In the past 3 years, I can’t say there has been a time when running wasn’t the focus of my health journey. I’ve lived it and breathed it and been consumed by it. And when I wasn’t consumed by it, I felt guilty for not being consumed by it.
The past couple weeks, though, it is not my focus. And I don’t feel guilty. (Okay, I guess I might have an iota or two of guilt, but I feel guilt and anxiety over 90% of things in my life.)
A few months ago, I read the book Bright Line Eating by Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. And it made so much sense to me. I looked up studies she had referenced. I read and re-read passages. I nodded and yearned for the freedom from food that she presented.
“Bright Line Eating is grounded in cutting edge psychology and neuroscience, and its tenets fly in the face of almost every commonly accepted weight loss strategy. It gives you a plan to follow that is effective and proven to work. It’s not a quick fix or a gimmick. There are no pills and no powders. We are precise with our eating, but we don’t restrict portions to tiny amounts and we eat a lot of whole, real food.
The core principles of BLE are Bright Lines—clear, unambiguous boundaries we don’t cross just like a non-smoker doesn’t smoke, no matter what. The four Bright Lines are: Sugar, Flour, Meals, and Quantities.” –Susan Peirce Thompson
More specifically, here are the bright lines:
- No added sugars
- No flours
- Eat 3 meals per day. No snacks.
- Fixed quantities: measure out each bit of food that goes in your mouth.
And after I read all this stuff that totally made sense to me, what did I do? I put it all away, because how could I ever follow that life? It seemed too extreme, too overwhelming, too much.
A few weeks ago, the book popped into my radar again. It came up on Audible as a heavily discounted Black Friday special. So I bought it. And I started listening. Again, I thought, “Too extreme!” But a passage resonated with me in a way it hadn’t before.
Either way, you’re probably asking me right now, “Isn’t that extreme?”
To which I reply, “I’ll tell you what’s extreme.” Each year in the United States alone, over 70,000 people have to get a limb amputated because of their Type 2 diabetes. Seventy thousand people. Their doctors have warned them it’s coming, but it doesn’t matter. They can’t stop. They eat until they lose a limb. That is extreme. That is how powerful this addiction is. Giving up processed drug-foods isn’t extreme. What’s extreme is the way our society eats – and the consequences we’ve decided we’re willing to tolerate as a result.
And of course the answer is to quit. When someone is losing critical lung function because they smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, we don’t tell them to moderate their smoking. We tell them to quit.
“But how?” you’re asking. “Cigarettes are easy to avoid. Food is everywhere! And I have to eat to survive and there are special things I love to eat that have sugar and flour in them and I don’t know if I could give them up forever and you’ve just pointed out how hard it is to stick with anything…”
I hear you. And it’s okay to feel panicked – that’s actually coming from the dopamine receptors in your nucleus accumbens. They are about to get their supply cut off and they don’t like it. Not one little bit.
Which is why I’m happy to tell you that this program is stronger than they are. Your brain will heal, and there’s a very, very bright future ahead of you. Relax. It won’t be nearly as bad as you think.
And I felt it pulling me again. But I also fell the pull of a bunch of destructive thoughts.
It’s too close to Christmas. How can you do this around the holidays? You might as well wait until after cookie baking, after Christmas parties, after Christmas day, after New Year’s, after, after, after…
And then I realized I was sabotaging my own motivation to feel healthier and better. It’s no secret that I’ve yearned to lose weight most of my adult life and much of my adolescent life as well. I’m not going to hide that. It used to be for purely vain reasons. It’s not like that now, though. Now, I have a million other reasons. I want to feel better. I want my waist-line to stop expanding, even when I’m eating well and exercising. I want to know what else I can do with my life when I’m feeling like a better physical version of myself. I want to be the best possible “me” I can for the people in my life.
And yeah, that’s going to be hard. But maybe there is a way to get there. From the BLE support groups I’ve joined, I’ve heard from dozens of people who have been doing this for a long time, and the results are phenomenal. It works. It isn’t easy, but like Susan said above, it wasn’t nearly as bad as they thought.
So, the tl;dr version of it all is this: I’m making my food choices a priority right now. I had a fabulous first week where I didn’t blur a single darn line for 6/7 days. One of those days was our annual cookie baking day. I kept my lines for the morning and most of the afternoon, and then I made a conscious decision to let them go. (This is totally not recommended on BLE, but I decided that it was necessary to make it work for me.) The next day, I could feel cookies and sugar and flour and other things pulling me in, but I rejected them. I felt like junk, and so my body kept asking for more junk. But I said no. Those foods are not for me, and I kept my lines bright for the whole day.
Guess what? It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. It took effort and it took planning, but it took a lot less willpower than I expected. And by Friday, I actually felt pretty great.
So I’m getting things under control. And once I feel a little steadier on my feet, you can bet those feet will be running again. I bet you anything, they’ll be moving a little faster, because they’ll be running on clean fuel that is meant to energize my body and keep me going for the long haul.
Have you read Bright Line Eating or heard of this lifestyle before? What changes are you trying to make for your own health? Would love to hear from you in the comments!
P.S. Whenever I get a little too “deep and thoughtful” in a post, I feel the need to make it a little lighter. Has anyone’s elf shown up at their house yet? Beatrice was there this morning to ask LJ, “Do you wanna build a snowman?”