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When I started Bright Line Eating back in August 2017, I wanted what the tagline promised – “Happy, Thin, and Free” (http://brightlineeating.com). I worked the program and got to my goal weight in January 2018. For two months, I maintained my weight. If anything, I was continuing to slowly lose more weight! Unfortunately, even after my weight-loss success, freedom was eluding me. It was time for me to figure out why!
The purpose of food, and eating generally, is NOT simply to ensure I maintain my weight.
Food has a cultural significance. It connects people. It in a key element in holidays and celebrations. To follow the bright lines well, I had to bring my own food to pot lucks or not attend. I had to ask family members to tweak recipes passed down for generations to cut out a tablespoon of flour. I had to say no to sweet treats because I was certainly going to “lose it” over even just a bite of something sweet. All these things and more were NOT a recipe for freedom to me. They were isolating. They were a burden. They were unrealistic for any extended period of time.
Food fuels my body and its needs are constantly changing. The BLE plan outlines the exact food groups and the exact amounts that a person should eat. The plan doesn’t change except in extreme cases such training for a marathon or multi-hour physical adventures. The idea is that your body’s needs will average out on a day to day basis. If you eat according to your body’s average needs, you’ll be full some days and hungry on others, but you will maintain your weight. I am absolutely not willing to make my food decisions just so that I can maintain my weight! That is not freedom!
Members in one of the BLE Maintenance Facebook Support Groups were talking about how they eat all of their food in a meal even if they feel full before they are finished. Similarly, if a meal leaves them wanting more, as in they are still hungry, they deny that need and wait until the next designated meal time.
Our bodies are amazing! We are born with an innate ability to meet our nutritional needs. Think of a baby crying. She knows she’s hungry! It is our culture and our life experiences that take us so far away from our intuitive sense that we stop trusting our bodies. Instead, we jump from diet to diet seeking the answers and the plan the will finally “work”. Every attempt at this, every restriction and rule we follow, is only making adding to the mistrust.
My path to food freedom requires that I befriend my body. I need to look inward for the answers. They may be buried under years of garbage but the answers are there.
Walking Away From Bright Line Eating
When I walked away from BLE in March 2018, I simultaneously embraced intuitive eating and intermittent fasting.
I stopped weighing my food portions. I stopped planning my food intake around meeting certain food group requirements in a given day. I added back sweeteners and flour. I started making decisions based upon listening to my body. Is she hungry? What is she hungry for? How much food does she need right now?
In many ways, this journey is more challenging than ANY diet I’ve ever been on. Unlike any diet though, this journey is deeply rewarding.
When There Are No Rules
When I abandoned the rules, I was afraid of what would happen. Would I gain weight? Would my eating get “out of control”? It was a fear of the unknown that made it scary to walk away from BLE.
For about 2 weeks after I abandoned the bright lines, I continued to weigh myself. Something VERY unexpected happened. My weight flattened out! Check out this screen shot of my weight tracking app. I stopped following the rules of BLE on 3/19. When I started trying to eat according to what my body was telling me it needed, my weight stabilized. Cue your favorite <Mind Blown> here.
I stopped weighing myself at that point because my relationship with the scale and the number was unhealthy. I do ask my wife to record the number somewhere every few weeks but l don’t actually know what it is or where she records it. What I DO know is that I’ve been doing my own non-diet thing for 3 months now. I know that my weight is about half-way between 160-165. (I needed this rough number for a medical procedure.) I know that the new clothes I bought in March are still fitting me comfortably. I know that I feel good and am enjoying physical activity for pleasure rather than weight management. Basically, I know that I am maintaining a weight and I’m doing it without stress and worry!
My “Sugar Addiction”
Bright Line Eating (http://www.brightlineeating.com) is based on the model of food/sugar addiction. I totally believed in it! It resonated with me and really described my relationship with food.
I don’t believe in it anymore. Before BLE, I definitely had a disordered relationship with food. I definitely used food to cope with my emotions. I definitely over indulged on foods that BLE told me I needed to cut out completely. These things were true for me.
Here’s the key – having a disordered relationship with food is NOT the same as being addicted. I felt like I was addicted to food but in reality, I was addicted to using food in ways that food doesn’t need to be used! I had bought into hears of diet messages. I had come to believe that I couldn’t be trusted around food.
Challenging My Sugar Addiction
Here’s an example from Easter 2018. We had a bag of chocolate Easter candy left over. After not having any candy like that since August 2017, I decided I was ready to try it again. I took 3 small candies and put the bag away. They were tasty. I finished the three candies.
Immediately after they were gone, I found myself thinking that I needed to have more. My reasoning for this was so that I could get them out of the house more quickly to avoid being tempted later. It wasn’t actually an addicted response to the chocolate but rather to the idea that I was doing something bad! The only way to prevent this bad behavior was to finish them off. I heard that tape playing in my head and fought it. I didn’t give in. Those candies lasted for another week or so even though they were always available to me. The problem wasn’t the food itself. The problem was how I was thinking about the food.
I have never felt as much peace with my body and around food as I do now. If you are reading this and contemplating starting Bright Line Eating, I would encourage you NOT to. You may feel like you’ve tried every diet out there. Maybe you have! Consider the possibility that you can learn to NOT be on a diet. Consider that you can learn to trust yourself again.
I have chosen to combine intuitive eating (IE) with the practice of intermittent fasting (IF) and there is a growing community of folks that are joining me. A lot of folks consider IF to be just another fad diet and there are certainly people who use it for that purpose.
Although a side effect of IF can be weight loss, there are many other potential benefits. In my case, I do it to reduce my seasonal allergies and get my hunger/fullness hormones working like they are intended to. When I’m eating according to my body’s needs, I trust that my weight will settle where it needs to.
There isn’t a lot of support out there for folks who want to combine these two, seemingly misaligned, concepts. I’m quickly learning though that there are a lot of people out there who are giving it a shot!
Do you want to learn more or perhaps join with me on this journey? Post your questions in the comments and figure out how you want to stay in contact by clicking here.