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Dr Glenn Livingston – Learn How to Never Binge Again

Content by: Dr Glenn Livingston

 

Dr Glenn Livingston Interview

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Stu: This week, I’m excited to welcome Dr. Glenn Livingston. Dr. Livingston is a veteran psychologist and was the longtime CEO of a multimillion dollar consulting firm. He spent several decades researching the nature of binging and overeating with his own patients, which included a self funded research program with more than 40,000 participants.

In this episode, we discuss exactly why we are susceptible to binge eating and talk about the strategies, tools, and techniques that we can call upon to address it. Over to Dr. Livingston…

Audio Version

downloaditunesListen to Stitcher Questions we ask in this episode:

  •  What makes us binge when we know that we shouldn’t? – 02:47
  •  Which foods/drinks are the most difficult to limit? – 13:36
  •  What external aids can we use to help us address binge eating? – 39:48

Get More of Dr. Glenn Livingston

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Full Transcript

Stu

00:03 Hey, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and welcome to another episode of The Health Sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness, and human performance in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it actually takes to achieve a long lasting health. Now I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do. Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right. We’re into whole food nutrition and have a range of super foods and natural supplements to help support your day. If you are curious what to find out more, just jump over to our website. That is 180Nutrition.com.au and take a look. Okay. Back to the show.

00:44 This week, I’m excited to welcome Dr. Glenn Livingston. Dr. Glenn Livingston is a veteran psychologist and was the longtime CEO of a multimillion dollar consulting firm. He spent several decades researching the nature of binging and overeating with his own patients, which included a self funded research program with more than 40,000 participants. In this episode, we discuss exactly why we are susceptible to binge eating and talk about the strategies, tools, and techniques that we can call upon to address it. Over to Dr. Livingston.

01:18 Hey guys, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and I am delighted to welcome Dr. Glenn Livingston to the podcast. Dr. Livingston, how are you?

Glen

01:26 I’m fine. I’ll be better if you call me Glenn.

Stu

01:28 Glen. Okay, well, there you go. We’re friends already. Thank you, Glenn. So first up, Glen, for all of our listeners that may not be familiar with you, I’d love it if you could just tell us a little bit about who you are and perhaps what you do as well.

Glen

01:44 Well, I’m best known these days for being the author of Never Binge Again, which is often the number one book for weight loss on the Amazon kindle. It’s been that way for about three years. We’ve got 700,000 readers just about and Yada, Yada, Yada. That’s what I’m best known for. I don’t hardly know who I am, but I’m a guy who spent a lifetime struggling with food until I came up with a weird way to fix it for myself. I was also the CEO of two companies that sold combined about $30 million of research to big companies in the fortune 500, fortune 100. Many of them in the food industry. I’m a clinical psychologist. I ran a child and family practice for a long time. Now as you’ll see, I go around talking about a strange way to overcome binge eating.

Stu

02:45 Fantastic.

Glen

02:46 That’s who I am. Yeah.

Stu

02:47 Well, I think we’re an interesting time as well because I guess we’ve never had so many food options available to us. We’ve got lots of devices that can track our health and our habits and activity and movement and all that stuff. But many of us still binge eat. I guess my first question to you is why do we do this when we clearly know that we shouldn’t?

Glen

03:17 Well, it’s like we’re of two minds. We’ve got the reptilian brain, which is the part of our anatomy that knows eat, mate, or kill. It looks at something in the environment and it says, do I eat it? Do I mate with it? Or do I kill it? Right? And it wasn’t until much later times in evolution or even if God put it there, it doesn’t matter. But there are other elements of our newer anatomy that are concerned with tribe and loved ones and spirituality and art and music. You think of this as the brainstem in this higher up in the brain. The purpose of this is to be able to restrain this eat, mate, or kill impulse to see what impact it’s going to have on my loved one or my tribe. And what happens is, several things.

04:18 You read a diet book over the weekend or a nutritional book over the weekend and you decide on a new plan for the week on Monday morning. Then Monday afternoon you’re at Starbucks and you’re a little hungry. You’re having a good talk by the coffee counter and there’s this big hairy chocolate bar on the counter. Then there’s this urge inside, right? And it’s a pretty powerful urge. Then it starts to justify what’s going on. You know, chocolate comes from a cocoa bean. Cocoa bean grows on a plant, so chocolate’s really a vegetable. And before you know what it, you break your diet. We’re of two minds and it’s always fighting and there’s a lot of mythology in our culture about how to control that, which I think is blatantly wrong, but it’s very commonly believed. So, people are always making up their mind and then changing their mind. Making up their mind and then changing their mind.

05:13 And then the big food companies, I wish I never worked for them honestly, but I did. But they are engineering, these hyper palatable concentrations of starch and sugar and fat and oil and exciter toxins. And the point is for them to hit your bliss point without giving you the nutrition to feel satisfied and so everybody’s out looking for love with the bottom of a bag or a box or a container because these things didn’t exist in the tropics. There were no chocolate bars or chips in the Savannah. They’re hitting our evolutionary buttons and we’re not prepared for it. It’s something that hijacks our survival drive. There’s a whole set of animal studies in the 50s and 60s and these were not ethical studies. I’m not preaching veganism, but that’s just how I personally eat. My book is not particular to any kind of diet.

06:11 There’s a whole set of studies with in which electrodes were implanted in rat brains and then higher mammal brains in the pleasure center. Those electrodes were then wired to a lever that the animal could press whatever they wanted to. And what do you think happened?

Stu

06:30 I would imagine that they became attuned to pushing the right leavers that gave them the best rewards.

Glen

06:36 Thousands of times per day. To the exclusion of their other needs. A starving rat would ignore its food to just press the lever to get the stimulation. A nursing mother rat would ignore her pups.

Stu

06:54 Wow.

Glen

06:54 Thousands. For thousands … That’s all they wanted to do. They’d crawl over painful electrical grids. It’s like their survival drive had been hijacked. I don’t think anybody is putting electrodes in our brains, but I think there is an analogy that we’ve got these pleasure buttons that we can eat constantly that are an unnatural short circuiting of our pleasure centers. I mean, you can walk out of McDonald’s and there’s a Burger King across the street. It just says something in most cities in our society about where we’ve come to. I think that big food is hijacking our survival drive.

07:33 I think big advertising is hijacking your survival drive, also. They’re telling us that we can’t live without this stuff and they’re expert at making it seem like it’s what we need to survive. I worked with, let’s just call them a major food bar manufacturer, and they told me their most profitable insight was taking the vitamins out of the bar and putting them into the packaging instead. They made the packaging look vibrant and colorful and shiny and had a diversity of different colors. In nature that would signal a diversity of nutrients that are available. If you take a big salad and it’s got purple cabbage and yellow carrots and red tomatoes and green lettuce and blueberries, it’s got a wide variety of antioxidants and nutrients and minerals.

08:21 They’re faking us out, man. They’re pretending like it’s got the nutrition but they actually took the nutrition out of it. I don’t mean to single them out. This goes on all over the place. People think advertising doesn’t work on them, but it actually works on you more when you think it doesn’t work on you because your defenses are down. The addiction treatment industry says you can’t quit even if you want to. You have to accept that you’re powerless. You have a disease, you’re have a chronic, mysterious progressive disease and you have to dedicate yourself to going all these meetings and change your life entirely. What I think what people should be told is look with a little thinking and careful reflection on exactly how you want to eat, what role you want a particular food to play in your life that you can quit or you can very specifically define the role that food is going to play.

09:18 I will only ever have chocolate the last three days of the calendar month. You can do that. Stop me if I’m getting too excited or going on too-

Stu

09:27 No, keep on please.

Glen

09:29 We’re told that we have to follow guidelines as opposed to rules. Just eat healthy 90% of the time and indulge yourself 10% of the time. Well, okay, but I mean that’s a decent North star to shoot for. It’s a good guideline. Eat well 90% of the time, everything in moderation, Yada, Yada, Yada. But it puts a tremendous burden on your decision making ability and decision making wears down your willpower. There countless studies that suggest that that’s the case. For example, people have more trouble resisting marshmallows if you make them do math problems before you show them the marshmallows. Decision making of any type makes you wear down your willpower.

10:13 If I eat well 90% of the time and indulge 10% of the time, every time I pass the donut space, I have to ask myself, is this part of the 10% or the 90%? It’s wear down my willpower, wear down my willpower, wear down my willpower. As opposed to developing a hard and fast rule, which you can change at any time, but eventually you come to rules you want to keep and they become part of your character. Like I only eat chocolate on Sundays or I’ll never have chocolate again. I’m just not the kind of person that eats chocolate. It’s much easier to do that than to try to make decisions all day long.

Stu

10:50 No, that makes perfect sense. I’m keen to discuss the strategies and tools and tips and strategies as well, and we’ll get into your book in a second as well. But before we do, your thoughts on the risks associated with binge eating and does it span much more than just say, weight gain associated with eating these crazy domino foods? Does it go broader?

Glen

11:21 I think that society has forged a tacit, unspoken agreement for us all to slowly kill ourselves with food. I think most of what we eat are things that don’t belong in our body. There’s flavored cardboard in the food system. I could show you places where … I got that from Doug Graham. Most of the things that we sit around and eat and make jokes about and say a little bit in moderation, they just don’t belong in our body at all. I think that society is a compromise in many ways. We all have the right to decide to what extent do we want to slowly kill ourselves and sacrifice part of the end of our life for more enjoyment now? I think that’s a legitimate … I would fight for your right to do that. If you want to have a donut every day and you know that maybe you’re going to be risking diabetes when you get older or you’re going to have heart disease and maybe you’ll play tennis until you’re 80 instead of 90, that’s okay.

12:28 I mean, people are throwing their sugar metabolism way out of whack and they’re putting all these anti nutrients into their body. It’s not just that a lot of these foods don’t have the nutrition to make your body feel satisfied so your body still craves more, but a lot of these foods have anti nutrients in them that make it harder to make use of the existing nutrients. People are taught to rely on artificial foods like powders and chemicals instead of getting the full complex of … I’m not a nutritionist. I’m just kind of a smart guy that read a lot, but there are vitamins and nutrients in lettuce and apples that we haven’t discovered yet. And they evolve to work in concert with one another, which is not to say supplementation can’t be useful, but to rely on the powders and pills and the artificial foods to the exclusion of what nature intended, I think is a real mistake.

Stu

13:36 Yeah, definitely. You’ve spent some time in the food industry then as you described earlier. Which foods or drinks or types of foods do you think are the most difficult to say no to? The ones that we term as domino food and I’m liking it to say, a tube of Pringles and that slogan, once you pop you just can’t stop. Boy, they’re not wrong.

Glen

14:05 There’s billions of dollars of research that goes into figuring that kind of stuff out across the industry. I did a national survey to figure out which foods people would have the most trouble stopping once they started. I thought it was going to be chocolate because my problem was always chocolate. But it wasn’t. It was pizza. Pizza was three times more addictive than chocolate. And about 28% of the population said when they had one bite of pizza, they couldn’t stop. It was only about 11% for chocolate. That surprised me. Right beneath that was chips. So, pizza and chips.

Stu

14:45 Okay. Two food items that I think would picture quite commonly in many people’s daily diet or weekly diet, I would say. Interesting. And chemicals used in food manufacturing. I mean we’ve … Should we be particularly wary about any types of chemicals? If we decide that we want to just turn it back over and have a look, and I’m thinking about things like flavor enhancer. That’s always the one for me that if I’m ever in a scenario where I’m eating something and I think, “Boy, this is so tasty.” Turn it over and you go, “Oh, now I know why.”

Glen

15:31 Yeah. Just to be clear, and to avoid leading people to think I have an expertise that I don’t, the work that I did in the food industry was largely in advertising research. So, what emotional reaction were they having to the packaging and the slogans and the names and that kind of thing. I was surrounded by some people in sensory development and R&D who would come to the meetings and research groups that we would do. So, I heard a lot of what was going on, but I don’t really have an expertise in the specific chemicals. It’s a little above my pay grade to answer that. I’m sorry.

Stu

16:12 No, that’s absolutely fine. Let’s jump into the book then because I’m super keen to understand firstly why you wrote the book and then secondly, what we can expect. So, Never Binge Again. We spoke before that many of us binge. We don’t know why. Tell us about the book.

Glen

16:35 Well, it was originally a journal about me versus my reptilian brain. And I could put it in context if I told you more of my personal story, if that’s okay.

Stu

16:46 Please do. Absolutely.

Glen

16:51 When I was about 17, I figured out that if I exercised for two hours a day, three hours a day, I could eat anything I wanted to. I’m 64, I’m kind of muscular, and I can eat whatever I wanted to. Whole pizzas, boxes of chocolate bars, boxes of pop tarts, muffins, boxes of donuts. Literally 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day. No problem. When I got to graduate school and I was married and I had a two hour commute each way to see patients and go to classes, and I had husband responsibilities and household responsibilities, I couldn’t work out like that.

17:35 I could barely do a half hour twice a week. I found that even though that was the case, I still couldn’t stop eating. These foods had a life of their own. So suddenly I was starting to get fat and my triglycerides were going through the roof. I had got a reading that I think was 826 but at one point they were over a thousand, I’m sure. The doctors were telling me I was going to die. There’s cardiovascular disease

18:00 … Up and down my family tree. They’re saying I was going to die, no question in my 30s, if I kept at this. I was obsessed with it, so I’d be sitting … Being a psychologist is particularly important to me, I come from a family of 17 therapists, so my mom, and my dad, and my sister, and my brother-in-law, and my Stepdad, and my stepmom, and my grandmother, everybody’s a therapist. Something breaks in the house, everybody knows how to ask it how it feels, but nobody’s [inaudible 00:18:30]. I would be sitting with a suicidal patient, it was really important to me to do a good job, but I wasn’t 100% present. I never lost anybody, thank God, and I saw hundreds, but I really, I wasn’t totally there.

18:51 To help someone like that, it’s not an intellectual endeavor. You’re not figuring out the puzzle of their life. It’s more like you’re lending them your soul and you’ve got to be there right there with them and be present. I had the hardest time, I worked really hard at it, and like I said, I never lost anybody but it really bothered me. And so I went for help, and sometimes if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Because I come from such an intensely psychological family, I went to see the best psychologist in and around New York City, I went to see the best eating disorder specialist, I went over to [inaudible 00:19:29], I took medication for a little while, anything you could imagine is what I did.

19:35 It’s was all based on the theory that there must be a hole in my heart. It’s not what I’m eating, it’s what’s eating me. How can I love myself then? How can I nurture that inner wounded child and fix my soul and then I won’t want to eat these things? Well, a couple of things happened that brought me to the conclusion that I had the wrong paradigm and that what I really needed to do rather than trying to love myself thin, I had to be more of an Alpha wolf, dealing with a challenger for leadership in the pack. When a challenger confronts an Alpha Wolf, that Alpha Wolf doesn’t say, well someone needs a hug, that Alpha Wolf growls and snarls and basically says, get back in line or I’ll kill you.

20:26 I started to realize through a turn of events that that was the paradigm I had to come at this with. It was more like I was dealing with strong biological urges that were generated by my organs, like my bladder or my testicles, than a part of my identity. We all live with very strong biological urges that we can’t express. Someone cuts you off in the street, you feel enraged, you want to kill them, right, but you can’t express it. Nevertheless, you not scared to drive because someone’s going to cut you off. It’s almost every day someone cuts you off in one of your, in and around New York City, they do. You can’t be scared to drive, you have to live with that every day.

21:10 There are a lot of attractive women out there and you know, there are organs in my body that respond to them, but I can’t run up and kiss them, right. I need to live very comfortably with those urges and be a civilized, normal human being despite that, and follow the rules of decorum and behavior. I often have to go to the bathroom when I’m in the middle of a business meeting, but I don’t just drop trou and go right there. I conduct myself appropriately. I’ll finish the meeting or sometimes I’ll excuse myself, and I’ll go in a particular place at a particular time. So they’re all biological urges and I started to realize it was the same thing. How much more time do I have to tell the story because there’s another piece to it.

Stu

21:54 No, keep going. I’m enjoying it.

Glen

21:57 Okay. Starting to realize that it was more like the neocortex, the human brain had to control the lizard brain rather than nurturing it and loving it back to health. I did a study, I got paid all this money to do these studies for big corporations, I figured they must be worth something. I set up a study back in the time when internet clicks were cheap and I got 40,000 people over the course of about five years to take a survey. The survey looked at the particular foods that people struggled with, and the particular areas of life that they felt stressed out. I found three really interesting things. The first one was that people who struggled with chocolate, and my binges always started with chocolate, they tended to be lonely or brokenhearted.

Stu

22:48 Okay.

Glen

22:49 And I was, I was in a bad marriage and it was kind of lonely and brokenhearted at the time. They might also be a little bit depressed. People who struggled with salty, crunchy things like pretzels and chips, they tended to be stressed at work, and people who struggled with soft, chewy things like bread or bagels or even pizza, they tended to be stressed at home. I thought, wow, this is it, now I know. Just ask people what they gravitate towards and you know exactly what to sell for them psychologically, as if that’s easy, as if it doesn’t take five to 10 years to fix someone.

23:27 I had the thought at the time and before I started working with patients about it, I thought I would investigate the pattern in myself. Since I was brought up by a therapist, my mom, I said, “Mom, I am lonely in broken hearted and I do run to chocolate all the time, but is there some specific story of my childhood, some way that pattern got set up?”

23:49 And she gets this awful look on her face Stewart, and she goes, “I’m so sorry.”

23:55 I go, “Mom, what is it?”

23:57 She says, “I can’t tell you, I’m so sorry.”

23:59 I say, “Mom, it was 40 years ago, it doesn’t matter. I just need to know.”

24:02 She says, “Well, in 1965 you were one year old and your dad was a captain in the army. And they were talking about sending him to Vietnam, and I was terrified because we’re trying to have your sister, so I was going to have one on the way, I was going to be the army widow and I was going to be all alone and I was just horribly depressed and anxious. At the same time, my Dad, your grandfather had just gotten out of prison and I adored this man in my whole life. He was my one savior and I didn’t know he was guilty and he was, and my whole world came apart. So taken together, I didn’t have the wherewithal to take care of you when you came running to me for hugs and love and food. What I did while I was busy sitting and staring at the wall is I kept a big bottle of chocolate Bosco Syrup and the refrigerator on the floor.”

24:52 It’s an old brand, it’s not around anymore. “And when you came running to me, I’d say, honey, go get your Bosco. And you’d go crawling over to the refrigerator and you’d open it up on, you take out the bottle and you’d suck on it, and you go into a chocolate-sugar coma.”

Stu

25:07 Wow. Wow.

Glen

25:09 I mean it couldn’t be more perfect. It’s like it was a movie, like it was scripted. If it was a movie, mom and I would have a big hug and a big cry and I’d never have trouble with chocolate again, right?

Stu

25:22 Yeah.

Glen

25:23 It’s not what happened.

Stu

25:24 What happened?

Glen

25:26 Well we did have a hug. It led to some very interesting talks and I learned a lot about her and I forgave myself. It took a level of self criticism out of me, which was helpful in some other ways and I think these conversations are really worth having. My chocolate eating got worse, I actually started binging more in chocolate after that.

Stu

25:48 Okay.

Glen

25:49 The reason is, it’s kind of a crazy reason, but now it makes perfect sense in retrospect. There was this voice in my head, and the voice was something like, Hey Glen, you know what? You’re right. Our mama didn’t love us enough. She left a great big chocolate sized hole in our heart. And until we can find the love of our life and get out of this marriage, you’re going to have to go binge on chocolate [inaudible 00:26:11]. Now it had a justification. I started to realize that the voice of justification was more difficult than the emotional upset itself.

Glen

26:28 You could have, think about emotions as the fire, right? You could have a raging fire in a very well contained fireplace and that becomes the center of hearth and home. It keeps everything warm, people gather around it, it draws people, it creates memories. It’s a wonderful thing to have. Having intense emotions or even intense emotional conflicts is not horrible, it’s just energy. The problem is if there are holes in the fireplace, and there was this voice of justification that was poking holes in the fireplace, and I started to realize that if I could disempower that voice of justification, that it might be a lot quicker to keep the fire contained. That’s actually what happened.

27:12 Here’s the embarrassing part. As a sophisticated psychologist who’s done tens of millions of dollars of research and seen hundreds of patients and spent a lifetime soul searching in the way that I have, the thing that worked with me to fix my food was, I decided my reptilian brain, I was going to call that my pig. I decided that I was going to draw a very clear hardened fast rules, lines in the sand so that I knew the difference between what was pig slop and what wasn’t pig slop. For example, I will never eat chocolate on Sundays again. Therefore, any thought in my head that suggested, gee, you worked out hard enough today so you could afford some chocolate even though it’s Wednesday, or you could always start tomorrow it’s not going to make a difference, or gee you’re out of this party, you can’t say no to this person that was going to be pig squeal. I would say my pig is squealing for slop, I don’t want that, my pig does and I don’t listen to farm animals telling me what to do.

28:12 This was going to be a private thing, I was not going to share this part with the world, and this became this journal that I kept of me versus my pig and all the crazy things it said and why it was wrong. I kept it for about eight years, I wrote like thousands of pieces there. I figured out all the answers to the crazy things that it would say, like for example when it says, you can just start tomorrow no big deal, well it turns out that if you indulge today, it’s going to be harder to stop tomorrow. The way our neuro anatomy works is that the addiction will get stronger and you’ll have more of a craving tomorrow, so if you’re in a hole, stop digging. You can’t start to tomorrow, the only time you can start is now.

28:54 It was things like that. I just started to write down what the logical fallacies were and what my pig was squealing about. Over time, it wasn’t a miracle, but very quickly I stopped feeling powerless, very quickly I started recognizing that there was something to this and I could get those extra microseconds at the moment of impulse to wake up and remember who I was and make a better decision if I want to. I didn’t always make that best decision, but over time I said, well, I’m making the rules. Nobody else is telling me I have to eat this or don’t eat this. I’ll make whatever rules they want to, and I’m aware, I’m aware of the pig, I’m aware of this voice in my head. I don’t have to listen to it. There’s nothing I can’t eat, if I don’t want to I’ll just change the plan. I’ll do it tomorrow if I really want to, but right now I’m just not going to listen to the pig.

29:45 I just kept on saying I don’t need pig slop, I don’t let farm animals tell me what to do over and over and over again, and I got better. I never intended to make it into a book. It was a very private thing. I never worked with eating disorder clients because I had one, I had a problem with myself. In 2015, as I was about to get divorced, I was a minor partner in a publishing company and the CEO said to me, “Glen, could you write a book because we need to prove that we know what we’re doing, marketing book so we can attract better authors.”

30:23 I said, “Well, I have this crazy journal that I kept, I always thought maybe it could be a book, but I’d be really embarrassed to talk about it publicly,” and I told him a little about it. He was fat, he was 86 pounds [inaudible 00:30:34], he said, “Dude, you have to let me read it.”

30:37 I spent a month, had to edit it into a kind of book like format, and I wrote it as an allegory of me versus the pig as a story. I gave it to him and he calls me back two weeks later and he goes, “Don’t listen to pig slop [inaudible 00:30:53] pig slop, I don’t let farm animals tell me what to do.” And he lost the weight, I mean not immediately, but he’s lost 86 pounds now. He still tells me he’s got 10 pounds to go.

31:05 We published it, and you know I’ve got a background in marketing and he’s got a background in marketing. It was a very effective and entertaining thing and it just took off man, I mean it just took off. The funny thing is, now I’m divorced and I always thought maybe I’d be a famous author one day and people would come up to me at bookstore and shake my hand and say, your book helped me so much. That’s not what they do. People don’t know my name, they point at me and they go, pig guy. I just got to tell you, you don’t want to be on a first date at the bookstore and have people pointing at you and saying pig guy.

Stu

31:44 That is insane, wow. That wasn’t what I expected you to say when I asked you about the book. What factors then commonly or could commonly or do commonly disrupt that progress or your progress during the road to success, following the guidelines and the strategies that you’ve outlined? What are the curve balls that can very easily pull us off track?

Glen

32:16 There are actually two different mindsets that are required to overcome binge eating. I summarize them together as commit with perfection, but forgive yourself with dignity. Most people do the opposite, most people say, well, you can’t be perfect at anything, so you should never even try. Progress, not perfection. The problem is that when you try to accomplish a food goal with the idea of making progress and not perfection as a commitment tool, it’s a forward looking tool, what you’re really saying is I’ll try for a little while until I don’t feel like it anymore.

32:55 If that was the way that really worked, then I would have named the book binge sometimes, but that wouldn’t have sold so well. It turns out that when winners are committing towards a goal, so for example, when an Olympic archer is trying to hit the bullseye, before he lets go of the arrow, he actually sees the arrow going into the bullseye. He’s not thinking, maybe I’ll make it or maybe I won’t. He takes account, he takes the air resistance into account, he figures out what his stance should be and how far back to pull the arrow, but before that arrow is in the air, it’s a foregone conclusion to him.

33:33 The reason that’s the psychology of winning is because it’s only with that perfect commitment that we can purge our minds of doubt and insecurity. See, all of that wondering, did I account for the air resistance well enough? Am I standing in the right way? Is the arrow far enough back? That is energy that’s drained from focusing on the goal, and it turns out that to win the game you want to focus on the goal entirely, so you actually want to be able to draw a very clear bullseye and commit to it with perfection.

34:07 You need to use words like never again. I will never have more than two ounces of dark chocolate a week again. Okay. And people say, well, I can’t say that, what if I want to have four ounces, or I don’t want to set myself up to feel too guilty. There’s a couple of things that that ignores. The first is that we’re using never in a different way than is normally used the vernacular. We’re using it in the same way that we talked to a two year old kid. Little Johnny, you can’t ever cross the street without holding my hand. You can never ever, ever cross the street without holding my hand. I don’t want you to ever even think about crossing the street without holding my hand. Never ever, ever. But in five years I’m going to teach little Johnny how to cross the street without holding my hand.

34:55 Am I lying to him? Should I have not told him never? It’s too dangerous for me to say, well, you know, when you get older, maybe I’m going to teach you, because then what’s going to be going through his head? Gee, maybe I can try to dart out in the street. It’s too dangerous. Our pigs are like two year olds. They don’t have the maturity to entertain the idea of an evolving food plan or that maybe this is going to change in the future. They need to have the rule set in stone from their perspective. From our perspective, we know we can change it when we want to and I just recommend that people spend some time writing down exactly what they want to change and why they want to change it and then set it aside and sit with it for 24 hours before that takes effect. That prevents you from impulsively making changes and it doesn’t allow there to be a physical reward soon enough that it would influence the change that you want to make.

35:50 People are frightened of the word never, and then they don’t understand that if they do make a mistake, that an entirely different mindset is required. If you

36:00 Make a mistake, like if you touch a hot stove for example, if you accidentally touch a hot stove, well you want to feel that pain for a second because otherwise you don’t know where it is and you’re likely to touch it again and again. As a matter of fact there are physical disorders where children are born without the ability to feel pain and they don’t live more than four or five years because they can’t learn where the sharp edges are. So you want to feel the pain for a second to get your attention, but what you don’t want to do is say, “Dammit, I’m a pathetic hot stove toucher, I might as well put my whole hand down on the thing.”

Stu

36:34 Right.

Glen

36:34 And get very involved in and persevering on the guilt and beating yourself up because it turns out that that’s actually binge motivated activity in and of itself. That the self castigation, the getting stuck with excessive guilt after you’ve analyzed what went wrong and made adjustments if you need to. That perseveration it’s intent is to make you feel too weak to resist the next binge, it’s wearing you down to feel like you don’t have the character, you’re pathetic and therefore you might as well just keep binging. You’ll find, I learned this from Carol Munter, that it’s difficult to keep binging if you refuse to keep yelling at yourself. So after a binge is after a mistake, that’s when you want to have the progress not perfection attitude, that’s when you want to be softer on yourself while still taking it seriously and making necessary adjustments.

37:32 Before a binge is when you want to commit with perfection, so I say commit with perfection, commit yourself with dignity. Most people take awhile to really understand that mindset, they also take a while to understand that it’s necessary to collect evidence of success. You see you could look at a mistake in two different ways. You can say, “Oh my god I can’t beleive I had five cupcakes. I’m pathetic, I’m never going to get this, I’m always going to be a fat person. Probably just going to have to accept it.” Or you could say, “I wonder what happened? I only had five cupcakes instead of 15. How did I stop myself?”

Stu

38:12 Right, yeah.

Glen

38:13 When you choose to use the lens of success and collect evidence of success you’ll develop a success identity, there’s an interesting study, I think Dana Areiley told this story where they took two different bowling teams and they had the same set of researchers observe them. For one team the researchers were told to observe what the team did right. For the other team the researchers were told to observe what they did wrong and then the feedback was given and which team do you think did better?

Stu

38:47 The team that were told that they were doing well?

Glen

38:50 Yeah. How much better do you think they did?

Stu

38:53 Twice as better as they would.

Glen

38:56 More than twice as well.

Stu

38:58 Yeah, yeah.

Glen

38:58 More than twice the improvement, yeah. And so it’s very difficult for people to get the idea that they have to flip that paradigm, that no matter how bad the binge was there’s got to be something you can learn from every single binge. And what goes along with that are a set of questions, for example; most people after a mistake will say, “Oh, why can’t I stop eating?” Well guess what happens when you ask why can’t I stop eating? You tell your brain to go out and find evidence about why you can’t stop eating and before you know it you think you’re this diseased sick person who can’t stop eating. The question to ask instead is how can I stop overeating? Then you’re asking your brain to find evidence that you can.

Stu

39:44 Gotcha.

Glen

39:45 Those are the biggest things that hook people up.

Stu

39:48 So in terms of external aids, and I’m thinking along the lines of supplements that may help to aid, suppress sugar cravings, things like that. Also accountability maybe, like if you could use that as a strategy to tell everyone on social media that, “Hey, you know I’m going to go  on this diet and it’s going to be for good this time.” So you’re becoming accountable and almost feel like you need to, you don’t want to let down your tribe. And then also thirdly, like tech as well in terms of we got so many forms and ways to be able to track now in terms of the calories we’ve eaten, the steps we’ve taken. Did you dive into any of those?

Glen

40:34 A little bit.

Stu

40:34 Okay.

Glen

40:35 Not so much in the book but in the coaching work we’ve done after, so it was tech, accountability, what was the third one?

Stu

40:42 It was supplements, accountability and tech.

Glen

40:45 Okay, I don’t know an awful lot about supplements, I do know that people who struggle with chocolate tend to be a little bit magnesium deficient. I beleive that that’s true but that’s only because I’ve interviewed naturopaths and nutritionists on my podcast, I’m not an expert at that.

Stu

41:02 Sure.

Glen

41:04 I can tell you that it’s necessary to get a full nutritional compliment in order to overcome binge eating. Because binge eating is not just an addiction to the binging part it’s an addiction to the feast and famine part of the cycle. So most binge eaters are really good dieters and I didn’t do this with supplementation, but I found it progressively easier to deal with the cravings when I started adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to my diet, so for example I don’t know why but I have to have cucumbers everyday. It could be cucumber juice or cucumber noodles, if I don’t have them I’m just nudgy, like there’s something missing.

Stu

41:48 Yeah, something missing.

Glen

41:49 And it’s not that I love cucumbers but there must be some mineral composition, you probably know better than I do.

Stu

41:56 Yeah.

Glen

41:57 And when I got off of chocolate I got off of it by having banana kale smoothies all the time and at first I thought there’s no way that’s ever going to replace chocolate but I forced myself to do it anyway because I think I read about it, or an experiment. Before I knew it I was craving the banana kale smoothie so there’s a biological error that is made in overeating where the body thinks that it needs something that it doesn’t need. The same way that, I learned this from Jack Trimpy at Rational Recovery, when a smoker craves smoke as if it was oxygen the body’s made a biological error and what a smoker can do to overcome the craving is to go outside and take three deep breaths of cool, fresh, clean air.

42:44 So the way that a binge eater can overcome the craving is to find what that authentic need is underneath and feed the authentic need, physical need underneath. That’s as much as I know about the vitamins and minerals and stuff like that. Leafy green vegetables seem to do wonders for people and I can tell you a lot more about accountability and a little bit about tech.

43:08 Accountability is very interesting because the theory in our culture is that you can’t do it alone, that if your impulses are out of control then you have to make yourself into a dependent little child and go get a sponsor, go to a meeting, make some public commitment so that because if you didn’t do this then you’re just an out of control wild animal and you really need to be externally caged. That can lead to a sense of fear and withdrawal from life, so I prefer that people cultivate confidence and, for example, that they don’t stand up in the public square and say, “I have not binged in 12 days and good for me.” I think that we should think of looking for adulation publicly and adoration for the positive that we do in the world, not for just acting normal.

44:12 I think we should think of binging as kind of an abnormal, antisocial behavior and it doesn’t necessarily hurt other people in the way that other abnormal antisocial behaviors do but you woudln’t stand up in the public square and say, “I have not robbed a bank for 12 days.” “Good for you, welcome back.” You woudln’t do that. So to the extent that they promote accountability in Overeaters Anonymous and some of the 12 Step Programs I think that that’s diminutive, I think that that degrades the persons sense of confidence in their ability to do what they really can do for themselves.

44:52 However, the research really does support that for a period of time somewhere between 21 and 90 days depending on what you look at, that having some accountability to get started, it’s like creating a cocoon for the new habit to develop and so I am in favor of that as long as the accountability doesn’t become permanent and as long as it doesn’t become part of your identity. Ultimately I want you to be able to do what this woman I know who works in a bakery does, now she was addicted to flour and sugar and when she realized this she said, “I really can’t have any flour or sugar at all.” And I said, “Well, how are you going to work in a bakery?” Because she owned the bakery, so she had to make it seem sexy, it was her livelihood. She said, “Well it’s easy, I’ll just say, “That is not my food.”” And all day long she’s around flour and sugar and she’s making it look gorgeous and smell good and she’s talking to customers about it, “This is delicious and that’s delicious and this is why and that’s why.” And she doesn’t have a bite of it because she says, “That is not my food.”

45:59 That’s the level of confidence that I want people to get to [inaudible 00:46:02] but I don’t want you to have to withdraw from life. So I don’t want you to cultivate fear and think you’re a dependent little child having to go to meetings and be accountable to someone else. I want you to cultivate confidence over time but you can start out with training wheels for accountability.

46:20 And then with tech, the main thing that I see with tech for food is calculating the calories and nutrients and macros and I do find that helpful for a lot of people. I recommend most of my people go to one of the online nutritional calculators just to be sure that they’re not missing anything critical. And also to be sure that they’re not under eating because if you’re trying to lose weight too fast you’re going to bounce back the other way. So no more than a pound or two a week.

Stu

46:52 Great, fantastic, wow, good advice. And so much to think about. Now we’re just coming up on time and I’m really keen then just to try and distill most of what we’ve spoken about, if I can, into couple of your top tips or strategies or tools that you think could make the biggest impact on a binge. So if I could say to somebody, “Well look, boy I just had a great chat today with Glen and he’s written this amazing book.” And they say, “Well, tell me what the take homes are.” What could I tell them?

Glen

47:29 What I’d like you to do is, or I’d like anyone to do, is think the single worst trigger food or behavior that they’re struggling with and come up with one simple rule, just to learn how the game is played. So maybe you want to have a rule that says, “I’ll never eat standing up again.” Maybe people are picking while they’re preparing. Or, “I’ll never eat in the car again.” Or, “I’ll always put my fork down between bites.” Or maybe you’re a chocoholic like me and so you’ll say, ” I will never have chocolate again.” Or, “I’ll only ever have chocolate at social occasion again.”

48:05 Come up with one rule, it should not be a rule that’s going to take off all your weight in two weeks, it should be a rule that will turn the ship around and get it moving in the right direction. And then start to listen for your inner pig trying to talk you out of this. You don’t have to call it a pig, you can call it your food monster or something else as long as it’s not a quite pet. And then as you start to hear those squeals, those rationalizations, write them out, write them down and ask yourself, “Where’s the lie? How is the pig lying to me?”

48:45 Just starting to do that will bring an awareness to you of the dual nature of your brain, that there’s you and then there’s this biological organ that’s fighting for expression. And it’ll start to make you aware that you can make a choice, say, “Well I don’t want that, my pig does. I don’t let farm animals tell me what to do. Or that my food demon does, I’m in control, not it.” And walk away with that.

49:15 The other couple of things that I want you to walk away with are the idea that freedom sits on top of discipline. Freedom is not opposed to discipline. It’s only because you took the time to discipline yourself to the rules of the road that you’re able to drive around the city and expand your radius of locomotion, how far you can get around. It’s only because a jazz pianist spent years practicing the skills that they can express their soul away from the structure of music when they want to, because they always know they can get back to it.

49:56 It’s only because of the engineers that had the precise discipline to work out your steering wheel and the chassis so that when you turn the wheel your tires actually turn at that exact same number of degrees, that you can go where you want to in your car. Freedom is a function of discipline, it’s not opposed to discipline. The more disciplines you adopt, the more your life will expand, the more freedom you will have. So pick a rule, add a discipline, see what happens. Jim Rhone said, “A life of discipline is better than a life of regret.”

Stu

50:31 Fantastic, no that was excellent, wow. Very, very different mindset I think that you’ve discussed to what I was expecting, which is great. So in terms of the book, Never Binge Again, where can our listeners to download a copy?

Glen

50:49 Oh, so you can get a free digital copy at NeverBingeAgain.com, just click the big red button and signup for the reader bonus list and you’ll get Never Binge Again in Kindle, Nook or PDF format. You will also get … I recorded a bunch of full length coaching sessions and I give them away for free because I know this is weird, I know people are saying, “Why does Stuart have this weird ass psychologist on who’s got a pig inside of him and doesn’t let farm animals?” I know it’s weird. When you actually hear it implemented it’s an extremely compassionate life giving, hope restoring process. You can see people in one session go from feeling desperate to feeling hopeful again. And I really wanted people to hear what that was like as opposed to just thinking of me as the pig guy that talks about this weird theory that he has.

51:42 And I created a set of food plan starter templates so regardless of what dietary philosophy you have, whether it’s high carb, low carb, ketogenic, paleo, macrobiotic, whatever it is there is a set of starter templates you can work with and I just ask people to take responsibility for them and modify them to fit their own needs because if I tell you what to do, if I tell you what to eat your pig will soon jump in and say, “Well, that diet guru’s diet doesn’t really work. We’re just going to have to find another one soon, but in the meantime we can just keep binging.” So you have to take responsibility for your own plan.

Stu

52:22 Fantastic, and so the website URL just to finalize, to make sure that nobody misses, if you just run us through that one more time.

Glen

52:32 NeverBingeAgain.com

Stu

52:33 Perfect, perfect. Glen thank you so much for your time today, it was, yeah, really intriguing, super interesting. And I’m very excited about sharing this with our audience as well because …

Glen

52:43 Thank you and tell them if they see me in a bookstore, my name is Glen.

Stu

52:47 The pig guy, it’s the pig guy. Okay will do. Thank you so much and yeah, hopefully we will chat at some stage in the near future but really, really appreciate your time today. Thanks again.

Glen

53:01 Thank you, thank you so much.

Stu

53:03 Okay, bye, bye.

Glen

53:04 Okay, bye.

 

Dr Glenn Livingston

This podcast features Dr Glenn Livingston who is a long time Bestselling Author and Chief Executive Officer of Never Ever Again, Inc., a company which specializes in helping people with eating problems to stop being eating and overeating, lose weight, and learn how to think like a permanently thin person... Read More
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