If you are new here, I follow a program called Bright Line Eating, written by Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. I am in no way associated with the program but am simply a benefactor of her beautiful, life saving science.
With that said, there is a ton of information on the official Bright Line Eating website that can tell you how to get started with the program. In the mean time, I wanted to share some examples of the kind of food I eat by following this plan in hopes that it inspires you. The thing that really sold me on this program was the fact that there were no shakes, powders, supplements, pre-packaged, pre-proportioned foods to buy from them. There is only whole, natural, plain, simple, beautiful foods you buy and prepare yourself.
But, learning how to do that might not be a skill you already have, I know I didn’t when I started. I had the “formula” from the book, the recommended portions of protein, fat, grain, vegetables and fruits for each meal. But I didn’t really know what that looked like in action.
So over the next three posts, I am going to share the photo, content and BLE portions of some of my recent meals so you can visually see how amazing this plan can be in hopes that it helps you on your journey. Most of the meals are simple, whole foods but where I use something that requires a recipe, I will either link to the recipe or shout out to where you get the recipe yourself. Let me know if you have questions or ideas for me to try, I would love to hear from you.
In November of 2019 we took a trip to Texas to see family. Before we left we took some photos to memorialize the visit. When I saw the photo, I could hardly believe it was me standing there. My first thought was, “that photo must be distorted”. But it wasn’t the photo that was distorted, it was my view of myself. In the photo I am holding my youngest child and she looks normal sized. The realization that I had let things get so “bad” overtook me. Apparently, without even noticing it happening, I had taken myself out of the picture, figuratively and literally for so long that when I finally saw my self fully, I didn’t even know who I was. Over time I had become skilled at hiding in the back, getting only the best angles, sharing only cropped photos. All while putting myself in the back from a health perspective also. I stopped caring for myself in the ways that make me better able to care for others. For example, the hectic and crazy schedule of being a full-time work outside the home, mother of four young kids left so little time for dinner, that often I would make fast, easy dinners for my kids, enough to get them fed and off to bed and then, instead of making myself a plate, I would just eat the leftover scraps from their plates to save time. I hate to even admit these facts, but I was tired. So. Tired. What happens when you spend years fueling your exhaustion with caffeine and sugar so that after you put the kids down, you can “get back to work”, whether that be house work or catching up on office work? You get fat. You get soft. Your light burns a little less brightly. You inch away from the healthful person you may have once been one exception, one “just this time”, one “I need this” at a time. Before you know it, you’ve created a space of denial around yourself so thick that it takes actually not recognizing the sad, stressed, tired, overweight person in the photo who is masquerading as you to wake you up. I woke up. I woke up hard. I felt a fiery determination to “fix this”, like I had never felt before. I decided to make 2020 the year I took back my life, one meal, one day at a time. I didn’t know yet how I would do it, but for the first time in a lifetime, I knew I WOULD do it.
What sparked your fire to start your “recovery”. Was it a photo, a comment? Let me know in the comments.
I started Bright Line Eating in January of 2020. To date, I am down about 60 lbs with another 40 ish to go. When I started, to really get going, I had to “mind my own plate” and take care of my needs first. I had to focus on myself. Which, being a mother to four young children (2 year old girl, 4 year old boy, 6 year old girl and 8 year old boy) was sometimes hard to do. This family keeps me busy trying to sail the ship of career, family, housekeeping and of course, the never ending question of “What’s for dinner.”
After years of putting my needs last, where I wouldn’t even bother making myself dinner, where I would just eat the left over scraps off my kids plates because, “we don’t waste food”, this new mindset was a big shift. I ended up making two meals most nights, one for my family and one for me. That is what I had to do to get started because if you have ever cooked a home cooked, from scratch meal just to have EVERYONE refuse to eat it, you know what it’s like to have to save your sanity and do what you must to get by. You think, “let’s pick one battle at a time.”
Yet, I found comments from people who made the same thing for their families as themselves and just “added the grain” for the family to feel judgmental. I thought, “They clearly do not understand what it is like to have four, young, needy, picky eater kids.”
But really, some of them probably did understand. It was me who didn’t understand. I didn’t understand that I am the one who had trained my kids to not like “healthy food”. I am the one who makes them chicken nuggets and mac n cheese. I am the one who let’s them eat granola bars by the Costco box. Me. They are picky kids because I have trained them to like certain foods and the vicious cycle of poor eating habits plagues another generation.
I was determined to stop the bad habits, but growth takes time. Honestly, it wasn’t until my tastes started changing after months of BLE that I really realized theirs would also, if I lead the way. And so began my attempts to bring them, unknowingly, under my BLE influence.
I set out on a mission, I would become one of those “judgmental” people that annoyed me. I would make one meal that was adaptable to their needs and mine. We started with tacos. Simple. Easy. I get a bowl, they get a tortilla. They ate it up. This wasn’t a big stretch for them, they often ate tacos and burritos. But these tacos had more veggies. I put all the fixings out on the table and let them choose what to put in their tortillas. My 4 year old added meat, beans, lettuce, cheese and peas. I said nothing, he ate it all.
Eventually, my kids have started asking questions about my food selections and started making comments of their own. My six year old has decided she wants a salad at every meal so she “can be like me.” When she says, “Mom’s on a diet.” I gently correct her and tell her, no, “Mom eats a healthy diet.” Talking to your kids about eating healthy is a challenge. Clearly, the messaging got mixed up for me.
But everyday I work at it a little harder and try my best to share my food choices and new positive habits with my kids. It is a work in progress, but it gets better every day. Making separate meals for everyone in my house multiple times a day is just not sustainable. Learning to be BLE as a family is going to be an essential component to my success. So finding kid approved BLE influenced meals is going to be a major focus of this blog. We’ll test recipes and food combinations and give feedback on Bright Line Eating as a family.
I keep hearing that Bright Line Eating is not a “diet”, it is a lifestyle. I have heard that before with other plans as well. Heck, the whole reason I knew I could do the 14 day challenge was because of the last “new lifestyle” I tried, Whole 30, which is where I got the inspiration for the name of this Blog. I did Whole 30, for a whole 28 days. And then, I broke the rules. But instead of “starting over on day one” as the book suggested, I quit. And within about 3 weeks, I gained back the 15 lbs I had lost. Story of my life.
So what makes this plan different? Why is it that now all days are “Bright” and if they are not, the next meal is and I just keep going? I don’t know, other than to agree with the notion, that this is not a diet, and that weight loss is a side effect of healing your brain and changing your habits, which are the real plan.
In the past when things in my life got difficult, I would almost always default to soothing myself with food. Over the course of this year I have started using other techniques to calm my anxiety when things get hard. Difficult work situations, Covid, stress with the kids, and now a wild fire is burning 1.5 miles from my parents, threatening my childhood home and turning my stopping grounds to ash. These things stress me out. But after 8 months of practice and patience with myself, instead of raiding the refrigerator for leftovers or scooping myself abundant portions of ice cream, I have a cup of tea. I go to bed early. Snuggle down with a book or take a bath. I might do some art or sometimes, I take a walk. Sometimes, I set a timer and meditate for 5 minutes focusing on slowing my breathing and easing the tension in my chest.
A year ago, none of these things would have crossed my mind as an option for making myself feel better. A year ago, I would not have even recognized that I was reacting to a trigger. I certainly would not have had the thought pop into my head that recognizes I am feeling bad and suggests I be easy on myself, that I “put on my bunny slippers” and treat myself with kindness. But I do, these are the things the voice in my head now suggests when I get the itch to panic. All by itself, no weight loss considered, I would call this a win. Recognizing these actions and reactions is a true non scale victory (NSV).
This is the power of Bright Line Eating. Go beyond the diet and learn to cope with difficult feelings, the right way.
Bright Line Eating is where this weight loss journey really begins for me. No more false starts. No more “diets”. I listened to Bright Line Eating and the words just resonated with me. “This woman, (Susan Peirce Thompson) gets it.” She gets me. Or really, maybe she helps me understand how to “get” myself. So many of my own thoughts have been echoed in this book:
“Why can’t I get my weight under control? Why can I be so successful in so many arenas of my life, but not this one!?”
“Why is watching family and friends suffering and dying from weight induced illness and death not enough motivation for me to change?”
Because, it is an addiction. I am an addict and I am suffering from obesity.
Saying those words, it is like a light bulb went off in my brain and suddenly I could understand why I have been doing the things I have been doing. In the book, Bright Line Eating, Susan walks you through the science of why we do what we do and as an engineer, for the first time, the facts, the data, the research, I get it.
There is a road map out of this hell. There is a plan you can work to become the healthy, vibrant person you have always dreamed of being. In Susan’s words, it is instruction in “basic adult, self care”. Lessons that I somehow never got. I get it now and I am marching toward that end with my whole being.
Join me as I navigate the rest of this journey and eventual, long term maintenance lifestyle following the Bright Line Eating way through the lens of a busy, full-time working mom to 4 young kids.
This is my weight loss journey and path to a more happy, whole person each and every day.
After the birth of my last child the fog of my life was so thick I didn’t even realize how bad things were. I was lost in the haze of having a new born and 3 other young children, working full time in a demanding career and just trying to survive. In this time my health habits had hit an all time low. My reaction to every emotion was to suppress the feeling with food. This was how I coped. This was how I got through every day.
But even with that cloud over my head a little spark was there. It was there because during my ninth month of pregnancy, I was given the opportunity through work to attend a leadership training course put on by the University Of Denver’s business college. It included 3 days at a mountain camp and 3 on campus where we were focused on content like The Seven Habits, Blue Ocean Leadership and the Servant Leader. Though well known material, this was the first time I had been exposed to it in a light where this content was valued. I took a lot a way from the course, but I think the biggest thing I took away was a desire to learn more. More about self improvement. The lectures lit a fire in me to ingest more than the mindless content that had been carrying me through to this point.
But time was a precious resource of which I had little. Then someone suggested I listen to to books instead of read them. I downloaded Audible and I was hooked. My commute to work was 45 minutes one way and I started consuming new content. For the first time in a long time I started to think about my life, my habits, my motivation. I listened to the full book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in follow up to the class. I struggled at the time to have the desire to go back to work, because babies. The schedule was hard, home was hard. We were not thriving. I downloaded “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandburg and leaned hard into my career. The words and encouragement was like a guidebook to me. Things got a little easier. Then I listened to “Girl, Wash Your Face” By Rachel Hollis and I picked myself up and started to dust myself off. Next, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and I started clearing the filth in my house and my head! Finally, one day while driving home craving sweets, willing myself home where I knew I could go in, grab a hand full of Halloween Candy and eat it, quickly satisfying the urge in my brain “to scratch that itch” I had an “aha” moment. It occurred to me this behavior was a habit, a bad habit that I had developed.
The next day, at the same time I felt the same need. I willed my self to stuff my face with cauliflower instead of candy. I crunched. I did it again the next day. Habits. Over and over it kept coming back to habits. I searched Audible for “habit formation”. I listed to “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. Oh, the science of habit formation! Maybe I could change for the better. Next I listed to “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and “Mini Habits for Weight Loss” by Stephen Guise.
In my life I had tried every diet imaginable. From Weight Watchers to Keto and Whole 30 and everything in between. Each “diet” would work for a time, I would lose the same 15 lbs over and over again, each time gaining all of it plus an additions 3 or 4 back. In the end, I never changed my habits and immediately my old self would check back in. One slip up would turn into a 3 month bender and I would be back to square one, or worse.
Then one day while I was looking for a new book to listen to, Audible suggested I try “Bright Line Eating, The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free” by Susan Peirce Thompson.
By the time I was about 8 years old, I was the subject of relentless teasing for my size at the small Catholic school I attended. I was quiet and stayed in my shell, afraid to draw attention to myself. I was sad and painfully aware of my weight problem. I was the “fat kid”.
At some point my mom mentioned an article she read that reported a “famous gymnast” had died of complications from anorexia nervosa and bulimia. I didn’t know what she was talking about and she explained that tragically, this gymnast had a disease where she thought she was fat and either starved herself or threw up after eating in order to control her weight. I asked how and she said they stick their finger down their throat. Looking back on it, I imagine my mom was talking about Christy Henrich, former US Olympic Gymnast who was only 60 lbs at the time of her death.
I am positive this off the cuff remark from my mom was mentioned in passing and had little bearing on her, I would be shocked if she even recalls the conversation. But it’s funny how some things we stay will stick with our kids. I did not hear “disease”, “tragic” or “death”. I heard, “weight control”. And suddenly something in my little brain snapped and a “blue print” was born.
I don’t even remember what I ate the first time I tried it. But I remember realizing how easy it was to gag myself. It worked! And just like that, new habits were formed. I started throwing up after meals. Sneaking into the bathroom to rid my self of whatever devil treat I had just consumed. This was before the days of smart phones and internet searches. My skill set developed on trial and error.
Within a few months I would regularly binge and purge everyday. I was only about 9 years old. My mom eventually took notice. I complained of stomach aches constantly, (a reasonable excuse for the need to vomit after meals). I would vomit blood and had constant heart burn.
Eventually I went to the doctor and had a barium test. I was diagnosed with stomach ulcers and prescribed Zantac. The Zantac calmed the pain and the “stomach issues” covered the lie. I lived this life through middle school. Still fat, but not so fat that any “childhood obesity” interventions would come. I loved sweets and would eat and eat.
“My, you are getting fat”. My great aunt would say.
“You had better be careful, that’s a moment on the lips, and years on the hips.”
I look over my shoulder and see my great aunt standing on the front steps of the house on Cooper Avenue calling me to come in. It’s still early and light out. I turn, reluctantly and start making my way back down the street to her house. She’s in her 70’s, I am 5 or 6. I want to play with the neighborhood kids, but she’s worried she can’t keep track of me and beckons me into the house.
I come in and sit down on the floor in front of the couch. She offers me some candy from this blue dish she has that stacks, one bowl on top of the other, each higher one acting like the lid of the one below until the top little one which has a lid ends the stack. Chocolate covered raisins. Yum, my favorite. I grab a handful and settle in. She turns on Nick at Night and we wait for my parents to pick me up.
This scene repeats itself day after day all summer. Before you know it, school is starting and the lack of activity and ample supply of treats has contributed to an already brewing dependency developing in me; food addiction.
I didn’t know it then, I was a kid. But I was developing life long habits for emotional eating and sugar addiction.
Sitting here, watching my own children, I worry about what I am teaching them. I don’t want them to grow up facing the challenges I have faced. I want them to be free of these chains.
I grew up in a family and in a time, when separating food and emotion wasn’t a science people talked about. We celebrated with food, we comforted with food. We did holiday’s and traditions and condolences with food. And just like that, I went from a “healthy” weight kindergartner, to an overweight first grader. In the 30 years that have followed, I have yet to return to a “healthy weight”. But that is about to change…