Many people struggle with binge eating. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Glenn Livingston talks about his personal struggle with binge eating and explains the keys to victory in this area.
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David Sandstrom 0:00
Hi, Natural Nation. On this week's episode of Natural Health Matters. We're talking about how to overcome binge eating. If you've ever struggled with binge eating, or you know somebody that's currently struggling with that, this episode is a must listen. Dr. Glenn Livingston is a Ph.D. Psychologist, and he shares a ton of wisdom in a ton of techniques on how to be the master over your eating. It's a great episode, I encourage you to listen to the whole thing.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 0:25
I'm not an advocate that everybody has to give up chocolate or totally give up alcohol or, okay, I am an advocate for monitoring yourself to see if there are areas that you're out of control with and ask yourself what role do I want this thing to play in my life, two out of three people will say I wish I could moderate it. I wish I could become someone who eats it on the weekend and not during the week and only a certain amount. One out of three people will say I just can't seem to control myself. I'm an abstainer. Not a moderator. That's okay. But because we live in a culture that says that this is an illness, and that we should abdicate personal responsibility and freedom with it. And because that's, that's seductive. It's a very it's people. People want to feel out of control. They want to feel like it's not their fault. So I don't think we have a disease. I think we have healthy appetites that are corrupted by industry. But because there's a little bit of guilt and shame that's associated with taking responsibility. It's really caught on to abdicate it and you can hear it in the passive language that people use about food. I was triggered the binge happened. You know, the chocolate cake gotten me Yeah. But where's the space between stimulus and response?
David Sandstrom 1:43
Welcome to the Natural Health Matters podcast where it's all about maximizing your health potential, so that you can look and feel your best at any age. I'm your host, David Sandstrom, Naturopathic Doctor and Biblical Health Coach, and this is episode number 84.
Today we have on the show Dr. Glennn Livingston, he's a veteran psychologist. He's the author of the book Never Binge Again. His work has been published in several major publications, including the New York Times, Dr. Livingston has spent several decades researching the nature of binge or overeating. Most important, however, is his own personal journey out of obesity and food prison to a normal healthy weight and a much more lighthearted relationship with food. Dr. Livingston, welcome to Natural Health Matters.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 2:35
Thank you so much for having me. Please call me Glenn.
David Sandstrom 2:37
Okay, glad you got it. Yeah, Glenn and I just met so well, but I think he's gonna have some great information to share. I'm really looking forward to this conversation. Because I think this is a topic that a lot of people struggle with. And finding victory in this area of binge eating is very elusive for a lot of people. So why do you think that is? Dr. Glenn on? Why is it that it's so prevalent in our society? Why is it so difficult for people to get over?
Dr. Glenn Livingston 3:03
Well, there's a lot of misinformation. And there's a lot of money targeted at the most primitive part of our anatomy, which is designed to break our hunger and fool meters and get us to think that we can find love and bags and boxes and containers, rather than what you know, God has to offer us or what nature has to offer us. And, you know, I actually worked for the big food industries for a lot of years. And I was familiar with the oh gosh, probably billions of dollars by now going into engineering, these hyper palatable concentrations of starch and sugar and fat and excitotoxins, and salt and, and it's all designed to hit the bliss point in the brainstem, in the reptilian brain that that doesn't give it but not give us enough nutrition to feel satisfied. And when you do that, the result is what we see as a food addiction. And then on top of that, there's mythology about how to go about overcoming it. But by the way, I'm not just a doctor that decided to work with overeaters, I had a very serious problem myself, we can talk more about that if you want to or not sure.
David Sandstrom 4:18
Let me just recap what you just said. Because you already said a mouthful. And that is, if I heard you, right, the food industry is engineering their foods to make them addictive and not satisfy so that we're coming back for more. Is that right? Yeah. So we're set up for failure.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 4:33
Yeah, and to kind of trick trick. Like for example, I remember the vice president of a major food bar manufacturer who shall remain nameless, so that I don't remember, as he was leaving the company, he kind of hung his head in shame and says, you know, Glenn, our best trick was taking the vitamins out of the bar says we took the vitamins out of the bar, we've put the money into the packaging instead, we made these multicolored, really vibrant packages, which kind of tricks the brain into thinking that there's a diversity of micronutrients available. If you hear the advice to eat the rainbow, that's because our brains have evolved to recognize vibrant colors as a signal for a diversity of micronutrients, right? But in this, in this case, they were taking them out. And sort of taking them out, it was less expensive, and they put their money into it. And I don't mean to isolate them, there are things that go on across the industry, when you're opening a bag of chips, most chips are not engineered on a unitary assembly line, I think I have this right. Most chips have a variety of assembly lines that have very slight variations in flavor, that get mixed into the same bag, so that your brain believes you were finding diverse sources of nutrition, even there's not really a lot of nutrition in those products
David Sandstrom 5:56
Wow. sophisticated stuff.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 5:59
So it's it's overriding your natural stop mechanism. You know, the brain is set up to find calories and micronutrients. And, and it's overriding those natural stop mechanisms.
David Sandstrom 6:10
So really what you're saying, is it that sitting down and doing a Netflix binge and eating the whole bag of chips and looking for more, is not entirely our fault. Right? It's it's
Dr. Glenn Livingston 6:22
Right? And it's not because you weren't loved enough as a kid, or you've got a, you know, big chocolate sized hole in your heart like I used to think that I did. It's a very powerful external force. And I don't think that we had food addiction on the savanna. You know, I don't we didn't have pizza and pop tarts and potato chips on the savanna. And I think that mindfulness is a partial solution.Because if you are to be present and aware of what you're eating, when there were studies that show that we absorbed more nutrition, and people eat less when they're mindful, but how can you mindfully eat things that are designed to break your mind? And how can you mindfully eat things that are designed to break your natural sensation, you can be as present as you want to. But it's like saying, Well, I'm going to, you know, I'm going to mindfully resist this surgical drug, and I'm not going to go to sleep, when they give me the anesthesia, your brain is set up, it's going to go to sleep, let me give you the anesthesia, right. So mindfulness is only a part of the solution. It's not really the whole solution. And then there's a lot of mythology about how to go about defining and aiming for the goal with regards to food and any pleasurable substance for that matter. Because what you will hear is to eat well, 90% of the time and indulge yourself 10% of the time, right? What you don't hear is how to decide which is the 90% and which is the 10%, which is the tough part and the problem. Yeah, because if you don't have a mechanism for making that decision, then you're forced to make spontaneous food decisions all day long. And it turns out that willpower is very related to decision making, every time you're making a decision, your brain a little more glucose in your brain, and you have a little less willpower that day, which is why people have more trouble in the evening than they do in the morning. Most people start out the day eating pretty well. But you know, then by the time there's a chocolate bar at Starbucks, calling their name, you know, at three o'clock in the afternoon, they say, ah scrap
David Sandstrom 8:36
Right, so they feel powerless chocolate becomes feel powerless against resistant powerless temptation. Yep.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 8:41
Whereas if you said I will only ever have chocolate on Saturdays and no more than two ounces, then you've made all of your chocolate decisions for the week. And you no longer have to suffer through that all day long. You can save your willpower for more important thing. Yeah,
David Sandstrom 8:57
Well, that's really good. Can I interrupt you right there. I liken this to the marriage commitment. So when I walked down the aisle 22 years ago, and I said to happen to hold till death do us part with my wife, Michelle. I promise to forsake all others. So I made the decision right then and there, that I was only going to sleep with my wife that that decision has been made. I don't have to wrestle with that decision day after day. It's been made ahead of time.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 9:22
Right, and there's a value there's a value to the commitment. There's a sanctity to the marriage, there's a kind of It's a sacred commitment. It's something that you're willing to make that commitment, perfection. You don't say to your wife? Well, you know, honey, I really don't want to sleep with anybody else. I really want to promise this but there sure are a lot of attractive women out there. Right? And what if I forget? Right? Yeah, but wait. But when you when you look at food and the way people think they should make food commitments, they're afraid to commit with perfection. I will never have chocolate on a weekday again. Perfect. Well, what if I forget? Well, A commitment is a plan to remember, it's not a, it's not a plan to forget, and we're capable of making these. It's a very good analogy, because the reproductive drive is an extremely powerful drive. It's not like you will stop noticing that there any other, you know, available attractive women around the world. But our society endorses and expects us to restrain those drives in favor of the sanctity of the marriage. Right? You can do that with food also. Now, there's a little, it's a little harder, because it's socially acceptable to say, Oh, a little is not going to hurt you. Here have a piece of cake.
David Sandstrom 10:38
And it's a celebration, just Yeah.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 10:41
Yeah. And it's not really socially acceptable to say Go Go be with that girl and go be with this, that woman with some
David Sandstrom 10:46
Well, in some circles, but depends on the people you hang around with
Dr. Glenn Livingston 10:51
In some circles, right. But it turns out that the psychology of winning the game has to do with committing with perfection, and then forgiving yourself with dignity if you make a mistake, right. So let's take an archer's analogy. Suppose an archer is aiming at the bullseye. They aren't saying maybe I'll hit it, maybe I won't. There. They're an Olympic Archer, a really good Archer is not going to let go of that arrow until they can feel the arrow going into the bullseye. Like they're holding it here they're aiming. And then they have this kind of Gestalt sense that they're one with the bullseye and the error is going into the bullseye. But that's the psychology of winner. If they happen to miss the arrow and have missed the bullseye, they will say, well, by how much in what direction? And how do we make corrections? What they don't do is say, Oh, my God, I'm a pathetic Archer, I might as well shoot the rest of the arrows up in the air. Right,
David Sandstrom 11:48
which is what we do, though, right? i That's exactly how I fell off the wagon. So it's over. I'm just gonna binge for the rest of the week. Yeah, that's what people do.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 11:58
Right? Right. Or at least until tomorrow morning. Right. And, and so people are frightened to commit with perfection with food, because they think they're gonna feel too guilty. And then they torture themselves with guilt, if they make a mistake. And what this all does is it interferes with the learning process, the failure to commit with perfection, like winners do in any kind of performance psychology, and forgive yourself, dignity and make a real analysis of what went wrong and how you're going to adjust. It just interferes with the learning process if you can, if you can do that, and get up again and get up again and get up again and keep aiming at the bullseye. Your aim is going to get better it has to because we're wired, we're wired to learn. So that's another reason going back to the original question that people struggle to, to that there's an epidemic of obesity and overeating. It's because people have the wrong information. You're better off with a commitment and a hard and fast rule. And forgiving yourself with dignity. If you do make a mistake, then you are with saying, well just progress not perfection, I'll do the best that I can. I'll eat well 90% of the time on an adult's myself. 10%
David Sandstrom 12:00
Let's go back to something you said earlier. And that is because we've been told a lot of people's will teach us today is that well, the reason why you're eating is because you have an emotional issue. It might have been something in childhood, you might have been craving attention from your parents that you never got. And you It's comfort food for you. But you're saying even though that's real, that's not the primary issue. Is that correct?
Dr. Glenn Livingston 13:32
Yeah, the there's a multitude of complex relationships between emotional stimulation and overeating that most people don't understand. Most people think I feel emotional, therefore I eat right? I feel emotional. Therefore, there is a fire fire breaks out and it burns down the house. Well, first of all, if you think about a fire in a well contained fireplace in the living room, that's an asset not a liability. Like our emotions are our assets. And that's something we have to be frightened of and avoid. It's It's only if there's a hole in the fireplace, if it's not a well contain fireplace, that the fire can burn the house down. So can I tell a personal story. So I had a thing for chocolate. I, you know, five inches would always start with chocolate and it was just be well, I'll just have a small bar. And then it was six more bars and two pizzas and, you know, six lattes to wash it down or something like that. And my whole life I was perplexed by that, and actually wound up doing this 40,000 person study on the internet to figure out, you know, what might be emotionally behind it. This was after spending 20 years going to see the best psychologists and psychiatrists and going to Overeaters Anonymous and, you know, doing spiritual work and soul searching which, which I don't regret Those were all very meaningful, soulful, things that that made me who I am. But it didn't really help me with food, I get a little thinner and a lot fatter, a little thinner and fatter. So eventually, I, my, my ex wife was traveling for business all the time. And so I had a lot of time on my hands. And I had this cool career doing the consulting and I, I got a lot of, I was paid a lot of money to do these big study. So I knew how to do them. And I set up a study for myself. And over the course of several years, when internet clicks were cheap, I got 40,000 people to tell me what they were stressed about if they were searching for stress solutions, and what they had difficulty eating. Okay, what they couldn't stop eating when they started. And I discovered that people who couldn't stop eating chocolate, they tended to be brokenhearted lonelier, a little depressed. And I thought, okay, that makes that makes sense, right? It makes little sense, because I was not in the best marriage. And I was a little brokenhearted and depressed and. And I called my mom, who is also a psychotherapist. And I said, Mom, you know, I'm going through this, and this is what I found. And I'd like to try to figure out where it came from. And she hangs her head and she gets all embarrassed. And she says, I'm so sorry. And I said, Mom, it doesn't matter. It's 40 years ago, I forgive you. And whatever it was, I just want to understand this. She says, Well, I'm so sorry. But when you were one year old, in 1965, your dad was a captain. And they were talking about sending him to Vietnam. And we were trying to get pregnant with your sister. And I was so scared that I was going to wind up as a army widow with you know, to two little kids. At the same time, your grandfather, my father, he just got out of prison. And I didn't know that he was guilty. And I'd always idolized him. And so I was, you know, just horribly depressed and anxious all the time. And so half the time when you came running to me because you wanted love or you wanted to play or even if you wanted to eat something healthy, I didn't have the wherewithal inside, I didn't have the psychological wherewithal to take care of you. So what I did is I got a bottle of chocolate Bosco syrup, and then we'll keep it in a refrigerator on the floor. And I say, Honey, go get your boss go and you go running over to the refrigerator. And you'd open it up, and you'd suck on the bottle and you go into a chocolate sugar coma. And, you know, David, if, if this was a movie, this is the point where mom and I would have a big hug and a big cry, and I would never have problems with chocolate again. And if the relationship really was one way of chocolate, really, if you know, loneliness really did just drive, then it would never have problems with it. Because now I know the source. But all of a sudden, there was this voice in my head. And it kind of seized upon me. And it made things worse. And the voice went something like, You know what, Glenn, you're right. Our mama didn't love us enough. And she left a great big chocolate sized hole in your heart. And until you can either, you know, fix this marriage and find love or get out and you know, find someone else you're going to have to keep binging on chocolate up. Let's go get some more right now. And at that point, I switch the paradigm and instead of trying to love myself fan and fill that hole in my heart, said, Well, you know, the advertising industry and the big food industry are very powerful forces that are overriding my ability to eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full. And obviously there's this, this there's this other little voice of justification that's playing into the mix. Maybe I need to take more of a tough love approach. Maybe I have to, maybe I need to be more like an alpha wolf. And this this little voice that's challenging me for leadership. And when an alpha wolf is challenged for leadership, it doesn't say, Oh, my goodness, somebody needs a hug, right? If I it says, yeah, go gnarliness growls and it says get back in line or I'll kill you. Right? So maybe this is more of a tough lift thing. And I started to think, What if I don't worry about the fire so much as the fireplace? What if I find these voices of justification that are making it okay to break my plants. So that's when I started making hard, hard and fast rules like I'll never have chocolate on a Saturday. And then if this is a little embarrassing, because I'm a sophisticated psychologist, and I'm, you know, in all these periodicals and things like that, but it's not a very sophisticated solution. But basically, what I did is I decided that I had an inner pig, or I could've call it an inner junkyard dog or food monster or something, but I called it an inner pig because I remember I was not going to publish this. This is a private thing. I I was a couples and family therapist. So I and if I was in Starbucks on a Wednesday, and I had a rule that said I don't eat chocolate during the week, and I heard a little voice in my head that said, Oh, come on, Glenn. You just worked out really hard. You're not going to gain any weight, a little chocolates not going to kill you. Besides, it'll be just as easy to start your diet again tomorrow. I would say wait a minute. That's not me. That's my pig. squealing for pig slop chocolate is pig slop on a Wednesday. I don't eat picks up, I don't live farm animals tell me what to do I see I get it. And so I kind of flipped paradigms. And what would happen would be, I would wake up at the moment of impulse, I would just wake up. And sometimes I would make the right decisions. And sometimes I wouldn't, but the point is, I had the opportunity. And it stopped being this big, mysterious, puzzling thing to me. I stopped feeling, you know, powerless and hopeless and despairing and better controlling my eating. And then I just started playing with different kinds of rules. And I figured out how to switch back into the right mind, into my upper brain, instead of my lower brain, you, you can do a little bit of deep breathing, you can write down with the biggest same because writing is an upper brain activity. And more and more frequently, it was making the right decision. And then I adjusted the rules so that they were easier to follow. And I, I made following the rules paramount, so I kind of put aside losing weight for the moment. And I said, What if I just want to take control back? What if that's the most important thing? And over time I, you know, I, I dropped the weight, and I recovered my health and etc, etc. That's great. That's just.
David Sandstrom 21:13
Yeah, I often asked my guests, was there an event in your life that led to you doing what you do today? And you just kind of answered that question right there. That's That's kind of you had a personal struggle, and you were looking for answers to help yourself, not necessarily a client at that moment. But what you learned was beneficial for your clients in the long run.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 21:34
I was almost 300 pounds, David and I was I was obsessed with food, I would be sitting in working with a suicidal patient, and thinking, When can I get to the deli and dislodge my jaw and empty the tray into it? And it really bothered me tremendously. So I searched for 20 years to figure out the answer to this.
David Sandstrom 21:55
Well, you know, I've got to bring up a couple of parallels here that I see it, I hear in your in your message. You know, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. And I believe that The Bible is the inspired Word of God. And we have a lot of instruction, the Bible addresses this, this struggle that you're talking about between the I believe you called it the mammalian brain or the reptilian, the reptilian brain, right? Well as in the Christian circles, we call that the flesh. And the Apostle Paul brings this up in Romans chapter seven. Um, I prepared this ahead of time. So I thought we might have an opportunity to share this, but I'm going to just talk about a read a couple of passages here, they're really relates to the struggle between the primitive brain and the more rational brain. So Paul says in starting in verse 14, for we know that the law is spiritual, but I am a flesh sold into bondage, for what I am doing, I do not understand, for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I'm doing the very thing that I hate. For I know that nothing good dwells in me that is in my flesh, for the willingness present me, but the doing of the good, is not. So there's the struggle right there. And, and then there's, there's a solution to that. And that is we take every thought captive says another verse in Second Corinthians chapter 10, verse 5, we're supposed to take every thought captive. So we want to be the CEO, so to speak, I want to be the Chief Executive Officer Officer of our thought lives. So when we say when we get that, that little voice in our head that says, oh, have the bag of potato chips, what's wrong with eating the half gallon ice cream, you can start your diet tomorrow, you say that you say to that voice, hey, you're not in charge here. You're not the boss of me. And you your rational brain takes over and says, no, no, I am in charge of that emotion. I'm in charge of those thoughts. And I'm not going to listen to you go, you know, go go beat it. Get out here. I'm not going to listen to you today. So have I sum that up?
Dr. Glenn Livingston 23:52
I want to ask you a question about what the Bible says also. But I just want to say that you can go beyond saying, I'm in charge. And, you know, you're, you serve me the same way that you do with your bladder, if your bladder says, you really have to go to the bathroom, but you're in the middle of a business meeting, you say, I'm in charge, I'll take care of you in an hour. We're just gonna have to get through, it's gonna be okay. Right. It's just very parallel for biological urge. But there are things we're trying to accomplish in a civilized society that we have to take charge of our bodies like that. You can take those thoughts, and you can excise the cancer cancerous logic within them. Because when they, when the pig says or the flesh says, you won't gain any weight, it'll be just as easy to start tomorrow. It's usually a half truth and a bigger lie. So it's very seductive, because probably it wouldn't gain any weight if we only had, you know, one chocolate bar. But the truth is, it's never really one chocolate bar. So there's a lie on that. But the truth is also that the way that the brain works, if you look at the principles of neurology, when you have a craving, and you reinforce that craving if you You want chocolate and you have chocolate, your craving will be stronger tomorrow. So your pig says it'll be just as easy to start tomorrow. But the truth is that it's going to be harder, you can only ever use the present moment to eat healthy. And if you're in a hole, you should stop digging. So you can examine the logic of what the flesh or the pig is presenting to you. And you can, you can get rid of the cancer logic and what what that does is that it makes it a lot easier to recognize the next time. And it makes it a lot less seductive and appealing the next time that are
David Sandstrom 25:33
met, right. So you recognize that this voice or whatever you want to call it, is does not have your best interest in mind. Right? So yeah, good.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 25:42
Typically what I wanted to ask you, I interrupted you. Go ahead. What what I wanted to ask you was Is there someplace in the Bible that it says that there's no temptation will be presented, which we can't resist or something like,
David Sandstrom 25:56
yeah, it's I forget the location, but it says something along the lines of? No, I think it's in the book of James, it says that a temptation is nothing has happened to you, that's not common to man. But whatever you're tempted with God will give you a way of escape. Get rid of the exact location, but I'm pretty sure it's in the book of James.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 26:17
Right. But I mean, the practical implication of that, in my work is I find that there's, there's what I call them squeals, these irrational things that the pig will say that there are no squeals that there isn't a solution for, you know, we run these groups, and people are constantly amazed, because they are sure that theirs is different. They're sure that what they're being presented with is hopeless, and their pig probably right. But inevitably, there really aren't any squeals that there aren't a solution for as long as you're taking care of your body. Like, the solution can't be Well, I'm just not going to eat anything good. I've, I've had people that come to me and say, I can't do anything, or I want you to teach me how to live on air. And I just can't do this it' sustainable. You know, there are some rules you can't write. You can't keep that up for very, some rules you can't make. Yeah, yeah. Right. I can't say I'll never, I'm never going to pee again, because my body will tell me otherwise. But if you're making reasonable rules that, you know, flood your body with nutrition at a slight deficit, if you want to lose weight, then then there's there's always a solution. There's always a solution to that. So I was curious where it said that in the Bible. And that's
David Sandstrom 27:22
it. I'll tell you what, I'm gonna grab my phone and see if I can't look up the passage. But I'm sure you have more to say on that topic. Go ahead.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 27:30
Well, you this all started because you're asking me the question about the relationship between emotions and overeating. And what I wanted to make sure that I got across was that it wasn't a direct relationship. So there's the fire, then there's the fireplace, and the pig pokes holes in the fireplace, and then it's, it's burning down. But everything I want people to know is that it goes the other way also, that overeating creates difficulty dealing with emotions. For example, a lot of people will tell me that anxiety makes it difficult for them to sleep unless they overeat before they go to bed. And I'd say Well, that's very interesting. And I understand what you're saying, because the nervous system has difficulty conducting the emotions when you overload it with digestive tasks. When you overload the justice system, you ask, the energy just isn't there. So does have a food can have a kind of numbing or anesthetic effect. However, when you look at the animal studies, there are correlates their physiological correlates of anxiety, your galvanic skin response goes up, your blood pressure goes up and you start to perspire, start to breathe a little deeper, and are a little heavier or shallow.
David Sandstrom 28:37
When you're when you're having anxiety. Yes,
Dr. Glenn Livingston 28:40
if you if you observe those behaviors in animals, and in other mammals, and you reinforce them with sugar, it turns out that they go up so you take a baboon, and every time it has high blood pressure, you give it a sugar reward, that baboon will have consistently higher blood pressure over time than a baboon that wasn't given sugar when it felt anxious. We're assuming that it felt anxious there are a lot of causes of high blood pressure, you know what I'm saying? So we know we know the brain is set up to find calories in nutrition. So if you give it a concentrated sources of calories, the it will evaluate everything that was happening in the body before it got that source of calories, and then try to replicate those conditions. So if every time you feel anxious, you have a little binge on on sugar, you're going to create a situation where you bite is going to manufacture more and more anxiety. So very short term reduction in anxiety but a longer term elevation and anxiety you might be creating the problem in and of itself and just chasing the dream. In other words, it's important that it goes both
David Sandstrom 29:47
it's a vicious circle. So you you feel bad, you're anxious, you don't like that feeling. So you eat and then what you eat is causing you to feel worse. So you want to eat more and you get on this roller coaster. This is vicious. All right.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 30:01
The last thing I would like to say about emotions and overeating is that the excuse that most people's pigs use to get them to overeat as well. We really have to numb out these emotions are intolerable, we really have to numb out. And I'll say, well, you're doing a lot more than numbing out when you run to a chocolate bar, or a lot of other things that people will or most people are not overeating. Broccoli, most people are overeating, some byproduct of big food and interest rich
David Sandstrom 30:30
cookie, some concentrated source of empty calories.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 30:36
I would contend that because we didn't have that on the savanna, we're not evolutionarily perform. Our brains are not prepared to, to deal with that level of stimulation, that it's kind of like a drug. And you can you can see this in a silly joke that I tell sometimes I say if you go to the dentist, does the dentist ever say I'm sorry, but I'm out of Novocaine. I want to numb you out. Can I inject you with chocolate instead, you know, or can I inject you with a bagel? Right? Can he or she would just have a piece of pizza and let me do my work. There's some other reason that you're having the piece of pizza or the chocolate or the bagel? And I don't mean, I don't I don't think it's a I don't think it's evil to eat those things sometimes if you really want to, but I argue for people to eat by design. But But still, I think you have to recognize that there is a drug like effect of these things. And we're eating them to get high with food. We're not getting them to numb out.
David Sandstrom 31:31
So Glenn, would you When would you say that people are using that is I need to numb my my pain as a way to absolve themselves of personal responsibility. Yeah, okay.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 31:46
Yeah, it's an abdication of personal responsibility.
David Sandstrom 31:49
Now, let me before you jump, I know you have more to say. But I found this verse I wanted to read it for the listeners for the Natural Nation. It's I was wrong. It's not in James. It's called. It's in First Corinthians chapter 10, verse 13, No temptation has overtaken you. but such as is common to man. And God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. That's just the full passage.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 32:20
Beautiful, and that way, I can listen to the recording.
David Sandstrom 32:23
First Corinthians chapter 10. Thank you. Yeah.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 32:27
Thank you. You're welcome. Terrific. Yeah.
David Sandstrom 32:29
So back to what you were saying. So we have we will, we'll get creative on justifying our behavior, what not we think we're helping our sleep, or we think we're addressing our painful emotions, or our hurt. But we're not we're actually doing more harm than good, so good and follow that train of thought a little bit more.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 32:49
Well, our culture has a kind of victim mentality about addiction as a whole thing. They describe it as a disease without evidence, by the way, there's, there's not a shred of evidence that overeating or addiction is a disease. And, and I don't. And as a consequence, people feel like it's not a risk. It's not a responsibility, there's no, there's no personal character associated with making the decisions about these. What you're going to do with these pleasure with substances, I'm not an advocate that everybody has to give up chocolate or totally give up alcohol or, okay, I am an advocate for monitoring yourself to see if there are areas that you're out of control with and ask yourself, what role do I want this thing to play in my life? What role do I want chocolate to play in my life? Two out of three people will say I wish I could moderate it. I wish I could become someone who eats it on the weekend, and not during the week and only a certain amount. One of the three people will say I just can't seem to control myself. I'm an abstainder. Not a moderator. That's okay. But, but because we live in a culture that says that this is an illness, and that we should abdicate, you know, personal responsibility and freedom with it. And because that's, that's seductive. That's a very it's people. People want to feel out of control. They want to feel like it's not their fault. And I think that there is too much shaming of people who are out of control. And it is there's a there's a complex set of forces, including big food and big advertising that are, don't really have to do with your character and your personality and your upbringing. So I don't think we have a disease. I think we have healthy appetites that are corrupted by industry. But because there's a little bit of guilt and shame that's associated with taking responsibility. It's really caught on to abdicate it and you can hear it in the passive language that people use about food. I was triggered the binge happened You know, the chocolate cake got me. But where's the space between stimulus and response? Right? The chocolate cake reminded me of pleasurable times that I had when when I was a kid. And I chose to escape into those pleasurable times and reverse my previous best intention to have the chocolate cake. And I feel a little bit guilty, I'm going to pay the consequences for it. But you know what, it's okay. It's okay, because it's better for me to feel a little guilty, a little bit of shame, to get my attention the same way that I want to feel the pain of touching a hot stove. If I happen to accidentally touch a hot stove, because I need to know where that stove is, so that I don't do it again. Now, I'm not going to say Oh, my God, I'm on pathetic hot stove. toucher an put my whole hand down. Once that happens, I'm not going to torture myself about it. It's a learning experience. And then I'm going to forgive myself with dignity move on. But because because people get caught up with that shame and our culture, and because there's this whole movement to say, it's not your fault, you're you don't have to take personal responsibility. It's a disease, it has to do with your genetic upbringing or something wrong with your, with your brain.
David Sandstrom 36:15
So Glenn, I've got to ask this question. And you've been to these groups? How do or how does the 12 step programs fit into your work? Do you agree with the premise? Would you support that? Or would you encourage somebody to stay away from those groups?
Dr. Glenn Livingston 36:33
I'm gonna get a lot of hate mail. But I don't mind.
David Sandstrom 36:37
You know, what I like, I like to hear the rest of the story, you know. So, yeah,
Dr. Glenn Livingston 36:43
There are good, there are good things that happened in the 12 step programs, but it's based on a false premise. It's based on the idea that you have a disease and you're powerless and you're helpless. And that you should cultivate fear of your own body rather than cultivating confidence that you need to. You need to spend, kind of sacrifice your autonomy and give it to the group. And you know, spend three days a week away from your family, at least three days a week away from your family, in meetings with other people who say they can't control themselves. I don't think it has a good impact on people. The the only studies I'm aware of if people were aware of other studies, the only studies I'm aware of suggest that they're at parity or worse than doing nothing at all when it comes to alcohol. So they're not really having an impact. I'll get a lot of news from people who say, Well, I know this guy who's been there for 30 years, and he's been abstinent, but put 100,000 people through a program. And you know, a certain percentage of them, we're gonna get better, no matter what the point is. Is it worth the trade off in what you have to sacrifice? And what about all the people? What? What about all the people who were ready to quit? I'm talking about alcohol and food because alcohol can be dangerous for other people. They're ready to quit. And maybe they had a DWI. Maybe they killed someone in a car accident. And they were ready to say, I can't ever have another drink again. And they walk into these rooms and they say, No, you can't quit. You can only abstain one day at a time. And relapse is a part of recovery. And it's not your fault. It's not a moral decision. How is it not a moral decision? If you know that having a drink could lead you to get behind the car? At the wheel of a car and run somebody over. Yeah, so I advocate against them, actually. And, yeah, this this is not going to be popular with your listeners.
David Sandstrom 38:43
Well. yeah. Again, I just like to go back to the biblical framework for how to live our lives. And the Bible says that human beings have great worth, and were created in the image of God. And that's what gives us our worth. And I know because I have a good friend who's been in a 12 step program for alcohol recovery, not food but alcohol for quite a few years. And he's told me a lot of details about what what transpires in those groups. And basically, as you just said, there's a lot of shame. And there's a lot of labeling, you know, that you you're an alcoholic, and you will be for the rest of your life. There's no overcoming this. All you can do is manage it. And I don't get that message from the Bible. I get the message that you know, it's Isaiah 61 says I've come to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free. And and you know what, I believe deliverance is possible and victory is possible. So yeah, I might, you know, I might get some, some emails on that as well. So very that's what I believe.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 39:48
It's a very low view of humanity, to think that we are powerless over our baser instincts. How is society possible? If we're powerless over if nobody's responsible for any thinking everything is a disease? How is how is society possible? How can you live with your impulses? I think we are all it's incumbent upon all of us to live a stride of our animal nature, whether you call that the flesh, or the pig, or whatever it is, if we're going to participate in a loving cooperative society, then it's incumbent upon us to recognize that there there are these impulses. And we have to, but we don't have to act on them. And And when someone says, Well, the devil made me do it, Flip Wilson someone says, I'm not my fault. The devil made me do it. Well, you're you're responsible for letting the devil in or not.
David Sandstrom 40:41
That's exactly right. So no, no doubt about it. I we could have a whole podcast on this topic alone. But another verse that speaks to that is Deuteronomy 30:19. I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life, in order that you may live. So we've got choices to make, you know, God can God can do it for us. And he does from time to time, deliver people, but I think more often than not, God says to us, hey, I want you to grow up, I want you to you've got a role to play here. And just as any parent wants to see their child grow up, you know, when my my children were infants, I was happy to carry them around and change their diaper. But I wanted to see them get potty trained, I wanted to see them start crawling and walking and eventually running on their own. Right. And so God wants to see us mature into responsible adults. And he says, yeah, you've got some work to do here. And, you know, it all boils down to taking personal responsibility and saying, Yeah, I'm willing to grow. I'm willing to humble myself
Dr. Glenn Livingston 41:41
A big part of my recovery, was recognizing that the world wasn't just a big food party. You know, like, I, I had my days, I had my fun with food. I actually love what I'm eating these days. And I just don't eat a lot of the things that I used to. But, you know, it's life is not here to just be one big party. And it's okay to grow up and be more mature and responsible.
David Sandstrom 42:06
And it'll put my, my nutritional counselor hat on here for just a minute. And you touched on this earlier, and that is if we're eating a healthy, healthy diet, throughout the week, we will, our bodies will naturally be satisfied more because we're getting the nutrients that they crave. And therefore, the craving for the junk food will be lessened. And I can tell you another thing that will will reduce your craving for junk food is fasting. If you abstain from food for a period of time, let's say you go 24 hours, 48 hours, even 72 hours without food, well, you're going to be ready to break your fast and when you do, you are not going to crave the chocolate cake, you're going to crave more nutritious foods. And when you do that, you will have less problem with the temptation for the junk. And so anyway, it and the that's an again, another topic for another show. But I thought it'd be worth my
Dr. Glenn Livingston 43:00
The cleaner you eat the cleaner you want to try, the more the more you get the junk out it. It's not natural to crave potato chips and chocolate and pizza and Pop Tarts. It's not natural to crave those guys. It's something that's learned. And you know, and then as your body is more and more deprived of nutrition and you you're training the brain to go to the bags and boxes and containers, you want them more and more and more. And there's a phenomenon called downregulation where when you overstimulate the pleasure centers, your ability to experience pleasure from natural things gets lower and lower and lower. It's similar to when I used to sleep underneath the subway in graduate school. I, I couldn't sleep at all the first week or so. But two months and I couldn't even hear it. Yeah. Because my nervous system down regulated that stimulus. If you have a chocolate bar every day, an apple is not going to taste that sweets, right? That's right, thankfully, that reverses in a couple of months if you start to get this stuff out of your system.
David Sandstrom 44:00
Excellent.That's really good word. Thank you for that. Can you summarize your message? What's the takeaway? If if, if a person could only have one takeaway from this episode? What would you like them to know?
Dr. Glenn Livingston 44:14
What I'd like them to know is that overcoming overeating is a lot simpler than it's made out to be if you clear away the muck and the messaging of the food industry in the advertising industry and the 12-step programs out there if you clear away that muck, and you choose one simple rule. What's What's one thing that would make your life with food a lot more healthy, but it wouldn't be too much of a burden. It's something you couldn't would do. Like this truck driver. I talked to actually three supervisor, this truck driver who wanted to lose 150 pounds. But he said I can't stop eating fast food. I said well is there one simple thing you could do because he's not on the road all day long, he's got to eat fast food three times a day. He said, Well, I could, I could not go back for seconds. Okay, so he didn't go back for seconds. And that started him down the right path and he starts losing weight. Or some people say, I will always put my fork down between bites. Or I'll only ever have pretzels and a major league baseball game, or I'll never eat in front of a screen again, is there one thing, one simple rule you could make that will get you started in the right direction, it's important to know that you can revise this later on, you're presenting it to your pig as if it's set in stone, the same way that you present to a little child that you can never ever cross the street without holding my hand. Even though you know, sooner or later, with experience, you're gonna teach them how to do it. You can lie to your pig, it's okay. It's pretended like, but one simple rule. And then watch your pig, try to break it, watch your pig try to convince you to break it. And as soon as you hear it squealing, take a deep breath, re then for a count of seven and out for kind of 11 and say, Why does the pig want me to break this? I thought about this well, very carefully. Why does it want me to break it, write it down. Ask yourself why the pig is wrong. And you'll be amazed how just that simple little process starts to give you a power that you didn't have before. all it's really doing is restoring you into your rational brain by making a very clear line so that you can recognize when the when the flesh is active, as opposed to letting it hide under ambiguity. And then that when you breathe in for seven and you're breathe out for a count of 11, you're switching nervous systems, you're you're turning off the emergency response system. And you're getting back into your rational calm brain that says it's okay to rest and digest and thing. And you'll find probably like I did that you have a certain power to make choices that you didn't think you had before. And that starts a positive snowball. That's excellent. That'll be the main message I want people to get
David Sandstrom 47:02
I love it. So start with baby steps, make sure they're going in the right direction. And you will gain confidence along the way. And before you know it, you'll be running.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 47:11
Yeah, and look for authentic needs behind the cravings. When I would crave chocolate 80% of the time, sometimes it was emotional, but 80% of the time, I was genuinely looking for energy. And I experimented with different vehicles to get that energy. The one that really worked for me was having a like a fruit and green smoothie, usually greens and kale juice or greens and celery or something like that. Or I'm bananas and kale juice or bananas and celery. And I wouldn't get high with that, but it would meet the genuine need. And it would quell the craving. And those two things together seem to redirect my my erroneous survival drive back to where it belongs.
David Sandstrom 47:52
Excellent. That's really good stuff. Yeah. So Dr. Glenn, I know you have a generous gift for the audience, the Natural Nation, why don't you tell us about that? And if someone wants to get in touch with you, what's the best way to do that?
Dr. Glenn Livingston 48:04
Yeah, everything is at neverbingeagain.com. And if you click the big red button, you will get a free copy of the book in Kindle nook or PDF format. There are hard copies available and everything but there's charge for those. You'll also get a set of recordings where I coach people through this process. I know what's really odd, you might be thinking, why does David have this Dr. on who's got a pig inside of him and what's really we all do? Well, maybe your audience will really understand. But it sounds a little harsh and cruel in the abstract. But if you listen to the coaching process, you'll see it's a very compassionate process that restores people's hope and enthusiasm and aspirations within just one session. And those are all free. And then there is a set of food plan starter templates. This is a diet agnostic program. So you can you can use any dietary philosophy that you want to
David Sandstrom 49:07
I love that term. Diet agnostic.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 49:11
Diet agnostic. Yeah, I'm, personally I'm a whole foods plant based kind of person. But we get a lot of keto people, we get a lot of point counters and calorie counters and all that neverbingeagain.com. Click the big red button. And you'll hear more details about the story and everything.
David Sandstrom 49:27
All right. Excellent. Dr. Glenn, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and dropping all those value bombs on us. I really appreciate your time.
Dr. Glenn Livingston 49:35
It was delightful. And thank you for the references and the elicitation from the from the Bible. I appreciate it.
David Sandstrom 49:41
For more, go to the show notes page at davidsandstrom.com/84. Of course there's an audio version of the podcast there as well as a full video version of the podcast if you enjoy watching. I also have a full transcript there and some more resources for you. If you're enjoying the show, I sure would appreciate you spreading the word and telling you for runs about it. On the show notes page. There's social share buttons. And if you're not there, you can always just take a screenshot on your phone and share it on social media that way I sure would appreciate you spreading the word. That's all for now. Thanks for listening, and I'll talk with you next week. Be blessed.