The Weekly Vlog

Sometimes Addictive Eating Works

Apr 17, 2024

Today’s topic was suggested by a conversation I had with a Bright Lifer. She said she had recently gone back to sugar and flour … and it kind of worked. She didn’t intend to keep it up but was surprised that she seemed okay.

It reminded me of a time in Australia when I was deep in the throes of late-stage food addiction. I’d stop eating sugar and flour and could only last a few days. I remember that when I went back to the food, it was such a relief. 

A good way to think of this is with the hourglass analogy. Before we start BLE, the hourglass is wide, symbolizing all the freedom we have because we can do 100% what we want with food. Then we learn to become Bright and our options narrow. We may reach a point where we’re feeling very restricted—eating out feels hard, traveling is scary, dinner parties aren’t fun. Then, as we practice eating in new situations and learn to be Bright no matter what, we develop automaticity with restaurants, travel, and dinner parties, and the hourglass gets wider again. Now we have the ULTIMATE freedom—we’re in our Bright Bodies AND we can live freely in the world. we can  successfully navigate life.

If you’re in the earlier phases of recovery, it can feel great to give up the constraints and go back to the food. But this “freedom” can be deceptive.

Some people may go back to the food when they’re at the bottom of the hourglass. They feel great—and so they get overconfident. It’s a pernicious feature of addiction: when we’re in recovery, we forget the horror of what addiction was like. 

When the brain wires up to do anything, neurons fire together, synapses develop and connect, and fiber tracts develop in the brain. I think of these as riverbeds. The riverbed grows deep over time, as water wears down the soil. This is how addiction forms.

When you want to quit, you have to dam all the water upstream. That dam is the Bright Line program. Over time, as the water is diverted, you develop a new riverbed with the habits you learn from BLE. At first, it feels awkward and unfamiliar, and you’re in the narrow part of the hourglass. Over time, however, it becomes comfortable, because the riverbed is deep thanks to all the practice and automaticity you’ve built up.

But what if someone who is comfortable with their Bright habits decides to let some water back into the old riverbed? At first, it feels like it’s no big deal. The grasses and shrubs that have grown up in that dry riverbed keep the water from flowing freely. But eventually, the grasses and shrubs wash away and you’re going to get all the negative consequences of that old river. 

If you go back to eating sugar and flour, it may work at first. But eventually, it won’t. How long it takes to get back to misery is based on multiple factors, most notably where you are on the Susceptibility Scale. 

If you have any amount of addiction—if you’re a six or above on the Susceptibility Scale, say—remember that addiction is progressive. Over significant periods, it gets worse. The periods where it works will get shorter. The consequences will become more severe as you age.

Addiction is like flushing a toilet—the water swirls around and goes down, down, down the drain. Sometimes the water might head up a bit at the beginning of a flush…before it swirls ever further down.

Finally, what if you’re stuck in a cycle where some parts of you really focus on how the food works, and other parts of you want to live Bright? That can be a terrible inner conflict to experience. You go back to the food in cycles and can never stay Bright for long. Getting out of that cycle requires a deeper surrender and a fuller application of the Bright Line Eating tools.

But don’t be surprised if, sometimes, being in the food seems to work. Hopefully, this helps you to see the big picture, so that when you think that addictive eating might be working, you can zoom out and see what’s coming, eventually.

Click here to listen to this episode on Bright Line Living™ - The Official Bright Line Eating Podcast.

Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. is a New York Times bestselling author and an expert in the psychology and neuroscience of eating.  Susan is the Founder and CEO of Bright Line Eating®, a scientifically grounded program that teaches you a simple process for getting your brain on board so you can finally find freedom from food.

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