Are you ready to find out if your brain is blocking you from losing weight?
Jenny Hazelton’s Story
Dinners were never my favorite time as a kid—they centered around meat, which I never enjoyed, and we were ordered to eat everything on our plates before we could leave the table. I perfected the art of lightly chewing my meat and spitting it into my napkin while pretending to wipe my mouth. The only dinner foods I liked were carrots, canned green beans, potatoes, and bread. There were always packaged cookies in the kitchen, to which I helped myself as often as possible. In the summer, I lived for the ice cream truck and can remember offering to ride my bike to the corner store to get cigarettes for my mom just so I could pick up my daily dose of candy.
I first started thinking I was fat in fourth grade when we were weighed in gym class. Each girl had to step on the scale and the teacher yelled out her weight: “Kathy R-66, Susie B-61, Lisa W-52, Cindy P-58…” Then I got on the scale and she yelled, “JENNY B-72!” It got quiet and everyone turned to look at me. I was mortified, convinced that my weight was going to be the subject of the lunchroom conversations for weeks to come. I spent the rest of the year miserable and saw myself as huge and unwieldy all through middle school. However, when I look at photos from that time, I see a tall girl with a bit of normal pre-adolescent padding. I spent high school at what I now know is a healthy weight—135 to 140 pounds at 5’7″—but in my mind I was a fat girl.
I thought about my weight constantly; food was on my mind all the time. High school and college were a blur of food cravings and obsessions, and cooking up ways to obtain that food. Sometimes I would decide I needed to lose weight and torture myself with bizarre diets and exercise regimes of my own design. (I once lived on honey cake for an entire summer while swimming a mile a day.) In my twenties, I hovered between 140 to 155 pounds. I took a three-month solo backpacking trip to Europe when I was twenty-three. Preparation for the trip included losing 25 pounds on Weight Watchers. I left for Europe weighing 132 pounds, but everywhere I went there were so many excuses to eat beautiful, interesting foods I told myself I would never have the chance to eat again. By the end of the three-month trip much of the weight had returned.
I had my first child at age twenty-nine and never lost the baby weight. I went into my next pregnancy at 170 pounds, hitting 200 pounds at full-term. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time and formed a habit of all-day grazing—mindlessly opening and closing the cabinets, the fridge, and my mouth. In the four years to follow I kept my weight in the 180-pound range. I returned to Weight Watchers when my daughter was four, lost 40 pounds, and was crowned a Lifetime Member. I remember that feeling. Just like Oprah with her wagon-full of fat, I told everyone I knew, “THIS IS IT. I’m never going back.” Then Trader Joe’s came to town and I discovered the joys of organic fair trade artisanal dark chocolate. My main take-away from Weight Watchers had been, “Everything in Moderation!” So I couldn’t see the harm in adding this delightful, “healthy” treat to my diet. I grazed on chocolate, telling myself that Weight Watchers had taught me the healthy habit of portion control and how to satisfy my cravings without going overboard. My meals were small and healthy, I told myself. In reality, yes, they were small (and not so healthy), but I wasn’t taking into consideration that I was snacking all day long. I gained the 40 pounds back and then some within two years.
Starting in the mid-1990s through 2013, I joined and re-joined Weight Watchers AT LEAST fifteen times. If they had a frequent flyer program, I would be a premier member. How did it take me that long to realize it wasn’t working?! In 2013, I hit 210 pounds and was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. This was especially upsetting because my mother had type II diabetes and weighed well over 300 pounds when she died of a stroke. A friend suggested I read Joel Fuhrman’s The End of Diabetes, and his approach of eating all the food you want as long as it’s plant-based really appealed to my obsession with all-day unlimited food access. I got on his program and lost about 10 pounds, but fell off the wagon after a few months.
I spent 2014 reading vegan cooking blogs, grazing on whole-wheat pizza and chocolate, and gaining more weight. At my physical in November of 2014 I weighed 216 pounds. My total cholesterol was 216, LDL 156, triglycerides 156; my HDL/LDL Ratio was 4.1 and my A1c was in the pre-diabetic range at 5.9. My cholesterol had never been a problem, so this especially was a shock. My doctor told me she would like to start me on a statin, and I said no—I would lose weight. She said she’d give me six months. So back to Dr. Fuhrman I went. I joined his website, read all of his books, bought a Vita-Mix, and went whole-hog-whole-foods-plant-based.
By early February 2015, I had lost 20 pounds. I was eating copious amounts of greens, berries, onions, mushrooms, salads, and giant smoothies—OCEANS of smoothies full of spinach, pumpkin, fruit, and dates. It felt great to be eating only food that was nutritious, but I still had aches and pains and was tired much of the time. I continued grazing all day long and was as food-obsessed as I had always been. Vegan food blogs and cookbooks became a fixation, as well as surfing the Internet for tasty vegan date-sweetened desserts and smoothies. More than once I ate an entire tray of black bean brownies. I felt horrible afterward—guilty and out-of-control. Dr. Fuhrman’s plan had taught me about great nutrition, but nothing about how to change the behaviors that had dominated my life for so long. I was so sick of thinking about food literally all of my waking hours.
To this day I have no idea what made me click on the link to an interview with Susan Peirce Thompson that I received from vegan food blogger Katie Mae. (My knee-jerk reaction to any Internet marketing campaign is to hit “delete.”) But click I did, and as I listened to Susan speak, a massive lightbulb went off in my brain. I felt reassured and validated in a way I had never felt before. A calm exhilaration came over me. Everything Susan said made so much sense to me. I found the neuroscience of food addiction fascinating. I have worked in nicotine addiction research, so I was not unfamiliar with the effects of drug abuse in the brain. But the way she explained how flour and sugar are drugs, just like cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine—this I did not know. I watched all of the Food Freedom videos for the February 2015 Boot Camp on the day each one was released. I Googled Susan’s name and read everything the internet had to say about her. When the day came to sign up I was so freakin’ excited! Registration began while I was at work and I asked my co-worker to run interference for me so I could close my office door for ten minutes to register uninterrupted. I was so scared the Boot Camp would fill up and I wouldn’t get in!
When I think back to that time I don’t know how I was so certain Bright Line Eating would work for me. I usually take inordinate amounts of time to make any decision. But I went with my gut. And it was right!
I began my BLE journey on February 16, 2015 and joyfully began participating in my first Boot Camp a week later. I listened to the modules as they were released and joined the coaching calls live as often as possible. I replayed the modules and calls every day on my way to and from work. I posted in the Online Support Community. I made an effort to implement all of the tools of the program. Automaticity was a concept I was unfamiliar with before BLE, and during this Boot Camp I started to develop it, especially around breakfast. From the very beginning, I didn’t experience any hunger until right before dinner. As soon as the flour and sugar were out of my body, the program felt almost effortless to me. To this day I have not broken the flour and sugar bright lines, which seems like a miracle. I have also never snacked during the day or after dinner and I never feel like I want to.
Repetition has been key to my success in Bright Line Eating. I participated in the June and October 2015 Boot Camps, joined the Bright Lifers program, and still spend a good amount of time listening to calls, webinars, and Susan’s vlogs. I’m grateful to say I have a wonderful Mastermind group. We have been together since August 2015 and we all make our call a priority every week. I’m pretty sure I could not do this without the support of these fabulous women who have become my dear friends.
When I started BLE on February 16, 2015, I weighed 198 pounds. I reached my first goal weight range of 146 to 149 pounds on December 1, 2015, but that range still felt a little high to me. In May 2016, with the help of my amazing Mastermind group, I tightened up my food plan and I hit the top of my adjusted goal weight range of 139 to 142 pounds today!
Oh Bright Line Eating, how you have changed me! Let me count the ways… I’m at the right weight for my body. At my last checkup, my total cholesterol was 136, LDL 75, Triglycerides 55, and LDL/HDL Ratio 2.7. My fasting glucose was 86 and blood pressure 110/70. My plantar fasciitis has resolved, as well as my low back and hip pain, and I’m no longer taking Advil every day. This winter was the first in many years that has not seen me on antibiotics for a sinus infection. I no longer snore. Overall, I’m calmer, more relaxed, and able to take on stress without turning to food. There have been many unexpected benefits to my participation in BLE. I am more open in general to new people and adventures. I started mountain climbing, running, and working out with a trainer. I have boundless energy! My reactions to global and national events and issues (climate change, the US election, race relations) are more calm and focused in action rather than in anxiety. The specter of plane travel used to fill me with worry: what if I got stuck in a middle seat? Sharing a hotel room with a friend was out of the question—I was terrified my snoring would keep her up. Today I relish flying on a plane. I still prefer the aisle, but I think I could fly anywhere in a middle seat if I had to and be just fine! I’ve shared hotel rooms and beds with friends, which has saved me money and opened up my life. I love the free space in my brain that used to be taken up with food and body issues. I am more mindful every day and feel more focused with friends, at work, and when I’m alone.
So many of us are resistant to giving up flour and sugar. It may be difficult at first, but when the substances are out of your body and you’re using the tools of the BLE program, you’ll find your cravings and between-meal hunger will recede. If you’re at all curious about this program, I urge you to commit yourself to just trying it and giving it your best effort, one day at a time. Bright Line Eating is truly unlike any other weight loss program I have encountered…and you never know what personal unexpected benefits you will reap from living Happy, Thin, and Free!