Dear friends and followers,
I haven’t posted on here in a while, mostly because I’ve been feeling really well supported in my life and food journey, but also because I’m finding myself further and further away from the way of eating that my blog was originally built around.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role that Bright Line Eating has played in my own personal food revolution.
When I discovered Bright Line Eating almost three years ago, I was a pretty different person than I am today. It would be an oversimplification to say that I was fat and unhappy then, or even that I was unhappy because I was fat. There were aspects of my life then that were wonderful, and there was nothing wrong with my body, despite it not being a body that allowed me to live with full vitality.
All I know for sure is that before BLE I was fairly numb, and food was my numbing agent of choice. It was easier to soothe and numb any difficulties in my life with food than square my shoulders to the underlying issues or emotions.
Our society doesn’t exactly encourage people to use our internal resources to deal with things that feel stressful or hard. We are encouraged to use food to take care of ourselves emotionally from the moment we are born. But this isn’t universal. I realized this when a colleague of mine from China was asked what her favorite “comfort food” was, and this was a foreign concept to her. “I don’t know, rice and fish I guess?” she replied.
All of that to say that the rules, tools, and structure of Bright Line Eating were so essential and necessary for me to wake up to my life. It forced me to take away the numbing agents (food) and to learn to use my internal resources and external social support (meditation, reflective practices, intimate connection with others) to navigate life’s challenges.
And, importantly, Bright Line Eating taught me what healthy portions of healthful foods looked like and how to prepare them, on a completely practical level. Meal by meal, I spent two years building a new, strong intuition about what healthy eating looked like and felt like. Abundant quantities of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains that make me feel energetic and amazing.
And in this way, Bright Line Eating completely changed my relationship with food.
But several months into maintenance, something started feeling itchy about some of the aspects and messages of Bright Line Eating. Something about it wasn’t resonating with me anymore. In fact, some of the things that Susan was saying were starting to directly contradict my experience.
I had taken on the Bright Line Eating way and identity so quickly and fully, that I hadn’t really considered which aspects of it were really true for me. Yes, I’d struggled with my weight in the past. Yes, I’d had problems in the past with binging on starchy and sweet foods. Yes, I ate mindlessly. But was I really a food addict? Was a set of strict, inflexible rules really the best solution to my problems? They certainly worked for a while, and the quick, easy weight loss was undoubtably awesome.
But as I settled into maintenance and lost some of the daily connection to the BLE community, gradually, my adherence to the BLE standard began to slip. I found myself eyeballing my quantities more and more, and even dabbling in sugar and flour products occasionally.
The outcome of those behaviors, if I believed myself to be a food addict in recovery, would be a backslide into addictive patterns, a loss of control and peace with my food, and gaining back weight.
But as I watched myself stray from the BLE way, none of this happened. I was actually fine. Not only was I fine, I was beginning to feel even more free.
I am feeling free because I am supported, self-aware, and awake.
I can’t “use” food anymore in the way that I used to, because so much of my life’s energy is now diverted to living each day in integrity and alignment with my highest self. Even with small amounts of “addictive” foods in my diet. And that’s what I learned from Bright Line Eating. The tools and support in their programs are amazing and life-changing, and Susan is a beautiful, passionate leader with so much integrity, compassion, and wisdom. But I don’t relate to Susan’s experience with food, and at the end of the day I’m just not a Bright Line Eater.
The identity that I am choosing to cultivate now is the identify of a mindful, healthy eater. I am learning to make my food decisions by asking myself: “what would a healthy eater do?” and “would this choice be self-respectful or self-harming?” I am practicing checking in with my body, with my mind, with my hunger, and I am not restricting my food choices anymore. I am trying to make choices spaciously, calmly, and without impulsivity. And if my body, mind, and heart are all hungry for little bit of dark chocolate, then I’m going to tune out all distractions, portion out a few squares of beautiful, delicious, rich dark chocolate, and I’m going to mindfully enjoy every bite.
And then, if it sets off a series of cravings or doesn’t feel good in my body, I practice my self compassion, seek the lesson, talk about it with my inner circle, and grow a little.
I’ve stopped buying into the idea that I’m somehow broken, or needing manage a problem by using bright lines. Because the fact is, there isn’t really a problem anymore. I’ve been eating in a fairly unstructured, mindful way for almost a year, and my weight has not budged. Despite regularly eating 4 oz (2 protein servings) of nuts or nut butter at breakfast.
I have also always struggled with sticking perfectly to my written food commitments from the night before. I often found myself making adjustments to my written food commitments, and responding to what “sounds good today,” which Susan explicitly warned against. But there just didn’t seem to be a good reason for me to have that inflexibility. I didn’t like how out of touch this made me feel with my body. Implicit in the practice of “eating only and exactly what I wrote down” is the idea that I can’t trust myself or listen my body’s signals, and that I will never be able to because my brain is just badly wired.
However, what I did learn from this practice was how to make food prep and planning a regular part of my daily and weekly routines, and how important this practice is for healthy eating. Because the willpower gap is real and that is where I benefit from structure. I am seeking a nice balance somewhere between “don’t eat a baby carrot off your food plan” and “do whatever you want all the time.” For me, the take home of writing down my food was about the value of planning and intention setting, not the rigidity of the commitment.
For today at least, I have learned to trust myself with food. I eat now when my body is hungry, and 95% of the food I eat is whole, real, unprocessed, delicious, plant-based food. I don’t crave anything junky anymore, and I allow occasional starchy or mildly sweet indulgences in small quantities. I am able to find a stopping place with pleasurable foods that I did not used to be able to find. And my body is SO grateful. Our relationship is thriving.
But I didn’t get there overnight. It took lots of gradual, supported, mindful exploration to obtain the kind of peace and freedom that I have with food today.
I needed Bright Line Eating because I needed a hard reset with my food. For years I watched myself treat myself poorly with food, despite my best intentions. Bright Line Eating can be easy to surrender to for people who are in a painful place, and I needed a good surrender in order to make real changes. But Bright Line Eating was the beginning, not the end of my food freedom journey, and there is so much more for me to explore.
I’m excited to see where Katie’s Bright Kitchen goes next, and I’ll be grateful to hear your thoughts.