Updated: Apr 12
September 24, 2018, I officially started a Bright Line Eating (BLE) boot camp.
My friend, Shana, had started Bright Line Eating in an effort to lose weight a year earlier. She shared the details of the weight loss food plan with me, and, having loosely created my meals based on the food plan for two months and lost ten pounds, I bit the bullet, paid the fee, and went all-in.
The boot camp went into greater detail around the four bright lines: no sugar, no flour, weighed and measured quantities, and three meals a day (no snacking).
It also explained the neuroscience relating to food addiction. Fascinating.
There is a strong focus on connection and support.
And, understanding the underlying reasons we eat addictively in the first place. Not just the neuroscience, but the emotional component as well.
Also, a plan for maintaining weight loss once it’s achieved.
But, as I have found out, Bright Line Eating is about so much more than food and weight.
Susan Peirce Thompson, the founder and creator of Bright Line Eating, says people come for the vanity and stay for the sanity. In the boot camp videos, she talked about how, when we stop feeding our brains their drug of choice (in this case, sugar and flour), they can begin to heal.
The sanity component wasn’t something I’d ever thought about.
I assumed all people were plagued by food thoughts.
If I eat this muffin for breakfast, I can have a salad at lunch to make up for the calories, and then a “sensible” dinner. Hmm. Since I ate the muffin at breakfast and then a burger, fries, and smoothie for lunch, I’ll have the salad for dinner. Okay, since I had a chocolate chip cookie and venti Frappuccino at Starbucks after work, I’ll just skip dinner.
I assumed all people were taunted by the food in their cupboards. The chocolate in the cabinet, knocking unceasingly, begging to be freed from captivity and deliciously devoured.
To be fair, the broccoli never called to me from the fridge.
For some people, the journey of healing the brain and the shift toward sanity takes months. For some, years.
For Susan, it took years.
I decided I’d like to sign up for the option that would only take months.
Having been overweight most of my life and all of my adult life, I was no stranger to diets. When Shana first told me about Bright Line Eating, my initial feeling was that I didn’t have the bandwidth to learn yet another set of rules to follow only to abandon it at a later date. I had used the language “lifestyle change” when committing to a new diet in the past. None were actually sustainable. I didn’t have the patience or capacity to try something new, even if she was having amazing results.
I also have food allergies and unsolved digestive issues. I’ve done so many cleanses, elimination diets and food reintroductions, fasts, juice cleanses, detoxes. You name it, I’ve likely done it. Sometimes, I have the bandwidth. And, sometimes, I don’t.
Part of what drove me crazy about dieting, and eating in general, was that I never knew what to eat or how much of it. I often said, “Just tell me what to eat, and I’ll eat it.” And, I was right. That’s exactly what I needed.
Thankfully, Bright Line Eating has a meal plan that tells you exactly how many ounces and which food categories to eat at each meal. I could choose which protein to eat but trust the scale to tell me how much. Amazing!
In the BLE boot camp, I gained extra tools as options to support my food choices. Things like writing down my food for the next day the night before. I also gained support. There was a Facebook group filled with other people on the same journey, and we were encouraged to form Mastermind Groups and meet weekly to provide extra support for one another.
I dutifully followed what I was being taught, picking and choosing new tools to try, and continued losing weight.
I’m not someone who ever binged on food in the traditional sense, but I am what BLE calls “a quantities girl”. I want more than my body actually needs. Weighing my food gave me peace of mind that I was getting enough food without having to rely on my broken sense of how much was “enough” to determine how much I put on my plate.
As time went on, I started learning more about the emotional side of the equation. I could see how I had used food to numb or avoid my emotions. I used it for comfort. A full belly could lull me into a blissed-out stupor.
Now, without food to numb my less desirable feelings, I started having to feel them.
Then, I found myself eating too much almond butter in an attempt to soften hard emotions since sugar and flour were no longer an option.
It took me a while to realize that support wasn’t just for encouragement when things are going great or suggestions when things are hard. It’s also a place to go as soon as things start to get hard or might get hard. Support can be a place to share life’s burdens. I have historically been someone who helps bear other people’s burdens, but I’ve had a hard time allowing others to help bear mine.
I have carried the message “don’t be a burden” deep within me. It was time to challenge that and take a risk at letting people show up for me.
I started intentionally reaching out for support. When the ten-year anniversary of having lost my dad came around, I texted three people to let them know it was coming. I wasn’t sure what emotions would come up, but I committed to feeling them and not eating because of them. Just sending the texts lessened the weight. Knowing that people who cared about me, and understood my relationship with food, were aware of my struggle somehow buoyed me.
Now, when I find myself tempted to turn to food, I turn to people. If I know something that might be difficult to navigate is coming up, I reach out ahead of time. I commit to a plan of action and then confirm I’ve taken it once the hard thing has passed.
I am sad it has taken so long for me to allow others to do for me what I have so willingly done for them. I’m not asking them to solve my problems or heal my pain. Just sit with me in it. Know me, and witness my humanity.
When I found myself emotionally jerked around by the scale, I had my husband hide it from me for six weeks. Then, I weighed myself, tucked the scale under the bathroom vanity, and went another six weeks without weighing. This time, the scale didn’t have to be hidden.
This is the first example of brain healing I can point to. The difference between my relationship with the scale before and after this is notable. Before, I would blame and demonize myself if the number went up and praise myself if it went down. If it continued going down, I’d start to think maybe I could eat more and still keep losing. I was doing so good, I deserved more food as a reward.
Food is fuel, not a reward.
In early 2020, I lost down to my goal weight. Bright Line Eating has a maintenance plan that helps you slowly add food to stop your weight loss. That becomes your food plan for maintaining your weight long term. That is a simplified explanation of a delicate dance, but it’s sufficient for now.
As I approached the possibility of adding food, I was filled with fear. My biggest fear was that I would never get to add food. As a “quantities girl”, I had been dreaming of getting more since I started BLE. What if it turned out that the weight loss portions were the amount of food I needed to maintain my weight? The thought of that was almost paralyzing. Sure, it was enough for now, but I needed more. I needed to be allowed more.
I made my first add and can’t fully tell you what happened. It was two years ago, and I didn’t keep great records.
Another tool from Bright Line Eating. Tracking. There’s a saying that you manage what you monitor. I didn’t monitor it; I didn't manage it.
I imagine some part of me thought I had a handle on what to eat and that I didn’t need to write it down anymore.
The crazy thing is that I had recently realized that deciding and writing down my food the night before brought me an enormous amount of peace. It drastically reduced the number of decisions I had to make throughout a day. Instead of deciding what to eat for lunch when I was hungry at lunchtime, I simply had to look at what I wrote down the night before. Easy. Sure, I had to decide my food at some point, but I did it after I ate dinner when my belly was full. I would often plan a few days in advance based on what was in the fridge.
My weight slowly started creeping back up. And I do mean slowly.
During this slow creep, I started learning more about Internal Family Systems (IFS). Without going too deep, IFS provides a way of looking inside ourselves at the different parts of us. Similar to a nuclear family unit, inside each of us is a family of parts who impact the decisions we make and how we engage with the world.
Two important parts within many food addicts are the Food Indulger and the Food Controller. The Food Indulger would be the one encouraging me to eat my feelings. The Food Controller would be the one insisting that I not.
I also have a Caretaker part who wants to make sure I have everything I need and that nothing stresses me out or causes me any fear. This part can actually keep me from self-care by trying to protect me from spending money.
The Food Controller and Caretaker are probably responsible for me forcing myself to eat all of the vegetables on the BLE weight loss plan, despite my digestive system not being able to handle the load. After three years of forcing myself to eat what the plan told me to, my Authentic Self had the idea to reduce the number of vegetables I was eating. While it has not cured my digestive ills, it has given me some room to breathe! And, I wasn’t hungry from reducing the amount of vegetables! My body was fine with it.
I’ve also started taking care of my body by listening to it when it comes to exercise rather than pushing it regardless of what it says. During the beginning of the pandemic, I started working out like I was making up for lost time. Some part of me felt like I was. I also felt like I didn’t know how long this space in my life to exercise would last. Better optimize on it. As if that’s how exercise works. You work hard now and reap the benefits for years to come.
Nope. You snooze; you lose.
So, here I am. Three-and-a-half years into my Bright Line Eating journey and a true “lifestyle change” that is sustainable for me. Not just a food change. A true life change: food, brain, support, self-care. And, as my brain heals, who knows what other benefits will come.
Three months ago, I recommitted myself to the tools I knew worked for me. I wrote down my food the night before. I committed to feel my feelings. To reach out for support if I was tempted to eat or if I knew something hard was coming. I committed to listen to my body and take it easy when it asked for it.
My body released the bit of weight I had gained.
I have added food.
I am still losing weight and will add more food until my weight loss stops and my body tells me where it feels comfortable.
I have been here before. The number on the scale may be familiar, but I am different.
I no longer fear not getting more food. Thankfully, I know I will get more, but I believe that even if I didn’t, I would be okay. It would mean my body already had what it needed. Bright Line Eating doesn’t set you up to be hungry for the rest of your life. That is not sustainable.
Our bodies really do know what they need. If we learn to listen, they tell us.
Where I had fear and the desire for control before, I now have peace and surrender.
I thought I signed up for the “heal your brain in months” option, but it seems it’s taken three-and-a-half years for me. Turns out, there was a lot to heal.
I know there is more healing to be done, but I am grateful for the awareness of growth. Thankful that after not eating sugar or flour of any kind for three-and-a-half years, I have more peace and neutrality around food and my weight than I have for most of my life. I have tools and support. I understand more about my internal emotional life and how to manage it.
I also have less actual weight holding me down. Funny how that now seems like the byproduct instead of the initial goal.
It would have been nice had it only taken me six months, but you can’t skip the hard stuff. It’s where true healing and growth happen.
And, I’m better for it.