Monthly Archives: February 2019

How to Make Eating a Successful Habit

References: Lally Eur Jr Social PsychBright Line EatingInternat Jr Beh NutrCHIRr,

How can you get smarter than your insidious lizard brain that is determined to help you bulk up for the winter, and American processed food that is determined to bulk you up in order to sell more? Susan P Thompson elegantly shows in her book, Bright Line Eating, that you have to allocate your behavior to the part of your brain that is pure habit, your basal ganglia, at the base of your brain. Start by asking yourself the question, “How many times will I have brushed my teeth one year from today?”. I bet the answer is either 365 or 730. Right? And you didn’t even have to think about it. If you go on vacation, you may not take much, but you do have a toothbrush in there.

Making how you eat into an automatic habit accomplishes several key goals. First, you don’t have to think about it and decide something. That’s done. That nixes the power of your evil Saboteur who lies to you and teases you with temptation. Secondly, once you have lost weight, you keep it off. And third, it stops the monkey chatter in your brain about food. You don’t have to feel anxious and you don’t have to worry. You have a reliable friend: a habit.

Now, if you are feeling anxious reading this right now, it’s your Saboteur screaming at you that “This will be really boring.”, or “You won’t get to have you special Kopp’s ice cream ever again!”, or “You’ll lose all your friends!”. None of which is true.

Let’s look at the research by Lally on making new habits. Take 96 volunteers and ask them to start a new habit of eating, drinking or activity daily in a specific context. They then were to record the feelings of automaticity with a “self report habit index“. 86 ended up with good data that showed an asymptotic curve. The more reliably they did the behavior, the better the model fit. Lally’s research was pretty interesting. Some folks are fully automatic in just 18 days but some were out there at 254 days. But the average was 66 days. It takes 66 days to get to automatic for most people. Whatever you have heard before about 21 days is hoo-haw. It’s harder than that. It takes longer. 
And, not to be ignored, Susan Thompson says to put all your energy into learning the habit. That means go really easy on yourself with everything else. Specifically, DON’T EXERCISE. There is no evidence whatsoever that exercise helps you lose weight an keep it off. Your brain has a fantastic computer that knows exactly how many calories you burned and you eat more to make up. Then, the food you are eating makes you eat even more for which your Saboteur eggs you on. Don’t exercise. Get it.

Here it is: Your own Self Report Habit Index

___________________ (brushing my teeth, eating spinach for breakfast, doing pushups…..etc, is something . . .) Answer 1-5. Write it down for yourself. Make 66 copies of your survey and start doing it every day.

  1.   I do frequently
  2.  I do automatically
  3. I do without having to consciously remember
  4. That makes me feel weird if I do not do it
  5. I do it without thinking
  6. That would require effort not to do it
  7. That belongs to my (daily, weekly, monthly) routine
  8. I start doing it before I realize it
  9. I would find hard not to do
  10. I have no need to think about doing it
  11. That’s typically “me”
  12. I have been doing it for a long time

 WWW: What will Work for Me. 66 days. Wow. That’s interesting. You mean I can’t just go on spring break and learn a new habit? I have to do it how many times? As many as 280? I knew my lizard brain was like Darth Vadar, but this explains a lot to me. I’m in awe at the forces of evil aligned against me that knock me off my intentions. And it is all wrapped up in how we got here, the quality and nature of our food, our advertising, our media, our food companies, our culture….The best way out is a habit. I’m going to work on it.

Pop Quiz

  1. It takes an average person 21 days to make a habit? T or F Answer: False
  2. How many times will you brush your teeth today? Answer: __________
  3. Did you think about it? Answer___________
  4. What other things in your life would fit into the habit index for you? _________
  5. Would you like that same, reliable confidence for your eating? Answer: Read Susan Thompson’s book. She is a genius.

Why You Get Fat, and Stay FAT, Meet Your Saboteur

References: Bright Line Eating,

Did you know you have a saboteur living inside you? Well, I’m going to introduce you to yours. Well, at least to the ideas that allow you to see your own foibles and fallibilities. If you want a fuller and better explanation, read Susan Thompson’s book, Bright Line Eating
Here goes. The first insight to understand is that the human brain is not a single isolated entity that represents you. You are not governed by the dictator named “You”. Rather, what you perceive as “yourself” is actually a raucous democracy with multiple parts of your brain yelling for air time, screaming for attention. All on the surface is calm, but deep down, different parts of your brain are seizing the moment, when their moment arises. An example of such a moment would be when you try the experiment of holding your breath for two minutes. Your brain stem, the part of your primitive lizard brain is in charge of oxygen, and you are now at war with your brainstem. Your brain stem is in charge of keeping you alive. As the seconds tick by, your conscious upper brain that is curious about this experiment gets shouted down by your brainstem that takes over and screams at you to give it up, stupid, or you are going to die. You breathe. Brain stem wins. So now you are aware of different messages coming from different parts, all of them sounding like “you”. 
Let’s do a unique experiment to show now this turns into a conundrum. Let’s find four men who have had a surgical procedure splitting their brains in half to stop horrible, unrelenting seizures. The surgery worked. The seizures stopped. But so did the communications between the two parts of their brains. Now, show the men pictures. Remember, the left brain has speech and is analytical. The right brain recognizes patterns. The left brain controls the right side of the body’s muscles and vision, and vice versa. Lot’s of things cross over. Now they don’t. They men were given matching pictures, like a chicken and a chicken foot, or a snowy house and a snow shovel. They were assigned to match them with a picture on one side but the matching picture on the other side. The men couldn’t make the match. But they didn’t simply accept the disconnect and say, “Huh, I have no idea why I made that silly match.” Instead, they confabulated and made up all sorts of odd and unreal reasons. They weren’t even aware of their own web of odd stories. Why? Well, the left hemisphere is in charge of making sense of things. And it simply takes the messages it has and puts a story together to make sense of it all. Out it comes, bizarre as it might be. 
What are the implications? They are huge. Remember back to the messages you are getting from your sugar-addicted nucleus accumbens? You just had two chocolate chips and your Left Hemisphere Interpreter (aka: Your Saboteur) made sense of it and came up with a story that bubbled up into your consciousness. You didn’t even see it coming, or feel it as a bald lie, going against all your beliefs, intentions, will power. You just bought into it and accepted it graciously. “Yes, I deserve another 40 chocolate chips. No, make it 100 because I had a hard day.” “Oh what the heck, make it the second bag and let’s put in on some ice cream”. And your saboteur whispers in your ear, in one voice, “You deserve it.” 
[And you know what happens next? You watch your own behavior and see what a loser you are, and make a judgment about yourself based on what you just observed. Your perception of yourself is not based on your inner moral compass as much as it is on your brain observing your behavior and seeing what you do. (That’s called] (That’s called Self Perception Theory). When you see your Saboteur winning, time after time, you get a pretty low perception of yourself.

And that’s the genius of Susan Thompson’s Bright Line Eating. It’s not you that is broken. It is your brain that is broken by the foods you are eating. The addicting nature of sugar and flour tips the balance of wiring in your brain. With that set in motion, you accumulate fat, alter leptin, block your brainstem from leptin messages and off you go on a journey of weight gain and failure.

Only one way out. Make a bright line. No sugar, no flour, no snacks. Weigh your food and watch your success.

WWW: What will work for me. Well, I’ve been intrigued trying to listen to my own inner voices shouting for attention. After a four-mile winter hike at the Hiking Club potluck, I made good food choices with salad and jambalaya. Then I found the apple cake with cream cheese icing. I deserved it because I had just walked four miles in the snow. But did I deserve two pieces, the second one being from the middle where the icing was double thick? It’s a wonder I escaped while half the pan was still there with 12 more pieces to go. I went four days this week being sugar-free. I’ve bought some new teas that taste good without sugar or sweetener. Progress in millimeters is still progress. I can see the inner voices doing battle. How are yours doing?

Pop Quiz

  1. Who runs your state of consciousness? Answer: You have multiple parts of your brain responsible for different functions, but your left hemisphere has got language and when we think in language terms, we rely on that integration. So, call it your left brain
  2. What does the cerebellum do? Answer: this is a huge new topic. We have been taught for years that it was what coordinated your muscle movement and that was about it. Wrong. It has half the cells of your brain and is deeply involved in many more functions. Stay tuned. New topic outside the scope today but likely key to future understanding.
  3. What does your Saboteur do? Answer: It makes up rational reasons for your listening to and acting upon dissonant messages from broken parts of your brain.
  4. Remind me, what’s broken? Answer: sugar and flour deplete your nucleus accumbens of dopamine meaning you need more and more to get the same hit, just like with heroin and cocaine. And they both help you gain weight and make you leptin resistant, making your brain stem unresponsive to leptin via insulin resistance. Finally, you run out of will power and open up the fridge. “What looks good tonight?” You get insatiable hunger, horrible cravings and failing willpower.
  5. What’s the best way to combat all this? Answer: New habits that take the willpower equation off the table. This will be next week.

Are You a Food Addict? Take the Susceptibity Test

FReferences: Bright Line EatingSusan P Thompson’s Susceptibility ScaleValidation of Yale Food Addiction Score in ChildrenPhilos Trans R SocWheat FactsCornAm J Physiology56 names of sugar,

There is a growing science of measuring addiction susceptibility in humans. Criteria for being an addict include developing tolerance to a substance, withdrawal when use is stopped, needing larger and larger doses, persistent desire coupled with the inability to stop using, spending increased time to access the substance, continuing use of the substance even though you know it causes harm and giving up social or recreational activities to use the substance. Sounds dour and threatening, doesn’t it? Could this be chocolate? Or just plain sugar? 
The body of research supporting human food addiction is actually getting more robust as we look at our obesity epidemic and ponder what is driving it. Animal models of addictive eating show that rats given access to sugar or highly processed foods exhibit the classic behavioral and biological signs of addiction (e.g., withdrawal, tolerance, dopaminergic downgrading). Hmmm… For example, get rats addicted to cocaine, then expose them to a choice of cocaine or sugar, and they go for the sugar instead of the cocaine. Hmmm….. 
More to the point, functional MRI scanning of active circuits in the human brain show pretty remarkable overlap between sugar, white flour, and heroin. 
And processed food appears to be at the forefront of this addictive behavior. What’s in processed food? 80% of American food has sugar or high fructose corn syrup added to it. Often it is given a different name hoping you are willing to let dehydrated cane juice, agave, or honey trick you into thinking it’s not sugar. Some foods even boast that they have no, underline NO high fructose corn syrup, and then have pure beet sugar instead. The difference between the two is subtle, at best.

What is processing? It’s actually very simple. Take a whole grain with the surface area of the grain, and grind it into talcum powder. We call that flour – whether it be from wheat, or corn, or rye, it’s still talcum powder. 10-100 fold increase in surface area, with the encasing protective fiber also gone. When you eat it, your enzymes can get to that greater surface area faster. A whole grain will have a glycemic index below 30% of pure glucose. A grain that has been broken in half, like steel cut oats, will have a glycemic index of 50% of glucose. Just cracking the grain in half increases the ability of your enzymes to access the glucose packed in that grain. But crush the grain flat and call it “Quick Oats” and you increase the surface area enough to increase the glycemic index to 70-80, depending on how finely you crush it. You put out insulin in an increasingly rapid fashion in response to the rapid glucose rise. Insulin blocks leptin in your brain stem, making you want to eat more. And there you have it. Any grain will do the same. Corn is just about the foundationof everything we eat because of its use in animal feed.

But wheat occupies a special place in addiction. Not only is it made into talcum powder but that talcum powder is put into about every package or processed food, be it pasta, gravy, bread, crackers, cookies, or any other form that leads to the 6 oz of wheat flourwe each eat every day. And wheat has wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) in it and that is a special devil. It is an insulin agonist/antagonist, leading to more insulin binding to fat cells, less to muscle cells and more leptin blocking, all of which engineer weight gain and more addictive consumption.

With all that hitting you when you eat processed foods, is it any wonder that you act like an addict? It’s almost amazing we all aren’t.

Do you want to take Susan Thompson’s quiz? This is the link. I’m not sure it’s the final word in understanding why we overeat, but it sure gives you some insight into why we all have so much trouble losing weight. She claims that about a third of us are not affected by addictive tendencies, about a third are modestly affected, and a third are rabidly vulnerable. That would be me. All of us can act with addictive tendencies, given constant exposure and reinforcement.

WWW: What will work for me. I took her quiz and scored an eight. Ha! That explains just why it is so easy for me to start with 8 chocolate chips, then return for 45 more, then finish off the bag. And that done only when there are no human witnesses. The dog, fortunately, doesn’t tell. And I know I won’t sleep well when I do it. And I’m fully aware it’s awful for me. But, but, but……

Pop Quiz

  1. What percent of humans are vulnerable to food addiction? Answer: All of us, given enough exposure though only about a third show a particular penchant for it.
  2. What are some of the features of addictive behavior? Answer: developing tolerance to a substance, withdrawal when use is stopped, needing larger and larger doses, persistent desire coupled with the inability to stop using, spending increased time to access the substance, continuing use of the substance even though you know it causes harm and giving up social or recreational activities to use the substance.
  3. What is the link with flour products to addiction? Answer: the more a grain is ground up, that easier it is to digest, and the faster blood sugar goes up. That results in greater insulin release, resulting in more leptin blockade and fat storage
  4. Explain to me what WGA is? Answer. Wheat germ agglutinin is a small protein in wheat germ that messes with your insulin receptors, pushing calories into fat but starving muscles. This results in disordered glucose management, and makes for your gaining weight and developing diabetes.
  5. Dehydrated cane juice is safe to use as it is a dryer form of sugar. T or F Answer: Please, please, please tell me that you didn’t fall for that. There are over 56 names for sugar. If you answered yes, click this link and learn the other names.

Your Four Horsemen of Addiction – and Losing Weight

YReferences: Bright Line EatingNIHCMAJ,

Susan Peirce Thompson’s approach to dieting is based on one clear simple idea. Our brains are broken by the enormous changes in our culture, our food environment, our means of eating. And the nugget of insight comes down to the insight of how food affects us in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine until you approach eating from a neuroscience point of view. 
Take folks into a PET scanner and scan their brains while they are using known addicting drugs like heroin and cocaine. You can see their brains light up, particularly in the nucleus accumbens. This is the part of your brain that puts out the neurotransmitter dopamine in response to basic life pleasures like eating, sex……all those good things that sustain life itself. Addicting substances work by making you put out way too much dopamine, and thereafter becoming depleted of dopamine. Addicts will tell you that they never get a high like the first one, and are constantly chasing that first hit. In fact, they become so dopamine-depleted that they seek the drug just to get back to feeling normal, much less high. The process of rehab is the time it takes for your brain to regain its normal levels of dopamine, and for months the nucleus accumbens is so depleted that the person feels devastating low, the dark valley of addiction. 
Guess what happens to your nucleus accumbens when you consume sugar! Yup, it lights up and puts out dopamine. Too much dopamine. Your nucleus accumbens down regulates in response. It takes more sugar to get the same high. Guess what happens when you get rats addicted to cocaine, and then offer them cocaine versus sugar. You got it. They choose the sugar. Now let’s extend that to white flour. Eat a flour-based food and see what happens to the nucleus accumbens. Again, it lights up just like heroin. No kidding. It is addicting and dopamine depleting. You know that to be true. Sit down at the restaurant and have just one piece of warm, moist, freshly baked bread. Just try.

So compare sugar, white flour, cocaine, and heroin. All four come in natural plants that do not cause addiction when eaten in their raw form. But purify them and turn them into a powder form that is different from anything known in nature, and results in body absorption different than anything humans have been exposed to up until the advent of agriculture. A functional PET scan of humans’ brains proves the hypothesis. Presto. Identical. Crack! Flour! Sugar! Heroin! We put you in prison for crack. We encourage you to eat sugar. Wow, sugar is as addicting as cocaine? Yup. You can measure addiction strength in rats by the level of electric shock they are willing to endure to get to their addicting substance. Guess what! Sugar BEATS cocaine
Why do we gain weight and get fat? As silly as it sounds it is because our brains get “broken” by their addiction to food, particularly sugar and flour. You can’t resist. This is why 80% of American prepared food has extra sugar added to get you to eat more and consume more. At your peril. 
Guess what artificial sweeteners do. You got it. Same process. They induce the secretion of insulin and a depletion of dopamine. Plenty of research to show that folks who use artificial sweeteners also gain weight over using plain sugar, as evil as sugar is.

www.What Will Work for me. The core idea for me to take away here is that sugar and white flour are drugs with dopamine depleting, addicting qualities to them. Susan Peirce Thompson’s first two BRIGHT LINES are the absolute avoidance of sugar and flour, including sweeteners. Try it for two weeks. She dares you on her web site. Join me. I’m starting a trial on myself. Herbal tea only with no sweetener.

Pop Quiz

  1. What damage does heroin do to your nucleus accumbens? Answer: it depletes your natural pleasure neurotransmitter, dopamine. It makes a high at first, but then gets less and less.
  2. What “foods” do the same thing to human brains? Answer: sugar and any sort of flour that takes carbohydrates and pulverizes them into talcum powder, increasing the speed at which they are digested and the rate at which blood glucose rises, resulting in insulin secretion.
  3. Cocaine addicted rats offered cocaine or sugar choose what? Answer: sugar
  4. What percent of American prepared foods have sugar added? Answer: 80%
  5. If sugar and white flour damage your brain, what is the logical step you should take to avoid them. Answer: Take decision making and random exposure away and make a “bright line” of avoidance. Absolute, rigid avoidance. Read Susan Thompson’s book.