The Neurobiology of Addiction

A Boot Camper recently asked me to explain why many Bright Line Eaters report that their food addiction is just as strong, if not stronger, when they break their bright lines. I respond in this week’s vlog.


  1. Deborah E Hope

    The fact that you are science-based in you BLE program is so important to me. I have a science background. BLE is set apart due to you and this solid background. Thank you.

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  2. Jenna C Reed Livingston

    One of my favorite vlogs. I learned a lot about why I feel like I’ll never get past certain ‘obsessive’ tendencies I have with flour products (like bread). Reading through the comments I see some are referring to aversion therapy which is something I haven’t yet tried, but will.

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  3. Arturo

    what is your recommendation for a good fasting protocol. Do you recommend fasting in bright line eating?

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  4. Patti Bennett

    Susan, you are a gem. I could listen to you for days at a time. You are so interesting to watch. I love your bubbly personality. You have an exceptional way of explaining things. I have been BLE for 8 months. I have lost 43 lbs and a gazillion other wonderful things have happened to me as a result of BLE. Thanks for giving me the tools to rewire my brain. Love you sweetie.

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  5. JBG

    Wonderful riverbed analogy but so, so depressing. How awful to know that this monkey will be on your back forever. Stopping the addiction is easy but how do you get the addictive substance to stop talking to you? How do you get the cake/donuts/cigarettes/booze, etc. to stop tapping you on the shoulder and calling your name? I’ve been to 12-step programs and it’s apparent that the attendees have simply exchanged one addiction for another, just as you stated in your vlog about alcoholics replacing alcohol with coffee and cigarettes. Is there no hope for addicts? Is the pharmaceutical community looking for ways to deflect or eliminate these dopamine receptors? Is there no way out of this prison? There are people who’ve given up their addictive substances for years who claim to crave it every second of every day. What a horrible existence. I’m surprised there isn’t more suicide associated with this.

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    1. Louise

      That’s what the BLE is all about. You stay away from those addictive foods and pretty soon you’re not thinking of them. But, once you go off tract, then you run into trouble. Depends where you are on the addictive “scale.” I can have flour and sugar, but I have to stay away from the ones that trigger me, like cake, donuts. I can ration myself dark chocolate and eat bread without problems.

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  6. Stefi

    Love your vlog Susan!!
    Too true about staying behind that dam – learned that the hard way & appreciate your explanation!

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  7. Riadh

    i noticed that too, some alcoholics become fat when they stop drinking, or start increasing their smoking

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  8. James Healy

    I love the riverbed analogy, perfect! I will share this concept with others who struggle with their addictions as well, thanks again!

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  9. Tasneem

    Dear Susan,Thank a lot for sharing your insights and amazing knowledge about brain.I was just wondering if you can help me to understand the addiction of computer games .My son has dropped out school and even his passion of soccer has disappeared .I would be eternally grateful if you could guide me to get him out of it. Love with regards

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  10. Barbara

    You have such a great way of making it “make sense.” Thank you for sharing your insights, especially on this topic. People who are low on the susceptibility scale just don’t understand how food can be a real biological addiction. I will refer them to this vlog when I encounter those folks. Thanks again!

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  11. RJ

    Its not just dopamine that makes it so hard to stop eating sugar or flour – its candida. Most everyone addicted to sweets has candida and when the sugar supply is stopped, the candida wants the yeast in the bread… or alcohol.. or wherever it can get it.

    A little candida in the intestines is normal and everyone has it, but when a person takes antibiotics, the good gut bacteria that keep the candida in check are killed off (but not the candida). The candida overtakes the intestines and gets into the blood and that creates addictive behavior (and diseases).

    Its very hard to get rid of it. Simply taking good probiotics is often not enough. Medically, there’s very little to nothing for it, not even reliable tests, but there are holistic remedies. Count on 6 months to a year or concentrated effort.

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    1. Stefi

      Hi RJ , although you have a valid additional point – Susan is explaining the neurological reason the brain does what it does

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  12. Holly

    THANK YOU AGAIN!!! … for your extensive research ( knowledge) and such talent of knowing how to share it in a way that keeps the viewer interested and inspired!!

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  13. Mrs Green

    You have a gift for imparting knowledge! You inspire me and I look forward to receiving your weekly videos. I was feeling so sad and helpless till I heard you give a talk at a Summit.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH Susan!!!

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  14. Chaim Oz

    Great as usual !
    We here really look fw to watching your vlogs.
    Chaim and Chen Oz

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  15. Lilian

    I’m not working right now so I can’t join your program but plan on doing so in the future. For now, I am just astounded by how much I learn and how much I am motivated when I listen to your vlogs. Thank you for all you do! I hope to get the damn dam built so high and so strong that the old riverbed is silted in so thoroughly that it would take a whole lot of get any water to flow there ever again. I’m just thankful that years after I quit smoking, I casually bummed a cigarette because I had a craving for one suddenly. The thankful part is that it made me vomit pretty thoroughly. I wish I could get that same reaction to sugar and flour … 🙂

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  16. Cathy

    I’m hungrily consuming all your advice, Susan, but I don’t know any more than abstain from sugar and flour. How can I get et the information about this way of eating?

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  17. Vickii

    Great vlog and information. Love your genuine and direct style. Have referred several clients to your program.

    Also greatly appreciated your “last day as a teacher / packing up my office” vlog. Have always been an educator, wrote and taught grad courses and recently ended my 14 years at a local liberal arts college. I cried along with you as you said good bye. Your honesty and openness is quite moving.

    Unsolicited feedback: Have taught nonverbal communication and you over all do a great job with yours. Just encourage you to continue to work on your opening vocal tones and head bobbling. Makes you look and sound a bit like you are either bored, burdened, or a victim, which you clearly are not. Once you get started with your vlog, your nonverbals are great.

    I am thin and happy and have never had a weight issue, but I have used sweets for most of my life to satisfy or sedate other issues. I continue to reduce intake and am inspired to use your approach to shift this pattern completely.

    Thanks for your journey and all you share so freely.

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    1. LisaR

      Vicki, I think you’re projecting something onto Susan’s nonverbals that are not there. I see her eye-rolling and head bobbing in the beginning as playful and fun. She actually did a vlog a few weeks ago addressing this.

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  18. Racheal

    Thank you Susan. I believe you also referred to the riverbed/dam imagery in one of the BLE videos and it is a powerful image to keep in the back of one’s mind! Just imagining eating something that would cause a crack in the dam and the potential result is scary!

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  19. Jayne Del Rio

    Excellent information!

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  20. Martha Cichelli

    As usual, a great explanation.


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  21. Barb

    Brilliant vlog. You explain concepts so well – loved the river analogy. I wish everyone could hear you! I am going to work hard to make “shrubs and debris” fill up the old river bed (maybe how Dave suggest in his post-with pain). Thank you.

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  22. Florice Harris

    Dear Susan,
    HELP!! I have another addiction!!!! I am addicted to listening to everything you have to give to us–LOL– I have to admit I look so forward to your blogs and videos–THANK YOU!!

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    1. Sarah Katzin

      I have made this exact same comment several times! Lol!

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  23. Dave Erickson

    Good Explanation Susan, but let me add HOW to break that hopeless scenario.
    To break your addiction to ANYTHING all you have to do is associate PAIN to it.
    I used to eat bread with every meal. Two slices with PB! Now I rarely eat bread because my brain associates BREAD = FAT! With this, my brain has also attached powerful justifications that “I don’t need bread” and “people who eat bread are dumbasses” All of this causes me to have no desire to binge on bread. Do I eat bread Yes, occassionally, but when I do, I never feel I need to go home and eat a loaf of bread. The bread addiction “riverbed” is GONE!

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    1. Shirley

      Aversion therapy works! Over 25 years ago I broke my addiction to donuts by imaging a pile of its components: flour, shortening, sugar, and smoky cooking oil. This imagery is so strong in my mind to this day, it is more powerful than how a donut looks (no matter how fancified) and smells. The fancy glazes and sprinkles are still seen as ‘that pile.’ I can actually enjoy the smell and still not want one. Totally do not want one.
      Unfortunately, this does not work for other things (like chocolate) – whose components look tempting all by themselves. That’s where the worms come in play.

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  24. Ronna Berezin

    Here’s my answer to ur blog…. Adopt this philosophy for your program: “Be reasonable. Do the impossible.”

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  25. Calvin

    It can be as bad as it ever was, but I think it’s easier to right oneself when we slip, if we have not lost ourselves and are continually working on change, or have a plan. But yeah, that old riverbed is definitely inside us, those old behavior patterns hiding, ready to pounce if we let our guard down.

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  26. Joseph

    Dear Dr. Susan Thompson,
    When confronting any formidable challenge, knowledge of the terrain is an essential requirement for success. And your vlog for this week says so much, and in only eleven short minutes, about what happens in the brain when we face addiction, mount a program for abstinence, and, as will often happen, suffer a relapse. Thank you!
    Joseph in Missoula

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  27. Paula Smith

    Iprocessed sugar lights up the brain like a drug. Has anyone taken a picture of what the brain looks like with fruit? Is it different?

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    1. Stacey Stokes

      Great question!

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  28. Lana

    Thank you, and yes it is worse than it was ever was. That is why do not ever do it. Like when you say you don’t do cookies with your girls, you don’t eat not even one bite of cake on birthday, smoking, alcohol, is the same. If you have been addicted for many years, you still want it. It does not ever go away. I would always be worse. I agree with dopamine, it will get it from anywhere. The brain will get it’s fix. You explain things so well. You have to keep all addictions behind the dam. Or you will be flooded will with something from the brain! It will feel worse than ever, I feel like you can not stop. The flood is on! Thank you so much for the explanation. You are so wonderful, this really helps me. It is so important to have this knowledge to help me. I binge, I’m so addicted so easily to too many things. The brain is really long time process to re-train , in many areas. So complex, again thank you so much for all you do to help and all the hard work you do to help people. After 26 years I have to stay away from all the things and people who do things I do not want to do anymore. You have to eat. The other things you do not need to sustain life. This is wonderful program you have for freeing from addictions. I wish I could say how much I appreciate all I learn from you. I share and pass the word on to all I meet. Most are not receptive. I do share anyway! They can take it or leave it. That is a choice we all make. This is all about choices. Your program is supportive and science facts available, personal experience, and other people testimonial backed. You can only do it if you say you are going to do it. Make the choice to do it. Thank you, love hugs and prayers to you and all yours. God Bless.

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