Food in plastic plan ahead boxes

Brightlines Bootcamp Versus a Whole Plant-Based Diet for Weight Loss

I lost 20 pounds in six weeks on Chef AJ’s plant-based approach. Using her book from 184 to 163 and then found Bright Lines Eating and lost another 12 pounds in 8 weeks. Then I went back to a plant-based diet and have continued to gradually clean up my diet and have been losing a little more weight each week.

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The distinction between food addiction and processed food addiction

The Bright Line eating system assumes that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is the normal diet and that only people with “special food addictions” have problems with a diet of mostly refined foods.

This mindset leads to a feeling of missing out and exclusion from the normal flow of life if you don’t eat refined and processed foods.

There really is no such thing as food addiction but Processed food addiction does exist and is very powerful and probably effects most people who eat the Standard American Diet.

It may not be the only reason people are overweight and obese but is probably a major reason for a lot of those of us who are.

Food addiction only happens with processed and highly concentrated foods depending upon how sensitive you are.

Addictive behaviors with food stem from eating processed foods

  • Flour of any kind including whole grain flour
  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Vegetable oil including coconut oil, and olive oil
  • Foods with a lot of salt added
  • Dairy, especially cheese
  • Too much healthy concentrated foods like dates, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds
  • Smoothies and juicing can also throw off the appetite and cause overeating and blood sugar issues. Any time you take out the fiber or break the fiber down too much it throws off absorption of the food

In her book Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free, Susan Pierce Thompson describes her lifelong addiction to processed foods. She has a food addiction spectrum quiz that is really helpful.

She was a drug addict and used 12-step programs to get off drugs and alcohol and then turned to 12-step programs to finally beat food addiction. She is off the charts as a food addict.

She was able to take off all of her weight going from a size 24 to something tiny. (She looks like a size 2 or something now). She went on to finish college and got a doctorate in the psychology of eating.

Bright Line Eating has similarities to 12-step programs

She started Bright Line Eating using some of the principles of the 12-step programs but leaving behind some of the dogma.

She realized that there were useful things in the program but that not everyone wants to go to a 12-step addiction program.

Her book is so intelligent and asks good questions. Why is it that otherwise intelligent people are having so much trouble losing weight and keeping it off?

Processed foods act like street drugs on your brain’s pleasure centers

Raspberry bonon in silver cuplet painting by zoe zuniga

She discovered through her research that flour and sugar act similarly to cocaine and heroin in the pleasure centers of the brain causing us to become addicted and need more and more of these refined substances to feel normal.

When we are not eating processed foods, we feel terrible. This is the reason for constant cravings for junk food that some of us are fighting every day.

Is Bright Line Eating Bootcamp for you?

After reading the book I signed up for the 8-week Bright Line Boot Camp.

Susan is big on ritual and taking the time to really enter the program.

You prepare, visualize and meditate. Then you prepare for the boot camp by emptying the house of non-compliant foods.

Then you shop for new foods and weigh out and write out your first day of food the night before.

Then and only then, you are ready to click the start button and go to the first module.

The actual eating program calls for tiny portions that are the same for everyone no matter what your weight.

I did not follow this regime after trying it out for a few days and hating it.

Bright Line Eating on a plant-based diet

Instead, I stuck with my generous portions Chef AJ’s recommended of high fiber low-calorie plant foods and starchy grains, veggies and legumes.

fire roasted polenta

I did follow along with the three meals a day and no snacking, which I found helpful.

After the Bright Line program was over I switched to two meals a day and liked that even better.

I went on the Bright Lines Facebook group often over the course of 8 weeks and watched people freaking out and being very hungry on the new diet while I was stuffed and satisfied and still losing weight with high-fiber plant meals free of oil, sugar, flour, and processed foods.

Bright Line allows oil and a lot of processed stuff. But it does remove some of the processed foods and really helps some people stop binging.

free plant based recipe guide

What is included in the Bright Line Boot Camp

She is very generous with at least 8 videos in each module on every detail of how to maneuver home, work, family, restaurants, and travel. How to add more food once you have gotten to your goal weight and more.

Some people will love the number of videos and all the detail. I found it to be too much.

It felt like too much obsession over food and I had to skip through a lot of them.

She went into great detail about the brain chemistry behind addiction to refined foods which was helpful. At the end there was a nice closing ceremony and next steps.

Great for people who want to hold onto meat, dairy, and oil, but still lose weight

It is a great program for people who want to be able to keep eating meat and dairy and oil while cutting out sugar and flour and get a little healthier. For those who are low on the susceptibility scale, this might work fine.

Some people do really well on Bright Line Eating. They are successful in holding onto some of the SAD foods, like meat, eggs, dairy and oil, salt and whole grain packaged cereals.

Bright Line Boot Camp works with mainstream foods

photo of Weigh measure prepare meals

Susan admits that this is not the healthiest diet. She is making the program available to the broadest number of people by keeping lunch meats, packaged puffed-wheat cereals, sausage, etc., in the diet.

But to my way of thinking this makes it harder not to binge on junk because these things are still too refined and trigger cravings, so you end up in a struggle to keep the Bright Lines of no flour or sugar and deal with miniscule portions.

For me, it was simpler and better to just go “whole hog” and eat a whole-foods plant-based diet without flour or oil and very low in salt.

The secret is you don’t miss processed food after a short withdrawal period of about 3 weeks.

Eating lots of processed foods unmonitored doesn’t work for most people

valentines petite 4 painting

In the book, Susan describes how she decided to loosen things and try to be more natural and eat intuitively.

So she decided to stop weighing and monitoring her meals because she didn’t want her daughters to see her weighing her food and get the wrong idea about food and diet.

But she loosened the program to the point of eating anything she wanted, junk food, flour and sugar instead of just learning to eyeball her food and sticking with the Bright Lines of no processed foods.

When you are trying to eat instinctually with processed foods it is impossible because these foods are designed to deceive us and cause us to overeat every time. And of course this didn’t work for her either and she went back to weighing everything.

She is so brilliant in so many ways but does not seem to get the calorie density idea. I find this puzzling because she has spent time at True North Health Center and has seen people eating large plates of low-calorie, high fiber veggies and staying happy, thin and free for life.

Fear and distrust of yourself with Bright Line Eating

Many Bright Liners are still eating oil and animal products, especially dairy. They never normalize or become able to feel when it is time to stop eating.

The Bright Line system is very mechanical in that you decide on the foods you are going to eat the day before. Then you eat them at a specific time even if you are not hungry.

This seems fine at first in order to normalize disordered eating. But eventually, the goal is to not have to be so structured and eat using your sense of hunger and fullness.

This can be done if you are eating whole foods. But this can never really be done while trying to keep a lot of processed foods in your diet if you are sensitive, which most humans are.

A food program should make life easier not more difficult

Persimmons acrylic by Zoe Zuniga

Reading her book, she describes how at one point her husband threatened to leave because her 12-step food program was taking up so much of her time.

She has this mindset of intense ongoing programs for weight loss. The program replaces the addiction in a way.

For me, the plant-based paradigm is much simpler

Once you set it up you don’t have to check in with people a million times a day to make sure you follow the ridged protocol, or second-guess yourself or weigh and measure everything the night before.

In the Bright Line model, you are always having to weigh food and monitor your behavior in order to sustain it even after you lose all the weight you want to lose and get your blood panels normalized.

Though some people are able to switch to the “one plate method” she has designed instead of weighing food.

Calorie density is everything

Weighing is a good idea to get a feel for how much to eat. Half the plate would be heaped high with non-starchy veggies a third would be beans and a third would be starch with a tiny sprinkle of nuts or seeds or avocado on top if you choose, and a piece of fruit. That should do it 3 times a day.

With unprocessed whole foods, you are truly happy, thin, and free!

On a whole-foods diet, you are able to walk by aisles of processed food in grocery stores and go to restaurants unmoved. You are so full and happy and satisfied it just happens naturally.

Susan mentions in one of her videos that she could overeat on healthy things like roasted veggies. But this is because she doesn’t seem to get that 3 or 4 plates of roasted veggies are only a few calories.

 This seems like a statement that she doesn’t get volumetric eating.

In Bright Lines Eating you believe in tiny portions to stay thin

In one video in the Brightlines Bootcamp Susan speaks of how after you lose all the weight you want to lose you tend to drift and constantly have to course correct.

She tells a story of how her fruit was getting bigger and bigger until she was eating an apple that was the size of her head.

People would stare at the amount she was eating. When people start staring at what you are eating and it looks like a lot of food it is time to cut back, she advised.

But this is not accurate if you are eating whole foods.

if you are eating relatively low fat, whole foods, plant-based diet you should be eating what are considered to be huge portions.

In whole foods plant-based eating you believe in huge portions to stay thin

Chef AJ tells a similar story in her book The Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss, with a different takeaway.

A student who was still quite obese was losing weight successfully and feeling great eating what would be considered “huge portions” at every meal.

Since she was eating mostly non-starchy plants, fruits and veggies and high-fiber whole starches without oil or flour or any concentrated foods she was, of course, eating only a few calories in those heaping plates. But she brought her lunch to work and ate it openly.

A coworker came up to her table in the cafeteria and said “See this is why you are so fat. You eat too much food.”

This was unfortunate because it made the student feel bad about herself and doubt herself again.

The only reason the coworker made the thoughtless comment about overeating was because she was uneducated.

I have found a valuable secret

tofu and veggies five minute meal

While many dieters are weighing and rationing and trying not to eat too much food and fighting cravings those who follow a plant-based diet for few months never have to worry about slipping up because all the old foods no longer hold any power over you and processed food never calls to you.

You become numb to the voices of cheesecake, and pasta. you would rather be happy, energized and healthy than go back to those hollow foods that leave you feeling sick and dead.

As a person who was addicted to fast foods and traditional SAD diet for over 50 years, I never would have believed this if it had not happened to me.

I used to able to eat more sweets or bread at one sitting than anyone I know personally. But no matter how much I ate I never felt satisfied.

I felt overly full and would have to stop at a certain point, but this was not satisfying at all. And I was always thinking about food and trying to resist eating junk food again.

When you eat a plant-based diet you actually enjoy the taste of the food more than eating refined foods after a short time.

Some people love Bright Line Eating

Bright Line Bootcamp might be perfect for you. There are a lot of  Brightliners who have lost all their weight rapidly and never cheated.

But a lot of people seem unsuited for it because they tend to think about food too much even after they lose the weight.

They have to think too much about if their apple is too big or if they had too much salad when eating out without a scale or they have to bring the food scale and weight their food right at the restaurant.

Susan Pierce Thompson’s book Bright Line Eating is interesting for the science behind food addiction but unless you like more of a 12-step approach to food addiction this might be a bit rigid for you.

People lose weight and keep the weight off by staying in her groups long term and doing daily support calls first thing in the morning for the rest of their lives.

Just go off processed foods cold turkey and see how you feel

Dr. Fuhrman suggests going “whole hog” so to speak, on 100 percent unprocessed food because after just a few weeks the taste buds change over and you are not triggered and cravings are gone.

Like Chef AJ he doesn’t limit the volume of food or have you weigh anything. He encourages huge piles of non-starchy veggies because he knows that fiber fills you up and causes satiety throughout the day with very few calories.

As long as you are abstaining from processed foods you do not experience cravings or overeating so there is no need to weigh or control your eating.

Your appetite naturally controls itself. You learn to listen to your body and truly become happy, thin, and free over the course of a few short months.

The logic feels different between the two mindsets

When you are weighing your food and considering yourself a food addict it feels like you have a disease. Well, anyone who eats enough refined foods is going to become sick and addicted eventually. Some people can do it longer than others without noticeable problems.

Thin people are not  always healthy

Thin people may seem fine eating processed SAD foods. Audrey Hepburn told a story about how when she was a child, her mom taught her to eat very small portions. Hepburn was conditioned to eat a diet of mostly refined foods, but to eat small amounts so she stayed tiny. As an adult but became very ill and died of cancer at the age of 63. I don’t know about you but I am hoping to make it a little longer than that.

Even people who stay thin for life on SAD are not well. Eating a SAD diet is not a lucky privilege for anyone, even for those few people who are able to keep their portions small and stay thin.

Children can be happy eating healthy foods

Susan Pierce Thompson says something to the effect that kids should be allowed to eat processed foods because it is normal for them.

If you go with a whole foods diet you don’t think it is normal for kids to eat processed food.

Kids need to eat more fats, avocados, nuts, and seeds than grown people do. But they do not need to eat sugar and refined flour products.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman told a story about picking his kids up from camp. The other parents were presenting their kids with packaged junk foods.

His kids are used to eating whole foods and asked their dad “Don’t the parents love their children? Why are they feeding them food that is going to make them sick? Fuhrman had to explain that not every parent knows that this food is harmful and devitalizing.

In conclusion

It all depends on how you look at it and what works for you. Pick up some of the books I mentioned and try them out. And be sure to sign up for the free plant-based course.

Chef AJ: Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss

Susan Peirce Thompson: Bright Lines Eating

Dr. Furman’s many books

plant-based-recipe guide



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I'm a natural health writer and designer at and and a creativity blog. I'm also a former Pilates trainer and sports massage therapist, currently working on my Plant-Based Nutrition certification.

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