The life that we have are dictated by the choices that we ultimately make. This can be strongly applied to the amount of food we take in every day. Today, Rodney Flowers talks to veteran psychologist Glenn Livingston, Ph.D. about fighting bingeing and overeating. Battling his own inner pig, Glenn was inspired to author Never Binge Again, a book that aims to change your mindset on how you approach things. Narrating his journey on how he got started with overeating and bingeing, Glenn illustrates its causes in our society and culture. If you’re trying to lose weight or trying to stop bingeing, you definitely will want to tune in to this episode.
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Fighting Bingeing And Overeating: How To Battle Your Inner Pig With Glenn Livingston, Ph.D
As always, I am excited about the show. I have Glenn Livingston with me. Glenn is a PhD. He’s also a veteran psychologist and was the long-time CEO of a multimillion-dollar consulting firm, which has serviced several Fortune 500 clients in the food industry. You may have seen his company or his work previously in major periodicals like The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, The Indiana Star Ledger, the New York Daily News and many other media outlets you see. You may have also seen him on ABC, WGN and CBS Radio. Disillusioned by what traditional psychology had to offer overweight and/or food-obsessed individuals, Dr. Livingston spent several decades researching the nature of binge eating and overeating via work with his patients and self-funded research program with more than 40,000 participants. Please help me welcome Dr. Glenn Livingston to the show. Welcome.
Thanks for having me, Rodney. It’s good to be here. I was looking forward to this.
Thank you. I’m glad to have you here. You’ve written this book. It sounds like it’s very popular. Tell us a little bit about your book and what inspired you to write.
The book is called Never Binge Again and it was originally a journal that I kept for a few years as I was battling my own inner pig as I like to talk about it. A lot of people don’t like that word. They like to call it a food monster or a junkyard dog or whatever it is. I called it my inner pig. That was the result of having spent a lifetime trying the psychological route. I’m the son of two psychotherapists in a family of seventeen psychotherapists. My mom, my dad, my stepmom, my stepdad, my sister and her husband, my cousins, my aunts and my uncles are all therapists. The standing joke is that if something breaks in the house, we all know how to ask it, how it feels, but nobody knows how to fix it.
The reason that’s important is that I had this depth psychology approach. I had a serious eating problem. I’m 6’4″. I’m reasonably muscular. When I was a teenager, I figured out that if I worked out for 2 or 3 hours a day, I could eat whatever I wanted to, a couple of pizzas, boxes of muffins, boxes of chocolate bars. It didn’t matter. I stayed relatively thin and tall and had a lot of energy. I slept a bunch after I will go to town. I thought it was great. I didn’t think it was a problem. When I got older and I was married and I had responsibilities. I was commuting two hours a day each way to graduate school and I had patients and I was trying to run a business at the same time. I didn’t have time to work out like that, but the food had a hold on me and I kept eating like that. I started getting fatter.
The top weight was probably somewhere between 280 and 300. I don’t know exactly what it was because I stopped weighing myself. Being from a family of psychologists, I figured, “That must be because there was a hole in my heart. If I could fill that hole in my heart, then I would stop trying to fill the hole in my stomach.” I went to the best psychologist around. We grew up in New York City in this kind of a family, you better believe that I knew the best psychologists in the area. I would talk to them about my past. I’d have all these soulful conversations and I would cry or I would scream where I’d do all the things that you do in psychology.
It was a soulful journey. I don’t regret it at all. It’s a big part of who I am and why I’m a compassionate human being but it didn’t help me to stop bingeing. I went to a psychiatrist, I took medication. I went to Overeaters Anonymous for a lot of years. I probably get better for a while and then I get a lot worse. Eventually, I started to suspect the three different reasons that maybe this love yourself then nurture your inner wounded child stuff wasn’t working. Three things started to support that hypothesis. The first was I looked at the neurology of addiction and it was in its infancy back then. We know a lot more about it now.
What I recognized was that it was the more primitive structures of the brain that were responsible for addiction. What the big food companies are targeting with their billions of dollars of research into all these hyper-palatable concentrations of starch, sugar, fat and oil and excite toxins that are all targeted to hit our bliss point without giving us enough nutrition to feel satisfied. The real structures in the brain that they are targeting are in the lizard brain, the primitive brain. When the primitive brain looks at something in the environment, it doesn’t know love. It says, “Do I eat it? Do I mate with it or do I kill it?” Eat, mate, or kill. There’s no love there.
All these years I’m spending trying to love myself out of an addiction, but the part of the brain that responds to addiction doesn’t know love. I was doing a lot of consulting for big food because I don’t have kids and I never commuted because my ex-wife traveled for business a lot. I had a lot of time on my hands and I developed this consulting career for big food and big pharma. I wish I never did it because I was on the wrong side of the war but I did. I saw what they were doing. Not only were they engineering these food-like substances with smart people, like rocket scientists that are figuring out how to pitch your survival drives like that. They were partnered with big advertising and everybody thinks advertising doesn’t affect them, but it turns out it affects you more if you think it doesn’t affect you because your cell’s resistance is down.
I was consulting for a major food bar manufacturer who shall remain nameless so I don’t get sued. The VP of marketing told me there that their most profitable insight was taking the vitamins out of the bar. You took the vitamins out of the bar and that was the most profitable thing. He said, “First of all, they are expensive. Secondly, they make it taste worse. Thirdly, we needed the money to put into the packaging instead.” We made the packaging look vibrant and colorful. In nature, a diversity of vibrant colors signals a diversity of available nutrients. If you think of a salad with purple cabbage, red tomatoes, yellow carrots and green lettuce, your brain is wired to respond to that to say, “That’s where I get my antioxidants. That’s where I get my vitamins and minerals.”If you start collecting evidence that you can't stop eating, you're going to develop a failure identity. Click To Tweet
They’re pushing our evolutionary buttons, but they’re not necessarily giving us what those evolutionary buttons were designed to find. I said to myself, “That’s an overwhelming external force that has nothing to do with whether my mama didn’t love me enough. It has nothing to do with playing peekaboo with my sister or whatever. That has to do with an external force that everybody is vulnerable to.” I looked at the addiction treatment industry and they’re telling us that you can’t hope to quit even if you want to. The best you can do is abstain one day at a time. There’s no evidence for that.
There’s more evidence that says, “We can quit if we want to.” It seemed like it was this perfect storm of external forces, not psychological forces, more like sociological forces and more like industrial forces that were trying to hijack this organ inside of me. I said, “Okay.” I’d read another book about addiction by Jack Trimpey called Rational Recovery and he works largely with drugs and alcohol. I called them the black and white addictions for the things you can quit entirely as opposed to food, where you have to take the line out of the cage and walking around the block a few times a day.
He was an advocate of what he calls common-sense recovery, where you separate your thinking into thoughts that are coming largely from your primitive brain and thoughts that are coming largely from your prefrontal cortex, your neocortex, the upper parts of your brain. Whereas the primitive brain says, “Eat, mate or kill.” The upper brain says, “Before you eat, mate or kill that thing, what impact is that going to have on my long-term goals like health and fitness and weight loss and things like that? Also, what impact does that have on my loved ones, my tribe, and the person I want to be in society, my contribution, spirituality, music, art, faith and all that thing? What impact does that have on that?”
He said, “It’s like you’ve got two personalities. You’ve got you, the upper part. You’ve got this thing, which is an organ. It’s like a thing inside you.” He’s got another name for it and it’s protective of his trademark so I’m careful not to say that. I said to myself, “It’s not without precedent that I could take control of a bodily organ,” like an alpha wolf takes control and puts down the lead challengers to the pack. By the way, if a challenger in a wolf pack challenges the alpha wolf, the alpha wolf doesn’t say, “Someone needs a hug.” The alpha wolf growls and snarls and says, “Get back in line or I’ll kill you. I’m the boss. You’re not the boss. Who do you think you are? Get back in line. We’ll do this my way.”
It’s the same thing with your bladder or your testicles. If I had to pee badly, I would say “That’s too bad, Mr. Bladder, we’re in the middle of an interview. This is important to me. I want to do a good job for Rodney and his audience. This is part of who I want to be in the world. We’ll take care of you later on.” You can’t ignore the need entirely. There’s always an authentic need. You can never make a rule that says, “I’ll never pee again.” Your bladder is going to tell you otherwise eventually. You can take control of the timing and the place and the circumstance. When my testicles see an attractive woman in the street, I don’t run up to her and kiss her. I might want to but I don’t. I take control because I’m a civilized human being. That’s the type of person I want to be in the world. I take control like that alpha wolf, I say, “Get back in line, we’ll take care of that a different time.” Unfortunately, if you’re a bachelor, that could be a long way away.
It’s embarrassing, but what I did, despite my years of sophistication as a psychologist, there was the 40,000-person study also. I’ll tell you a little more about that. Despite all that, I came up with a primitive solution and I wasn’t going to publish this. Initially, I didn’t even work with people who overeat because I knew I had a serious eating disorder myself. I would refer them to specialists. I was working with couples, families and suicidal people and things like that. If someone had an eating disorder, I didn’t work with them. This is what this sophisticated psychologist who had done these millions of dollars of consulting and had this large child and family who practice it. I decided I had this pig inside me and I would make a rule. It would be a hard and fast rule, but drew a clear line.
For example, most of my binges started with chocolate. I would say, “I will never eat chocolate on a weekday again. I’ll only ever eat chocolate on the weekends.” I wanted to get some control back. I said, “If I hear any voice in my head that says, “Glenn, you could start tomorrow or you worked out hard enough, you could have some chocolate. It’s not going to make a difference. Chocolate comes from a cocoa bean and that grows on a plant. It’s a vegetable.” Any voice like that in my head I decided, was my pig squealing for pig slop. The chocolate during the week was pig slop. I would say to myself, “I don’t eat pig slop and I don’t let farm animals tell me what to do.”
This sophisticated psychologist that’s what I decided to do and an experiment inside my own head. What happened was I wish I could tell you it was a miracle and immediately I stopped. That’s not what happened. What did stop immediately was the sense of powerlessness, confusion and hopelessness. Up until that point, I thought it was some mysterious psychological insight that I’d been told with some chronic progressive, mysterious disease. That we don’t understand, but we know it’s doing pushups on the closet and getting stronger all the time. I was told that I couldn’t quit if I wanted to.
I was walking around feeling powerless. If I pass a chocolate bar at the checkout line, I’m dead. I can’t go into a supermarket because I’m dead to rights. It’s going to be 1 chocolate bar and then 6 chocolate bars. I don’t even go to the pizza place, I don’t even go to Burger King. I was terrified. I was walking around terrified of checkout lanes. What happened was I don’t need pig slop. I don’t let farm animals tell me what to do, as primitive and crude as it sounds, it would wake me up at the moment of impulse and give me the opportunity to make a choice. It would give me the opportunity to remember why I decided to make the rule in the first place. Sometimes I’d make the right choice and sometimes I wouldn’t. I never felt like I was being overtaken by this irresistible power anymore. Over time, I experimented with different rules. I added things that I would always do.
I’ll always have two glasses of pure spring water before I go and get any junk food or I would add conditional rules. I never eat pretzels outside of the Major League Baseball park. There are some things I decided I would never do again. I would never have flour again. I tell all my clients, “Your food rules are entirely up to you.” That’s what I realized. I said, “This is silly. Why am I breaking my own rules? I could make any rule that I want to.” I did, I adjusted the rules to something that I would comply with. Before you know it, I started to be eating a bunch less and I started to be complying with the rules. I felt silly having this pig inside me. No one knew about it because I kept a journal with all of the things it said and my answers to it.
When I got relatively thin, my blood numbers came down and it stopped yelling at me. As I was getting divorced, they asked me why I wrote the book because I was getting divorced. I was a minor partner in a publishing company. I owned 8%. The CEO asked me if I could write a book. He said that they wanted to experiment with some marketing techniques that were long-term, but he thought they would be effective. Everybody is trying to shortcut the algorithms and everything. He said, “What if we give them exactly what they’re looking for? It takes longer.” I did, I wrote the book. I sent it to him. He was a fat guy too, by the way. A couple of weeks later, he calls me back and he says, “Glenn, that’s your pig slop. I don’t eat pig slop. I don’t let farm animals tell me what to do.” He lost 86 pounds.
The book was published before then and it took off. Now, we’ve got I don’t know exactly how many readers, I know we’re pushing to a million. Somewhere in the next few months, we’re going to get to a million. There are 2,800 reviews. It’s crazy. People don’t quite know my name, but they recognize me from a lot of these videos. I can be in a bookstore and once in a while, someone would come up to me and point at me and go, “Pig guy,” which is not something you want to happen on a first date, but that’s what it is. I go around telling people that. I’ve got a pig inside of me and they don’t have to feel out of control with food. There are things you can do about it.
First of all, congratulations on those numbers. That’s a big success there. Why do you think you got started with overeating and bingeing in the first place? Where does this start?
There are a variety of factors. In some ways, asking the question, “Why can’t I stop eating?” was a mistake. When there’s a fire raging, you don’t necessarily ask why the fire started. Who set the fire? You act like a fireman and you put out the fire first. You can be a detective later on and it might be interesting. The other reason that people shouldn’t be asking those questions exhaustively, it’s okay to ask a little bit is that when you say, “Why can’t I stop eating?” You’re programming your brain to look for evidence that you can’t stop eating. If you start collecting evidence that you can’t stop eating in the search to figure out why you can’t stop eating, you’re going to develop a failure identity.
I prefer people to ask, “How can I stop eating? What are the practical things I can do to stop eating?” You might never figure out why. I’ll tell you a story. In that 40,000-person study, this is towards trying to figure out why. In the study that I did, three interesting things came out of it. One of them was people who struggle with chocolate as I did. They tended to be lonely or brokenhearted. I was in a bad marriage. I was lonely and brokenhearted and that made sense. People who struggled with crunchy, salty things like chips and pretzels, they tended to be stressed at work. People who struggled with soft, chewy things like bread or bagels or pasta, they tended to be stressed at home. Before I was going to start talking about that publicly or anything, I figured I had to fix this for myself.
I called my mom, who is not only my mom, but she’s also a psychotherapist and would find this interesting and also a chocolate addict herself. I said, “Mom, there are a lot of things in my present life. I’m in a bad marriage, etc. that are causing me to be lonely or brokenhearted. Where does this connection to chocolate when I’m feeling lonely or brokenhearted wind-up?” She gets this horrible look on her face. I said, “Mom, it’s okay. Whatever it is, it was many years ago. I love you. I’m trying to figure this out. All is forgiven. I want to know.”
She says, “I’m sorry.” I said, “Mom, what is it?” She said, “When you were one-year-old in 1965, your dad was a captain in the Army. They were talking about sending him to Vietnam and we were trying to get pregnant with your sister.” I was terrified I was going to be an Army widow with two small kids and I was going to miss your dad. I was paralyzed with fear a lot of the time.” At the same time, your grandfather, my dad, my mother’s father, just got out of prison and she said, “I didn’t know that he was guilty.” I’d idolized this man my whole life and I found out these things about him and all of a sudden he was gone.
On top of the anxiety and fear, I was horrifically depressed. Half the time when you would be coming to run to me for food, love, hugs, kisses or playing, I didn’t have that. I didn’t have the wherewithal to do that because I was sitting and staring at the wall. What I decided to do was to put a bottle of Bosco Chocolate Syrup in a small refrigerator on the floor. I’d say, “Glenn, go and get your Bosco. You go crawling over to the refrigerator on the floor, you’d grab the bottle, you open the cap, you suck on the top and you’d go into a chocolate sugar coma.” I thought, “My goodness.” If this were the movies, then mom and I would have a big hug and a big cry at that moment. I would never have trouble with chocolate again.
At that point, my chocolate addiction got worse. The reason it got worse was that there was this voice in my head that said, “Glenn, you’re right. Our mama didn’t love us enough. She left a great big chocolate-sized hole in her heart. Until we can get out of this marriage and find the love of our life, we’re going to have to keep right on bingeing on chocolate. Let’s do it. Let’s get some.” That was around the same time that I was doing the reading about neurology and reading Jack Trimpey’s work. I decided that I was going to have to be an alpha wolf. I realized that if you think of the emotion like a fire, people think that emotion causes overeating. That emotion is what is it burning down the house. You could have a roaring fire, a well-contained fireplace in the living room and that becomes the center of hearth and home. There’s nothing wrong with having deep, intense and problematic emotions. The fire can only burn down the house if there’s a hole in the fireplace and an ember can escape. Even when ember can escape and then it can burn down the house.
There’s this voice of justification that’s poking holes in the fireplace. When it says, “We can start tomorrow,” all these other things it does to rationalize overeating, that’s poking a little hole in the fireplace. In working with my pig and writing down all the rationalizations it had for breaking my rules and then neutralizing those rationalizations, what I did discover was that it was much easier to fix the holes in the fireplace and stop the pig from poking more holes in them than to put out the fire in the first place. Finding the love of your life, ladies, I’m still single. It could take a lifetime to find the person you’re supposed to be with, if ever. I’m still trying, but if I’m going to wait until that happens, I’m going to be a fat guy. If I’m going to keep eating chocolate because I feel lonely, depressed, or pining away and wish I had someone, I’m going to be a fat guy.If your pig is saying anything, then it's up to no good and you might as well ignore it. Click To Tweet
Most therapists will tell you, they would rather you quit overeating and dealt with the feelings and they can help you a lot quicker with all the feelings you have if you’re not overwhelming them with food. You’re not running away from them with food all the time. Why did I start? That’s why I started, but the other reason that I started is because of these overwhelming external forces, industry, advertising and addiction treatment. Even the economic workforce is set up so that we get some quick calories on a lunch break and we get through the day with stimulants.
We don’t have time to chop and prepare a big giant salad at our desk at lunch. The corporations and people we’re working for want us to get back and be productive. It’s a perfect storm to overwhelm our best judgment, make us all overeat. As a consequence because it’s difficult to resist all of this. It doesn’t have to be but it is. Because there are these overwhelming forces, everybody in society seems to have this tacit agreement to slowly kill themselves with food. Everybody says a little of this in moderation. They go out and have a couple of drinks with lunch. You walk out of McDonald’s, you see a Burger King across the street. Look at the way our society has developed. That’s contrasted to drug addiction or alcohol addiction where you wind up in the dregs of society and you’re starting to be shunned. With food addiction, you can find all the friends you want that are going to tell you, “You’re doing fine. Let’s go to McDonald’s, let’s go to Burger King and let’s chow down.” I don’t mean to single them out because there are hundreds of food establishments and concoctions available for us to indulge in if we want to.
This is an epidemic. I feel the thing that you’re describing is the cause of bingeing and overeating in our society and culture. I don’t see that changing. As soon as you’re born into this world, this is a major challenge and you have to get on top of it because if not, it could be detrimental. It’s inclusive of the emotional stress and strains that we’re going to have just being a human being and alive. We’re going to go through things that are going to challenge us emotionally and how we deal with those things. We’re going to reach for what’s available. You have these advertisements right there. How does one deal with this?
The best defense is a good offense. It requires some thinking work. Henry Ford said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is. That’s why almost nobody does it.” I ask people to start by thinking about one simple rule. What’s the smallest rule you could commit to that would make a difference in your health and wellbeing but wouldn’t feel too burdensome? Don’t start by trying to lose all this weight. Don’t start by designing a whole food plan. What’s one simple thing you could do? Maybe I’ll never get in the car again. Maybe I always put my fork down between bites. I know a guy who lost 150 pounds starting with, “I’ll never go back for seconds.” He ate entirely in fast food places. He was a trucker. He’s driving around and he said, “I’ll never go back for a second. I can eat whatever I want to in the first round.” As soon as you say that, there’s this other part of your brain that goes, “You can’t do that.” What about when you’re tired? What about when you’re angry? What about when you’re at Christmas dinner?” That’s your pig. You can decide to separate your human identity from your pig or your food monster. To start to look more carefully at what the food monster is saying. I’m going to keep using pig because that’s what I do for myself.
When your pig says, “You can start tomorrow. We can start tomorrow.” The rest of that is that it’s as easy. It’s not going to be any different. First of all, even if you don’t gain any weight from what you’ve binged on, what we know about neurology is what fires together wires together. What that means is if you have a craving for chocolate and you reinforced that craving by eating chocolate, your craving for chocolate is going to be stronger tomorrow. If you have a craving for chocolate and you don’t eat the chocolate, your craving for chocolate is going to be less. I say every craving’s an opportunity, bring it on because you can’t kill the craving without having a craving. Every food choice is an opportunity for self-harm or self-love.
Make those one rules, make those simple rules and then start to write down all the things that your pig says and ask yourself, “Where’s the lie in this?” Sometimes you have to do a little research. I remember my pig said, “A little bit of extra salt on your broccoli won’t hurt. The broccoli is healthy for you. You’re doing great. Why don’t you load up the salt? You don’t have high blood pressure. It’s not a problem.” I struggled with that for a long time because I couldn’t see, but I know it didn’t feel right after I had broccoli with a lot of salt. Eventually, I did some research and I found that even if you do have high blood pressure, that excess salt seriously increases the risk of a hyperbaric stroke independent of high blood pressure. It interferes with the action of a hormone called aldosterone, which is responsible for salt regulation in your system. It’s responsible for what happens when you sweat and how your body naturally detoxifies itself.
It all started with making a rule and then researching why my pig is trying to get me to break it. When I did that research and I found the additional information, I said, “This isn’t true what the pig is saying.” The pig says, “It doesn’t matter because you don’t have high blood pressure, but it does.” First, you have to pay attention to the squeals and then we’ve enumerated them almost exhaustively in years of doing coaching and everything like that. You pay attention to them and then you figure out how you disempower them, whereas the logic.
Even if you can’t disempower them, however, by definition, because you’ve decided that your pig, has any thought, feeling, impulse or desire that suggests that you will ever break your rule. You know that if it is your pig, if your pig is saying anything, then it’s up to no good and you might as well ignore it. You don’t have to have these answers right away. It helps to research them and dispute them over time. One simple role, make sure you’re eating plenty of healthy nutrition. Don’t restrict yourself too much. Don’t focus on weight loss. Focus on overall wellbeing. Then listen for your pig, dispute or ignore your pig and walk around with confidence and an attitude, “I don’t listen to farm animals. I don’t let them tell me what to do.
I think about the person, however, that may be obsessed with food. Maybe they constantly think about food. They know they’re overweight and they think about their weight all the time but they continue to eat. They’ve tried these rules, they’ve tried several diets and things like that. What do you say to that person who truly, emotionally wants to stop eating, wants to lose weight, but can’t get themselves to?
I remember being at dinner with a bunch of friends and I met this new guy and he was a chubby guy. The moment he found out I was a weight loss author, he got mad. He said, “I don’t eat because I want to be fat. I eat because I’m hungry.” That’s true to most people, I don’t think anybody wants to be fat. I don’t think anybody is consciously and purposely going out and planning to have potato chips, pizza, chocolate and things like that. I certainly didn’t want to be fat. There’s an activation of the emergency system in our brains, which overrides our best judgment at those moments. It has to do with the feast and famine response.
Most overeaters are also good dieters. They put themselves through periods where they’re trying to make up for their overeating by extra exercise, having juices, doing a water fast, or having one meal per day or something like that. I don’t dispute the medical benefits of fasting. That’s terrific, but I can tell you that if you’re caught up in a cycle of dieting and bingeing that you might want to step out of that mentality for a while and have regular meals throughout the day. You’re stabilizing your blood sugar much more regularly and there you’re staving off that feast and famine response.
There’s also the fight and flight response where the brain perceives there to be an emergency that you need this to survive. We know from animal studies that were done. If you shortcut the pleasure system of the brain and you insert an electrode in the nucleus accumbens and you let a rat, for example, self-stimulate by pushing a lever. All they want to do is push that lever thousands of times per day and they’ll ignore their survival needs. A starving rat will ignore its food and press that lever thousands of times per day. That rat doesn’t want to die. The shortcut of the pleasure system has overwhelmed it. It seeks getting high as opposed to a nursing mother rat will ignore her pups to press a button thousands of times a day. Male rats will crawl over painful electrical grids to get to that button and keep pressing it. It’s powerful what’s happening. I don’t think anybody’s putting electrodes in our brain.
Look at what’s happening and the level of chemicals and super-concentrated forms of starch, sugar, fat and oil that are going into what we’re eating. Most people aren’t bingeing on broccoli. Most people are bingeing on industrial foods and we didn’t have any chocolate bars in the Savanna. We didn’t have any Doritos, Pop-Tarts or Pretzels which wasn’t there. We have to be careful about blaming the victim and saying, “You’re doing this because you want to be fat. You’re doing this because you’re self-destructive or you hate yourself or something like that.” There are demonstrable addictive processes that are fostered by industry. That every time that we look for love at the bottom of a bag or a box or a container, there’s some fat cat in a white suit with a mustache that’s laughing all the way to the back. I tell people to start to turn your shame into anger. Did you see the movie Network?
No, I have not seen the movie Network.
It’s a great movie. There’s this one time when this newscaster gets fed up and he says, “I want you to all go to your windows. I want you to say, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.’” Rather than continuing to blame yourself and search for all these deep-seated answers about why you hate yourself and why you can’t love yourself enough to eat well. You need to make these practical approaches and look at your nutrition, see if you are overly depriving yourself in any way because you want to lose weight quickly. That’s almost always the culprit of these constant reversals of intent constantly changing your mind. People are inadvertently triggering their feast and famine response. It only makes sense if your brain thinks that it lives in an environment where enough calories and nutrition are constantly unavailable. The moment that you signal it that it is available, that it’s going to take in as much as it can. What do I do with those people? I turn their shame into anger. I tried to alleviate the excessive guilt and self-castigation of the negative voices that run in their head. I look carefully. I’m not a nutritionist or a medical doctor, but I’d have them meet with one or look at their nutrition on their own.
Be sure that they’ve got an even level of blood sugar and nutrients throughout the day and getting enough nutrition so that there aren’t any legitimate nutritional cravings. We keep working on it and we say that this is a muscle. If you fall, get up and aim at the bull’s-eye again. Commit to perfection. Forgive yourself with dignity. It’s okay to feel some pain when you make a mistake. If I touch this hot stove by accident, I want that pain. If I don’t feel that pain, then I’m not going to know where the hot stove is next time. I don’t want to do, I want to feel the pain, pay attention and make my best adjustments so I don’t touch it again. What I don’t want to do is say, “I’ll forget it. I’m a pathetic hot stove toucher. I might as well put my whole hand down on the stove.” If I’m shooting at the bull’s-eye in an archery tournament and I missed the bull’s-eye. I don’t want to take all the rest of the arrows and shoot them up in the air and say, “Forget it. I’m a pathetic archer.”
If we’re wired so if you stand up and you aim at the bull’s-eye over and over again, keep on making adjustments, we have to get better. The Japanese saying is, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” This is why resilience is critical. It turns out that indulging yourself in the guilt, indulging in the self-castigation is your pig’s effort to get you to feel too weak and pathetic to resist the next binge. It’s binge-motivated. Once people understand that, it’s a lot easier for them to let go of that shame and guilt. With this new set of tools, they need crystal clarity with an understanding that they have to take responsibility for their own food plan and not keep following someone else’s with the ability to commit with perfection. They forgive themselves with dignity, with the ability to start to turn their shame into anger.
With the understanding that even though food does have an anesthetic effect on the emotions, that’s not all it does. The things that people were bingeing on are concentrations of pleasure that don’t exist in nature. It’s almost like a drug. I tell people, “Stop telling yourself that you’re comforting yourself with food. What you’re doing is trying to get high with food.” You’ll start to think of yourself more like a drug addict. Most people don’t want to do that. You combine all of those things and people start to have a sense of hope and enthusiasm that they didn’t have before.
How can people connect with you? How can they get your book and work with you if they wanted to?
Everything is through NeverBingeAgain.com. Click the big red button and sign up for the reader bonuses. There are three things you get that is important. One is a copy of the book in Kindle, Nook or PDF format and that’s free. If you want it in Audible or paperback, there’s a charge for that. The other thing is because I know this is a weird concept, in theory, you must be thinking, “Why the heck does Rodney have a psychologist with a pig inside of him?” It is a game-changer. This paradigm is a game-changer. What I did was I recorded a whole bunch of full-length coaching sessions so you can hear that it’s a compassionate thing to do in application and practice. You can hear people go from feeling powerless, confused and hopeless to feeling hopeful and enthusiastic in one session. I wanted you to hear how that works.It's okay to feel some pain when you make a mistake. Click To Tweet
The last thing I did was I put together a set of food plan starter templates for about any conceivable diet you could think of. Whether you’re trying to do point counting, calorie counting, ketogenic, macrobiotic, high carb or low carb, it doesn’t matter. We thought through the major categories and we wanted to show you an example of what a set of rules might look like so you could figure out which one rule you’d want to start with. I call them starter templates because if I give you a diet, your pig will eventually say, “Fat diet gurus, diet is no good anymore. That doctor’s diet is no good anymore. We might as well keep bingeing until we find another one.” If you look at things and you take responsibility for modifying it for yourself, then your pig doesn’t have that argument anymore. I don’t take responsibility for what people are reading. I’m not going to take any food away from you. I’m not going to tell you what you can or can’t eat. That’s up to you. At NeverBingeAgain.com, click the big red button.
Thank you for that. What is your mission?
To have a million people a year to stop binge eating, that’s my mission.
Are there other books coming or the tools other than the coaching? Are there other things that you’re working on?
I’ve written five more books. I’ve written a book on nighttime overeating because that seems to be a specialty problem that requires a specialty protocol that’s called An End to Nighttime Overeating. I’ve written a book on specific binge triggers because people say, “What about when I have my period? What about when I’m with my family? What about if I’m tired?” I wrote a book called 45 Binge Trigger Busters. I have another book called the 101 Best Food Rules. After coaching hundreds of people, we have seen what rules work and what rules don’t. We listed those all out. You can see all of my books at NeverBingeAgainBooks.com. We have a whole bunch of books. We have coaching and challenges and things like that, but you’ll find out about all that if you start with the free stuff. I tell everybody to start with the free stuff, listen to the recording sessions, listen to the podcast and you’ll get led everywhere you need to go.
Glenn, I want to say thank you for coming on the show. It’s been a wonderful conversation.
Thank you for having me. I hope I didn’t overtalk. I get all charged up about this.
This is serious. You don’t find many people talking about it, but there are a lot of people suffering from this binge eating. We need things and I’m grateful for you to be someone who’s taken a stand and putting a good product out there for people to utilize to overcome this. They’re dealing with the advertising and the smart people behind the scenes. This is the cause of the problem. This advertising and positioning products and food as not good for us, it looks good. We reach for it because it’s quick, it’s easy, but it may not be the right choice. There’s an emotional battle going on here. We have to educate ourselves on these things to make the right decisions. We need people like you to do that.
Thank you. I’m after it.
What is the game-changer mentality message you would like to leave with the audience here?
There are two quotes that I like that go well together. One of them was Jim Rohn who said, “A life of discipline is better than a life of regret.” I find that to be true. People are afraid that discipline is going to restrict their freedom. The truth is when you say something like, “I’ll never eat in the car again.” It doesn’t restrict your freedom, it expands your freedom. All of a sudden you feel lighter, freer and you’re better able to relate to people you’re talking to while you’re driving. You pay better attention to the road. You have more energy and all the things that go along with eating better. It expands your freedom. It doesn’t restrict your freedom. By not adopting a discipline, you’re closing off paths in the future. If you’re going to be heavy and your joints are going to ache and you’re going to be fearing diabetes, those are the things that your pig is planning for you in the future by telling you not to adopt any discipline or role. That’s one quote.
The other quote is, “You can have anything you want. You can’t have everything you want.” Peter McWilliams, who was a self-help guru in the ’80s, said that. I always thought that was the essence of life in many ways. You’ve got to make some choices for everything that you want. There’s something else you can’t have. The sooner you accept that, the better. Do it in a disciplined way. Choose what you want. Go for it with full force. You’ll be amazed at what you’re going to accomplish if you’re not distracting yourself with drugs, overeating and everything like that.
This all comes down to choices. The choices we make dictate the life that we live. That’s the game-changer here. At times we have to analyze our choices. A lot of times our results, what we’re experiencing can help us analyze the choices that we’re making. If you are overweight, you know you’ve been overeating, it’s time to take a look at some of the choices you’ve been making about food. Maybe pick up the book Never Binge Again. I tell people, “What you put in is what you can expect.” If you’re not putting good things in, you can’t expect good things to come out. A lot of times we have to fill our minds with things that are useful and valuable. When we do that, we can expect ourselves to make good decisions. Once you start making good decisions, you can expect better outcomes. Thank you, Dr. Glenn, for coming on the show.
Thanks, Rodney. It was great.
- Glenn Livingston
- Never Binge Again
- Rational Recovery
- An End to Nighttime Overeating
- 45 Binge Trigger Busters
- 101 Best Food Rules
About Glenn Livingston
Glenn Livingston, Ph.D. is a veteran psychologist and the former CEO of two consulting firms which provided millions of dollars of research to Fortune 500 clients, many in the food industry. You may have seen his (or his company’s) previous work, theories, and research in major periodicals like The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Indiana Star-Ledger, The NY Daily News, American Demographics, or any of the other major media outlets you see on this page. You may also have heard him on ABC, WGN, and/or CBS radio, or UPN TV.
Disillusioned by what traditional psychology had to offer overweight and/or food obsessed individuals, Dr. Livingston spent several decades researching the nature of binge eating and overeating via work with his own patients AND a self-funded research program with more than 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.
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