GUEST POST by Dr Susan Peirce Thompson PhD
When I was overweight I tried every diet on the market. I was working hard to get my PhD in Brain and Cognitive Science, but was putting none of that inquiry toward the disconnect between how badly I wanted to lose weight and my self-sabotaging behavior. If I committed to write an 80-page paper, I wrote it. But my repeated commitments to weight loss only led to weeks of pound shed, followed by some spectacular slip, and my weight creeping right back up past my starting point--until I was obese.
Finally I asked why. Why did my success, smarts and determination have no bearing on this ONE aspect of my life? It’s because the most popular weight loss programs in the country don’t work with brain science, they work against it.
First, the brain of an overweight person isn’t processing a critical hormone, leptin. Leptin is what cues us to feel full and move. I never felt full! I could go from dinner to the couch with a chips, finish a carton of ice cream, and head to bed still hungry. What was blocking my leptin? Elevated insulin!
Diets that don’t achieve lowering insulin levels dramatically and permanently will never get the body’s leptin back doing it’s job of making us feel full and energetic naturally. So diets that are high in refined carbs, with meal-replacement bars, artificially sweetened shakes, cheat days, cheat hours, will never allow the body to fully re-set. The urge to eat remains.
Second, after eating so much sugar my brain had down-regulated, meaning it had taken most of my pleasure-receptors offline to cope with the excessive sugar I was putting in my body. Meaning I needed more and more sugar to feel any pleasure from it at all. In the last few years I couldn’t actually even taste my food at all. Yet, I kept eating it.
Diets that function like cutting back smoking never allow the brain to heal. After six months without sugar and flour my brain repaired. I was not only slender, but I could taste my food again. And I no longer craved sugar.
I was able to do this by imposing non-negotiable Bright-Lines around sugar and flour. I just don’t eat them, ever. The plus side of this “policy” is that I need to use zero willpower to enforce it. I would no more eat sugar than playground dirt. It’s simply not an option.
By adopting these “Bright-Lines” we eliminate hundreds of food choices we have to make daily, cutting down the opportunities for slip-ups that can trigger our brain to take control again. And we eliminate the chatter, the “I’ll just have one cookie at the meeting, but then I won’t have dessert. Well, maybe I’ll go for a run later, so I can have the cookie and dessert.” But then we eat the dessert, feel too sluggish to go for the run and promise to do better tomorrow.
Bright Lines have given me, and thousands of others, their lives back. We have too much to do to waste another second thinking about food or feeling bad about ourselves. Freedom lies on the other side of the Lines.
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Time and time again I hear people ask "why do I feel so bad when they tell me there's nothing wrong?" My goal is to help solve your health problems, to get to the bottom of things, not just symptom control but to bring about a return to good health.