95: The Science of Sustainable Weight Loss with Bright Line

95: The Science of Sustainable Weight Loss with Bright Line

00:00 / 01:30:33

The Science of Sustainable Weight Loss with Bright Line Eating

You’re about to meet Susan Peirce Thompson, creator of the Bright Line Boot Camp and author of the book (the book, in my opinion) on sustainable weight loss. Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free is all about the complex relationship between the brain and the food we eat.

It’s fascinating, life-changing stuff. I’ve been looking forward to this interview ever since reading Susan’s book and trying the program myself.

Sustainable Weight Loss … Finally Within Reach

Susan is not just someone who has an incredible personal story about weight loss (and addiction, too, which is more related than you might think). She’s an impressively credentialed neuroscientist with a PhD in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, a professorship at the University of Rochester, and a specialty in the psychology of eating, body image, and wellness.

In 2015, Susan helped start the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss, a nonprofit foundation whose mission is research on achievable and sustainable weight loss.

You all know I’m a geek for science and research so I was willing to give this weight loss book a try. It’s made an amazing difference in my life, and I hope it can in yours as well.

In This Episode You’ll Learn

  • Susan’s incredible personal story on her road from serious drug addiction to health and weight loss advocate
  • the science of addiction (and why some people are more vulnerable to it)
  • how fighting your brain is like swimming upstream, and how to make it work for you instead
  • the healthiest thing you can do for your body … period
  • how modern society has hijacked the human brain and wired it to eat
  • the 2 secrets to being thin (yes, you only need two!)
  • Bright Line’s rate of success as compared to other weight loss systems (it’s staggering)
  • why your cravings might have nothing to do with your willpower … and where they do come from
  • hormesis: what it is and why you should want it to happen to you
  • the real effect of “failure” and how it leads to poor self-perception
  • the concept of automaticity and how to apply it to simplify food decisions (and avoid food pitfalls)
  • all about leptin, the crucial hormone that tells us when we’re full, and what can block it
  • what dopamine down-regulation can do to your diet
  • whether sugar and flour can really be had “in moderation”
  • the little-known reason why vegetables are so good for us (it has nothing to do with vitamins or fiber!)
  • biological reasons why your identity feels so different after significant weight loss
  • Susan’s take on how to set kids up for a healthy diet (and whether they should do Bright Lines)
  • how to handle social pressures and visual cues to eat trigger foods
  • Susan’s surprising countercultural advice about exercise

Resources We Mention


Book: Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free

Testimonials, and How to Work with Susan

Are you searching for a way to lose weight and keep it off? What has worked for you? Does Susan’s advice ring true?

Special Thanks to Today’s Sponsors

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen me mention them before. I have been using and loving and Instagramming their products for years. They have an amazing instant mushroom coffee.

I know it sounds weird, but hear me out! It’s not only the best instant coffee I’ve ever tried, it’s also pretty high up on the list of best coffee I’ve tried, period! It’s made with superfood mushrooms like Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Chaga mushrooms. And these mushrooms have some big health benefits, plus give you energy and mental clarity without the jitters from traditional coffee.

If you aren’t a caffeine person, they also have a variety of mushroom teas and other caffeine-free products. I love them so much that I reached out and they agreed to give a discount to my listeners. So, go to foursigmatic.com/wellnessmama and use the code “WellnessMama” to get 10% off.

This episode is sponsored by Kettle and Fire Bone Broth. If you love the benefits of bone broth but don’t love the time it takes to make and how tough it can be to find quality bones to make it, Kettle and Fire is for you! Their bone broth is a regular staple in my kitchen these days, and it was what I used to create the recipes in my new bone broth e-book (releasing later this year).

So they use only bones from 100% grass-fed pasture raised cattle that are never given hormones and antibiotics. It’s also unique because they focus on bones that are especially high in collagen, which is one of the healthiest things you can put in your body. You can find them in many Whole Foods on the west coast and you can also order online at Kettleandfire.com/mama.

This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my affiliate policy.

Reader Interactions

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Reader Comments

  1. Wow! I rarely take the time to sit and listen to a Podcast in its entirety but I am so thrilled that I did here. This is a total game changer for me and so much that was discussed resonated with me personally. So much so that I became emotional at some of Susan’s talking points. Thank you to you both. Headed over to Bright Line Eating website now.

  2. Thank you so much for this podcast. In April, you posted a little blurb that you were going to try Bright Line Eating. I clicked the link, and all I can say is, thank you. Thank you for bringing BLE into my life. Since I have started, I now know what real health and vitality feel like. I actually listen to the book (Susan narrates) on loop many times. You truly have brought me to the very best version of myself. Much love.

  3. Wow! My DIL is headed for bariatric surgery next week! I want her to consider Bright Libe Eating instead! Hubby too! He is in stage 4 kidney disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol and over weight…..

    Thank you for this valuable and life changing information!


  4. Katie
    I am sorry to hear you backing BLE. I have respect for Susan P. Thompson’s struggle with weight, drugs, addiction. I admire her ability to communicate. But BLE is hard, really hard. It’s not easy to get even 1200 calories per day eating on the rigid plan. And SPT herself is constantly vlogging about how she isn’t able to stay on the plan. Sure, eat whatever you want, but 2 tbsp of fat each day total, nonmore. Small amounts of protein and huge quantities of produce. And Katie, are you eating grain? On the podcast SPT says she often eats all her food by 2 pm and then stops eating because the plan only allows her that amount. She plows through it and then stops eating. What about people with adrenal fatigue for whom long periods without food is not advisable. And Katie SPT eats vegan. She measures out little plastic baggies of freeze dried beans and nuts. She doesn’t even try to make it delicious or beautiful. That’s not the Wellness Mama I know and love. I think there’s more research needed.

    • I absolutely agree with your points and certainly, I don’t eat like SPT does. I should definitely clarify more if this was confusing. In general, I’m using BLE as a way to make sure I’m eating enough vegetables and I do feel better right now off flours and sugars, but I don’t limit my fats like she does, and I’m certainly not vegan. Thanks for pointing this out. I’ll work on adding to this and a follow up post that explains in more detail so it isn’t misleading.

      • Can I ask, when SPT says no flour is in no wheat flour, or all fours please? Thanks, love the podcast!

        • No flours at all, including almond flour and coconut flour.

      • Katie, I can’t seem to find another post on Bright Line Eating from you. Have you written one yet? I’m anxiously awaiting 😉
        I did BLE for about 3 months, 2 years ago and lost 40 pounds. Trying to start it again as I have gained 1.5X what I lost, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how much fat I should be eating. The plan ends up being about 1200 calories and that’s NOT enough for me! I added a fat at breakfast, but I’m wondering if I should be adding more fat to lunch and dinner. I’ve previously done keto, so having these extra carbs and very light fats is difficult for me.

        Again, I can’t wait for another post from you! You’re my go-to!! I literally google anything health and beauty related and then add Wellness Mama to it 🙂

  5. I too received your email about BLE months ago, I have since started the program and 3 of my friends have also! I have so much respect for you Katie, so anything you are doing and sharing always gets my attention! I can’t say thank you enough for sharing about BLE. I am in my right sized body but my mind has never felt “free” from food cravings and addiction. So I am doing the program just for the freedom it gives me! Thanks again for all you do! My life is better because of you as all your research and information you share!

  6. Can you make bulletproof coffee with that mushroom coffee you talk about from Four Sigmatic? Using instant coffee would be so much quicker than having to brew a pot every day. I’m actually not a coffee drinker, but I am trying to get on board with this whole butter and oil in the coffee hype. I’m so curious to see if it works. As a result I never make coffee so a healthy instant type would be so much easier for me. And cut down on time since you still have to blend it. I was just curious if the taste would be different because of the mushrooms.

  7. Hi Katie,
    I am reading the book and was fascinated by the science behind obesity and addiction, and was super excited by this as it was endorsed by you (I’m a big fan). However, I’m now onto the food plan section of the book and it says not to add any fat to meals, and to eat low fat yoghurt and cottage cheese! Not something I thought you would be on board with, and not something I can get behind unfortunately!
    Just wondered what your thoughts were?

    • I certainly don’t do low fat dairy and will be doing a follow up to this soon to clarify how I’ve made it work within the real food framework 🙂

  8. Hi! Thank you so much for sharing this info! I’m excited to read the follow up post! Could you maybe include how to use bright lines while pregnant or breastfeeding, if not for weight loss then at least for only gaining a healthy amount of weight gain during pregnancy?

  9. No flour means ALL types of flour.

  10. HI Katie and Susan,

    Even if I don’t think the podcast will apply to me (I luckily do not have a weight issue but I am addicted to sugar – can you please do a podcast on blood sugar?) I listen anyway and I am always amazed how much I learn and this podcast was no different. I previously believed that drug addiction and over eating were a will power issue, which in full disclosure, I think made me a little judgemental. When Susan said “addiction is in the brain, not the drug (or food)” this light bulb went off and I realized my incorrect thinking. I was absolutely riveted during this podcast – Susan is such a smart and personable speaker. I was blown away learning that vegetables are good for you because they stress the body into becoming stronger (which is true in other areas too, like viruses and childhood diseases – overcoming viruses increases the size of your thymus gland, it literally grows your immune system, but I digress!) Bravo Katie, once again a phenomenal podcast and I am most appreciative to you and all you do.

  11. Would dates be an acceptable sweetener? I know they are high in carbs, but they’re whole fruit.

  12. Katie, I just received your second email about this program, and it’s really concerning. In the comments here, you make it clear you think the official BLE program isn’t for you–and in my opinion, could be dangerous, if she’s really limiting fats so much–but that never comes out when you suggest the program.

    I went through the quiz myself and tried to find materials that weren’t just a nice charismatic woman talking about how weight loss is hard, and I really struggled to find anything new in what she’s saying. Add to that the fact that finding *any* written materials about Bright Line is difficult, that weight loss is a very emotional subject for some people, and that there’s still no science corroborating it in any peer-reviewed publication–and BLE starts to look a lot more like the strategies good MLM schemes use than the products you usually recommend. If there are any BLE materials that you think would help the skeptical readers commenting here understand what Susan has to offer, please post them–her website doesn’t make them accessible.

    WellnessMama is still my main source for health-related information and it’s going to stay that way for a long time. 🙂 I just want to make clear how much more unsettling than your usual recommendations this one seems.

    • Thanks Alice. I really appreciate your perspective and that you brought this up. I actually sent out an email recently that answered some of the questions and will be updating this post with more in depth info soon.

  13. Hi Katie,
    I was just trying to make a purchase with Four Stigmatic but I can’t get the promo code WELLNESSMAMA to work???

    • Sorry about that! Please make sure there aren’t any spaces in the promo code. Let me know if you’re still having trouble.

      • Still having trouble – tried all caps, all lowercase, capital “W” and the rest lowercase, tried all those ways in quotations, and all those ways with no spaces – still can’t get it to work – help!

        • Do you mind trying it in a different browser? Sometimes that does the trick.

  14. Hello,
    When do you think you will do a follow up on how you’ve made it work within the real food framework? I’m really anxious to start the bright line eating but am unsure if following it exactly is the best way to go. I’m curious because you said that after you read the book you decided to just trust the system and not overthink, so did you initially follow their system exactly and then adapt to a more real food framework or did you make it fit your style of eating right off the bat?

  15. I tried BLE a few months ago, and agree it definitely does work. My problem came when I started getting debilitating stomach cramping and pain. I know in my “house” many other members had similar issues. My feeling now is that I (unintentionally) massively increased my intake of lectins when I switched over to her way of eating. I just want others to consider that if they decide to give BLE a try~ it didn’t even occur to me at first.

  16. This sounds amazingly similar to Dr. Goldhammer’s work at True North, along with Dr. Doug Lisle. Chef AJ offers similar coaching for much cheaper. She has a system for eating to the left of the red line. And she is a recovered addict, too.

  17. Katie,
    I just want to let you know that I have been strictly following the BLE plan since I saw it in your email a couple weeks ago and I feel amazing – I don’t think I have ever felt this good! Thank you for sharing this program – it’s changing my life.

  18. So interested in this. What are your thoughts on introducing it to kids? I also have 3 girls aged between 5-8 and am not keen for them to see me weigh my food. I’m also aware THEY have quite addictive personalities and go crazy for sugar… CAN I cut sugar and flour out of their diets or am I storing up trouble for them? How do you handle social situations where you are being cooked for? We are a family of 7 so we already feel awkward without saying we have dietary requirements!
    On another note I’m interested in the intermittent fasting – I read that it’s not good for women’s hormones?
    Thanks so much!

    • I’m a big advocate for eliminating sugar and flour from the diet, even for kids. This article explains why. If we don’t feel comfortable requesting certain foods during social situations when we are being hosted, I’ll usually offer to bring a side dish or something I know those in my family with allergies can eat.

  19. Hi Katie!
    Since your email came out about BLE I’ve delved into it, watching the 3 video series Susan has released. I was curious, when you started with BLE, did you do it all based on her book, or did you go through the bootcamp that is offered on the website? This is something I am most certainly interested in trying, as I’ve struggled with weight especially since having my daughter, but the boot camp just isn’t something I can afford at the moment.
    Thanks so much!

    • The book would definitely give you enough of an idea to implement the diet with success!

  20. Is BLE safe while breastfeeding? Did I miss this conversation already?

    • I am breastfeeding and just started BLE in November! It doesn’t seem to be affecting my milk supply. My baby is 8 months old and is eating solid foods as well as breastmilk. I will say that eating so few calories (usually it’s between 1,000 and 1,200 each day) has zapped my energy and made me feel very sluggish and foggy. It’s not an ideal state to be in with an active baby, in my opinion.

  21. Can you email me with the updated info? I’m reading her book and enjoy the science and info about addiction. Not feeling good about her food plan though. I’m wondering if I could make up my own “bright lines” and make it work

  22. Has anyone with adrenal fatigue joined the program? My blood sugar drops if I don’t eat every 2-3 hours and gets more sensitive if I go outside of this window. I don’t eat sugar or grains and am always looking for ways to lose weight. Please share if you have tried BLE with adrenal fatigue.

    Thank you!

  23. After hearing your recommendations I gave it a try and I definitely lost some weight on it. Shortly after starting I slipped in to a one month-long plateau and then ended up on the craziest sugar binge I have ever experienced. I feel like they convinced me I was an addict so I started acting like one. I understand that these foods are very addictive and that they cause people to demonstrate addictive behaviors but I feel like it was detrimental to my mental health to be branded as an addict and to accept that I must eat in this restrictive way for the rest of my life. It did sound very promising initially but very quickly became a poor experience. I have such a love for combining ingredients to make healthy and nourishing meals. I feel like this program doesn’t really allow for that and I became obsessed with meticulously weighing each ingredient and I stopped enjoying cooking. It’s possible that this program may work for many people but unfortunately I am not one of them. I am now looking into keto in hopes of losing these last stubborn 20-30 pounds that I have literally never been able to get rid of since I was a teenager. I’m intrigued to know why BLE worked so well for you, but yet keto did not, when you seem to highly recommend them both. Like many, I greatly value your opinion and advice and I am really curious to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks!

  24. I actually bought this book a few months ago. Having had issues with eating disorders in the past, In thought I’d try it. I .can honestly say that this “diet” is not for everyone. You maybe thin, but definitely not happy or anywhere near free. Exercise with caution, as this nearly pushed me over the edge. Also, you have to enroll in boot camp to get the online community support, so roughly $500. You don’t even get this support for the two week jumpstart and even if you are a boot camp member, you pay $10/mo for the Facebook community. No FB, no community support.

  25. I thought the FB community cost extra as well but once you sign up for Bootcamp it’s included. I had to chat with support to find out. The support is amazing and the people that run the FB groups have a lot of work. You have the same people in your group for life once you do the Bootcamp. When it comes to not having support for the jumpstart, it bummed me out when I was first looking into BLE but now that I’m in it, it makes sense from this point of view. Maybe one day they will consider having a support group just for jumpstarters. Here’s hoping! It would be a nice addition since the support, for me, has been the biggest key for accountability and getting through tough times.

  26. Hi Katie,
    I received your email last year about Bright Line Eating. I think the email said you tried the diet and it worked for you. Would you mind telling me if you are still on the BLE diet and how it worked for you overall? Thanks! I love your blog!

    • I am and I’m working on a post detailing more of my approach to BLE – be on the lookout!

  27. I’ve been doing ble for a couple of weeks. So far, I kinda love it. I was keto for almost a year, lost 10 lbs the first few months, then nothing. I have about 40 lbs to lose. I’m wondering if anyone doesn’t lose weight doing ble, and what your personal journey with ble and the results have been.

  28. I’m revisiting this post. I first found BLE last December, and I ordered the book and the 14 day bootcamp. At the time, I just couldn’t do it. More importantly, I found it somewhat discouraging and depressing to think that my whole life was ruined because I am, and will forever be, a food addict. I put it aside and never even did the 14 day bootcamp, gave SPT my feedback. Over the summer, I found a program called 2B Mindset and it has been a GAME CHANGER for me. So incredibly positive! I have been having amazing success with 2B and have lost 20 pounds over the last two months. The recent BLE boot camp ad push had me revisiting the 14 day program. I was able to easily glide into BLE and I am basically combing the two programs. I highly recommend you review the 2B Mindset (it is offered through Beachbody but honestly, I feel like it is an odd partnership), and I wanted to say, I really enjoy weighing my food. I don’t weigh it for deprivation. I weigh it for reassurance. I know that when I weigh out my food (I am a six foot tall female, and I did bump up my protein amount, but as SPT says, make your modifications and stick to them) it takes all the guess work out. There it is. I know from experience it is enough food. I won’t be hungry. I know from experience that I feel so much better battling hashimotos when my diet is heavy on veggies and fruit and quality protein. I’m glad that you are doing an updated review on BLE, I think it is an amazing program.

  29. The way of reframing overeating as a brain disorder as opposed to a lack of willpower is very empowering. However, I must say that the weight loss program results less in “free” than it does obsessive. I have been constantly hungry, and in plugging my calories into My FitnessPal, I’ve found I am eating under 1,200 calories most days. Susan herself acknowledges that metabolism on the BLE weight loss program slows down to about 70% of normal, and that fatigue is not unknown, but casually says: Oh, it dissipates in about 6 months.

    I wonder, as well, how successful and sustainable a program is if it requires a 14 Day Challenge, then a Boot Camp, then a ReZoom program, each at additional cost. If a program is sustainable why does it take continual ReZooming and an endless number of sales pitches for additional programs?

  30. The way of reframing overeating as a brain disorder as opposed to a lack of willpower is very empowering. However, I must say that the weight loss program results less in “free” than it does obsessive. I have been constantly hungry, and in plugging my calories into My FitnessPal, I’ve found I am eating under 1,200 calories most days. Susan herself acknowledges that metabolism on the BLE weight loss program slows down to about 70% of normal, and that fatigue is not unknown, but casually says: Oh, it dissipates in about 6 months.

    I wonder, as well, how successful and sustainable a program is if it requires a 14 Day Challenge, then a Boot Camp, then a ReZoom program, each at an additional cost. If a program is sustainable why does it take continual ReZooming and an endless number of sales pitches for additional programs?

  31. I looked into BLE after your podcast and it initially made SO much sense to me. I wanted to shout her unique perspective and solution from the roof tops. Unfortunately, not only did the program not work for me, it caused me considerable emotional damage as I realized I had labelled myself as a food addict and told myself there was only ONE way to eat if I wanted to see success. I always knew I was susceptible to food issues but I had never thought of myself in such a negative light before. Not only that, but I started looking at food in a very impractical and black/ white way that was very detrimental to my weight loss efforts and ability to maintain a balanced approach to food. I felt like if I “fell off the wagon” and ate some kind of flour or sugar that I was a failure and would spiral out of control so much faster and harder. I really feel that you should consider taking this episode down and retracting your support of her methods. So much about her “weight loss first and health last” approach is contradictory to everything you stand for. I love all of your work and have followed you for years but this is just not right. It may work for some but this recommendation, from you – someone I trust so incredibly much, has caused me a lot of undue harm mentally. Completely cutting out all sugar and flour for life is honestly just ridiculous and not sustainable – though that does not by any means mean I think it should be a regular part of anyone’s diet. As I go through this healing process I realize more and more that balance IS possible and mindset is key. Thanks for all that you do.

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