The term “Bright Line” doesn’t come from psychology, it comes from the field of law. Recently, however, psychologists borrowed the term because it’s helpful for describing a specific approach to improving willpower and self-control.
Wikipedia defines a “bright-line rule” as:
“A clearly defined rule or standard, generally used in law, composed of objective factors which leaves little or no room for varying interpretation. The purpose of a bright-line rule is to produce predictable and consistent results in its application.”
I love that. “Predictable and consistent results.” I want those.
I was first introduced to the term “Bright Line” in late 2013 when I read Roy F. Baumeister and Jon Tierney’s bestselling book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. I was struck by a paragraph buried toward the end of the book where they wrote about using Bright Lines to bolster willpower.
This one little paragraph in Willpower really got me excited, because Bright Lines have been my go-to strategy for self-improvement for the past 20 years.
My first, cardinal Bright Line is NO DRUGS OR ALCOHOL, ever.
(The “ever” part is what makes it a Bright Line.)
Committing to that one Bright Line at the age of 20 totally changed my life.
But I was still fat.
So, soon after that, I started trying to apply Bright Lines to my eating.
I struggled for the next eight years to find a set of Bright Lines that would help me lose all my excess weight and keep it off. And all through those years, I got fatter, and fatter, and fatter.
But finally, in May of 2003, I found a 12-step program for food addiction that taught me the four Bright Lines that work:
- No sugar
- No flour
- Weighed-and-measured quantities
I shrank from a size 16 to a size 4 in six months.
I was finally happy, thin, and free!
I immediately dedicated every spare moment to helping others use Bright Lines to get happy, thin, and free, too.
Fast-forward eleven years.
I was sitting at my kitchen table, reading Willpower.
And I came across that fateful paragraph.
Roy Baumeister did a great job of describing the power of Bright Lines…but then he totally fumbled. Midway through the paragraph, he wrote that a Bright Line is “not practical for all self-control problems—a dieter cannot stop eating all food—but it works well in many situations.”
I stared at that sentence.
I couldn’t believe it.
The world’s foremost expert on willpower was unaware of the power of using Bright Lines to solve the biggest willpower problem there is: losing weight.
I was stupefied.
But, oh well. Lots of people are unaware of lots of things. I shook my head and went to work. The spring semester was about to start, and I had to prepare the syllabus for my course on the psychology of eating.
Then some time passed. I’m not sure how long. But before too long, something happened.
I remember the moment.
It was January 26th, 2014 at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time.
I was deep in my morning meditation. In the womb of that stillness, the idea to write a book came to me, fully formed, like a present all wrapped up with a pretty bow.
Bright Line Eating™.
- A story of the tortures of obesity, depression and food addiction, followed by the joys of living happy, thin, and free
- A practical manual to help people use Bright Lines to lose weight and get free from food obsession
- A revolutionary account of the neuroscience and psychology that underlie the success of the Bright Line Eating™ approach
Of course I realized that, in a way, it would be presumptuous of me to write such a book. Thousands of people have been following Bright Line Eating™, under a variety of names, for years, and some have been dedicated to this way of life for literally decades. Lots of people have had much more dramatic success than I. There are eight or more 12-step food programs that advocate abstinence from problem foods and behaviors as a means of achieving freedom from compulsive or addictive eating.
So I was aware that this wasn’t a brand new idea.
But often a good idea isn’t new—it’s just a reformulation of approaches and concepts that have a very long history in other forms.
Plus, I knew that the science I had to share about why Bright Line Eating™ works, which I’ve been amassing over the past eleven years and teaching in my college course on the psychology of eating, has never been described in one place before, and the full narrative is beyond fascinating.
In any case, good or bad, the Bright Line Eating™ idea grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
I immediately started getting up at 4:30 a.m. each morning to write for 30 minutes on the Bright Line Eating™ book proposal. I wrote faithfully, seven days a week, for weeks.
Meanwhile, I researched what it takes to get a book published by a major publishing house. One key element is that you have to have a platform, which is, basically, a readership. Apparently, publishing houses don’t really market books anymore. They expect you to do that. You have to build a platform for communicating with readers and letting them know about you and your work.
I found the whole idea of a platform very daunting, mainly because I didn’t have one. So, for a while, I just ignored that part of it and forged ahead writing the book proposal. But then, in email communications with book-writing coach Bill O’Hanlon, I learned about a process for building a platform that seemed somewhat doable, and I decided to get started.
Essentially, what happened then is that I fell in love with building the platform, and I put writing the book on the back burner.
Now now, don’t get excited. I’m still going to write the book. I’ve just gotten more bold about it. I’m now striving to make it a #1 New York Times Bestseller. And the only way to have a hope of that is to have a readership, a BIG readership, before the book is released.
There. I’m not ashamed to say it. My goal is nothing less than world domination.
Inasmuch as helping a whole lot of people to stop eating cookies counts as world domination.
So anyway, back to the platform. It turns out that an email list is the best platform there is. When you have someone’s email address, and permission to communicate with them about topics they really care about, you have the ability to inform them, months or even years down the line, about new work you’ve produced that they might really be interested in.
The equation is simple. The bigger your email list, the bigger your platform.
So, round about May of 2014, I started learning everything I could about how to build an email list.
The best way to get someone’s email address, and permission to send them messages, is to offer them something really good for free, and get them to sign up for your email list to get it.
And then you’ve got to send them relentlessly helpful content, on a regular basis, from then on.
So I spent the summer writing a free report called, “The Three Huge Mistakes That Almost Everyone Makes When They Try to Lose Weight.” I actually wrote two free reports before that one. The first one was compelling, but way too long. (Who me? Write something that’s way too long? Not possible. Lol.) The second was the right length, but not compelling enough. Then I finally hit the sweet spot with the Three Huge Mistakes. If you haven’t read it yet, you can download it for free right here.
By June I was done, and I was all ready to offer the free report online and launch my email list.
But then a very good friend of mine, accomplished psychologist and author Ron Friedman, pointed out that I really ought to have a personal website describing my background and credentials before I launch the list.
Ugh. I was frustrated by the delay, but saw the wisdom in his suggestion, so I spent the next two months working on creating a website. By a turn of luck I was put in touch with WordPress wizard Steven Gomez, and the process became much more fun.
Finally, on August 5th, 2014 I made the free report available online and officially “launched my list.” I sent out an excited email to 96 people announcing the launch. That night nearly 70 people downloaded the free report and joined the email list. Subscriptions were pouring in at a rate of about ten an hour, and snowballing. I was ecstatic!
The next day was…awful, awful, awful. The email host provider had a hardware malfunction and no one could sign up for the whole day.
The momentum was killed.
That’s one huge lesson I learned in 2014: technology is a wild beast. It creates unparalleled options, access, and opportunities, but freak snafus will happen from time to time. C’est la vie.
From then on, I stayed busy writing emails to send out to the list. By mid-September there were 340 subscribers. In October I created my first YouTube video and added 100 more.
By November I had written 20 solid emails, full of the science and practice of sustainable weight loss. People who downloaded the free report got added to the beginning of the sequence and received all 20 in order, spread out over 2-3 months.
Right from the beginning, many people on the list hit “reply” to my emails and let me know how grateful they were for the information I was providing. And many asked for more.
In short, they wanted a course on Bright Line Eating™.
So, dutiful professor that I am, I obliged.
On Tuesday, October 21st, 2014, I offered my first free webinar, “The Badly Behaving Brain: Why 2 Billion People Can’t Lose Weight.” Several hundred people signed up for the webinar, from all over the United States and Canada, plus a list of countries so long I can’t remember them all. There were folks from Denmark, Singapore, Colombia, Slovenia, Australia, Germany, England, Guatemala, and the Philippines, to name a few.
At the end of that webinar, I invited people to sign up for a six-week tele-class on Bright Line Eating™. I capped the class size at 40, but I really didn’t think that many people would sign up. I was expecting maybe twelve.
The course sold out.
And I lost a lot of sleep.
When I teach a college course, I just teach the course. I don’t work in admissions, registration, financial aid, the bursar’s office, or IT. For this course, I did everything. I was totally unprepared for how much work it would be.
But it was awesome!
Over the next several weeks I taught what I know about the science and practice of getting happy, thin, and free to the inaugural group of Bright Line Eating™ Boot Campers…and I witnessed lives being transformed.
I set up a private Facebook group so the members of the Boot Camp could give and receive support, ask questions, and cheer each other on. Nearly three-quarters of the people used the Facebook group during the course; many are still using it as a major source of support to this day.
Now that the Boot Camp is over I converted the Facebook group to a forum where people who are committed to using Bright Lines to live happy, thin, and free can support each other long-term. It’s an anonymous and fully secret group. If you search for it in Facebook you won’t find it. But if you want to join, you can email me at Susan@SusanPT.com and I’ll send you more information.
The six-week Boot Camp was successful beyond my wildest expectations. People who participated in the program lost a lot of weight (17 pounds on average, with 33.5 pounds on the high end and 7-8 pounds on the low end). But more than that, many talked about the impact of the program in the strongest of terms. On the final survey, people wrote things like:
“I absolutely feel this is the program for me.”
“I feel empowered to have hope for myself. I feel genuinely proud of myself and strong.”
“I feel free and at peace. THANK YOU!!!”
So here it is, early January of 2015. Since the Boot Camp ended I have added a Platinum Coaching Group to my list of services. And I’m looking ahead to the next Boot Camp. This one is going to be longer and I’m adding a whole lot more content. Bright Line Eating™ keeps growing and evolving. It’s taking on a life of its own.
There you have it. The birth of a movement. There are nearly 1,000 members so far, and I hope that by the end of 2015 that number will be more like 10,000.
For my part, I intend to put out a new blog every Thursday, and work my hardest, one day at a time, to share the science and practice of sustainable weight loss with everyone who wants to get HAPPY, THIN, AND FREE.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. – Please scroll down and leave a comment and let me know that you’re here! I know y’all have been reading my emails all by your lonesome for the past four months, but on a BLOG you can leave a COMMENT! Please do!