This Brightline Eating review is an opinion piece.
I’ve gotten so many requests for a Brightline Eating review, so here we go!
What is Brightline Eating?
Brightline claims that it helps people live ‘happy, thin, and free’.
The diet is based off of the premise that just like smokers who can’t have one cigarette every once in a while, people who are ‘addicted’ to sugar and flour can’t eat those foods.
Ever. Again. Not honey, maple syrup, or sweetener. Not almond flour, oat flour, or white flour. Nothing.
Just to get this out of the way, there’s no compelling research that food is addictive. The studies on sugar addiction – are mostly done on rodents and their methodology is faulty.
One of the more popular sugar addiction studies was done on rats whose access to sugar was restricted, then allowed – resulting in the rats binging on pure sugar.
But humans generally don’t eat pure sugar, and we don’t live in a restrictive environment. Well, unless you’re on a diet like Brightline, but I digress.
Despite the research that shows that food vs drug addiction aren’t the same things, I understand that some people do truly believe and feel that they are addicted to things like sugar and white flour. Although that’s anecdotal evidence, we can’t ignore it.
I can’t exactly tell a person that what they’re feeling isn’t true, but I can very well tell them what I think of the diet they’re following.
How Does Bright Line Eating Work?
The Bright Lines are like lines in the sand you should never cross. They are:
Sugar: Eliminate from your diet completely
Flour: Eliminate from your diet completely. Not just white flour, either: all flour, even if it’s rice or almond or whatever.
Portions: Everything you eat must be weighed, measured, and logged
Meals: No snacking between meals
Every morsel of food must be weighed and measured. Mixed dishes like casseroles aren’t recommended, because it’s tough to determine how each ingredient fits into your daily allowances.
Even in restaurants, you must get out your trusty scale and weigh out your food. That sounds really fucking embarrassing and dysfunctional, to be honest.
Brightline does offer the ‘one plate rule’ as well, which means that instead of weighing your lunch in a restaurant, you are allowed just one plate.
It’s almost as if this diet trades one ‘addiction’ for another: eating versus obsessive weighing and measuring.
Just as an aside, as the mother of two pre-teens, I’d be extremely worried about the type of food relationship I would be modelling with Brightline. It’s one thing to be mindful about what you eat, and another to be obsessive about it.
The Bright Line Eating Plan
Brightline doesn’t give specific food plans; instead, you get the skeleton of what you’re assigned for a day. For example, a woman will get the following:
Breakfast: 1 fruit, 1 breakfast grain, 1 protein
Lunch: 1 fruit, 1 fat, 1 protein, 6oz vegetables
Dinner: 1 protein, 1 fat, 6oz vegetables, 8oz salad (there’s a difference?)
No matter who you are, you get the same plan. It’s one-size-fits-all, 1200 calorie diet.
Although some Brightline followers say they adjust their eating according to their size and hunger, it appears as though this is not recommended. If you do make adjustments, you need to do it consistently, meaning every day – not just adding a snack when you like or a larger meal because it’s your birthday.
Trusting your body isn’t a thing with this diet; essentially Brightline tells you that your body isn’t to be trusted, ever.
Does that sound healthy to you?
If you value weight loss over emotional health, you might need to re-examine your priorities. These two things do NOT have to be mutually exclusive.
It’s possible to achieve a healthy weight and not sacrifice emotional, physical, or financial health. You might need to first find your ‘why’, which brings me to my next point:
For all of the psychology experience that Susan Peirce Thompson says she has, she spends a lot of time telling people how to eat and not a lot of time asking people to figure out their ‘why’.
The ‘why’ is the single most important part of any eating plan. The ‘why’ is what you ask yourself when you go on diet after diet, or you binge eat, or you believe you’re ‘addicted’ to sugar. WHY. Why am I eating this way?
Although Brightline likes to diagnose people with ‘food addiction’, is the way you’re eating because you’re truly addicted to food or, is it because of some underlying emotional issue?
Food is all too often a symptom, not a cause. Please remember that. So going on diet after diet, even punitive, ultra-structured diets like this one, will never help you achieve meaningful change if you don’t first resolve what’s making you overeat in the first place. Period.
There’s a lot of ‘tough love’ and hyperbole in this diet.
Followers avoid the ‘NMF’s, meaning, ‘Not My Food’. Any food that’s off limits is ‘NMF’. As a dietitian, going onto forums and comment sections and seeing what people are writing is disturbing.
There’s a ton of ‘toxic NMF’ and ‘my husband eats S + F (sugar and flour) and it’s so bad for him blah blah blah’…as if everyone is killing themselves with normal foods but the Brightline people have the secret to health and wellness.
These people may have lost a substantial amount of weight, but they don’t seem to be emotionally healthy in terms of their relationships with food. You shouldn’t feel like you can’t eat your own wedding cake, but this was one Brightline follower’s dilemma.
If you go off plan, you’re immediately considered an ‘addict’, which is, well, disturbing. Talk about shaming, wow.
One reviewer stated, “The Facebook page scared me, people upset with missing their one fruit, contacting Susan for special permission to add an extra carb because they are hungry all the time, worrying that they can not eat a slice of wedding cake at their own wedding because it is “not their food”.”
Thompson recommends putting tape over your mouth while cooking so you don’t take any BLTs, or ‘Bites, Licks, and Tastes’. I’ve never heard of anything more shaming and degrading in a diet than suggesting a person put tape on their mouth to stop them from eating.
Do you seriously want to take advice from a person who tells you to do this?
She tells followers that hunger is a feeling that we just need to learn to live with.
She’s wrong. Physical hunger is your body telling you that it needs something. Why is that a bad and shameful thing? This diet completely rejects your body’s internal cues and replaces them entirely with external rules. Sure, people say it eliminates the ‘guesswork’ of dieting, but that’s a heck of a tradeoff.
The motto of ‘Happy, Thin, and Free’ insinuates that being happy hinges on thinness, which is completely messed up.
Thompson pushes the concept of a ‘right sized body’. I understand the meaning of this, but telling people that they have to find their ‘right size’ is offensive and incorrect.
We all exist within a range, and to call it ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ isn’t acceptable. If I gain 10 pounds, am I now ‘wrong’? Gross.
Thompson tells followers that they need to achieve ‘food neutrality’, meaning neutral feelings about food. As in, no more being excited about eating. If you’re excited about eating, you must be an addict, according to Brightline.
Thompson says that people who do not exercise actually lose more weight and keep it off.
Not only does she claim that compensatory behavior – like overeating to make up for calories burned, and permissiveness because you’ve worked out – ruins your diet, but she also makes the incredibly offside assertion that exercise ‘drains your willpower’ and therefore you’ll have less of it for your diet.
‘Exercise helps you stay heavy’. Uh, no. It doesn’t.
While exercise alone isn’t great for weight loss – I always say weight is lost in the kitchen – scaring people away from something that has great value for physical and emotional health is really reckless. If your diet is that strict and that low in calories that it doesn’t leave room for exercise, that’s a RED FLAG X 10000.
She goes on to say that after several months of being on the diet, you can incorporate exercise. Talk about mixed signals. Tell people that exercise keeps you fat, but then give them permission to do it. What?
Thompson also makes some interesting claims.
She says that before going on her diet, she went from a size 4 to a size 24 in 3 months, which is physically impossible.
She claims that Brightline is ‘the most effective diet in the world’, but there is zero evidence of this. She does ‘research’ on her own clients, and for all of her boasting she also has never published a peer-reviewed paper.
She claims that a Brightline follower with type 1 diabetes was able to come off insulin. This claim is not only impossible, it’s also irresponsible and dangerous.
Brightline Eating is a marketing machine. All the online blog reviews of it contain multiple affiliate links, are obviously biased, and perhaps sponsored. The Amazon reviews of the book are overwhelmingly positive but when you look closely, many of them were written on the same exact date. HM.
The Brightline website is like one huge sales pitch. And, although there are free videos of Thompson speaking her truths, you then need to pay to have access to everything else. The bootcamps, Brightlifers, Rezoom for when you fall off the wagon, and even a Facebook support group. It’s a total bait and switch.
This diet is endorsed by charlatans like Mark Hyman and Gary Taubes. Enough said.
Brightline is very similar to Food Addicts Anonymous, which is free, versus around $500 for Brightline. Image that.
My Bright Line Eating Review
Don’t follow the advice of someone who tells you to put tape over your mouth to prevent you from eating.
Brightline is low calorie and appears to be low carb. It contains a ton of vegetables, but that’s not necessarily going to satisfy you if you’re not eating a reasonable portion of other foods with them.
Brightline rejects all your internal cues. These exist for a reason, and you should never be shamed for your hunger or for wanting to eat cake at your wedding.
This diet convinces people that they’re addicts who can’t trust or control their bodies. That’s insane. It also saps all the enjoyment from eating and amps up anxiety around food.
A diet that tells you not to exercise is either not based in science or, is depriving you of adequate calories or, is depriving you of an outlet for your stress. Probably all of these, actually.
You’ll have to pack your own food for parties and potlucks and whatever else, and in restaurants, you’ll have to haul out a scale and weigh your food.
I caution everyone not to exchange one obsession with another, and never weigh food or blatantly diet in front of kids.
People at risk for disordered eating (and probably those who don’t know if they are) should not follow this diet. It’s like one huge trigger.
Eating the Brightline way won’t necessarily cure you of your ‘food addiction’, because if you have those, you many have underlying issues that need taking care of. Food is often just a symptom of something larger.
This diet is a punishing, shaming marketing monster, and although it may work for some people, time will tell if it’s sustainable. I definitely DO NOT recommend it.