, “Well, she’s not letting herself be successful. She’s clearly afraid of success.” That’s simply just not true. So, why can’t Oprah lose her excess weight? It really comes down to at a certain point, there’s 3 levers in the brain that are flipped when someone’s brain is really hijacked where they can no more take off their excess weight in that state, than they can hold their breath while running up 40 flights of stairs. You can’t muscle your way past certain survival circuits in the brain.
This is where the food piece is such a conundrum for the person who is trying to change their behavior.
Bright Line Diet
Bright line is a clear unambiguous boundary that you don’t cross. For example, if you’re going to quit smoking, you’re going to quit nicotine. The 4 bright lines are sugar, flour, meals and quantities.
No sugar meaning, nothing added to your food to make it sweeter, including artificial sweeteners. The sweet taste buds on the tongue have direct connections to the addiction centers in the brain.
The bright line guidelines for sugar and flour handle the drug part of food addictions. Drugs are made. Heroin and cocaine come from plants. Heroin comes from poppy and cocaine comes for cocoa leaf but cocoa leaves on their own are not addictive. But, if you take the inner essence of that poppy or cocoa plant and extract, refine and purify it down to a fine powder, you’ve taken a harmless plant and turned it into a drug. Sugar and flour are made in the same way. We eliminate those manufactured drugs in Bright Line Eating.
The bright lines for meals and quantities have to do with the behavioral or process addiction piece. This is the addiction to the process of eating; the need to put food in your month to get through the day. At Bright Line Eating we eat 3 meals a day with no snacking or grazing and we’re careful about our quantities, not to restrict them but to make sure that we eat enough of the right foods.