I binge and purge. Will Bright Line Eating work for me?

Many of the most successful long-term Bright Line Eaters come from this type of background. I am currently working with several people who have a long history of purging, and I’ve worked with folks who have had this background for many years. I myself was wickedly bulimic during a couple of key periods of my life, way back when…

The challenge is not whether Bright Line Eating (BLE) will work, but simply the delicate interplay of implementing BLE in the context of your already established medical/psychological team.

Here are the two main forces at play:

  1. Always get medical attention and never take what I say as medical advice. (This is both legally necessary and, honestly, good practice, since I am not a medical doctor—just an academic with a Ph.D. in brain and cognitive sciences…which means I have no medical training at all.)
  2. People sometimes find that eating disorder specialists are not fully supportive of the Bright Line approach, as oftentimes their training has encouraged helping clients to move away from black-and-white thinking and toward moderation in all forms of food consumption.

Also, in my experience, Bright Line Eating works best when the individual decides that they’re going to do it and fully commits to it as a way of life. With that resolution, the medical/psychological team can be informed and caught up to speed, and the hope is that they will be on board. The individual can then evaluate them as being helpful or not helpful, and perhaps new people can be brought on board for medical supervision if necessary. Or, once the medical team has a clear understanding that recovery in this Bright Line Eating framework is the desired outcome, they can rejoice and provide supervision and support so everything works together synergistically. That’s the ideal, of course. When we first let go of our drug and the behaviors on which we used to rely (purging, for example), it takes a tremendous amount of willpower to stay on the straight and narrow. The new behaviors (three meals a day, no sugar, no flour, and weighed/measured quantities) will not become automatic for several months. There is also the fifth Bright Line: no purging. At first, these behaviors are the opposite of automatic. It takes everything we’ve got to stick with it, one meal at a time, one day at a time. That burns up all our excess willpower, all day long. If we have kids in the mix, being their adorable, frustrating little selves, it can feel like we’re being taxed beyond our capacities.

We’ve got to devote ourselves 100% to establishing the habits and structures of Bright Line Eating. This system is a game-changer. When we set up the routines that the system asks us to set up—things like writing down our food the night before, weighing and measuring our quantities, eating three meals a day, and strictly avoiding all sugar, flour, and snacking—these new behaviors eventually become habitual and, ultimately, completely automatic. With that automaticity, a lifetime of binging and purging can be overcome. It just takes time and dedication.