Susan Thompson, Long-term, Sustainable Weight Loss


Susan_ThompsonDr. Susan Peirce Thompson is a tenured psychology professor who has served on the faculty of several colleges and universities across the globe. Her Ph.D. is in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and she specializes in the psychology and neuroscience of weight loss, willpower, and food addiction. She is the founder and CEO of Bright Line Eating Solutions, a company dedicated to helping people achieve long-term, sustainable weight loss.


Hello everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food on October 28th, 2014. How are you today? Let’s get to the next part of the program because I’m really excited to bring on Dr. Susan Pierce Thompson who is a tenured psychology professor who has served on the faculty of several colleges and universities across the globe. Her Ph.D. is in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and she specializes in the psychology and neuroscience of weight loss, willpower, and food addiction. She is the founder and CEO of Bright Line Eating Solutions, a company dedicated to helping people achieve long-term, sustainable weight loss. Dr. Thompson welcome to It’s All About Food.

Susan Thompson: Hi Caryn, thanks for having me on.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m really looking forward to this. You know we had the opportunity to chat a while ago and I learned so much and now I’m so happy to share it with my listeners.

Susan Thompson: I’m glad to be here. It’s exciting.

Caryn Hartglass: I got to listen to your webinar which was amazing. You’ve just packed so much information into a couple of hours. It was great.

Susan Thompson: Thank you, hopefully many more to come.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. A lot of people need this information…

Susan Thompson:, …more and more unfortunately.

Caryn Hartglass: My passion is all about getting healthy delicious food into people’s mouths and making them feel good and feel better. It’s complicated because there are so many issues that surround what we choose to eat. And one of them is our brain. How does our brain get involved with what we want to eat?

Susan Thompson: What a question Caryn. I could take the next 28 minutes and just talk about that. Let me just say briefly…I’ll give a quick outline and then you can touch on whichever of these you want me to talk about more. One of the ways our brain gets involved has to do with the way willpower works in the brain. A lot of people have noticed that they have good intentions about what to eat and may even know a whole bunch about what they should be eating, about nutrition and about the research behind what’s best to eat but find themselves making other choices in the heat of the moment. In order to really unpack what’s going on there it’s very helpful to understand how willpower works in the brain. So that’s one thing, that’s one way that the brain gets involved. The short answer there is that willpower is not very healthful so you’ve got to find strategies to work around what I call “the willpower gap” which is gaps between what we know we should be doing or what we should be eating and what we actually do pick in a given choice scenario. Another way that the brain gets involved is it has to do with the fact that we have this illusion that we’re making intentional choices about what and how much we eat when in reality the brain sort of tricks us in various ways. This is research by Brian Wansink of Cornell University. He shows for example that when we eat off of large plates we eat more food than we think we’re eating or we rely on external cues rather than internal cues to decide whether we’ve eaten enough. So for example he did this clever experiment where he had soup bowls…people were eating in his lab at a table out of soup bowls and as they were eating the soup the bowls were magically being refilled by a tube from the bottom of the bowl that ran down under the table and was connected to this big vat of soup. He would stop them periodically and say “Are you full yet?” and they’d look down at the bowl which was still two thirds full and they’d look at him like he was crazy. They didn’t know they’d already eaten like three quarts of soup.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow.

Susan Thompson: We rely on these cues that are not the cues that we think we’re relying on so people would be insulted if you told them you really have no idea whether you’re hungry or full, you really have no idea how much you’ve eaten. So it’s helpful to know how the brain works in that way. The other thing is it’s really helpful to know about the neuroscience of food addiction because food addiction is very, very real thing. It doesn’t affect everyone equally. Some people are really afflicted with it more than others. Getting that message out…I think the message is already out there that food is addictive, especially sugar but also processed flour. I think that people are a little confused about what exactly is addictive. It’s really sugar and flour that are the culprits more than sugar, fat and salt which people are talking about. People are forgetting the flour which I think is important. Pizza, pasta, bread, bagels, chips, crackers those are often foods that people often binge on. It’s really irrespective of salt or fat content. It’s the flour that’s doing it. I’m trying to bring a more nuanced discussion about food addiction to the general public because people are talking about food being addictive but ok then what does that mean? What next? What should someone do who are finding themselves pulled by cravings that they keep succumbing to. There isn’t a lot of helpful discussion about that so I’m trying to bring awareness around those questions.

Caryn Hartglass: I just want to mention…you were talking about sugar and flour and you had made a comparison with cocaine that I found so powerful.

Susan Thompson: We often don’t think about where these substances come from. Where does cocaine come from anyway. Where does heroin come from? The answer of course is that they come from plants. Right? Cocaine comes from the coca leaf which people in Guatemala and Colombia have been chewing on for millennia without any particular adverse effects. Chewing on a coca leaf gives you a tiny little lift that’s like drinking a little cup of caffeinated black tea or something like that. It’s a very minor effect. But when you take the inner essence of that coca leaf and you refine and purify it into a fine what powder you get a drug. Similarly heroin comes from poppy plants and they’re harmless on their own but if you take the inner essence of that poppy plant and you refine and purify it into a fine powder you get heroin. What’s sugar–where does that come from? You take a plant substance maybe sugar cane, maybe beets, maybe corn and you refine and purify its inner essence into a fine white powder and you get sugar. And flour is the same way. You take natural plants that are healthy, if you eat them whole but you take a legume or a grain and you take its inner essence and you refine and purify it into a fine powder and you get flour. And these refined substances don’t hit the brain the way nature intended. They hit the reward pathway of the brain as drugs. There is now incontrovertible evidence of that from brain imaging scans and also rat studies where you take rats and you hook them on the food and then you look at their brain and you see that these substances have altered the dopamine rewards structure exactly the way that heroin and cocaine alter the dopamine reward pathways by thinning out the dopamine receptors in the brain. So it’s the same exact stuff.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m just wondering—is everybody getting this? This is really powerful stuff. So we know that cocaine and heroin and these white powders are dangerous and they’re addictive and they’re not good for us and they come from simple harmless plants. And then we’ve got sugar and flour that are in everything that people are eating today and they are just as addictive.

Susan Thompson: As a matter of fact I just came across this study the other day or a few days ago and they took some rats and gave them a choice of being injected with intravenous cocaine or sucking down sugar water and the rats preferred sucking down sugar water. Then they actually addicted the rats to cocaine…they hooked them on cocaine and those hooked rats still preferred the sugar over the cocaine even if they were already hooked on cocaine. Here’s the other crazy thing—it worked for saccharine too. So Sweet ‘n Low, those little pink packets that people sweeten their food with. This process is actually mediated through the sweet taste buds. It’s not a blood sugar phenomenon. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re using Truvia or stevia or Equal or Sweet ‘n Low or whatever or sugar or honey or corn syrup or agave or molasses. It’s the activation of the sweet taste buds that hooks directly to the reward centers in the brain and hooks you. In my program, in my Bright Line Eating Program we eliminate all that stuff, just get rid of it because you can’t eat that stuff in moderation. The tag line I like to use is “happy, thin and free”. If you want to be happy, thin and free don’t be eating that stuff.

Caryn Hartglass: I have to just take a moment and say that I’m very sorry for the rats that were in these experiments. I don’t believe in animal experimentation. Those rats on their own would not choose to consume coke or sugar. We know they’re a lot smarter than we are.

Susan Thompson: Totally . I’m with you there. Sorry rats.

Caryn Hartglass: We see this in humans all the time. We have to do the science before people are going to start talking about it in a sensible way.

Susan Thompson: We see these effects…for anyone who is out there who is saying “come on, sugar’s not as addictive as heroin” I want to ask you why do you think that 80,000 people in the United States this year are going to have a foot amputated for Type 2 Diabetes and they know it’s coming? They’ve been told by their doctor “if you don’t stop eating sugar we’re going to cut off your foot, we’re going to cut off your leg.” And 80,000 people in one year, just this year, are going to have that happen to them. Another 25,000 are going to go blind and they know it’s coming. That is powerlessness. That is addiction. I don’t know about you but I don’t know anybody who would willingly walk into blindness or foot amputation if there was some simple change that they could make, if it was within their control to avoid it, right? What other explanation makes sense other than addiction? What else could possibly be the explanation?

Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. Where we don’t have control. Now you’ve told me that some people…there are different kinds of people and some people are more influenced by this kind of addictive power and other people aren’t. They have way way more control.

Susan Thompson: That’s right. It’s just like any drug actually. We know that alcohol’s addictive, right? But lots of people drink a glass of wine here and there or even two glasses of wine a night, right? Some people have heard a glass of wine every night is healthy and they drink one glass of wine every night. Other people if they try to do that they accelerate their drinking consumption and before you know it they’re going to AA, right? For whatever reason we’ve known historically that some people are addictable and some people aren’t. You might say “well heroin is addictive for everybody” and I say not really. Lots of people have surgery and go home with their Vicodin and they take it…even if they have chronic back pain. Some people take some kind of opiate for chronic pain, regularly and never deviate from the doctor’s prescribed instructions and never develop a habit that spirals out of control even though it’s a substance that is clearly addictive. Other people can’t handle it, right? It’s the same with rats to get back to the poor rats but we’ve learned that one-third of rats are not addictable. They are just not susceptible to the addictive properties of various addictive agents. One-third of rats are somewhat addictable and one-third of rats are highly addictable. It looks like that for humans as well. So with our research on food addiction one-third of the population…and this is some percentage of obese, overweight and normal weight individuals. Some normal weight individuals, slender people as well report being heavily addicted to food and not being able to control how much they’re eating and how much they’re thinking about food in between times, how much they get pulled by that addictive craving. It’s about one-third, one-third, one-third in terms of the population breakdown.

Caryn Hartglass: So what I think is encouraging about this, first this information has to get out there because most people don’t know it but for people who really struggle with food addictions—and they see all these other people around them who are not suffering—they think I can get over this myself because everybody else has a handle on it but you may be unfortunately one of those people, one-third of the population, that really struggles with addiction and need a better strategy.

Susan Thompson: Totally, totally. What I call this is the susceptibility scale. How susceptible are you to the addictive properties of refined foods or some other addictive substance. I think an understanding of the susceptibility scale—I like to think of it as a scale from one to ten or zero to ten, right? Where people on the low end, the one through three or whatever, they’re just never going to be affected. They just eat when they have to eat and they don’t think about it much in between times. The eights, nines and tens I agree with you. They’re going to need something else but if we all understood the susceptibility scale it would clear up a lot of misunderstanding. For one thing people think that some sort of diet and exercise regimen or healthy eating solution or program of action to lose weight or whatever is going to be a one size fits all proposition. That’s really not the case. If you know where you’re at on the susceptibility scale you’re much better armed with information about what type of program is likely to work for you.

Caryn Hartglass: So how do you find out where you are on the scale?

Susan Thompson: Yale University does have a food addiction scale which you can google, just “Yale University Food Addiction Scale” and it will come up and you can take it. It’s free online. I think that actually most people can probably diagnose themselves. The simple questions are: “How much am I obsessed with food?”, “Do I have the sense of being out of control over how much I eat?”, “Once I start eating is it hard to control the quantity of the food that I eat?”, “Am I feeling pulled by cravings that I can’t seem to shake?”. If you start to ask yourself these questions you can probably get a sense of where you’re at on the scale.

Caryn Hartglass: OK, let’s just talk a little more personal about you because you’re not just some person who went off and studied this and is smart and is sharing this. You have real personal experience with food and addiction.

Susan Thompson: I do. I have decades of personal experience. I’m a 10 on that spectrum. Yay me. It’s the dubious luxury of being a perfect ten. This isn’t the category you want to be a perfect 10 in. I’m actually just highly addictible across the board. As a teenager I got addicted to drugs. I was addicted to crack as a teenager, really bad. I dropped out of high school—the whole nine yards. Super bad. I got clean and sober when I was 20 and my life got a whole lot better but the addiction just transferred right over to food. I think I’d been addicted to food before that. As a kid, I can look back and see the signs of food addiction in my early youth. I didn’t quite have a weight problem yet. I had a weight problem starting at the age of 12—I was overweight. I think I actually started doing drugs—my first hard drug was crystal meth which makes you not want to eat. That’s what that drug does essentially. It keeps you awake, nonstop and it makes you not want to eat. I remember being so elated that I was dropping weight and no longer obsessed with food. It took the food obsession right away. That was for me one of the primary attractors for me to that drug. Once I got clean the weight piled on and I knew it would which was acceptable to me for awhile. I hate being fat. I don’t know if anyone loves being fat. I think certain people are ok being heavy. It’s kind of who they are and they don’t worry about it too much. I have never been that way. Every extra chunk of weight on my body just feels wrong. I liken it to someone who is transgender, like they’re born a female but they’re really deep down feel like they’re male or they’re born male and feel like they’re female. Deep down I’m a slender person and I was just always living in a fat person’s body. Every time I’d catch my image in a mirror or shop window or something going by or in one of those awful video cameras, security cameras, in a store—I’d catch my image and go “really, is that what I look like?” I was stunned that I was so fat. I’m never comfortable being heavy and so I dieted…not just diets I was trying to do the real deal. I was trying to get happy, thin and free. I was trying to get in shape and eat the right foods. I feel like I tried everything. I spent, from the age of 12 when I first started dieting, I dieted nonstop and tried to lose weight and tried…I was a binger. I would go off on these wicked binges. I was diagnosed with binge eating disorder when I was 23 or something like that but I’d been doing it for a long time I’d just finally got in front of a doctor who officially diagnosed me. It wasn’t until I was 28 that I found the solution that I follow now which is in the form of a 12-step program for food addiction. I can’t tell you which one because that’s breaking my anonymity. There’s several of them…even if you just google “12-step programs for food addiction” and that really worked for me. I’ve been slender now, I took off all my weight. I’m 5’3” and I weigh 110 pounds or something. I wear a size 4. I’m slender now so my body is finally in alignment with what I always thought I should look like but I’ve done it the right way. I eat an abundant quantity of delicious wholesome whole foods. I think you’d be proud Caryn. I eat good stuff. Over the years I’ve noticed why doesn’t everybody go to a 12-step program for food addiction who has this problem or something similar to it? I’ve found that a lot of people don’t prefer a 12-step program for their answer to things. I don’t know why. I love 12-step programs. They saved my life. That’s why I started Bright Line Eating Solutions—my business—is to bring this message of what works both in terms of the brain science of it and the actual practicality of it to people who are either maybe not tens on the scale but somewhere in the 5 to 9 range, like they know they have a problem and they need something or people who are real food addicts, you know 10 on the scale but they don’t want to go to a 12-step program for food addiction for whatever reason. Those are the people that I serve because I’ve been working with people now for over 11 years. I’ve worked with hundreds of people. There’s a formula for taking off all your weight and getting free of the obsession with food. It takes a lot of willingness. Those are the people I’m looking for. I’m not in the convincing business. I’m just serving business, people who are willing, like I’ll do whatever. I’ll eat shoe leather, I don’t care, just tell me what to do to get rid of this problem. The people who are on the floor in the fetal position saying there’s got to be an answer for this. I’m so tired of being overweight and exhausted and binging on ice cream late at night when I know I don’t want to be. Why do I keep eating these foods? I can tell you why and I can tell you what to do about it. That’s kind of the mission I’m on.

Caryn Hartglass: You work with people individually? That works different than the 12-step program where you’re in front of people.

Susan Thompson: Yes, 12-step programs are in a group and going to meetings a lot and getting a sponsor and stuff like that. My business is just starting so I’m just a few months into business but I just started my first boot camp which is 40 people now I’m taking through a course. I’m a college professor. I like to give courses. I’m taking these 40 people through a course on Bright Line eating and what to do. Before the year is out I’m going to have two more things added to my business model. I’m going to have a membership website so a community online where people can belong to this community. They’ll have their own login and their own ID and they can get in there and educate themselves about the problems that I’m talking about today and get support. There’ll be chat threads, there’ll be videos, there’ll be webinars. They can have access to all of that just by joining the community. I’m also going to do an ongoing group coaching thing with 10 individuals. That’s going to be my platinum group. I’ll give the 40 people who are in the boot camp right now first dibs on those seats but I’m sure over time seats will open up and stuff. I have an e-mail distribution list where I send out information, just free information on the neuroscience and psychology of long-term weight loss maintenance and food addiction, sugar and flour, all this stuff I’m talking about. I’ve got like 750 people on that mailing list now but I just started it a couple of months ago. It’s growing really rapidly. I’ve added to the list 300 people in the last two weeks.

Caryn Hartglass: There’s a lot of people who need help. They are all addicted.

Susan Thompson: Unfortunately yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: The thing is that the corporations that make a lot of this processed food they know what you know.

Susan Thompson: Oh they do. Oh they do. They talk about getting mouth share and developing heavy users. They talk about it like it’s cocaine. They say we need more heavy users of our product.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s really scary. I just want to get back…you mentioned that it’s not just the real sugars but it’s also the artificial sugars, the ones that don’t have calories. That’s important to know. They turn on the same lights. They do the same thing.

Susan Thompson: They do, they do. From the sweet taste buds to the addictive centers in the brain they do exactly the same thing.

Caryn Hartglass: People can be addicted to Diet Coke?

Susan Thompson: Oh yeah. Without a doubt. Even without the caffeine in there. Decaffeinated Diet Coke totally addictive. Diet sweeteners also mess you up in a couple of other ways. There’s a recent paper that was just published that shows that diet sweeteners mess up the micro biome in your gut and leads to insulin and blood glucose deregulation. For anyone who has insulin resistance or leptin resistance or any of those problems, pre-diabetes, diabetes, artificial sweeteners are awful. They are consistently messing with the gut flora. They did this great study where they like transferred the gut flora from one animal to another and showed that it transfers over. The other mechanism…which makes sense if you think about it. Think about how the stomach and the brain work together, right? You put food in your mouth and you can tell that it’s like a rich, high caloric meal, right? The brain sends a signal down to the belly that goes “a big bolus of calories is coming, big meal is on its way, get ready.” The stomach churns out its juices and starts to digest the food. Let’s imagine now that you eat a whole bunch of stuff that’s sweetened with artificial sweetener. The tongue doesn’t know that, it just tastes sugar. So the signal goes down to the stomach that says “oh a big bolus of calories is coming” but when it actually gets there it’s empty, there’s nothing there. So the stomach goes “liar”, right? What happens is when you consume artificial sweeteners it breaks the signal from the brain to the belly where basically the message of “get ready, there’s a whole bunch of calories coming” just gets broken so people overeat because the belly doesn’t believe what the brain is saying. Research shows that 70% of people have lost the ability to regulate their caloric intake naturally. Like a two year old will regulate their caloric intake naturally. If they eat a huge meal they will not be hungry and they will refuse to eat for a long time. It doesn’t matter if you put ice cream in front of them they won’t eat it. They’re full.

Caryn Hartglass: And that drives some parents crazy. They don’t realize their child knows when they’ve had enough to eat—they keep saying eat more, eat more.

Susan Thompson: Totally, yeah. I counsel people on how to parent…I have three little kids myself…and letting them decide whether and how much to eat from what you provide is so important because you don’t want to break that signal. The body knows, when they’re young the body knows. By the age of four or five in our society most kids have already lost that ability unless they’ve been parented really, really well with food because of all the sugar and all the crap that’s in our food system now. The brain’s already been broken.

Caryn Hartglass: We can get that back, right, when we start getting new healthful habits and eating better? We can reestablish that brain-stomach connection, right?

Susan Thompson: You know, I don’t know that I have the world’s most optimistic answer on that. I thought that after…let’s see this was two or three years ago after doing Bright Line Eating…by the way Bright Lines are no sugar, no flour, three meals a day and weighed and measured quantities, some kind of control on quantities. So those are the four bright lines. I thought that after maybe eight years of doing this continuously that I would have earned the right to just be a normal eater at this point so two and a half years ago I stopped doing bright line eating. I was actually surprised by how quickly things unraveled for me. I was back to my old ways and bingeing, not as often as I used to, but periodically bingeing again and gaining weight again and feeling unmanageable with food again and feeling that sort quiet desperation that I used to feel. It came back pretty quickly. So the answer is you can learn…I’ve found that you can live a life that looks exactly like perfect health and happiness but you’ve got to keep…it’s just kind of window dressing…you’ve got to keep all the structures in place to keep it going. If you start to violate the principles and go back to your old ways then you’ll be back to your ways then you’ll be back where…you know, keep doing what you always did and you’ll keep getting what you always got, you know what I mean? One thing we know about the brain and we’ve known for decades, since research with behavior in the 1930’s is that the brain doesn’t ever really unlearn anything. Everything that you learned at some point…it might go underground but it’s still there. Those circuits are still there. So if you have right now an addictive, challenging, unmanageable relationship with food and you find a way to clean it up, the only way to maintain that new level of freedom and health and happiness is to stick pretty diligently to whatever it was that allowed you to achieve that. You don’t really ever get to just go back to being like other people are…like the one-third at the bottom of the scale. They just have a freedom around food that I will never have. They get to decide when and what they want to eat and if they want a piece of cake, they have a piece of cake. I don’t do that. I have to say that I don’t mind that because for me my personal path has been really through the food that I put in my mouth and I’ve grown as a person so much by creating these bright lines and sticking with them and regaining my integrity as a person by sticking to my plan of what I’m going to eat and I feel so good about myself for doing that that I get so much more by following this way of life than I would by just being able to eat anything I want willy-nilly. I don’t actually wish that I could do that. I get more by living this way than I would by living that way. It’s a choice. I choose not to eat that stuff today.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m applauding you Dr. Thompson. I’m glad you’re taking that choice and I’m glad you’re sharing it with so many people who need this information. Thanks for joining me today on It’s All About Food. I’ve learned so much every time I talk to you.

Susan Thompson: Thanks so much Caryn. It’s been a real pleasure.

Caryn Hartglass: Now where to people find you?

Susan Thompson: They can find me at Actually I have a gift waiting for anyone who goes to that website. You can download a free report that’s called The Three Huge Mistakes That Almost Everyone Makes When They Try To Lose Weight.

Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. That sounds great. I’m going to go there right now. Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food.

Susan Thompson: Thanks, Caryn.

Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly 11/26/2014

  25 comments for “Susan Thompson, Long-term, Sustainable Weight Loss

  1. I have known for years that I am addicted to sugar. I asked my family doctor once…years back…if you could be addicted to sugar. He said no. I said, really? Because if I don’t eat sugar I don’t crave it, but the minute I eat something sugary and sweet, it’s like the floodgates are open…and I seriously can’t control it. I have tried so many diet programs over the years…Atkins, South Beach, Zone, Slim Fast, Medifast, et al. In addition, I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers which means that once upon a time (1984) I reached my goal weight…but I always gain all or some of it back. Every four years or so I am back at WW. I am tired of it!

  2. RE: Caryn’s post of January 5. I agree with Caryn. There is a lot lot of potential good for people who are addicted to food similar to alcohol or narcotics addiction. It is more like a 12-step program than not, and surrender and commitment to the program as written, is generally required. In fact, following the program religiously for the first 3 weeks to a month is suggested before making any changes. Weighing and measuring every meal, planning meals in advance, never deviating from what one has written down is essential. It is difficult to reshape the program to meet individual needs but it can be done.
    A book will be coming out in March detailing the program, food plan, rationale, etc, so if you don’t have the very high cost of doing the program available, the book is another option. You can find buddies in your community for support, which most people find necessary as this is a difficult program for a lot of people without daily, even hourly encouragement. Changing mindset, habits and lifestyle is what is required. And, if necessary, getting some counseling to resolve issues which lead one to compulsive overeating. Without resolving those issues, even if you do lose weight, the reasons you gained it in the first place will be still there and sooner or later, you will find yourself back at the beginning. There are different levels of the BLE program which promise to take you to freedom from psychological issues, but each step is more $$$ and serious commitment is required.

  3. So nice to hear from you Judith. A PhD tenured Psychology research prof is not the same as a PhD licensed psychologist who you would hope has worked through their own issues before they counsel others. My hat goes off to those people for whom Bright Line Eating works—as SPT has created her business success with many members and much money. But a cautionary tale, if one falls outside the top of the bell shaped curve, watch out! I found online another similar Bright Line Program that is FREE, called My Bright Life,, a website and Facebook group moderated by Sara Nichols Eisenstein. I was doing a search on Bright Line Eating and came across this site as I wanted to post a review of my experience in the program. Besides being FREE, there is a Facebook group for chats, a meal plan that is more inclusive than the Bright Line Eating plan as it allows for Paleo and other programs, and the only cost is optional, you can buy her cookbook.

    There is one-on-one support in the SPT’s BLE program, but it is from other members, not trained professionals. And you have to do the work to find another member for support, if you are lucky. Again, if a rigid [and I don’t mean this negatively] and I mean rigid, plan is going to work for you, planning every meal, weighing and measuring every ounce of food, jumping through hoops to stay sane, not falling for guilt and shame, AND having thousands of dollars to spend, this plan will work for you. That’s just not the rest of us.

    • Ani,I thought about doing the BLE bootcamp also, until I saw the price tag! The other program you mention, My Bright Life has recently had a name change to The Luminous – I’ve been doing her plan since early January and am astounded that I’ve lost over 15 pounds so far. The free online support group for Luminous is AMAZING, and there are no hidden fees or any attempt to sell other things. You can download the plan for free. I also bought the Luminous cookbook. Some great vegetarian and vegan recipes and a much better deal for $19.95.

  4. Hello Ani and Debbie,
    Thank you both for your comments. I hope that with the experiences the three of us have shared, it will help many people desperate to lose weight pause and re-think whether Susan’s program will work for them.
    Food Addiction isn’t something that can be dealt with just by promoting another diet without the strong one-on-one support that is needed.
    Wishing everyone a peaceful holiday and all the best for 2017!

    • Hi All,

      From a personal stand point, as I wrote above I don’t believe in weighing and measuring food or counting calories. Aside from being a vegan and eating a whole foods, mostly organic diet, I have a lot of freedom to eat what I want, when I want and how much I want, and I have maintained a healthy weight all of my life. When I coach people I encourage them to eat this way, because it works for me and from my research I feel it is the best way to eat. I have no personal experience with addictions or with difficulty losing weight. My partner had struggled with his weight most of his life and found peace with his food when we got together and I introduced him to the whole foods vegan diet and he lost about 100 pounds.

      Susan Thompson has shared much of her personal struggle and how she resolved her weight problem and food issues. She created a program that works for her and this is what she offers to others. Her program does resemble some 12-step programs, because she has experience with them and took from them what worked for her, while adding additional tips and tools that helped her stick to the plan. Her quiz helps people determine whether they are highly addicted to food, most specifically refined sugar and flours. For those who are highly susceptible to addiction, a rigid, strict plan is critical in order to build healthy eating habits and break the addiction. I was very impressed with Susan when I interviewed her several years ago. After speaking with her at length I felt comfortable promoting her program when she launched it. Recently I was given the opportunity to participate in the boot camp and I watched all the videos and reviewed the materials. For someone like myself, who has had no problem with weight, the program was extremely restrictive and not something I would ever be interested in doing, because I DON’T NEED TO. But for those who have tried other diets and failed, and are really ready to do what is necessary to change and create healthy eating habits, this program will absolutely get you there. And you must follow the plan to succeed. Based on how susceptible you are to addiction, you can be more flexible, even not weigh your food, in this program.

      When I was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer 10 years ago, I was already a vegan. I created a super healthy food plan to boost my immune system and eliminate foods that would encourage cancer growth. Some would say it was very restrictive. I was happy to do it because I knew it would save my life. A piece of cake or save my life? I chose life. So it depends on where you are at and how motivated you are to achieve your goal. I’ll say it again – if you have struggled with diets all your life and failed to keep the weight off permanently you need to make some big changes. Susan Thompson’s plan is one way to get there.

      Susan Thompson is very generous too. You can learn a lot about the program and the foundation of it by watching the Food Freedom Series and listen to all of her regular Vlogs and not spend a dime. The program helps people commit and stick to the plan long enough to create new habits and have materials to go back to when needed. Those with addictions need to follow orders in order to get well. Yes, you need to be a good soldier when you are fighting addiction. I think Susan Thompson’s plan is necessarily restrictive, but also fun and full or love.

      Kind regards,

  5. I can totally relate to Judi’s message and frustration. I somehow came across Susan’s Bright Line Eating and watched some of her videos. At first it seemed very interesting, but then it seemed to feel like a scam, and I had my husband and a couple of friends look at it and feel the same. I’m so sorry you had that experience. Food addiction is nothing to “play with” – peoples feelings are to be taken into account, and the emotional impact of the compulsiveness. I called them and asked why the 1000 dollars, and no licensed counselors and they said if I wanted someone with “credentials” that this program was likely not for me. To me, she is taking the 12 step food plan and info and using it to make money for herself. How can she “love” everyone she doesn’t even know? I just would hope for more empathy and personal attention by trained counselors for something as serious as food addiction. To me, it looks like a money making thing more than anything else. I’m returning to OA and FA.

    • Debbie, you are so right. I joined the program, found some things that were inconsistent, didn’t work for me and had a breakdown which I had to find a way out on my own. When I complained and critiqued the program, Ms. Thompson was more concerned that I criticized her and her program and her “coaches” than about my breakdown due to the organization of the program. Then she kicked me out and gave me a refund and didn’t want me saying anything negative online about her or the program.

  6. where is her PhD from and where is she a tenured professor. those are generally pieces of information that are shared when trying to sell something based on “expertise”.

  7. Save your money, you can find the food plan at Food Addicts in Recovery (google their name and it’s there in detail on their site). I did the Bright Line Eating boot camp, the fee was $1000.00, and like a fool I was desperate enough to pay it. There’s lots of videos and other supportive materials from Susan’s site, and there’s the Facebook groups, but it didn’t work for me. I was still white knuckling my way through, and by the end of 4 months I was out of control. If you need a more direct person to person help for your food addictions then I recommend you check out the meetings that are available through either Food Addicts in Recovery or Food Addicts Anonymous. There’s lots of telephone and online meetings available through Food Addicts in Recovery if there isn’t an in-person meeting close to you.
    I am now following Chef AJ’s Ultimate Weight Loss program and it is great. You eat a lot of food, nothing is weighed and measured, and the weight is just falling off of me. Plus, I feel really really good. And the fee is $150.00, much less expensive than Bright Line Eating. If the thought of weighing and measuring and feeling guilty and ashamed if you stray even by an ounce is too much for you, check out Chef AJ. Susan’s program works for those who are good soldiers and follow orders and are fine with the weighing, etc. For someone like me, who is more creative and artistic, all that happened was I became angry and frustrated with all the restrictions.
    With Chef AJ, it’s also 100% whole food plant based (Vegan!), and there are no processed foods: no oils and no sugar.

    • Hi Judith,

      I am sorry to hear that Susan’s program didn’t work for you and I am glad you found one that works. Chef AJ is wonderful. Thank you for writing this detailed critique. I was not aware that you had to measure your food in the Bright Line Eating program. I agree with Chef AJ, when you know what foods to eat, you can eat as much as you want and not be concerned about calories or quantities.

      Have you shared your feedback with Susan?

      Best regards,

      • Hi Caryn,

        The email I sent was an angry one, and I’m not proud of it. But I was feeling frustrated and so hungry – I was miserable and felt like a failure. So after the boot camp I paid more money to join for another year (several hundred dollars), because I was trying so hard to believe that I would eventually feel less hungry and be happy, thin and free. My angry email was triggered by the announcement about another program called Advanced Weight Loss Mastery, which would cost $747.00 (that was with a $250.00 discount). I thought it was nothing more than a money grab. Why weren’t the Bright Lifers getting this program as part of our membership? Back in Susan’s first videos, she had stated early on she knew there would have to be a course on doing the inner work. I honestly thought that after spending about $1,500.00 that such a course would just be part of my Bright Line Eating membership.

        I’m not proud of how I reacted, but looking back I felt that there was nothing but greed staring back at me, all in the guise of how much we Bright Lifers were “loved”, etc.

        I ended up no longer trusting the program, no longer having faith that I was really “cared” about. To me, it was a situation of paying more and more money, and then I would be cared about.

        There was no response to my email, though. Not a word, and even though it was an angry email you would think that someone from Susan’s staff would have responded.

        And now I’m happy, I’m eating and I’m not hungry and I love how I feel. I love all the energy I have, how good it is to go out for daily hour long walks with my dog and how well I’m sleeping at night and how my blood pressure is normalizing. For me, it’s all good with Chef AJ’s approach.


        • Judith, tell truth to power. You are right on. Don’t call it anger. The program helps some people for awhile, it’s only been two years since they started. Fortunately I was able to get my money back. For people who are comfortable weighing and measuring everything that they eat for the rest of their lives, and vowing obedience to a guru and want to pay thousands of dollars to do so, more power to them. If you are not that type of person, failure is bound to happen. Precision Nutrition out of Canada is a good program. Good information, you get a year for the same money, and it’s not a perpetual guilt trip.

          • I personally do not promote weighing and measuring everything. But I am not addicted to food and I am a disciplined person. Perhaps there are some that need this directtion. I did observe some of the program and remember Susan saying that some can do the program without weighing and measuring. It depends on who you are.

    • Right on Judith! People, save your money. Judith explains it much better than I can. Guilt and shame, yes. Susan Peirce Thompson is a guru with whom you must not tangle. Don’t suggest anything, don’t find any fault. Be a good soldier, pay your $1000 lots of bait and switch in the program. Coaching is promised and then begrudged. Not for people who think, especially for themselves. And oh yes, after the$1000 there is more money to be spent to continue. Find another way.

      • Hi Ani, Thanks for your comments. Just like any program, it works for some and not for others. I did have a chance to observe a lot of the program. It is not for everyone but I believe that the strict regimen that is offered will work for those who need such a plan, many struggling with food addictions. – Caryn

  8. Dear Susan,
    I love everything you have said about Bright Line and it totally makes sense. I am very low on your chart but would like to know your: EXACT FOOD PLAN and the cookbook.

    I am already a part of the food revolution but am interested in the above items. Please let me know if there is any way I may be able to obtain them.

    Thank you so much for what your doing. It’s truly amazing. I will let others know of your great work and how you have helped so many people and can help them as well.

    Sincerely, Dionne

  9. Check out the blog of Toronto nephrologist (and nutritionist) Dr. Jason Fung. He provides very convincing evidence that type 2 diabetes and Metabolic syndrome is a function of hyperinsulinism. To overcome obesity you must get your insulin levels down to normal.

  10. Dr. Thompson,
    I have listened to your videos and have just finished reading the transcript above. I am profoundly grateful for the information you provided and I am amazed at the similarities in our stories. I too started my food addition early and began to be overweight around the age of twelve. I also was addicted to drugs and was thrilled when I lost weight due to crack cocaine. Unfortunately this is where the similarities end. It took me many years to finally truly be clean. I did get thin after my first real attempt at sobriety around the age of 32, and stayed thin for about 8 years. However, I definitely was NOT happy thin and free. I was totally obsessed with every morsel I put in my mouth, and used laxatives daily. Not to mention the fact that I felt as if I were starving 24/7! As my weight and dieting yo-yo’d so did my on again off again affair with heroine and cocaine. I finally kicked my drug addictions about four years ago, however like you, my food addiction kicked in full force and I ballooned to over 200 lbs. I have now put my life on hold. I graduated from nursing school over a year ago but have not taken my licensing exam yet. I have become anti-social, and depressed. Determined to get my life back, I cut out sugar and carbs from my diet and am watching my calories, but the weight is not coming off. My doctor does not believe that I am not “cheating” and just tells me to “move” more. I am DESPERATE! I would love to join your boot camp but cannot afford to at this time. Do you offer any other resources at a lesser fee? I may be able to save enough for the split payment plan, but it will take me about a month. When does the enrollment close, and will and when will there be another one? I apologize for all the questions, but am truly in need of help. Thank you for your time.
    Lorraine g

    • Hi Lorraine,

      Thank you for writing and sharing your story. This is not the website for Susan Peirce Thompson. Her site is and you can email her at Perhaps she can help you. In the meantime, I recommend listening to this interview again and watching the free videos she offers, making notes and incorporating the information and behavioral changes she recommends. You know how to kick an addiction. You’ve done it before. You can do it again. And you deserve to do this for yourself!

      I don’t know what you are eating, but here at Responsible Eating And Living we recommend a whole, minimally processed plant-based diet. Dr. Fuhrman’s The End of Dieting is an excellent resource. You can find out more here. By eating lots of beans, big salads and having the right foods on hand when you feel like snacking you will lose weight.

      We do not recommend cutting all carbs! We recommend cutting the highly processed carbs, the white flour foods – pasta, breads, cookies, cakes, etc. We do not recommend cutting carbs from whole fruits and vegetables. Beans are a great example of good carbs which can help dramatically in losing weight.

      Pleases visit my blog What Vegans Eat to get an idea of all the food options you have on a healthy diet.

      Best regards,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *