“I wanted to be happy, thin, and free more than I wanted to lose myself in the comfort of the food”
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, PhD
Dr. Veronica Anderson, Host, Functional Medicine Specialist and Medical Intuitive interviews Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. about how to recover from food and drug addiction.
Are you addicted? Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. teaches courses in Positive Psychology and The Psychology of Eating, Body Image, and Wellness. She is on a mission to alleviate the suffering and frustration of people who are unable to get their eating under control and lose weight.
In this episode, Susan will share how she helps others overcome their food and drug addiction by changing their lifestyle and diet. She will talk about her thoughts on why the world is so obese, methods for rapid weight loss, and what times you should eat throughout the day. Listen to the end to find out if the Bright Line Eating Boot Camp is right for you.
Listen to episode 68 on iTunes here or subscribe on your favorite podcast app.
68: Show Notes
Dr. Veronica Anderson’s Links:
Bright Line Eating – Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, PhD
01:41 – Susan’s weight loss journey
06:20 – Food addiction
09:33 – Why are we so obese?
12:09 – Recovering from addiction
13:47 – Resting for weight loss
17:56 – Can you eat bread?
22:29 – What times should you eat?
25:01 – Bright line eating boot camp
Female VO: Welcome to the Wellness Revolution Podcast, the radio show all about wellness in your mind, body, spirit, personal growth, sex, and relationships. Stay tuned for weekly interviews featuring guests that have achieved physical, mental, and spiritual health in their lives.
If you’d like to have access to our entire back catalog visit drveronica.com for instant access. Here’s your host, Dr. Veronica.
Dr. Veronica: Welcome again to another episode of the Wellness Revolution. We are going to talk today about the science behind living happy, thin and free. Did I say that right? Maybe, maybe not. It doesn’t matter because you want to know it anyway. Ok, America we are having an obesity epidemic, it’s a big big big deal. Everyone is trying to lose weight and what’s even frustrating now is that people have tried so hard they are now just giving up and saying I am going to be sick and overweight. This is not the way we want to do it, there is science behind it and today I have a New York Times Bestselling author, how about that, Dr. Susan Pierce Thompson and we are going to talk about her journey and her bestselling book and how to be happy, fit, free, thin all this other stuff that you never can be too rich to choose them, can you be too rich to choose them? Dr. Susan welcome to the Wellness Revolution. So first tell us about your own weight lose journey.
Dr. Susan: It was long and arduous actually. You know, I always used to think that I was a normal weight kid but actually looking back at pictures now and I have three daughters, my twin girls are turning nine and my littlest one is five, so I have the sense of what average weight kids, well, my kids are average weight. And when I look back at my pictures as when I was a kid I was overweight and I didn’t think that I was, I don’t remember feeling fat as a little kid. I wasn’t fat but I was pretty …….. 0:02:14.4 but by the time I was eleven or twelve old I weighed more than I weigh now.
I think I started my first diet when I was ten and by the time I was fourteen I had discovered that drugs would help me stay thin. So I did mushrooms and lost a lot of weight, when I was doing mushrooms that I lost seven pounds and that stuck in my head. And so from the age of fourteen to the age of twenty I did drugs to try to not try to eat and not think about food and to have fun and to party but also to keep weight off me.
It didn’t really work, I mean, I was still overweight, all except for a brief time when I was seventeen when I found Crystal Meth and did that until I bottomed out on that pretty hard. Well, by the time I was twenty I bottomed out on crack cocaine, I dropped out of high school, I burned my life to the ground and I was blessed to get clean and sober. Then I packed on a lot of weight, like boom, that first, probably gained, I don’t know, sixty pounds in like a breadth, it was how it felt like. I am 5 foot 3, like sixty pounds, that’s like gaining a hundred pounds, like it’s not a little bit of weight, it’s enough to put me into the obese category on BMI chart.
My weight continued to climb, I did hit the obese category on the BMI chart and all through my twenties my weight climbed up and down, up and down and up and down but the trajectory was up. And every couple of years another ten pounds marker, you know, like at first for me overweight was the 140s, then it was 150s, then it was 160, it just kind of kept going up, up and up. And, I tried 12-step programs to help and experienced varying degrees of success. There were lots of different 12-step programs. I did finally fall into a group of people who were not eating sugar, not eating flour, weighing and measuring their food and eating three meals a day with nothing in between and that’s what I ended up doing that ended up working.
So I lost my excess weight, that was back in 2003 and I have been a size four now for fourteen years, coming up on fourteen years. I don’t if you know this, Veronica, the statistics are so abysmal for weight lose that if you have been obese the odds of you getting into a right size forty and living there for ten years are more, those odds are one one hundredth or one percent of people would do that one one hundredth or one, it’s almost unheard of.
Then I started to help other people to lose their weight and oh, I forgot, like after I got clean and sober I went to college and then graduated school and got a PhD in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. I became ……… psychology professor and I started teaching a college course on the psychology of eating in particular the neuroscience of food prediction. And finally in 2014 my private life where I was helping people to lose weight and my academic career where I was teaching students about the neuroscience of food addiction they kind of came together and I wrote a book and started this movement called Bright Line Eating. So that’s the trajectory in a nutshell.
Dr. Veronica: Ok, so that’s an amazing, absolutely amazing story because I am listening to you talk about how you were a drug addict taking the hardest drugs. America is in a drug epidemic right now and people are dying at epidemic proportions in midlife from these really hard drugs and you are saying well, I have been there and you talk about starting probably when you say you were ten because you started discovering that some of these drugs could keep you thin.
Let’s step back from that because now you are a psychology professor, do you feel that you were an addict back then? Did you have some somebody’s addictive tendencies that drove you towards eating?
Dr. Susan: Yeah, I think of addiction now on a continuum, I used to think of it as a binary distinction where you are an addict or you are not an addict and I now think of it more as a continuum and I have a scale called the susceptibility scale it goes from one to ten. It tells you how susceptible your brain is to food addiction essentially and I think over the years I climbed up that scale. I think I started with a genetic predisposition and I think I started with environmental susceptibility as well and I think that triggers …………. in my environment continued to layer on the addiction until I was, you know, by the time I was in my mid twenties I was hopelessly addicted. When I was ten was I a food addict? I was a probably a ……… budding embryonic food addict. I was probably higher on the susceptibility scale even at that point than a lot of people will ever be in their whole lifetime but I don’t think I was a ten on susceptibility scale yet, I got to be a ten. Does that make sense?
Dr. Veronica: I get it. So I would have asked this question because people believe that if you are fat it’s just inherited. Two days ago, three days ago, last week on Facebook a person said, well it’s inheritance so there is nothing you can do so stop talking about fat people. What do you say to that?
Dr. Susan: Well, what I say to that is that our genes have been pretty stable in our population for the last hundred years but our body mass on average has not been. So I think a better explanation is the environment, now, it’s probably as with all interesting human traits our gene environment interaction where it’s probably the case that certain triggers in the environment particularly a …… 0:08:07.4 of sugar, flour, fat and salt they were putting into our fast foods and stuff like that are …… ourselves and now what is happening is, it’s called epigenetics where genes are turned on or turned off by our environmental triggers. So probably genes for obesity that were lying dormant in our population for many years are being turned on by the foods that we eat.
But, what we see Bright Line Eating is people even with profound genetic accessibility, people who are morbidly obese, whose whole families are morbidly obese are getting slander and staying slender. So it’s not pure genes, it’s genes plus what you are eating. I mean, you don’t have to go back that far, just a hundred or two hundred years to find a population where ninety nine percent of the population was at a normal weight. So it’s just not the case that’s it’s genetic, it’s the case that we are eating differently and that’s turning on genes maybe that are present in some people and not in others.
Dr. Veronica: Ok, thank you for that just because when I say these things and write people will jump over you because you put science out there and most people will tell you how well, that’s science but my body is different and I like that you pointed out that, you know, a hundred years ago ninety nine percent of the population was normal weight. When you go to a lot of other parts of the world the population is normal weight. When you step into America all of a sudden somebody who is big in someplace else is actually tiny here and so we really are large here in America. So why do you think it’s so much here in America versus the rest of the world although the rest of the world is getting bigger too? What do you see happening?
Dr. Susan: It’s just our eating patterns, we are eating more refined foods and bigger portions. We are just eating more than other parts of the world. We are also eating the foods that are addictive that make you eat more. So, it’s not just the calories and calories, ……..phenomenal, it’s also the foods that you chose to eat today will influence how much you are going to eat tomorrow. So if you eat cookies, cakes, pizza, first food, those words of foods, basically foods loaded with sugar and flour they wire the brain for addiction and that forces you to eat more tomorrow.
So we are just overloading on the addictive foods. If you go into a US supermarket eighty percent of the calories have added sugar in them. So we are exporting that diet though, actually in sheer numbers and this just because some populations are so large. China and India lead the world in numbers of overweight and obese people, just because their populations are mammoth. The Middle East leads the world in type 2 diabetes and actually the Middle East is right on par with us in terms of obesity rates. Up and till 2006 the Middle East actually led the world in obesity rates. In 2006 we passed them for a little bit buy we are pretty much neck and neck. If we keep going at this pace plenty of places in the world including the United States will have a fifty percent obesity rate by 2030. Fifty percent obesity, we have about a third right now obesity rate and that’s going to climb up to fifty percent. The diabetes rates are already off the charts but it’s going to get really bad, we cannot afford financially in terms of just human potential that gets wasted cause when you are overweight and that sick like you are just waiting for your life to begin till you lose the weight essentially and we have got a hundred and eight million Americans trying four or five new dieting attempts each year with hope of success.
Dr. Veronica: So you have got to hold up your book and I am just going to say to the audience Dr. Susan is in her car coming from the gym, so part of this is about eating. I always tell people listening and we talk about the number one thing is what’s on the end of your folk but you also have got to move and you saw that Bright Line Eating, the science of living happy, thin and free.
So step one, you took back control of this, you went down the road where many people don’t return from that road of addiction, from not just food but from really hard addictive drugs. How did you take back control of your life?
Dr. Susan: Well, with the drugs I went to a 12-Step Program and I just surrendered myself to that program. I did what they told me to do and I went to a lot of meetings and I got a sponsor and I worked the steps and all that good stuff. So I am a big fun of 12-Step Programs.
With food it was much the same although it didn’t kind of work right away the way it did with drugs and alcohol, it took years and years and years. For me I had to get sort of bludgeoned into submission by the food. I had to a point where I was really really desperate and really done where I wanted to be happy, thin and free more than I wanted to lose myself in the comfort of that food. I really really wanted the misery to stop eating, eating sort of turned on me and became sort of a source of misery and it took a long time to kind of get to the point where I was really done. And, then when I got to that point I surrendered sugar in all forms, I surrendered flour in all forms, I committed to eating three meals a day with nothing in between and I started weight and measuring my food.
It’s interesting you mentioned that I came from the gym because I did not exercise to lose my weight and I recommend people do not exercise to lose their weight. I rested and I took it easy and I focused on getting my food dialed in and automatic in the early stages. I only started hitting the gym for fun and for all the other helpful benefits of it, for brain health, for all that stuff but working out doesn’t help you lose weight, actually you need to rest to lose weight.
Dr. Veronica: It’s interesting you would say that just because when I start people on programs I do not focus on exercise at all, I don’t even mention exercise. Interestingly when people say when people say well why are you overweight? They say well, I don’t have time to get to the gym. So people …….. 0:14:13.7 lack of going to the gym is what’s causing them failure when in fact it’s not.
When I start people on programs, I start them off with just change little bits of their eating and when they see that they can lose massive amount of weight by making small changes the first thing they realize is no, I don’t have, the gym is good for other reasons but no exercise is not going to be the key and two, I really power over this and it wasn’t that big of a deal. I had this guy he was huge and in five week he lost like forty five pounds and he is like I did this and I wasn’t hungry and it wasn’t hard. I am not going to say it’s not going to be hard for everybody, I am not saying that but it was like he was surprised that how little changes we made week by week and I said I just want you to focus on this, this is all I want you to do, this little bit, just do this little bit well and do that for seven days and then report back and we will go to the next step.
Dr. Susan: I love it.
Dr. Veronica: People have massive results and then all of a sudden once they get those results they start feeling like they want to go exercise themselves. They start exercising before I mention it. So I am happy you said exercise isn’t going to get you there because you cannot exercise enough. Now, you are a psychologist, you studied the science behind eating, my background is in neuroscience, I love it, how does the brain block weight loss?
Dr. Susan: You were just talking about that people start to exercise on their own and I was thinking I know why that is happening because their leptin is getting back on board. So leptin seems to be the holy grail. Leptin is the feedback hormone that you would think that we would have, basically if you start to put on weight, getting too fat is not healthy, it’s not evolutionary advantageous, right? So once you start to put on weight your fat cells secrete this hormone called leptin, it circles back to the brain and says hey we have got enough fuel on board, don’t focus on eating anymore right now. Stop eating and go use this fuel for activities that are going to help ensure your survival in other ways, go build a hut, go find a mate, go kill a wildebeest, do productive thing, right? So it’s the hormone that tells your brain you are not hungry anymore, you are full now and go get active.
The problem is that our brains are blocking us from seeing the leptin that is circulating in our blood. Like it’s true that we have got leptin, we are getting fatter and fatter and fatter, those fat cells are realizing leptin, lots of it into our blood stream. The trouble is our brains aren’t seeing it and what’s blocking it is insulin. So it’s really critical to get your insulin levels down. This is where cutting out sugar and flour becomes really helpful, really critical and if you have an addictive tendency like I do cutting it out with bright line, that’s where the term bright line eating comes from. A bright line is just a clear boundary that you never cross. Like if you are going to quit smoking you are not going to do it in moderation, you are just going to quit smoking. I am not going to say it’s easy but I am saying that if you try doubling with the nicotine moderation program you are going to make yourself crazy and it’s not going to work, you are not going to get healthy that way. So some things you just have to quit because they are too addictive. So I coach people to quit sugar and flour and all of a sudden yeah, they start to want exercise because their leptin is getting back on board which is making them want to get active again.
Dr. Veronica: Ok, so when everybody, I had a guy I talked to one day, he was thinking about becoming a client and he said “am I going to have to give up bread”? I said, “at least for a while” and he said “I am not joining”. So now, let’s talk about what we replace it with. Just because I tell people you still can enjoy eating, there are lots of wonderful foods that you can eat, you can enjoy eating. We all enjoy eating, eating is important to all of us. You talked about comfort foods and things like that. So once people are quitting sugar and flour, what type of replacement are you recommending so that they still feel like I am getting something that I really enjoy?
Dr. Susan: Yeah, you know, I don’t think of it in terms of replacement foods and it’s good when I think about it. I guess mostly I just feel like, yeah, do you want to keep eating your bread? I can’t help you, like a richer bread, you know what I mean, like bread I am eating is not for everybody and I think that we have free will and we get choices in this life and if you want to eat your way, you know, up the scale and into diabetes and all that stuff and the bread is more important to you than getting healthy then I have got nothing for you.
So I always kind of say like I am not in the convincing business, I am here to help the people who are like dying for a solution, they will stand on their head in the corner and eat shoe leather, they don’t care. They are like just get this weight off me and I need peace because I am crazy with food, I can’t stop eating, I am overweight and nothing has worked like I have given all of these programs my full heartfelt efforts and six months later I am fatter than ever, like something has got to stop here.
So those are my people, just saying. Like the guy who wants to eat his bread is not my guy, you know what I mean? So, go eat your bread. On the other hand I ………0:19:46.4 like really love our food in Bright Line Eating like we are not eating sodas, we are not shoe leather, like that’s the good news, you don’t have to eat shoe leather . So for example I just have to say roasted butternut squash is fucking delicious and, ………… is yummy and in the morning I have a big bowl of oatmeal, gluten free oats with some, these days I am really loving almond, kind of a random thing, big amount of raspberries and some ground flax seeds and some nuts on there and a ton of cinnamon and I am saying that’s a delicious bowl of food right there.
So anyway there are lots of foods that you can eat that are yummy, we eat basically every whole natural real food there is we eat in Bright Line Eating. Every protein, every vegetable, every fruit, every grain, every legume like if it’s a whole real food we eat it. The only foods we don’t eat are the bastardized, commercialized, packaged, adulterated crappy food that isn’t really food, it’s frankenfood.
So there is plenty of delicious food to eat. And the other thing I want to say as your taste buds, those cells in your taste buds they only live two weeks long. Every cell in your taste buds is a new cell every two weeks. So your taste for food is going to change dramatically when you stop eating, you know, at first that food tastes so good but when you stop eating it you don’t really want it anymore, you start to love the taste of whole real foods. So I know people feel desperate when they think about giving up sugar and flour but that’s also actually the brain talking. That’s dopamine down regulation talking when they feel about the pleasureless, you know, my life is going to be over if I can’t have my bread. Like it’s too bad we can go back to him and just say like dude that’s not you talking, it just dopamine down regulation, like those receptors will grow back and you will be fine without your bread.
Dr. Veronica: Yeah, and the other piece that I find talks in people, a lot of people have yeast overgrowth and the yeast is telling them to eat all those cabs too. So there are all kinds of parts of the body that are causing people to have these cravings where they can’t give it up. And I love that you said yeah, it’s two weeks because I tell people listen your taste buds are just clearly going to change. Believe me they are going to change and so some people when they come in and they are kind of kicking and screaming and they are really scared there are foods I tell them to eat that they say “you know, I didn’t like this in the beginning but this is actually really good and I look forward to it. So I think that is the taste buds changing.
Now we talked about leptin, I teach a lot of my clients about timing eating. Do you also talk about eating and the timing of eating their food, a certain amount of time between and all that other type of stuff?
Dr. Susan: Yeah, I mean, we have a general rule of thumb like eat breakfast at breakfast time, lunch at lunch time, dinner at dinner time, ideally four to six hours between the hours, let your body digest one meal before you eat another. I think there is great new research on how each organ of the body has its own circadian rhythm cells and they get reset when you eat. So if you are eating at regular meals times your small intestine large intestine stomach will come to expect food at the right time and it will set its 24 hour clock by your eating. So eating at consistent times is really helpful. There is also really good research that having a nice long fasting window, meaning, you know, finish your dinner by 6.00 for example, don’t eat your breakfast the next morning until 8.00 am, now you have got a fourteen hour fasting window onboard. Like you have not put anything in your mouth of chloric value for fourteen hours. That starts a process called autophagy, which is the cells recycling their broken and dysfunctional parts including your mitochondria which are your energy centers which means that your energy starts to replenish and gets stronger and stronger and stronger if you have a good fasting window.
So there is a lot of important stuff around meal timing that are starting to come out especially in circadian rhythm world.
Dr. Veronica: ok, so I have to ask you a question, ………. the same thing as autophagy?
Dr. Susan: Yes
Dr. Veronica: I am just saying what’s that word that I don’t know and I was just like wait a minute.
Dr. Susan: Yeah
Dr. Veronica: For those of you who don’t know out there, it’s about pretty much the body cells eating kind of themselves but not the same way in autoimmunity. So this ……. or autophagy is actually a process you want to happen versus autoimmunity which a lot of times keeps going on from too much sugar and too much flour. So first things that I tell people when they have any ……….. my friend called me yesterday and said “how can I get rid of this ……………..” so you are not going to like my answer, she is like “I am not giving up my sugar and my bread” I am like “ok, be where you are you have decided that you want to stay the way you are and I am cool with that”.
So you have a boot camp that people can go to because I know some people are saying I have got to get it together, what do I do and you are doing this in a way that the body supports the biochemistry supports that we are meant to be, this is not like the TV shows that we see where it’s the worst thing in the world and then they tempt people by putting food in front of them to see if they are going to fall down. This is not what your boot camp is about. Your boot camp, everybody knows, we are talking the same principles, people who have listened to me a lot know that we are talking the same language here, how do we get involved in your boot camp?
Dr. Susan: So it’s called the Bright Line Eating Boot Camp and it’s an eight week program but it’s fully online so you don’t have to travel to it, it’s not at a certain destination, we have had people from seventy five countries from all over the world take the boot camp. It’s all on your computer, all you need is internet access to participate. So you can check it out by going to our website brightlineeating.com.
Ten thousand people have done it, people lose on average seventeen pounds in eight weeks on average, we have got people who have lost forty five pounds in eight weeks. People come in from bigger numbers and on average people keep that weight off and keep losing after the boot camp. And we have got a program after the boot camp called bright lifers so just continues people on their journey. Our data is showing we have the most successful weight loss program on planet earth by far actually. So we are just starting to publish those data and it’s really exciting.
Dr. Veronica: Wonderful. I appreciate so much your time, your research, hearing where you came from, that having somebody lead the charge that has been from probably what we see is the worst case that we see on TV people who are just falling off the earth and this is a big deal now between drugs and eating. Those are the two things that are making America go down the tubes. We can’t lead the world when we are fat and drugged out. We are addicted to it and drugged out. So if we worried about what’s going on in White House we need to look in our own house and that means our bodies to be able to get it together before we can criticize anything else.
Dr. Susan Pierce Thompson I thank you so much Bright Line Eating – the Science of Happy Thin and Free and everybody knows that if they look in the show notes they will be able to get a link to your book and also make sure we have a link to the website where they can get to the boot camp also. So thank you, parting words, anything else you want to tell us?
Dr. Susan: Just we are poised for revolution, like just be aware and start being part of the solution like we can’t feed our kids the way we have been feeding them, you know, children’s menus on restaurants and stuff are expectations for food at celebrations and birthday parties and stuff. We have got to start to upgrade our expectations and our standards of what we call food and what we serve as food because we are killing ourselves and we are killing each other.
Female VO: Thank you for listening to the Wellness Revolution Podcast. If you want to hear more on how to bring wellness into your life visit drveronica.com. See you all next week. Take care.
Dr. Veronica Anderson is an MD, Functional Medicine Practitioner, Homeopath. and Medical Intuitive. As a national speaker and designer of the Functional Fix and Rejuvenation Journey programs, she helps people who feel like their doctors have failed them. She advocates science-based natural, holistic, and complementary treatments to address the root cause of disease. Dr. Veronica is a highly-sought guest on national television and syndicated radio and hosts her own radio show, Wellness for the REAL World, on FOX Sports 920 AM “the Jersey” on Mondays at 7:00 pm ET.