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PYP 097: Susan Peirce Thompson on Bright Line Eating to Overcome Food Addiction

susan-peirce-thompsonSusan Peirce Thompson knows something about addiction. Starting at age 14, she lurched from addiction to addiction, finally getting clean and sober at age 20. Years later, in grad school, she had become obese, and found that she was powerless to control – or even understand – her cravings and binges.

Unlike drugs, food was a must-have; she couldn’t simply abstain. When she discovered a method that had been refined, trial-and-error fashion, by food addicts in the 12-step community, she jumped on board and quickly went from size 16 to size 4.

Susan is now a tenured psychology professor with a PhD in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and teaches a college course on the psychology of eating.


In our conversation, we discussed her journey, her own research, the state of scientific knowledge on food addiction, and her solution. Highlights include:

  • how beating drug addictions led to Susan’s food addictions
  • how not knowing about the susceptibility scale makes us take really bad advice from the wrong people
  • the dangers of late night TV commercials to people high on the susceptibility scale
  • the surprising science of “cue-sensitivity” and addiction
  • why plant-based diets can fail to deliver their promise of easy weight loss
  • the evolution of bright line eating from a successful 12-step program
  • the four bright lines
  • the two big dangers: sugar and flour
  • why cheat days don’t work for food addicts
  • why our brains can overrule our over-full stomachs
  • why easily addicted people were once the most valuable members of society
  • how we beat ourselves up for not sticking to our diets (and why we shouldn’t)
  • how little we actually know about successful weight loss
  • what research needs to be done
  • how to deal with environmental triggers to eat
  • and much more…

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.

Audio note: there are a bunch of “dial tones” that pop up during the conversation, like one of us was sitting on our cell phone and accidentally pressing buttons. We tried to diagnose and solve the issue, but since I was on Skype and Susan wasn't touching her phone, we remained baffled. I apologize in advance if you find the sounds irritating…


Susan’s Free Report: The Three Huge Mistakes That Almost Everyone Makes When They Try to Lose Weight

Susan’s Blog – really compelling and valuable content

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26 comments on “PYP 097: Susan Peirce Thompson on Bright Line Eating to Overcome Food Addiction

  1. Shelli Washburn says:

    I am currently in the BLE boot camp! One word “amazing ” this has changed my life! I started in March and am down 35 pounds. So thankful for Susan and her team

    1. Leigh says:

      How can i start the bootcamp?

      1. Howard says:

        You need to contact Susan directly. See the link to her site on this page.

  2. Kate Mazetier says:

    Bright Line Eating fell into my lap one day in early March and something leapt up inside of me as I went immediately to find out more. Those three words reached in and took hold of my heart and mind and gave me a solution to what felt like an insoluble problem. I am currently on Day 39 of the Bright Line Eating Boot Camp and I can honestly say that it has changed my life. I’ve lost 14 pounds and am experiencing a freedom with food that I never thought possible. Susan Peirce Thompson is an amazing person and a brilliant teacher. She really does have a solution.
    This is a great interview. Thank you so much Howard Jacobson and Susan Peirce Thompson for putting this out into the world.


    Hello, I am currently following the Bright lines eating program, I am 51 days in and have released 25 lbs in the process. It’s not just about the weight loss even though it is a great motivator. I am a 10 on the susceptibility scale, by keeping within the bright lines ( no sugar, no flour, 3meals only each day and measured quantities) I have accepted responsibility for what I eat each day, gone is the continual grazing, eating of processed foods. I’m feeding myself what the body needs to function at its best no more no less. The food plan is not extreme in any way, you get your daily requirements, (protein, plant carbohydrates and fats). The shift in the way I am eating has given me more time, energy, and I am sleeping better. There are also other benefits for which I am truly grateful. This is a new way of life for me now and it feels great.

    1. Shirley says:

      How much food do you eat at each meal? I get the No sugar and flour but need to know how much to eat in each of those three meals.

  4. Lois says:

    I loved your interview with Susan Peirce Thompson. I especially enjoyed hearing her thoughts on what research she would like to see in the area of food addiction. The scientific community has only scratched the surface. Her scientific knowledge combined with her first hand experience dealing with food addiction has resulted in a powerful program that could be the answer to so many struggling with food issues. Bright Line Eating eliminates cravings, binging and food obsession like no diet plan can.

  5. Charlene E. says:

    I am currently on Day 56 of Susan’t Bright Line Eating Bootcamp. It has been well worth the money I invested. I’ve lost 12 lbs and a lot of inches and it’s really been almost effortless. I’d been WFPB for 5 years but this has been the missing piece for me. I am not one who can eat as much as I want of a WFPB diet. I’m a 10 on the susceptibility scale and following the Bright Lines has given me a freedom and peace about food that I’ve never had my entire life. Thanks Howard for interviewing Susan Peirce Thompson and getting the message out.

    1. Ellen says:

      How much is it? I know the videos are leading up to an expense

      1. Howard says:

        I’m not sure.

        But as a general comment (not necessarily in reponse to your particular question), I’m all for the good guys making a good living by helping people. I don’t believe that anyone should have to work a fulltime job just so they can afford to promote wellness in their spare time.

        And if the course turns out to be beyond your budget, I hope you found the material on this side of the free line to be valuable and useful in and of itself.

        1. Judy says:

          you can take the 14 day challenge for only $29 right now!

      2. Helen says:

        Something like $900 –

  6. Linden says:

    Thanks so much for the interview Susan and Howard! I have been doing BLEing for almost 6 months now, with a weight loss of close to 60 pounds. BLE is the only thing I found that so eloquently addressed my primary food based addiction history. Words will never serve, to explain how soul destroyingly de-spiriting it was to keep ramming my head into the same wall, with every attempt at trying to get my Whole Foods Plant Based/ Vegan Eating Self, under some kind of control. It was NUTS! So very hard on my self esteem! I am sure that many who read this, will know in an instant what I am talking about, as Howard alluded to in the call. I can attest to how the BLE Food Plan becomes a way of life and is no longer about control but rather freedom! I am living the food dream right now, with about half a dozen other happy unexpected side effects that have appeared due to my use of this well balanced and supported, scientific, experientially based Food Plan!. Come join us on the side of Happy Thin and Free! If you think this may be for you.. it very likely is!

  7. Barbara Whitney says:

    I really enjoyed this interview, both the excellent questions and excellent answers. Thanks to both of you. I started Bright Line Eating in March. I eat WFPB and am currently eating more protein (beans) and fat (nuts) than I was previously. I’m amazed I can control my nut intake now. I am losing weight and feel sane again. I’m satisfied with my meals. For whatever reason, this program works for me.

  8. Amy says:

    In my inbox recently was an invitation by Ocean Robbins (related to the BaskinRobbins ice cream people) to check out Susan Peirce Thompson and her upcoming webinar discussing her method for weight loss. I signed up for the webinar not sure if this was going to be my ticket to losing weight, but willing to listen. By the end of her talk, I knew it sounded different from anything I had heard or tried to date. At first I thought I could implement her program by signing up to receive her emails, but realized that doing it on my own has never worked for me. I sat on the information for another day, finally discussing it with my husband. Previously, he had said he would support me in whatever way I thought would help me lose weight and deep down, I didn’t want to let this opportunity pass me by. I am currently just shy of 2 weeks on this diet, or I should say, way of eating, and I’m down 7 lbs. What has happened for me is that I am very clear on what to eat and how much, how many times to eat, and when not to eat. This has produced a peace around food that I have never experienced. I feel hopeful for the first time where my eating is concerned. I am so grateful for that chance (chance?) email in my inbox 2 weeks ago. It has revolutionized my eating.

    1. Howard says:

      That’s great! I’m curious about the connection between “bright line” rules and peace and freedom. Do you find that the rules and restrictions actually increase your peace around eating?

  9. Jennifer says:

    I have just come across the ideas put forward by Dr Susan Pierce Thompson and Bright Lines and have signed up for her emails. All of it rings true with me ..her experiences, the reasons why the nutrition and exercise programs I have followed don’t work for me long term (despite massive effort and commitment), the fact that natural sweetners (even honey) will also create the dopamine effect and why cheat days don’t work for me. I have been using low carb/high protein diets plus exercise programs for the last 3 years and while I have got down to my target weight (and indeed beyond), I inevitably rebound. Low carb is not working for me and I think bright lines may be the answer. I am keen to start asap but I can’t Susan’s eating plan anywhere. Can someone send me the link?

    ps. Howard … Although I am an economist by profession, one of my key interests is nutrition and therefore the title of your books sound extremely interesting. I am off to order…Jen

  10. Kitty says:

    Is there any place beside the bootcamp that you can get the eating plan as to what and how much to eat. It all sounds reasonable but I cant seem to find the program.


    1. Howard says:

      I believe that Susan runs these just occasionally. Can you get on her mailing list for an announcement of the next one?

      You may also want to check out Chef AJ and John Pierre’s Ultimate Weight Loss program. They take a more wholistic approach, one which doesn’t require measuring and counting, and doesn’t worry about macronutrient ratios.

  11. I love Susan! I’m three weeks into her bootcamp and already lost 12 pounds! Thanks for sharing this!

  12. Thank You says:

    This discussion with Dr. Susan Pierce Thompson, was another great podcast on the psychology of eating. What Susan said makes a lot of sense. After a lot of trail and error, over the years came to similar conclusions. The susceptibility scale is a great concept; me = 10.

    Howard, you should do a podcast with Doug Lisle from True North; which you know of? And with Marc David and/or Emily Rosen from For different views on the psychology of eating.

    Thank You

  13. ana says:

    Hi.That was a great podcast.I would love to hear Susan’s meals plan in details,other then the boot camp,as not everybody afford to buy the program.Thank you

    1. Howard says:

      Ana, please check out the Big Change Program that Josh LaJaunie and I offer 3x/year. You can take a test-drive and get a lot of free information. Also, it doesn’t involve weighing food portions and counting calories.

  14. Vickie says:

    I find after I have my lunch, I am not hungry for the fruit….Is it a must?

    1. Howard says:

      You need to address that question to Susan. Her website is listed in the show notes for this episode.

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