Making the decision to transform your life and live a healthier lifestyle isn’t always easy for many people. On today’s episode, I’m going to share with you my personal transformation story – the story of how I went from eating unhealthy throughout my childhood and early adulthood to entering the military and making the decision to start the ketogenic diet.
In addition to my story and my true reason for changing the direction and focus of this show, I’m also going to introduce you to Dr. Glenn Livingston. Dr. Livingston is a veteran Psychologist, published author, and obesity researcher. He has had articles published in several major periodicals, including The New York Times and has guest appeared on several other media outlets and radio shows such as CBS radio, ABC, and WGN.
Dr. Livingston joins us on the show today to share his own journey out of the obesity and “food prison” to a normal, healthy weight and how he helps his patients lead a healthier life by overcoming food addition and obesity.
“When you eat healthy, you are more present for whatever you are going to do.” – Glenn Livingston, Ph.D.
On Today’s Episode of the Low Carb Leader:
• Glenn shares his health transformation story and how he overcame food addition.
• He shares the surprising correlation between food and emotions that he discovered during his research program.
• We discuss the psychological processes that food addicts experience and various techniques that can be applied to help overcome them.
• We talk about the different tactics that the food industry use to target people to eat more.
• He explains why he believes that people have the inborn, hardwired ability to inhibit any impulse – including binge eating.
• He explains what it really means to say “I’ll never binge again.”
• The freedom you experience in your life is based on discipline. If you discipline yourself to never binge again, then you will never binge again.
Reach Out to Glenn Livingston, Ph.D.:
• Never Binge Again website
• Grab Dr. Livingston’s free book – Never Binge Again: Reprogram Yourself to Think Like a Permanently Thin Person
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017 – My Story, My Extended Fasting Results, and Binge Eating with Glenn Livingston, Ph.D
Hello, and welcome to The Low Carb Leader podcast. You have joined us for Episode 17. Today we have a very interesting guest, Glenn Livingston, Ph.D. He’s a veteran psychologist, and he has spent his life working on binge eating. So we’ll talk more about him in a little bit. But if you listened to last week’s podcast I promised that I was going to take you through some of the reasons why I changed the podcast from leadership to low-carb leadership, to nutrition, to fitness and how that can improve your performance at work.
Dan’s History with Food and Fitness
So a little bit about my history. You know I grew up in the 70s, so kind of grew up eating dinner at home, but that was the era of fast food. So for the first maybe 10 years of my life we pretty much ate at home, a Midwest, kind of the meat and potatoes type of dinner every night. And then as I became a teenager, though, that’s when I discovered fast food, and I worked in several different restaurants. My first job was at Wendy’s, and then a McDonald’s, and delivering pizza so pretty much lived on that during my teenage years. Not a great healthy lifestyle, but definitely at that point had no idea what I was doing with nutrition, so pretty much a typical teenager.
Then I went into the Navy, and still at that point I had no idea about nutrition, and you can imagine an 18-year-old going into the Navy, going overseas, it wasn’t the healthiest lifestyle in the world living on junk food and at that time a lot of alcohol. That’s what they do in the Navy when you’re young, so besides defending your country, we would drink a lot. Definitely not a healthy lifestyle. But I did at that time get into lifting weights. That was kind of an off and on thing. So I would spend three, four months really lifting weights, and then I would take a break. And I cycled that for the entire time I was in the Navy. But I had no idea about nutrition whatsoever. There would be times where I would just eat so much protein. That was our whole idea about lifting weights, was lift weights a lot and then eat tons of protein. I remember when I was stationed in Japan with a friend we would lift weights like three hours a day six days a week, and every day we would go over to the chow hall – and that probably tells you a little bit about the food, when something is labeled chow hall – and we would just consume tons of hard-boiled egg whites. I mean like 40, 50 each meal. It was unbelievable. And that’s what we would eat. And then we would supplement that, of course, with junk food. So that probably wasn’t the healthiest thing. And we both got very muscular and big and gained weight, but that’s probably because we were lifting weights so much and that we were eating, who knows, tons of calories, probably five, six, 7000 a day. I don’t even know. Kind of cycled that through the Navy.
When I got out of the Navy I kind of fell off the lifting weights, and so for 10, 20 years kind of lived on junk food and definitely no focus on nutrition whatsoever. And then I’m going to fast forward to about five years ago. Five years ago the reason I started looking into this is because I was at work, and I was so tired after lunch because I would eat a carb-filled lunch, and then about 2:00 I would just crash. And I look back now and realize I would have moments where apparently my blood sugar would be dropping so low that my hands would literally shake, and that happened all the time. So I was living on these carbs all day long. I remember even on the weekends I could go and eat pancakes or something just full of sugar, full of carbs, and within an hour or two I’d be trying to do some work at home and I would have to stop because my hands were shaking so bad and have to eat sugar. And it would take like an hour, and I just never realized what was even happening then. I did know, though – I was smart enough to realize that French toast and syrup and really high sugar foods would do this to me. So I would not eat those a lot because I wanted to avoid this sugar crash. But I really didn’t know the reasons behind it. I just connected the dots with it seems that French toast is the problem. And so I would try pancakes, and that would be the problem.
So I had these wild swings in my blood sugar. I just decided that I was going to eat something light at lunch, and I didn’t realize or think too much about the sugar content. I just said I’ll eat a salad, which will be light. That helped. That began the thinking process around what’s happening with the food in my body and how is my body reacting.
My son, who actually just graduated college, and I’ll brag about him for a little bit, actuarial science degree, really, really smart. And he started discovering and reading about low-carb ketogenic diets, high-fat, low to moderate protein. And so he started sharing this with me, and he was the first one to go on really what was a ketogenic diet. And at that time I didn’t really know what that was. So he was informing me. I made the mistake, like everybody makes this same mistake, which is well if cutting out your carbs is good, then I’m going to cut out carbs and fat. And that’s a recipe for disaster. Your body needs one or the other. It either needs carbs for energy or fat for energy. So I did this low-carb, low-fat thing for like a couple weeks, and I felt miserable. And my son kept telling me no, you need to quit eating lean chicken and you need to eat ribeye, which has fat in it because you can’t cut both. So that lesson was learned. But I think that’s what a lot of people do because they don’t understand fat, ketones, energy production. And I went through the same mistake. And I see this happening all around me. People will try to go on a diet, and they go straight to the chicken breast and the salad, and then they are starving. And the next day, and then I’ll see them eating a piece of pie or something. So I think everybody has to go through that in order to realize that it doesn’t work. And I think that’s just lack of education.
Moving on with my story, so over the last five years I have experimented with several different diets and several different routines. In the last year-and-a-half I hired a nutrition and fitness coach who has helped me understand a lot of this. He’s very smart, knows so much about nutrition and fitness. And so I’ll talk more about him in a little bit. So I went through different diets. I thought I was ketogenic at one point, but I made another mistake that everybody makes, and that is having your protein too high. So I thought I was ketogenic, but protein will kick you out of ketosis if you know about ketogenic diets. But everybody makes this mistake, as well. So I’m just like the typical person where I’m exploring, trying to understand these concepts and making the same mistakes. But I think sometimes you have to make the mistakes in order to learn.
But the last five years I’ve been pretty much low-carb. I have incorporated cheat meals, and when I was preparing for the last two physique shows my coach, [David Shawn Hogan 0:08:25.4], educated me a lot about cheat meals. And so that’s a tactic where I stay pretty low-carb and low-calorie during the week, and then you incorporate a cheat meal every weekend or a four-hour window where you just kind of eat really high carbs. And there’s two ways to do it. You can either eat dirty or clean, and a lot of coaches will say that dirty, like you go out and eat pasta and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which a lot of people do, and that’s really good, and the whole reason is you jack up your metabolism really high. It tells your body that you’re no longer starving, and then you’ll start the fat burning again.
And then there’s the clean where you eat sweet potatoes and healthy stuff. I can tell you the dirty part is a lot more fun. I mean I enjoyed going out and eating cheese burgers and pasta and six or eight Krispy Kreme doughnuts. And I would have a cheat meal where I would eat two dinners and Pop Tarts and Krispy Kreme doughnuts and milk. And you would do this in a four-hour window, and you would stuff yourself. I’m sure it does have the positive metabolic effect of raising your metabolism back up, but you feel terrible because you spend all week eating clean, and then you eat this very delicious, don’t get me wrong, dinner and then the next day you wake up in what I refer to as a carb hangover. You are cloudy in your thinking. You don’t feel good. Your stomach hurts. And, but this was the cycle in order to prep for a physique show. And you think it’s kind of crazy, but I would have to do this. I would have whole day cheat meals within two, three weeks of the two physique shows, and the next couple days you would just burn this off, and you could just feel your metabolism going up. So that’s a tactic that they use to prepare for bodybuilding and physique shows. And I achieved 7.5% body fat in my last show, and that was by DEXA, which is a real measure. So it can get you pretty, pretty lean.
So I’ve gone through a lot of different nutrition regimens, workout regimens, high-volume, heavy weight, super high-volume, everything. So that’s kind of my experience with this. So I am an N of One, as they say, but I have gone through a lot of this. And I have researched a lot. And I enjoy learning about this. And I get up every morning pretty early. I get up and I watch YouTube videos on sleep, intermittent fasting, nutritional ketosis, the whole thing. And so one of the reasons I’m switching the focus is because I do enjoy the leadership aspect, like the first 15 episodes, but my real passion and my real love, seriously, is around nutrition, fitness and these topics. And so I’m already enjoying this so much with the new focus. But there is a connection because you have to be healthy, and you have to feel good in order to perform at work or to perform in athletics because if you’re sick you can’t perform at work. Just like I was saying, when I didn’t feel good, when I was eating a lot of carbs, I seriously could not perform during the afternoon at work. And so that’s kind of the whole reason. I am not a clinical person. I don’t have degrees in biology or biochemistry. I do think I do have a solid foundation of knowledge.
My thoughts around this podcast is I’m learning a lot along with you. Our last episode with Shawn Stevenson was a great episode about sleep. We have episodes coming up that are around binge eating. That’s the interview today from a psychologist. I have doctors that are going to talk about intermittent fasting. I have a guest coming on that’s going to talk about gut health and how important having your microbiome in your stomach in order affects your overall wellness. This is going to be an exciting show. I’m posting a lot on Twitter. So I really like this stuff. That’s kind of the reason. That’s my background. And I’m really excited about the new direction of the show.
Extended Fasting Experience
Before we get to the interview I just want to geek out just a little bit. I’m going to talk about my extended fasting period. So I believe in intermittent fasting. There is so much research around why that is good for you. We actually have Jason Fung, M.D., and he’s going to be on the show in early March. And I can’t wait for this. Dr. Fung is a world-renowned physician and expert on intermittent fasting. He goes all over the place speaking about intermittent fasting, and a typical YouTube video with him on it has 50 to 100,000 views. And he was kind enough – I sent him an email and explained what we were doing, and he was kind enough just to email me back and say, yeah, we can talk about intermittent fasting and how it affects the health care system because his belief, and mine, is that if people do this and change their lifestyle that it really would transform the healthcare system because there would be so much less disease and obesity and type II diabetes.
That being said, I recently came across Thomas Seyfried, who is a researcher out in Boston, and he has theories about preventing cancer, dementia, and it has to do with extended fasting and getting into a nutritional or starvational ketosis where your ketones get really high and your blood sugar gets really low. And you do this extended fast of 5 to 7 days, just a couple times a year, and it can complement your intermittent fasting, which I typically every day I’ll wake up and I’ll have a cup of bulletproof coffee, which Dave Asprey, Bulletproof executive has created this mold-free coffee. And if you haven’t heard of Bulletproof coffee, you get up and you make coffee with his beans, which tastes really good, and it’s mold-free so it’s kind of this higher-level coffee. You add butter and then MCT, and I recently switched to Brain Octane MCT, which gives you more energy, and it’s I believe it’s a precursor to ketone production. And so I drink a cup of that in the morning, and then I don’t eat until noon. And so I eat in an eight hour window from noon to 8:00. So I’m fasting basically 16 hours of the day, and then I eat in a narrow window. It’s not that narrow. It’s eight hours. But when you’re on a high-fat ketogenic diet, eating isn’t a big deal because you’re really not that hungry, whoever has experienced a ketogenic diet. So it’s very easy not to eat.
I do that intermittent fasting pretty much every day, but I’ve wanted to do a longer fast to get the benefits and drive down my blood sugar and get my ketones up in an extended way. So I recently, as recently as last night, last night I came off of my five-day water fast. So it is Saturday morning right now as I record this, and I stopped eating at 6:00 on Sunday, last Sunday, and then I came off of my fast last night, Friday night at 6:00. So five days. I believe that’s 120 hours, nothing but water. And no coffee, no caffeine, no food, no nothing. And so I just want to kind of take you through that. It really was not that hard. People at work are like are you crazy? You’re going to die. And you’re going to go into ketoacidosis, which everybody says. And so it’s funny because I work at a hospital, and I’m the nonclinical person educating people on the difference between nutritional ketosis, starvational ketosis and ketoacidosis. And so there’s not a risk of that if you’re not a type I diabetic. It’s a whole different thing, but usually the medical community, believe it or not, doesn’t understand the difference because they just view ketones as bad.
Just a little bit about glucose, when you’re on a ketogenic diet you want to keep your glucose 80 or below or 70 or below, and that’s a good place to be. Ketones, if the typical person ketones are probably 0.2. And I’ve measured this with, every day, four times a day with this Precision Xtra. So I’m measuring my blood glucose, and I’m measuring my blood ketones. So it’s a very accurate reading. A typical person on a high carb diet, standard American diet, is 0.2. Their blood glucose probably 90 or 100, and there is a ratio, glucose to ketone ratio. And this is supposed to be around one in order to get the benefits. And so what you do is you take your glucose, you divide it by 18, and then you divide it by your ketones. So if your blood is at – blood glucose is at 100, your ketones are at .2, you have a really high GKI is what they call it, ratio. And so it’s like 50 or whatever. And the real ratio you want to get to to get the benefits is below one.
And the reason I did this, before I get into the stats of it, is because I went through my whole history of nutrition. It hasn’t been that good. And so recently my mom, who is 84 now, was very, very active. And within the last 6 to 8 months she had this horrible UTI infection which just exacerbated her dementia. And so now within like 6 to 8 months she is in a nursing home, dementia is getting worse, and this made me kind of think about I’m probably predisposed to dementia because my mom had it, my grandma had it, my other grandma had it. And so it’s throughout my entire family. And in addition, cancer is actually everywhere in my family. So my mom had it, my cousin died of it, my uncle had it, and just probably 50 to 75% of the people in my family have had cancer. I’m probably heading that direction unless I do something to prevent that. So I discovered this concept of extended fasting, and it’s really good for prevention of cancer. And what it does is it’s called autophagia or autophagy. I’ve heard it pronounced two different ways, but it’s cellular cleansing, and this is a great way to have your body repair itself. And it’s really good to drive down your blood sugar. These are the two reasons I did this extended fasting.
So to sum this up, I went on a ketogenic diet about two weeks ago, and my blood sugar dropped in the range of 60 to 70 when I wake up, and my ketones were in the 3 to 4 range, which is really good. Interestingly, I had a root canal, and that really drove my blood sugar up. So I realize that the stress of it, the drugs they use to numb your mouth, could drive your blood sugar up. So my blood sugar actually stayed up for like three or four days at 100. So when I started this my blood sugar was 102, and my ketones were .8. So I had this ratio of 7.8, which isn’t great. And then as the days went by without eating my glucose dropped to 81, and this is day by day, 71, 44, 55, was the final reading on day five. And my ketones went from .8, 2.1, to 3.1, to 4.1, to 5.2. And so my ratio of glucose to ketones, remember it has to be around one to get the effects, went from 7 to 2.1, to 1.8, to 2.6, to .6. So I dropped it significantly, and weight loss – I was already at a pretty lean body weight at about 180 pounds, and over five days I lost right at 10 pounds. So the weight really came off, and I didn’t want to really lose weight, but I knew I would. So I went from about 180 to 170. Interestingly, nobody even noticed. You drop 10 pounds in five days and kind of shows you that people don’t really notice too many things.
I ate a little bit last night, and just a word of advice, you definitely don’t want to do an extended fast and then come off and eat a ton of food because there is a thing called refeed syndrome where you could actually die from your body’s not used to having the food, and you introduce a ton of food, and your insulin goes up and your hormones get all out of whack. And so I was very careful. I came off the diet and drank some bone broth, and a little bit later I ate some an avocado and a few eggs with a lot of butter. And so really high fat so that it wouldn’t shoot up my insulin. But I woke up this morning and my blood glucose was 72, and my ketones were still at 4.7. I did accomplish what I wanted to accomplish, and I think it’s very important that you listen to your body because I really felt pretty good the whole week. But last night I was kind of getting lightheaded, and I just knew my stomach kind of hurt, and so I knew that it was time to come off of the fast. I was going to go 5 to 7 days, but I realized that it’s probably time. And so it’s important that you listen to your body. Just don’t – you don’t want to hurt yourself doing this stuff. You want to get the therapeutic effects.
That’s kind of my fasting, and I feel good about it. And it got me to where I wanted to be. And at this stage of my life I’m doing a ketogenic diet. I am working with my nutrition coach, so I think it is important to have advice. You just don’t want to go into these things, especially if you have health problems. I really recommend that you work with your doctor or get a functional medicine physician because some of this can be damaging. There’s a lot of research around why women and definitely pregnant women and other people who are experiencing any health issues should not do this or they should do it definitely under the advice of a doctor because you don’t want this to be harmful.
Okay, so in closing I just wanted to share that. I’m going to write a blog about this. The takeaways with this fasting is, you know, the first day was kind of tough because I was hungry, but the rest of the week was not bad at all. Believe it or not, the hunger goes away. It seems that a lot of it is psychological where I get up every day and I have my coffee, and I eat at noon, and so you’re in this routine. And then that routine is gone, and so you just drink water. And so you get home from work and you’re like, well what am I supposed to do because I’m supposed to be making dinner right now? A lot of it really is psychological, and so you experience what true hunger is and what is the mental part of it, and I can tell you this is my first cup of coffee. I’m drinking it right now as I talk, and in six days, and it tastes really good. So there is a concept of gratitude and how food is important and when you don’t eat for a while the importance really comes through. So that’s my experience around fasting. I recommend everybody starts researching that a little bit because there are so many therapeutic and beneficial effects to fasting every day and doing extended fasts occasionally. I would probably only do an extended fast like this maybe two or three times a year. But I would do my intermittent fasting daily.
Now before we move on I do want to remind everybody that TheLowCarbLeader.com is the new website address. You can find the links to Twitter, Facebook, on the website. And I’m posting a lot of stuff on Twitter right now around nutrition and fitness and ultimately performance. So check it out. The website has been reformatted. I think it’s pretty cool. And there’s a lot of good postings.
Interview with Dr. Glenn Livingston
Now the complete opposite of intermittent fasting and fasting is binge eating. And our guest today is Glenn Livingston, Ph.D. Glenn is a veteran psychologist. He was the longtime CEO of a multimillion dollar consulting firm, which serviced several Fortune 500 clients in the food industry. You may have seen him or his company’s previous work and research in major periodicals like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Indiana Star-Ledger. He has been heard or seen on CBS Radio, Bloomberg, and he’s been in this business for a long time. And Glenn, delusioned [sic] by what traditional psychology had to offer overweight or food obsessed individuals, Dr. Livingston spent several decades researching the nature of binging and overeating via work with his own patients. And then he self-funded a research program with 40,000 participants. Most important, however, was his own personal journey out of obesity and food prison to a normal, healthy weight and a much more lighthearted relationship with food. So Glenn, welcome to the show.
I am very good. It’s nice to be here. I was looking forward to this.
Yeah, we’re very happy to have you. We have Jacob here with us today.
So we talked briefly earlier this week, and I’m very interested in your story, why a psychologist would turn his life work to obesity and binging and overeating.
Why Focus on the Psychology of Binge Eating?
Well, it’s kind of a selfish reason, actually, because I suffered with binge eating for about three decades. It was the bane of my existence, and when I was a boy, when I was an adolescent – I’m 6’4”, and I’m fairly muscular, and I discovered that if I worked out for 2 ½ hours a day that I could eat almost anything I wanted to and it just didn’t matter. And unfortunately when I started to have responsibilities like a wife, and patients, and graduate school and things like that, I couldn’t find 2 ½ hours a day to work out, which is kind of a waste of time actually to spend that much time working out unless you’re a professional bodybuilder or a professional athlete. And I couldn’t stop eating. I couldn’t stop eating 6, 7000 calories a day even though I couldn’t find the time to work out. And so I got heavy. I was about 60 pounds heavier than I am now, and my triglycerides shot up to over 1000. My doctors would regularly yell at me. And more difficult was the constant obsession that I had with the food where I’d be sitting with patients who were talking to me about very serious things, and – I’ve always considered myself a psychologist first and foremost. I come from a long line of psychologists. My mom and my dad are psychotherapists, and my sister and my cousins, my brother-in-law, my stepmom, my stepdad, grandparents, it’s crazy there are so many people in the family that are counselors. And I just couldn’t stop, and I felt like I was – like I didn’t have integrity. So while I would be sitting there with my patients I’d be thinking about when’s the next time I can get a whole pizza, or when’s the next time I can go to Starbucks and get a latte and a muffin, blah, blah, blah. Just way more food than I needed and it overtook a lot of my life. And because everyone was a therapist in my family I think I suffered from the hey, if you have a hammer then everything must be a nail phenomenon. I went to some of the best psychologists in New York, I went to psychiatrists, I went to Overeaters Anonymous for a couple years.
And I also funded a large study to relate food preferences to personality, particularly the things that people felt like they couldn’t stop eating to personality. And although I learned a lot through the study, through the psychologists, and psychotherapists, and psychiatrists, and Overeaters Anonymous and places that I went, none of it really fixed the problem. I can talk more about what I learned and how interesting it was and how food can really – food preference can really serve as a window into the soul, but having a window into your soul, in my experience and the experience of a lot of my patients and now coaching clients, it just doesn’t necessarily fix the food problem. It just gives you a window into your soul and it heals you in other ways.
So Glenn, when you were bodybuilding the calorie count was probably appropriate for what you were doing, correct? And then so once you stopped lifting, then is that when you realized that you had this eating problem?
Yeah, I mean I always knew I was weird with food. I always knew that it wasn’t normal to get up and eat a whole box of chocolate Pop Tarts. I always knew that. I was the kid who traded my main menu for all the chocolate milk with my friends. So I always knew there was something weird about me and the way that I ate with food, but I didn’t think there was anything really bad about it. I just thought I was different. By the way, I wasn’t just lifting weights. I was doing aerobics. I was doing all sorts of things at the gym. I was taking classes. And when I cut it down to like maybe 45 minutes four times a week as opposed to 2 ½ hours a day, that’s when I started to get fat. And that’s when I started to really suffer with the guilt about how obsessed I was with the food because I knew I couldn’t be eating as much as I was, so I was trying to cut back, and it took all of my attention away from my patients and what I was doing.
When you were younger you had this issue, or was it before you were a psychologist?
No, it was – so I had the issue in my adolescence. I got married at 22 years old, and I went to graduate school at 22 years old. And through that time I suddenly had all these responsibilities and I couldn’t be working out all the time. And so that’s when I started to notice the problem, but I kept overeating until I was about 40 years old. I had the problem until I was about 40 years old. Finally started looking into alternative treatments for food addiction. I discovered that there were a lot of people – let me back up for a second. I’m going to give you an example of why it was a problem. In the food study that I did I discovered that people who couldn’t stop eating chocolate tended to have some type of heartbreak or loneliness that they were struggling with, and I thought that was a real insight and I actually got on the radio and TV and started talking about that, and it got a lot of press. There were a couple of other relationships that I started talking about, and we had 40,000 people in the study, so the press was interested. And I immediately started working with patients who were struggling with chocolate to find out where their heartbreak was and how they were feeling lonely and how I could help. And in my own life I started looking more deeply into my past to see well why am I feeling heartbroken? Why am I feeling lonely?
Roots of Food Addiction
I talked to my mom, and my mom said well, you know, when you were little I used to keep a bottle of chocolate Bosco on the [inaudible 0:32:17.1]. Bosco was a type of chocolate syrup. And my mom was overwhelmed. Her husband was in the Army. My dad was in the Army. He was a captain, and we were frightened that he was going to go to Vietnam, and she thought she would never see him again, and her dad had been had disappeared for a while, and so she was kind of depressed and overwhelmed. And she said that she just couldn’t hug me and love me every time that I needed it, so she used to say Glenn, go get your Bosco. Go get the chocolate syrup. And it was right in the refrigerator in the floor, and so of course that’s where I learned the pattern. And that was a brilliant insight, but it didn’t fix the problem because here’s what happened. There is this little voice inside of me that said you know what, Glenn, you’re right. Your mama didn’t love you enough and there’s a big hole inside of you, and until you figure out how to fill up that heartbreak you’re just going to keep on binging on chocolate. And you know what it’s okay because chocolate comes from cocoa beans, and cocoa beans grow on a plant, and a plant is a vegetable, so chocolate’s really a vegetable and it’s okay.
And so I would find the same types of voices in my clients. Starchy, salty, crunchy things tended to be out of control for people who felt really stressed at work. And I found they would have this little voice in their head that said you know what, you’re right; my boss is a real bastard, and until I can get out from under that guy I’m going to have to keep on going to town on pretzels and Doritos. And so ultimately it turned out to be that voice that was the problem, that rationalizing voice of the lizard brain that was attached to all of the hyper-palatable toxic pleasures of industry. That was the problem.
I came across an author. His name was Jack Trimpey. He wrote a book called Rational Recovery, and he’s fairly protective of his trademarks and everything so I won’t say a lot more than that other than if you’re struggling with alcohol or drugs or anything you can give up entirely I’d highly recommend you go take a look at his site. It’s rational.org. But what he said was we’re – essentially we’re all making a mistake in the way we’re approaching addiction. Loving yourself out of addiction is actually making it worse. You can’t love yourself out of addiction because what’s going on in addiction is there’s the lizard brain, this evolutionary structure that developed hundreds of millions of years ago, which looks at something in the environment and says do I eat it, do I mate with it or do I kill it? And that’s the structure which is responsible for our survival impulses that have been hijacked by industry. There weren’t any chocolate bars on the savanna. There are 7000 messages beamed at us every year with regards to food advertising, and hardly any of them are about fruit and vegetables. I used to do consulting for a lot of those big companies. I feel a little guilty about that now. And there is a lot of money in putting the most calories in the smallest space and making it look really healthy and putting all kinds of excitotoxins in and stimulants and all types of things which stimulate the pleasures centers and at the expense of your health. And it’s perfectly legal, and there are billions of dollars available. And then not only is it then advertised that I bet you can’t have just one with billions of dollars of advertising, but then the addiction treatment industry says you really can’t have just one. You’re powerless over this impulse. The best you can hope to do is abstain one day at a time.
And so you have a situation where the industry is talking to the lizard brain. They are telling you you can’t have just one. They’re actually – they have billions of dollars at work to stimulate your lizard brain, and then people believe that they couldn’t quit if they wanted to. But the truth is – this is what Trimpey said – that there are two brain structures above that. He talks about one, but really there are two. There is the mammalian brain, and then there is the neocortex, which evolved later. And the mammalian brain adds and regulates the lizard brain by saying you know what, tribe is important. The herd is impertinent. Family is important. And it’s the seat of emotion and our connection to other people. And that structure evolved on top of the lizard brain. I’m bastardizing this a little bit. And if there’s a neurologist in the audience he will take me to task, but that structure evolved on top of the lizard brain and has the ability to inhibit it in order to be sure that the lizard brain is driving the correct decisions for family and tribe and herd.
But then on top of that there is the neocortex, which has evolved later and is superior to both the mammalian brain and the lizard brain. And the neocortex has the ability to inhibit virtually any impulse in order to delay gratification, plan for long-term goals. It’s kind of the seat of our aspirations and soulful strivings and creativity and art and love and music and everything that we really think of as us. That’s – the neocortex is really responsible for that. That’s really where our identity lives. And the neocortex has a tremendous inhibitory capacity. And so what Trimpey said was that when you say I love you, lizard, at the moment that food craving hits, you’re actually opening up for the lizard brain to take over. It’s the exact wrong thing to do. Overcoming addiction is really more like capturing and caging a rabid animal than loving yourself back to health. And he had some techniques for it, which were really good for the black and white addictions. And I always tell people that if they are – don’t try to apply my approach to black and white addictions because I made a lot of modifications because food is a much more complex behavioral economy. You have to take the lion out of the cage and walk it around the block a couple of times a day. You can’t just give it up. But he said you know, you need to separate from that lizard brain. You need to cultivate a feeling of disgust for the lizard brain. When the lizard says chocolate is a vegetable, you want to have a scary feeling inside right away, a scary kind of disgusted feeling inside right away that says oh no, I know what that thing is up to. I’m going to get away from that thing. I don’t want anything to do with that thing.
Overcoming Food Addiction
So here’s what I did. I said you know what, Glenn, you have a pig inside you, and what if you say you’re never going to eat chocolate again? I know you’re not supposed to say that in our culture. I know they say to strive for guidelines and not rules, and I’ll tell you why I think that’s a mistake. But what if I said I’m never going to have chocolate again? Well then any little voice I heard in my head which suggested that chocolate was okay in any way, that would be your pig, and it would be squealing. That would be pig squeal. The voice itself would be pig squeal. And what it was squealing for was pig slop, and you don’t eat pig slop, and you don’t listen to farm animals tell you what to do. So just ignore it. And as crude as that sounded – I’m always a little embarrassed at this point because I’m a sophisticated psychologist with all these credentials and experience, but that’s what worked for me. I don’t eat pig slop. I don’t listen to farm animals tell me what to do.
And the rest of it was really finessing the rules, coming up with the right rules to define a food plan, recognizing that everybody has to come up with their own food plan. It doesn’t really work when people just follow someone else’s, figuring out how to balance the restrictiveness of the food plan with a desire for freedom and achievement of all your health goals. And dealing with the part of myself and my clients who were frightened to draw those really hard lines in the sand – because people will say well, you can’t say never. What if you make a mistake? You’re going to just beat yourself up, and you don’t need the guilt. And there are all sorts of reasons why people are frightened of the words never and always. And you don’t have to use strict never and always rules, by the way. You could say I will only ever eat chocolate again on the weekends, or I’ll only ever eat pretzels at a Major League Baseball game. You can define the kind of person you want to be and when you want to do what. But if you are unwilling – what I’ve discovered is if you’re unwilling to make an externally-observable criteria that determined whether you are on your plan or off your plan, so 10 people that followed you around all day should be able to say yes, he did or no, he didn’t. If you’re not willing to do that then what happens is you can’t hear all the different things that you your inner pig, your inner lizard is going to say, and people tend to fail if you’re not willing to do that with this approach.
Hey just a couple questions going back a little bit. You made the comment that chocolate is for people that don’t feel love, and people that get stressed out will eat kind of salty snacks. Is there a category for like every food? So if somebody craves a certain thing does it typically say that they are missing a certain thing in their life?
There were three major findings. There wasn’t one for every food. There were three major findings. I’m not recalling the third one at the moment; I’m sorry. I can look it up and get back to you. The reason I’m not recalling it is because it turned out to not be that helpful. But those were the three that stood out. There were other very weak correlations, but I didn’t feel right about reporting them because they were not really strong enough to be noteworthy.
That’s really interesting. And then my second question is for the listeners you mentioned about what the food industry does to target people to eat more, and you know there’s so much research around diet sodas and high fructose corn syrup and what that does to the body. Talk a little bit about that, about the lengths that the food industry go to to make sure that you’re eating a lot of their food.
The Effects of Marketing on our Food Choices
Well I have a really good friend who was the VP of Marketing for a very well-known, very big diet company. And he told me that their pivotal insight that created major profits in their snack bar division was when they realized they should take the vitamins out of the bar so that they would taste better because didn’t like the taste of the vitamins, and they should put all their money into focusing on the packaging and advertising instead. And I think that is illustrative of how that industry works. There is a fortune to be made by stimulating your taste buds, by making you happy with what you’re eating, not necessarily healthy with what you’re eating.
And you know there are these research studies. I think it was Olds and Milner back in the ‘50s or ‘60s, and what they did – and for all the vegans out there this is not really an ethical experiment, but it really proves a point. What they did was they implanted electrodes in the brains of rats, implanted them in the pleasure centers, and they gave the rats a lever that could stimulate – so they could self-stimulate the pleasure centers. And what they found was the rats would press these levers thousands of times per hour to the exclusion of almost everything else. Pregnant mothers would abandon their nursing pups in order to press these buttons. Starving rats would keep pressing the buttons thousands of times a day instead of eating the food that was right in the cage. And what it says is that when you can artificially stimulate those evolutionary pleasure centers in the brain you can cause a situation where we’ll neglect self-care in order to pursue that pleasure.
And the other thing the industry knows – most people will say well advertising doesn’t affect me. Well here’s the rub. It affects you because you think it doesn’t affect you. When you believe that advertising is not affecting you, your sales resistance is down, and those messages go into your unconscious. And believe me, if they were not measuring the impact of advertising, if they didn’t know that it produced billions of dollars of profit, they would not be spending so much money on it. There are some of the most sophisticated, educated scientists figuring out how to get you – how to push your pleasure buttons without necessarily knowing that that’s what’s happening to disguise it with the packaging and the advertising. And as a result virtually everybody in our culture believes that they can’t survive without some industrially-produced, toxic thing that makes them feel good.
Thankfully you can overcome this once you realize what’s going on and you make some rules for yourself. What I usually tell people to do is to start with one rule, one food trigger that’s really driving you crazy which you know gee, if I could cut down on chocolate or get chocolate out of my life, then I know that things would be much better in a year. Well, start with one and learn that you have that power, and then try to replace the chocolate with some other naturally-occurring source of similar feeling. So if the chocolate gives you energy and makes you feel content, probably you’re craving some type of chlorophyll, maybe leafy green vegetables or leafy green vegetables with some type of fruit or something like that. Look to nature and think what people would actually be eating to get energy and try to replace it with that. You won’t get high with it in the same way that you would get high with chocolate. And by the way, a spinach and ripe banana smoothie with carob tastes like chocolate. It tastes like a chocolate shake. But you won’t get high in the same way that you would get with chocolate. Chocolate it’s full of theobromine and stimulants and all sorts of chemicals. But you can kill the craving and feel content. And the more that you do that, the more that your natural survival drive starts to reattach to what it was, to what nature really intended. So you can get away from this even though there are billions of dollars coming after you. But yeah, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on there.
You Can Be Successful On Your Own
I’m sorry, so if somebody is listening and recognizes, maybe thinks they have a binge eating problem, are there certain steps? It sounds like what you just described might be the first step. Take us through the steps of, first of all, can you do it by yourself, or do you actually need a professional to help you through it?
My opinion differs than the standards of care in my practice here, so I have to make a disclaimer that I am offering this as a coach and as an educator and not as a licensed psychologist. I believe that you can do it by yourself. I believe that even with drug and alcohol addiction the majority of people who successfully quit do it on their own. And the only scientific studies that – scientifically-controlled studies that the 12-step programs have to offer suggest that the abstinence results are either at parity or worse than doing nothing at all. So everyone walking around saying the only cure are these go to 90 meetings in 90 days and first step is admitting you’re powerless and everything like that, there’s no evidence for that. It’s a chronic, progressive disease, and doing push-ups in the – there’s no evidence for that. There really isn’t. If it’s working for you, then stay. If you’re in a 12-step program and it’s working for you, or you’re working with a psychologist, then absolutely stay.
I do offer coaching to help people to customize what I do, and a lot of times people don’t get it all on their own, and they feel like they need the help. But hundreds and hundreds of people write in and tell me they read the book and they’ve been doing this and they’ve lost all this weight. And it’s entirely possible to do it on your own. And the reason is that we have the inborn hardwired ability to risk, to inhibit any impulse. It’s just like, I mean when you pass an attractive woman on the street, I don’t know about you but I don’t grab them and kiss them, and it’s just kind of inborn and natural that even though I have that strong impulse I don’t do it. If you pass a bank, you don’t run in and rob the bank even though you’d like to have the money. There are all these things that we don’t do because we’ve decided that we’re not the type – we’re not a bank robber. We’re not the type of person that runs out and accosts women on the street. So it’s just a matter of deciding the kind of person you want to be. People say well I can’t stop eating chocolate, and I’ll say well, no, maybe you can’t, but you can become the kind of person who never eats chocolate, couldn’t you? We can all decide the kind of people that we are. We can all make decisions of character. And I think this is really just common sense that I’m kind of codifying and packaging up in an entertaining way.
It’s like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. We’ve always had the ability to go home every time we want to. We’re all hanging around and drowning in shallow water. We just need to stand up and breathe. That’s my very firm belief. After 30 years of trying to get help for myself and going to professional after professional and program after program, and then finally figuring out that I just don’t eat pig slop; farm animals don’t tell me what to do, that’s my experience. That’s the experience of a lot of people that I work with, and I don’t have a scientifically-controlled study to prove that you can do it on your own. I don’t have the resources to do that right now. But it seems to me that it’s only common sense and that the notion that free will and responsibility don’t exist and that you can only abstain one day at a time by hanging out with other people who say that free will and responsibility don’t exist, it doesn’t make sense to me. It just never made sense to me. And I think it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people.
Glenn, do you feel that the battle you’ve gone through and what you’ve overcome has made you a better practitioner in your daily life, too?
Well yeah, of course, because when you eat healthy you’re more present for whatever you’re going to do. So not only does it make me a better practitioner because I’ve got the capacity to feel any feeling without acting it out. I can tolerate any level of emotional discomfort and be in the room with a client and be 100% present for them without having to escape those feelings with chocolate, or pizza or pasta. So of course I think it made me a better practitioner. But I also think that it made me a better uncle, a better brother. I think it makes me more able to be in an intimate relationship. I think it makes me a better hiker. Nothing like hiking clean, getting to the top and having a whole sack of blueberries and leafy green vegetables and feeling how your body just feels so vibrantly alive. I think that getting the junk out of your system and then having the confidence that you can keep the junk out of your system, I think there’s no greater gift for me.
So Glenn, what’s your typical day’s worth of food now?
Well, before I – I will tell you that, but before I tell you that I want you to know that there was a lot of years for me to evolve to this. I really didn’t eat like this to start, and this philosophy is diet agnostic, so I help a lot of people who eat completely differently than I do. I am a raw vegan. I have evolved to believe that we are really supposed to eat like all the other anthropoid primates eat, which is largely fruits and vegetables with some nuts and seeds. I believe that there’s no other animal in nature that’s born with a stove on its back, and I know about all of the – I know about all of the toxic carcinogenic chemicals that are created by cooking and [Maillard] reactions and heterocyclic amines and all of the – I know a lot of the science behind what cooking really does. And so I really evolved to just eat like a gorilla would evolve, would eat more or less. And the closer I do that, the better I am. The closer I do to that the better I am. So I’ll eat an awful lot of fruit. I’ll eat an awful lot of leafy green vegetables. I have a few nuts and seeds or an avocado or something like that. If I really want to lapse into some cooked food, then I will have some usually some cooked beans with a lot of green vegetables. And that’s what I eat. Most people upon hearing that want to run the other way.
So I’ll tell you that I work with people who eat Paleo, I work with people who eat ultralow carb, I work with people who eat macrobiotic, I work with people who do Weight Watchers. It doesn’t matter. Most people by this point in their life when they’re listening to a show like this have experimented with a bunch of diets and they know what makes them feel healthiest. I happen to have – I happen to believe that industry and marketing of a lot of the diets kind of interferes with your experiencing what nature really intends. But it doesn’t matter because you’ll get there. If you just start eliminating things that are giving you trouble and adding some greens and maybe some fruit, your body will start adjusting. You’ll start having the cravings for more natural things, and over the years you’ll get to something that really works for you.
Yeah, that’s great. Do you think you’ll be a raw vegan the rest of your life?
I believe so. I believe so. Now what we didn’t talk about was what does it really mean to never binge again because people are fighting with the word never. When you say I’ll never binge again what you’re really doing is you’re like an archer standing up and aiming at the bullseye, and you’re clearing away you’re vision, and you’re clearing away the path of any blurriness so you can see the bullseye 100%. You are empowering yourself to purge your mind of all doubt and insecurity regarding whether or not you’re going to hit the bullseye. Does that mean you’re going to hit the bullseye? No. Archers don’t hit the bullseye every time. But if they don’t hit the bullseye they don’t say well, screw it. Now I’m just going to aim at the side of the target, or I’m going to just shoot all my arrows away. They get up and they with 100% confidence and presence aim at the center of the target again. And if you keep getting up and aiming at the center of the target, you can’t help but become a better archer.
The problem with the way that our culture does things is they say have guidelines instead of rules. Just try to do the best you can 90% of the time. But if I do 90% my best today and 90% my best tomorrow what happens is that kind of turns into 81% the day after that and 73% the day after that. And it starts to deteriorate. And it’s almost like putting an obstacle between you and the bullseye. So you can change your food plan anytime you want to. I tell people not to do it impulsively. Don’t let their pig change their food plan. But the word never, what it does is it creates this crystal-clear line in the sand so that there is no situation whatsoever that the pig can squeal about that you won’t hear. And then you can move where the target is later on if you want to.
I will probably be a raw vegan the rest of my life. I believe it’s the ultimate way to eat, at least for me, probably for everyone, but I don’t, like I said, I don’t push that. I’ve never felt better in my life. People tell me that I’m glowing. I’m more easily thin than I’ve ever been. I don’t have very many cravings whatsoever. I can eat as much as I want to without worrying about it. Doug Graham says if you control the quality of your food, then the quantity takes care of itself. You don’t have to worry about it. So I think the short answer is probably yes, but I wanted you to understand how that fits into the paradigm that we’re talking about.
Yeah, that’s pretty cool. So for the listeners, if somebody is troubled with this what would be your top couple tips that you would give them not to despair or where to look for information or how to start?
Can I tell them about some resources that I have available for free?
Oh yeah, absolutely.
Free Resources to Help You Stop Binge Eating
We’re talking about this in theory, and sometimes it’s a little crass in theory or a little off-putting in theory. But if you were to listen to me work with clients in practice you’d find this to be a very compassionate philosophy. And so what I did was I recorded a whole bunch of full-length sessions that you can get at neverbingeagain.com. If you go to neverbingeagain.com and click on the big free red button that says free reader bonuses, that will take you to a set of downloads, and you’ll get some of those sessions. You will get a set of food plan starter templates. You can see the kinds of rules that work for people depending upon the type of dietary philosophy they have. So there’s one for Paleo. There’s one for low-carb. There’s one for vegan. There’s one for vegetarian. There’s one for calorie counters. There’s one for anything you can practically think of. And there are a bunch of recordings that you can listen to if you happen to make a mistake that will help you adopt this type of mindset and get back up and hit the bullseye more quickly so you can use the present moment to be healthy and not get carried away with the screw it response, well I’ll start again tomorrow. That does more damage than anything else. So neverbingeagain.com.
Oh, and I didn’t tell you that the book is available for free on the Kindle and Nook and also in PDF format. And if you go to the same place just go sign up for the free bonuses and we’ll send you to all the right links to get the book for free. So neverbingeagain.com, that’s the place I would send you, and the thing to remember is that it’s a lot less complicated than it seems to be. And there’s a lot more hope than you might have been led to believe. All you need to do to never binge again is never binge again. You don’t have to sit by the river for years contemplating your navel. You don’t have to smack yourself in the head with a spatula. You don’t have to do years and years of moral inventories. All you need to do to never binge again is never binge again. And I know that most people out there listening to me probably don’t believe that, but go listen to some of this stuff. Read the book. Try it out with one rule, and you will find it’s rare that people try this that they don’t at minimum find some new found power to control themselves that they didn’t have before. Neverbingeagain.com, that’s where I’d send people.
We’re running out of time, but what would be your closing remarks?
Jim Rohn said that a life of discipline is better than a life of regret. A lot of people resist this type of approach because they feel like they would be to constricted, but if you think about a jazz pianist, a jazz pianist can’t improvise and express themselves unless they know the scales and they practice them with discipline first. Think about your car. You can’t drive anyplace you want to unless the engineers set up your car so that precisely when you turn 30° your wheels would turn at – you turn the steering wheel at 30° your wheels turn 30°. The freedom you experience in your life is based upon discipline. And I think Jim Rohn was right when he said a life of discipline is better than a life of regret. I think freedom sits on top of discipline. Discipline does not – doesn’t interfere with freedom; it enhances it. That’s what I would have to say.
Well, we are out of time, so Jacob?
Powerful discussion, Glenn. Thank you. The simplicity that you communicated it was very enjoyable. Thank you.
Thanks, Jacob. I enjoyed it, too. I hope it helps people.
So thank you so much for being on our show. I think the listeners are really going to get a lot out of this, and we will tie everything back to your website so they can get a hold of you and read your book and get the help if they need it. Thank you so much, Dr. Livingston, for being on our show today.
Thank you so much, and you can call me Glenn, but I guess it’s a little late to say that. Okay. Thank you.
All right. Thank you.