Have you seen someone who has lost a lot of weight, discovered they follow Bright Line Eating and now you’re wondering what it is all about? Well you’ve come to the right place.
In this Ultimate Beginner’s Guide you’ll find a thorough introduction to the question, “What is Bright Line Eating?” And you’ll discover who it’s for, how it works, and everything you need to know to start your weight loss journey.
What is Bright Line Eating?
Bright Line Eating is a relatively new weight loss program that uses the latest neurological and psychological research to help people who struggle with food addiction to lose weight and keep it off for good. The foundation of Bright Line Eating is adhering to a set of four simple rules, or bright lines, that are not to be broken (even a little bit).
The goal of Bright Line Eating is to help those of us who struggle with food addiction to implement new behaviors around how we plan, prepare and, yes, enjoy our food. It is not a diet in the sense that you follow the program to lose your excess weight and then move on from there. Rather, you learn principles and strategies that you can use the rest of your life so, as Bright Line Eating says, you can “Live Happy, Thin, and Free™.”
And because it is behavior based, there are no supplements, shakes or prepackaged food that you need to buy. Instead, you eat lots of whole, real food from the grocery store that fit your budget and personal preferences.
Who Developed Bright Line Eating?
Bright Line Eating is the work of Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson. Unlike traditional weight loss experts, Dr. Thompson is not a medical doctor or some sort of fitness guru. Rather, she earned her Ph.D. in brain and cognitive sciences. So she has unique insight into how our brains work against us when it comes to weight loss and what the latest research says we can do about it.
Additionally, Dr. Thompson herself struggled with food addiction and obesity throughout much of her life. As a result, she teaches with a tenderness, compassion and a true authenticity that is a welcome change for those of us who struggle with food addiction. And that openness and authenticity is why those of us in the Bright Line Eating movement just call her Susan (or SPT).
When did Bright Line Eating Start?
Susan shares in her Bright Line Eating book (which you can get free with an Audible trial by the way) that she officially launched the program in 2014. It was in 2014 that she first launched her email list and started offering on-line boot camps. And then in 2017 the official Bright Line Eating book was published for all the world to read.
Susan’s book quickly went on to become a New York Times best seller. Bright Line Eating has since spread to over 190 countries and has helped tens of thousands of people experience victory over food addiction.
Who is Bright Line Eating Designed For?
Bright Line Eating is not for everyone (see 11 Signs Bright Line Eating is Not for You). This program is specifically designed for people who are particularly susceptible to food addiction. These are people, like me, for whom a typical moderation approach to eating has failed miserably.
There are a number of signs of food addiction. Some of the more common signs include binge eating, rarely feeling satisfied after eating an appropriate quantity of food, thoughts consumed with eating/dieting/losing weight and the inability to change your eating behaviors in spite of significant health risks and complications.
The easiest way of determining how susceptible you may be to food addiction is to take Susan’s free Susceptibility Quiz. You will discover your score on a scale from 1 to 10 with a 10 meaning you are likely highly susceptible to food addiction. Taking this quiz was one of the first big steps I took on my weight loss journey.
(And as a bonus, this quiz helped my wife and I understand why we think so differently when it comes to food since I scored a 10 and she only scored a 2.)
Why Bright Line Eating Works
In my experience, almost all weight loss programs are primarily focused on the “what.” They focus on what to eat and what not to eat. And the “what to eat” often includes expensive prepackaged food and/or supplements.
Bright Line Eating on the other hand, is primarily focused on the “How.” How to go about changing your behavior and ultimately your relationship with food. It does this by using the latest research from the brain, cognitive and behavioral sciences. And by implementing these strategies, I believe that the odds of you losing weight improve significantly.
When a behavior, like brushing your teeth, has become more automatic, the behavior is primarily executed by the part of your brain known as the basal ganglia. These behaviors become easier to execute and as a result are more likely to occur. Bright Line Eating is designed to help the basal ganglia take over your eating behavior as quickly as possible.
(For more information on the science behind permanent weight loss see The Secret to Permanent Weight Loss is Just 3 Inches)
What is a “Bright Line”?
A “bright line” or “bright-line rule” is a rule that is leaves no room for interpretation. It is crystal clear if you broke the rule or followed the rule. For example, “stop being mean to your sister” would not qualify as a bright-line rule because it is open to lots of interpretation. However, “do not go into your sister’s room” would be a bright-line rule because it would be clear whether or not it was violated.
What are the Four Bright Lines?
There are just four bright lines that serve as the foundation of Bright Line Eating. Those bright lines are about sugar, flour, meals and portion sizes. Let’s look at each one.
Bright Line #1: No Sugar
The first bright line, and often the hardest one to wrap your mind around, is no sugar or sweeteners of any kind. No sugar, artificial sweeteners or natural sweeteners. (For a more exhaustive list check out the official support page about What Kind of Sugar or Sweeteners are Allowed?)
For some of us, sugar is one of the most addictive substances on earth (see Sugar Addiction: 15 Signs You May Have It). It is the primary reason we overeat and it is the main source of excess calories. And it can be impossible for us to handle in moderation. So, for some, the most effective way to avoid overeating sugar is to commit to not eating it at all.
Bright Line #2: No Flour
The second bright line is a commitment to not eating flour of any kind (for an exhaustive list see the official support page on What Types of Flour are Allowed?).
It is true that whole grain flour in moderation can be part of a healthy diet. However, the main reason we do not eat flour in Bright Line Eating is that, like sugar, it can be quite addictive. And, in fact, it is a common ingredient is many of the most addictive foods.
There are also some other misconceptions about the second bright line that I will clarify. It needs to be clear that “no flour” is not the same as “no gluten.” You can still eat some foods that contain gluten. For example, some acceptable products include Original Triscuits, Ezekiel Bread and Post Shredded Wheat Original Cereal.
And, “no flour” does not mean “no grains.” In fact, grains are an important part of the Bright Line Eating food plan.
Bright Line #3: Meals
The third bright line runs contrary to just about every other weight loss program around. In Bright Line Eating we stick to regular meals each day with no snacking in between.
If you have tried other weight loss programs in the past, odds are that at one point you were told to eat healthy snacks throughout the day. The reasons typically given were that this would help prevent hunger and help boost your metabolism. Unfortunately, scientific research does not support these claims (see 11 Myths About Fasting and Meal Frequency).
So in Bright Line Eating we do not snack. For most people this means three good size meals every day. For others with unique health challenges or needs this might mean four or five meals a day. The key is that these are meals that are regular and consistent.
The reason this is important is that those of us who struggle with food addiction benefit from making fewer food related decisions. Food addicts tend to obsess about food and eating. Navigating just three meals a day provides a great deal of mental freedom from every day food struggles. And it provides fewer opportunities to get off track.
Bright Line #4: Quantities
The final bright line is sticking to precise quantities of food that are either weighed or measured. If you are overweight, it is likely that your brain does a poor job of signaling when you’ve eaten enough (aka leptin resistance). And if you’re human, you do a poor job of accurately estimating proper portion sizes.
Bright Line Eating solves these problems by actually weighing food before you eat it. This is done using a digital food scale. If you are going to eat a six-ounce portion, you weigh out your food until the scale reads “6.0” ounces. No more, no less.
And in some cases you can measure your food instead of weighing it.. For example, instead of weighing out a specific amount of fruit, you might just eat one banana.
This may sound rather obsessive. However, people who struggle with food addiction are already obsessing about food. Weighing and measuring the food actually helps eliminate the obsessing and second-guessing and third-guessing that we are already doing. Ironically, the precise measuring provides a great sense of mental freedom.
The precise quantities and food types eaten vary based on gender and whether you are in the weight loss phase or the maintenance phase. For your specific quantities see the official book or sign up for the 14-Day Challenge.
What Equipment Do You Need?
There four key pieces of equipment that you need to do Bright Line Eating.
The first thing you should do is get a copy of the Bright Line Eating book. Get a copy at your local library, get a hard copy from Amazon, read it on your Kindle or listen to the audio book (free with Audible trial).
The book will not only explain the food plan in more detail, but it will give you all of the research behind all of the strategies. It is important that you understand the “why” of Bright Line Eating and all of the supportive behaviors that go with it. The food plan itself and the four bright lines are only half the battle. To really succeed you need the full picture.
A Journal (Or Two)
One of the practices that is important to the Bright Line Eating process is journaling. The most important journal is your food journal where you write down the food you are going to eat the day before you’re going to eat it. Other recommended journals include a gratitude journal and a five-year journal.
There is no need to buy anything fancy. You can even use pen and paper if you’d like. However, some find it more motivating and enjoyable to purchase a nice spiral bound journal.
(To see how I food journal see: My Bright Line Eating Food Journal Confession)
A Digital Body Scale
If your goal is to lose weight, it is important to have a way to measure your progress. A digital scale is preferred because it does not require any interpretation. Fortunately, most people already own a digital body scale nowadays. If you are looking to purchase one, this one is the one I recommend: RENPHO Bluetooth Body Fat Scale with Smartphone App.
A Digital Food Scale
The final piece of equipment you must have is a digital food scale. You will be weighing almost all of your food and a good digital food scale is a must have. Digital food scales come in a variety of shapes, sizes and price points so find something that fits your particular needs.
For help in selecting a food scale see How to Choose the Right Bright Line Eating Food Scale.
What Foods are Allowed?
Fruits and Veggies
Although sugar and flour are not on the food plan, plenty of other foods are acceptable. The first thing people notice once they actually start following the plan is just how many fruits and vegetables you eat. We’re talking a lot.
And if it is a whole fruit or veggie, it is allowed. There are no good fruits and bad fruits or good veggies and bad veggies. No need to figure out what which produce is high in carbs and which is low. And it doesn’t matter if you cook it or eat it raw.
Here is where things get flexible. Bright Line Eating works for meat eaters, vegetarians or vegans. The key is that you are eating your protein at every meal. You might eat chicken, steak, lamb, cheese, milk or eggs. Or you might prefer beans and nuts.
But don’t confuse Bright Line Eating with a high protein, low carb diet. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We actually eat a significant amount of carbs and a reasonable amount of protein. It’s just that are carbs come from fruits, veggies and whole grains rather than from breads, dessert or sugary drinks.
Although flour is not allowed, grains are still an important part of the food plan. I personally often eat oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa and shredded wheat cereal. And, yes, this includes grains that have gluten. Of course if gluten does not agree with you, you can still enjoy plenty of other whole grain options.
Fats are also part of the food plan. Like proteins, you eat fats in limited quantities. The type of fats I eat most often include hummus, avocados, olive oil and a variety of salad dressings.
If you want an idea of the types of salad dressings that will work with Bright Line Eating, check out my blog post Your Complete Guide to Bright Line Eating Salad Dressing. I even included a list of 261 salad dressings that are compliant.
When you exclude anything with sugar, artificial or natural sweeteners, your list of beverage options can feel quite limited. The good news is that there are still a number of drink options you can enjoy. My favorites include coffee, tea and flavored water (usually carbonated). For more ideas check out 17 Specific Bright Line Eating Drink Ideas.
What Exercise is Required?
One of the most common questions I receive about Bright Line Eating is what kind of exercise is part of the program. Most people are shocked when I say “none.” In fact, not only is exercise not required, but it is actually discouraged for most people during the weight loss phase.
Exercise is discouraged because when it comes to weight loss what you eat is far more important that exercise. And, in fact, adding a new exercise routine to your week at the same time you’re reducing your food intake is a recipe for massive hunger. So unless exercise is already a regular part of your lifestyle, you may be better off waiting until you reach your goal weight.
What are the Official Resources & Programs?
Bright Line Eating has a ton of resources available to help you learn and live a new lifestyle. And although some of these resources do cost money, many of them are available at little to no cost. In fact, one of the things I love about Bright Line Eating is that you can successfully achieve your right size body without purchasing any official program or resource (See Bright Line Eating on a Shoestring Budget).
The Official Book
As previously discussed, the Bright Line Eating book is perhaps the most important and helpful resource available. It documents the research behind Bright Line Eating, tells the story of the author and explains everything you need to do to follow the program and achieve your goal weight.
The Cook Book
In 2019, Susan Peirce Thompson published The Official Bright Line Eating Cookbook: Weight Loss Made Simple. The book gives an introduction to the program and shares lots of recipes from the Bright Line Eating community. Interestingly, the plan was never to publish a cookbook. However, so many imposter cookbooks where published with recipes that were not actually compliant, that Susan responded with an official cookbook.
The 14-Day Challenge
If you’re looking for a great way to dip your toe into the water and see how you like the Bright Line Eating lifestyle, try the 14-Day Challenge. Like the Boot Camp, the 14-Day Challenge is an online, video based program (so you don’t have to read the book). You will find the full food plan and all the basics you need to start your weight loss journey. And it will give you a flavor of how the Boot Camp works so you can better decide if you want to step up to the next level.
The Boot Camp
After reading the book, I personally skipped the 14-Day Challenge and signed right up for the Bright Line Eating Boot Camp. It was my decision to jump right into boot camp because I knew I would need every advantage and all the help I could get if I was going to succeed. I had failed at so many other programs in the past and my addiction to food was very high (I scored a 10 out of 10 on the Susceptibility Quiz). And with a 30-day money back guarantee, I felt I had nothing to lose (except lots of weight of course).
The 8-week Boot Camp is the flagship program of Bright Line Eating. It is an on-line, video based program that is available to start all year round. The Boot Camp will cover everything you need to know and it provides way more information and help than could ever be squeezed into the book. So if you don’t like to read non-fiction, you can skip the book and jump right into the Bright Line Eating Boot Camp.
You will find a Boot Camp packed full of training, support and tons of bonuses. There is a private Facebook group just for people going through the boot camp. The Facebook group has official Bright Line Eating staff to help answer any questions and provide encouragement along the way. There is also a weekly conference call where you will ask any questions you’d like. And there are resources for starting and/or connecting with others who want to be part of a mastermind group.
A Special Offer
For a special offer on the Boot Camp if you sign up through me, go to my Contact Page and ask me about the special offer details.
The day you sign up for Boot Camp is not the day you actually start following the food plan. After you sign up there are several videos that will introduce you to Bright Line Eating and help you get ready to start your day one. Then once you are ready to go, you click a start button inside the Boot Camp and that will officially begin your 8-week program. So I would suggest that you sign up a week or two before you’re ready to start following the bright lines.
For a video review of my boot camp experience see below:
Once you complete the Boot Camp, you have the opportunity to join Bright Lifers. Unlike Boot Camp, Bright Lifers goes all year long. This is the premier Bright Line Eating program for ongoing support and resources. You’ll join a private Facebook group just for Bright Lifers. And you will enjoy lots of additional resources, coaching calls and discounts.
Bright Lifers can also provide special Boot Camp discounts to friends and family. And you can also sign up for the refer-a-friend affiliate program.
You’ll learn more about Bright Lifers and all of the advantages at the conclusion of Boot Camp. And be sure to take advantage of a very generous discount for recent Boot Camp graduates.
I started Bright Line Eating over two years ago and it has been life changing. In the first six months I lost over 100 pounds (results not typical). You can read more of my story on my home page at No Longer Chunky. Or you can check out my YouTube video Fat Guy Interviews His Future Skinny Self.
YouTube Video: Bright Line Eating Meal Planning in Just 5 Minutes a Week
YouTube Testimonial: Bright Line Eating Review – An Interview with Carol Marie
YouTube Testimonial: 100 Pound Weight Loss Interview – How She Did It