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UP #82: Taming The Addictive Brain With Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson

UP #82: Taming the Addictive Brain with Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” —John Milton

We live in a culture that has set us up for addiction. From iPhones, alcohol, drugs, shopping, television, Youtube, and Facebook, to fossil fuels, techno-gadgets, gambling, exercise, and pharmaceuticals. The opportunities for self-distraction (aka addiction) are endless.

In a domesticated culture that has lost its instinctive ability to properly care for itself, perhaps one of the most damaging addictions is the one that impacts us every time we sit down to eat. Our “food” system has become more of a burdened beast than a liberated source of wellness. Our dysfunctional, highly engineered culture ensures our domesticated compliance – and we perpetuate it with every choice, action…and bite that we take.

Why is that? As author and psychologist Mary Pipher states, “We have paleolithic arousal systems, neolithic brains, medieval institutions, and 21st Century technology.” (Note: I’m getting a lot of mileage out of this quote lately. It says it all!).

Between our troglodyte brains and our 21st Century culture, the deck is really stacked against us.

But what if there’s more to it? What if some of us are just more susceptible to addiction – especially with food?

Susan Peirce Thompson knows a thing or two about addiction. At the young age of 14, she developed an intimate relationship with drugs. Six years later, she found her way out. But in doing so, she found her way in to another form of addiction — this time with food. Unable to control her cravings, she packed on the pounds as she binged her way to obesity.

As a woman with a Ph.D in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, one would think that she’d have it all together. Sadly, that’s not the case. Our labels may define our outer world, but they often neglect our inner world. Such was the case in Susan’s life. On the outside, everything appeared great. On the inside, a battle raged on.

Weight gain, depression, therapy, and large doses of antidepressants led to an eventual threshold where she reclaimed herself. In the process, she discovered a method that helped her deal with her addiction once and for all. Over the years, she’s refined this method and is now empowering others to heal the food addict within.

This week’s conversation delves deep into Susan’s story of personal transformation as well as her personal and professional research on the psychology of addiction. Highlights of our conversation include:

• The threshold of change.
• Moments of grace.
• Transcendent moments and how they must be seized in the moment.
• What is the susceptibility scale?
• How refined foods are engineered for addiction.
• How the brain demands what it needs — whether we like it or not.
• How consciousness is generated by individual parts of the brain in relation to their activities.
• Food addiction and its relation to the brain.
• How our society is set up for addiction.
• The willpower gap.
• The psychology behind food cravings.
• The passion behind Bright Line Eating.

Susan shares her story of struggle with authentic transparency (and a generous dose of good humor), and I’m thrilled to now share our compelling conversation.


• Susan’s main website.
• Happy, Thin and Free website.
• Bright Line Eating Boot Camp website.
• Ellyn Satter Institute website.

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