Dr. Barter talks with psychologist, Dr. Glenn Livingston, PhD, about strategies to curb binge eating.
Intro [00:00:03] Welcome to the Fearless Health podcast with host Dr. Ann-Marie Barter. Dr. Barter is on a mission to help people achieve their health and wellness goals and help men and women live their best lives fearlessly. Dr. Barter is the founder of Alternative Family Medicine and Chiropractic in Denver and Longmont, Colorado.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:00:24] Thank you so much for joining us here at Fearless Health podcast, I’m your host, Dr. Ann-Marie Barter, and today I am so excited because I have a very special guest with us and his name is Dr. Glenn Livingston. And he has written just such a fascinating book called Never Binge Again. And I want to just talk a little bit about his story. He is a veteran psychologist, and he was a long time CEO of a multimillion dollar consulting firm, which he has service several Fortune 500 clients 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, Indiana Star-Ledger, The New York Daily Times, American demographics, or any of the other major media outlets you’ve seen on this page. Disillusioned by what traditional psychology had to offer overweight and and or food obsessed individuals, Dr. Livingston spent several decades researching the nature of bingeing and overeating via work with his own patients and a self funded research program with more than 400 400 40000 participants. Forty thousand Wow. Most importantly, however, his own personal journey out of obesity, food prison in a normal healthy weight, much more light hearted relationship with food now. Thank you so much for joining us.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:01:46] Thank you for having me, Dr. N Nice to be here.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:01:49] So pleased to have you. So this is quite the story and quite the book. So can you tell us your own personal journey of what got this place?
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:02:00] Sure, Kanya. So I think the most important thing for you to know, for your listeners to know is that I’m not just a doctor who decided he wanted to work with weight loss clients and overeating. I had a very serious binge eating problem myself. They would have today. They were diagnosed as exercise bulimia. That would have that. I don’t I don’t have it anymore. But when I was young at 17, I discovered that because I was six four and reasonably muscular that if I worked out for two, three four hours a day, I could eat whatever I wanted to so I could eat a whole pizza. I could have boxes of muffins, boxes of donuts, five or six lattes. I didn’t call it back then. And whatever you can imagine, boxes of chocolate, whatever you can imagine. And it really wasn’t a problem. I actually thought it was a great thing. I spent my life eating and exercising and sleeping and going to the bathroom. But that was fine when I was 17 and I stayed thin. It really, really wasn’t an issue for me when I got a little older, when I was 22 or 23 years old. I got married young and I had a lot of responsibilities all of a sudden and my metabolism would slow down. And I was driving two hours each way to go to work, and I had all these patients and my ex-wife, my wife, they wanted to talk to me, and I just didn’t have the time I could work out, maybe once a week. And it was it was horrible. And I found that even though that was the case, I couldn’t really adjust the food. I developed an obsession with food and a real craving for it, and I would be, you know, I would be sitting in a in a room with a suicidal patient and I’d be thinking, when can I get my next pizza? When can I get to the deli and dislodge my jaw and empty the contents of the tray into it? And I’m glad you like that. And that was more so than all the way I was gaining in the health problems I was developing, and I can tell you more about them if you want more so than that. What really bothered me was my inability to be present because I come from a family of psychologists, there are 17 therapists and my family, and the standing joke is that if something breaks in the house, everybody knows how to ask it, how it feels, but nobody knows how to fix it. But all kidding aside, being a great psychologist is always most important. That’s really what I wanted to do in my life, and I couldn’t. I mean, I never lost anybody. I specialized in working with suicidal adolescents for a while. I never lost anybody. But anybody who knows anything about that field knows it’s not really an intellectual endeavor. I mean, it is. You got to assess their lives and figure out what resources they need and what you can tell them. But really, you’re there to lend them your soul. But that’s how psychotherapy really works. And the more serious the problem is, the more you have to be there to lend your soul. And I wasn’t really there. It wasn’t a hundred percent, so I felt like it was dangerous. I felt like it was. I was letting myself down and letting my family down, and because I come from a family of psychologists. I figured that it must be a psychological cause. Sometimes if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right? So I figured there must be a hole in my heart. And if I could figure out where that hole in my heart is coming from, when I could fill that up, then maybe, maybe it wouldn’t have to keep trying to fill up my stomach. And so I went on a journey which took me in all sorts of directions I never expected, but it’s a very soulful journey. And I went to see the best psychologists and psychiatrists in the area and come from my family. I knew them. And I went to overdoes Anonymous for a lot of years and I took medication. I did all sorts of things, and each of them helped a little bit. But I would lose weight, and then I gained even more and lose weight, and I gained even more. And there was something that just wasn’t clicking about it. Fast forward, fast forward about twenty five, thirty years and I finally got exhausted from doing that and I said there has to be maybe the whole idea is wrong. Maybe it’s not that there’s a hole in my heart. Maybe overcoming overeating is more like capturing and caging a rabid animal than nurturing your inner child back to health. Maybe I’m going to have to be more like an alpha wolf dealing with this part of me that is challenging for leadership. And when an alpha wolf is challenged for leadership by another member of the pack that Alpha Wolf doesn’t say, Oh my goodness, someone needs a hug. That alpha is snarls and growls and says, Get back in line or I’ll kill you. It’s a start to superiority. And there were several things that confirm that for me. Some people take the wounded child approach, and it works well for them or the intuitive eating approach that works well for them. So I don’t mean to dodge that really wasn’t working like that for me. And I now know from the almost 700000 readers that we have that it doesn’t work well for a lot of other people either. I never intended for that all to happen, by the way. So the three things that happened was flip the paradigm for me and told me I had to be an alpha wolf were that I conducted a study with 40000 people to figure out what the relationship was between the specific stresses in people’s lives and the specific foods that the overreading. I’ll tell you the results of that in a minute. I also did a lot of consulting for big food companies, and I saw that they were engineering these hyper palatable concentrations of starch and sugar and fat and oil and our toxins. And it’s all designed to hit our bliss points without giving us enough nutrition to feel satisfied. And there are billions of dollars that go into this. And then there’s all this money that goes into advertising it and people think advertising doesn’t affect them, but it affects you more when you think it doesn’t affect you because your sales resistance is down. So they’ve got us right where they want us. There are five to seven thousand messages every year about us to the internet and the airwaves. And how many of them do you think are getting you to have more fruit and vegetables? Not that many, right? So I say, well, that’s an overwhelming force. That’s an overwhelming force aligned against not just me and every, but everybody else. And that force is only getting stronger. Now I remember consulting for the VP of a major food bar manufacturer, and I asked him what the most profitable insight we ever had was. And he said, Well, you know, to tell you honestly, it was taking the vitamins out of the bar. I said taking the vitamins out of them, he said, yeah, they were expensive and they were making it taste bad. And we found that it was easier to convince people that it was healthy by making the packaging pretty instead.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:08:53] And don’t they use different colors of vegetables to make the packaging seem quote unquote healthy, it’s so psychologically people think that they’re getting healthier? Yeah, Zach.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:09:06] Yeah, I mean, I mean, there’s a reason why we’re so attracted to a vibrancy and variety of colors in nature that signals the availability of different antioxidants and nutrients and a diversity that we really need. Just think about a gorgeous salad with crispy green lettuce and red tomatoes and blueberries and carrots, and the rainbow of color is attractive to our evolutionary brain for a reason, it signals to the diversity of nutrients that are available, so they’re faking us out. And that’s just an example. I don’t mean to single them out. This goes on all over the industry, but they’re they’re faking us out and consumers want to be lied to. By the way, it’s this is not like they really want an excuse to eat something that tastes unnaturally good and is unnaturally concentrated and to be told that it was actually good for them. I don’t mean to put all the blame on the companies, but I said these are overwhelming forces aligned against me to attract my lizard brain. My reptilian brain makes me think that I needed to survive, to trick it into thinking I need their stuff to survive. And that has nothing to do with the fact that my momma didn’t love me enough when I was a kid. It it just it’s nothing to do with a hole in my heart. It’s just these are the facts as to what we’re facing. There’s got to be something different. When I when I did the forty thousand person study, there were three things that came out of it. What one was that people who were attracted to chocolate, who couldn’t stop eating chocolate, and I was one of those people. My binges always start with chocolate, starting with chocolate. I haven’t had it in years. What? When, when those people binge, they’re usually feeling lonely or broken hearted, or more so than others. When people are attracted to salty, crunchy things, they’re generally stressed at work. And when they are attracted to soft, chewy, starchy things like bread or bagels or pasta, they tend to be stressed at home. And I thought that was fascinating. And so I kind of give me any party trick to ask people and they grow with it.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:11:12] So you’re eating that chocolate at a party? You feeling a little lonely? I got it. Yeah, yeah. That’s that’s incredibly interesting. I love that.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:11:24] So I asked my mom before I started working with clients about it, I figured I better ask my mom. And I did not work with eating disorder clients when I was younger because I had such a serious problem myself. I was probably about 180 pounds at my worst. So, you know, and I wasn’t exercising and you know, we’re about to 10 to 15, depending upon the week that you ask me. But but I asked my mom what this could possibly mean. I said, Yeah, yes, I’m in a bad marriage and, you know, so I am lonely and broken hearted, but it’s going to be a while before I can get out of that. What could this mean? And she gets this horrible look on her face. And I said, Mom, what is it? You can tell me? She said, I’m so sorry. And I said, Mom, whatever it is, it’s 40 years ago, it’s OK, I forgive you, I love you. And she says, I’m so sorry, but when you were one year old in 1965, Vietnam was raging and your dad was a captain in the army and they were talking about sending him over there and I was terrified. And at the same time, your grandfather, my my dad, had just gotten out of prison and I didn’t know he was doing all these bad things and my whole world came apart. So I was sitting and staring at the wall, anxious and depressed all the time, and I just didn’t have the wherewithal to hug you and hold you. I love you the way you needed to be. And so I got a big bottle of chocolate Bosco sirup and it kept it in a refrigerator on the floor. And when you come running to me half the time, I’d say, Glenn, go get your Bosco and you run over to the chocolate sirup and you’d open the bottle and you’d suck on it and you go into a chocolate sugar coma. And that’s where it probably started. And I went, Wow. Wow. If this was a movie, my mind, I would have a big hug and a big cry, and we’d forgive each other. And I never have trouble with chocolate again. What happened instead was that I had more trouble with chocolate. And the reason I had more trouble with chocolate was because there was this voice in my head said something like this. Hey, Glenn, you know what? You’re right. Our momma didn’t love us enough, and she left a great big chocolate sized trail in our heart. And until you can find the love of your life and get out of this marriage, you’re going to have to keep bingeing on chocolate. Yippee, let’s go get some right now. So it was a voice of justification. It was a voice of justification. And I suddenly recognized that if the emotional disturbance is the fire, like the loneliness and my my example or the broken ness, if that’s the fire, I’ve been spending a lifetime trying to put out the fire, thinking that I had to put out the fire in order to get better. But you could have a raging fire in a well contained fireplace in the middle of your living room, and it actually becomes the center of hearth and home. Some place where people gather around and make memories and share stories as long as the fireplace is well contained. But if the fireplace is broken and it turns out that it’s this voice of justification that breaks the fireplace, then the sparks can get out and burn down the house. And I suddenly recognized that maybe when I needed to do was disempower that voice of justification and deal with the fire as its own thing. I mean, it can take a lifetime to find the love of your life, right? Some people never do. So for me to wait to stop overeating until I could do that didn’t really make make sense at all. So this is the embarrassing part. This is the embarrassment. This is what I did as a sophisticated psychologist with millions of dollars of consulting behind me. I just I just want you to remember before I say this that I wasn’t going to publish it. This is going to be my my private journal. Maybe I’d work with a couple of clients about it, but I was mostly going to be giving it private. I decided that the reptilian brand which doesn’t know love, by the way, the reptilian brain, which is responsible largely for our food addictions and other addictions it knows eat meat or kill it, see something in the environment. It’s it’s the it’s the mammalian brain of the neocortex that makes us more uniquely human. There the piece of us that says, Hey, wait a minute before you eat, mate or kill that thing. What impact is that going to have on your loved ones or your tribe, or your aspirations or spirituality, or who you want to be in the world? And I said, OK, I’m going to call that my inner pig, and I’m going to make a really clear line in the sand. I’m going to say I will never have chocolate on a weekday again just to try to get some control over this. I’ll have another weekend, but not on a weekday. And if I heard a voice in my head that said you could start tomorrow or you worked out hard enough, it’s not going to be a problem. Or, you know, gee, Glenn Chocolate comes from a cocoa being which grows on a plant, and so therefore it’s a vegetable, whatever. Well, whatever my thing was saying, but that was pigs. Will those pigs will? And it was squealing for slop. I don’t eat pigs off. I don’t like farm animals. Tell me what to do. As crazy as that sounds is crude and primitive as it sounds. It’s the first thing that was capable of waking me up at the moment of impulse, moment of temptation and give me those extra microseconds that I need to remember who I was and what my plans had been. And I can’t tell you that it was a miracle that instantaneously I was better. What I’ll tell you was that instantaneously I felt empowered. I had been going down a path where I really felt hopeless and powerless. And in Overeaters Anonymous, it told me that I was powerless and I couldn’t do this on my own. And the best I could do was abstain one day at a time. I could never quit, but I suddenly didn’t feel like that. I suddenly felt like, you know, I could make a decision here. And over time, I experimented with the rules. I kept a journal for eight years. Meet me versus with a pig and all the crazy things that they would say and what the reality was. And ever so slowly, I started making more and more right decisions. I recognized that since nobody was telling me what to eat, I was creating my own rules. But it was silly not to listen to my own rules if I was awake. And it worked. I lost weight. I became them, and I stopped obsessing about food all the time. I stopped thinking about food all the time. The way it became public was that as I was getting divorced in 2015, I was a minor part of a publishing company, and the CEO said they wanted a book that they could market of our own to prove to other authors that we could really do our stuff and we could attract better authors that way. I said, OK, well, I wrote this crazy journal. Do you want to read it? So I sent the journal to my partner, Yoav, and he calls me back two weeks later and he says, Don’t touch your pigs. Apparently, pigs laugh. I don’t live from Jerusalem. What’s the deal with that? And then he lost them. He was the first follower and he lost eighty six pounds and we published that. I mean, we know what we’re doing in marketing. We fight a lifetime in marketing. But but we did not expect the the virality that occurred after that. And like I said, now we have 700000 readers and two thousand reviews and sometimes I’ve been a bookstore. And people don’t really know my name, but they come up to me and they point at me, the go to guy,
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:18:53] aren’t you so glad you named it
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:18:54] that I am so glad I did it that? Yeah.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:18:58] So it sounded like you alluded to earlier that you have not had chocolate. How long did you say?
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:19:05] You know, I don’t even know because I don’t count days. Sometime right around the time I was getting a divorce, I guess it’s almost four years now.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:19:12] And so do you believe in quitting these foods, cold turkey and every urge that you get? It sounds like you are saying this is a pig. This is the reptilian brain. It’s separating it from itself because it’s not part of you. Correct. But if you believe the way to do this is really to try to cold turkey as much as you can cut out some of these, well, foods.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:19:37] Yes and no. Yes and no. I tried six ways to Sunday personally to find a way that I could keep eating chocolate. I have it on the weekends. Have it after a really big workout only have 200 calories a week. I tried six ways to Sunday. I don’t know what the expression is, but I was not willing to let it go for a very long time. And I finally came to the conclusion that I’m really addicted to chocolate. I’m just one of those people that is better off with nine than some. The majority of my clients don’t do it like that. The majority of my clients discover that by defining very clear boundaries, which could be only ever have chocolate on the weekend, it might be, you know, I will never have chocolate again, except one dessert at a restaurant no more than once a week. But by having very clear boundaries and having made all the decisions beforehand, they don’t have to rely on their willpower to do it. And suddenly this thing that was out of control in their life is now in control. And I’d say more people than not that I work with wind up with that solution, then give it up of a solution. The good thing about to give it up altogether solution is that the voice quiets down quicker because you’re not reigniting those pathways. And like Jack Shrimpy, a rational recovery, says we. We don’t crave things that we know we’re never going to have. So people ask me, How did I? How can I deal with that chocolate? Don’t I feel deprived? So I don’t have a craving. It looks when I pass the chocolate bar in the in the Starbucks that I used to get all the time. It looks like a big bag of chemicals like I don’t I don’t feel it anymore. I did for a couple of months, and about two months later, it was 80 percent reduced. And then a year later, it was almost gone. What people don’t know. So your pick will tell you that you can’t make this change. You can’t give up chocolate or have it three days a calendar month or something. You just can’t do that. You’re going to deprive what you don’t know is that your taste buds and your dopaminergic reward system has been dead end by the ongoing presentation of supersized stimuli. We didn’t have any chocolate in the savanna. We didn’t have any chocolate in the tropics. And I mean, we had the cow, but we didn’t have, you know, chocolate combined with sugar and fat and butter and all the things that they put in there. And it’s kind of like sleeping underneath a subway. When I was in graduate school, I sometimes meet the subway for a couple of months and the first couple of weeks I couldn’t sleep. But before I knew it, I couldn’t hear the subway anymore because my mind, my whole nervous system, had obituary to that unnatural stimuli. The same thing. If you have a chocolate bar every day before you know it, you won’t taste as good as it did in the beginning. Apples and oranges and you know, natural sugars will not taste good to you anymore, and you will feel like you can’t live without it. That’s what people say. Hand over the chocolate and nobody gets hurt. It’s a it’s a biological error where your survival drive has been hijacked and connected to this industrial product. If I stop sleeping, I’m going to the subway and I go sleep out in the country. Then my nervous system comes back, and then I went back and slept in the subway again. It would be extraordinarily loud to me. And the good news is that that happens relatively quickly. If you stop having sugar, your nervous system comes back your taste. I think the research says your taste buds double in sensitivity over the course of six to eight weeks. I don’t know what happens with the actual reward system, but I know that people tell me that, oh my God, I like fruit again. I thought I could never lose weight because I hated fruits and vegetables, but I can actually tell the difference between an apple and an apple and a delicious apple, and I know which one is my favorite. And so your pick will say you’re going to be deprived forever, but forever isn’t forever. Day by day, you’re going to get more pleasure out of life than you imagined. It’s just that you have to kind of wrench it away from where it’s been kidnaped and allow that readjustment process to take place.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:23:40] I think people’s dopamine receptors have been completely hijacked across the board and even more so when they’re craving things like chocolate or not. On the topic of this conversation, but I see this a lot. Cocaine is another one. You’ll see people really gravitating towards those things or Facebook or something else, just dump the dopamine. And people get so used to that. It’s something I see in practice a lot is those dopamine receptors are shot, and it was interesting for me to hear people talk about not having willpower to do. I do an elimination diet in my practice, not having the willpower to be able to stick or to to do that without sugar because they’re just so depleted and dopamine. I will see it 100 percent across the board of neurotransmitter depletion
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:24:33] in our society. What do you do for that?
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:24:37] I actually do. It depends on what’s going on. So. So neurotransmitters get depleted based on a leaky gut. So I try to figure out if there’s something going on, for example, in the gut itself. I also have to stabilize the blood sugar. Generally, you’ll see these people eat like, you know, Oh, I just have dinner and I had coffee and I’m into this. What is it? Intermittent fasting thing? And I just like to have coffee a couple of times a day. I have some have a chocolate bar and then I have, Oh, I eat to
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:25:08] kill me now.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:25:10] So I have to stabilize your blood sugar because blood sugar is one of the biggest things that actually will affect the dopamine system. If someone is so depleted, I actually get the precursors for dopamine. It’s as I can heal the rest of the system. Really?
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:25:25] That’s so interesting.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:25:26] So a lot of times patients are vitamin deficient. You’d be super surprised. I mean, in a lot of times they don’t even just have the cofactors to make dopamine. So that’s how I handle it. And I see pretty quick changes with dopamine. I don’t keep people on it long term because I really want their gut to make it right. So I have not done more than two rounds of dopamine on a particular.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:25:52] It’s so interesting. I might want to send you some.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:25:56] Yeah. What do you do to change dopamine?
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:25:58] Well, I mean, I’m not a medical doctor, so this is just an understanding that I have from reading over the years. But I I find that for every craving that we have for an industrial food, there’s some natural craving that’s not being satisfied. So, for example, I overcame my chocolate addiction by experimenting with different types of smoothies. So whenever I would have a chocolate craving, I wouldn’t just white knuckle it and say, Well, I don’t eat chocolate, I don’t eat picks up and granola with something. I mean, I would do that. That’s how that’s how I’d wake up. But then I weighed as soon as I could get over and make myself a smoothie. And what I eventually figured out was that a banana kale smoothie? I don’t know if you’re some bitcoin.com or bananas and kale that would do what chocolate was doing for me. And then I took a magnesium supplement also.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:26:49] There it is.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:26:51] That’s I was.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:26:52] That helps. OK.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:26:54] OK, so that’s what I do when I tell people to experiment with, you know, a whole fresh natural foods. I mean, I’m a plant based person, but some people are not. So I seldom get away from the industrial stuff to experiment with more whole fresh things. Figure out what gives you what you need. And then I often refer them to a nutritionist if that doesn’t do it. That’s what we do. Yeah, what
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:27:18] what do you think about these district like diets for people that have some of these problems? Like I have heard, people with binge eating disorder say, I’m never going to do a strict diet again. I eat what I want. I don’t want to be restricted because I’ve had this eating disorder, this binge eating that I couldn’t stop or whatever it is. What do you think of that comment from from?
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:27:42] So there is yeah, it’s a complex answer. So it’s going to take me three or four minutes to get there, but I will. There is a notion in the world that any type of restriction, including mental restriction, causes an equal and opposite reaction in a bench. That’s the notion, and the solution in a lot of the eating disorder community is to. Vilify the notion of calling any food off limits, you have to allow everything, everything in moderation. And some people are successful like that. I do think that there’s a psychological reason for that. I think that there were people who were controlled against their best interests in their upbringing. And so they have a survival drive to rebel against any rule, even rules they create for themselves. And I have seen people get better doing that by the same token. This flavored cardboard in the food system. And I think that if we lived in the tropics as we evolved and we trust that our instinct, I think, would be fine. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. I think people can instinctually know and intuitively know what they do. But when you’re talking about all these industrial products, they’re designed to override that natural instinct like by design that they’re trying to get you to not be able to stop eating. And so to say, Well, intuitively, I’m just going to know how many potato chips I should have or, you know, how much you know how much of this bag, box or container I should have. It doesn’t really make sense. You’re not. We’re not wired like that. It’s almost like saying, Well, I’m an intuitive smoker. I smoke only as much as I need to be like that, right? Or I mean, if you talk to vegans, there’s a process. You would know the chemicals better than I, but I know that our muscles make energy producing compounds that if we’re constantly consuming animal products, we get those components and the animal products. And then if we stop, we feel exhausted for a period of time until our muscles take over again. And if during that period of time, you said, Well, I’m going to intuitively eat what’s best for me? You would always be right led right back to the animal products. And I just think there are all these ways that we’re introducing things into the food system that distort our natural instincts and the way I like to think about it is. Mindfulness is very helpful, intuitive eating is very helpful between the boundaries. Think about your most serious trigger food or eating behaviors and create some traffic lights and stop signs around them. You know, if if it weren’t for traffic lights and stop signs, we couldn’t move around the city safely. You know, we’d be we’d actually be restricting our freedom more because it would be too dangerous to move around with traffic lights and stop signs. We can drive mindfully, you know, we can get where we need to go. We can enjoy the experience. We can talk to our friends on the phone. We can listen to music. We can be present in the world without them. There are too many places to crash, and so that’s why I’m in favor of specific rules. There’s one more reason this is the last reason promise. The last reason is that so some of these studies are having some reproducibility issues, but I still am in favor of the conclusion. The willpower does not appear to be a genetic gift that’s in black and white. I gather you have to or don’t. It’s more like gas in the tank that we all get and we get a bunch of it in the morning and we lose it throughout the course of the day as we make decisions, not just decisions about food. People have trouble resisting marshmallows if you make them do math problems beforehand because they’ve taxed their decision-making ability. If you if you answer a lot of emails by the time you’re done answering emails, the it’s going to be more difficult to be discriminating about food. And so what I find is that if you can eliminate a lot of that decision making that people suddenly find, they have more willpower, but it’s really because they’re not relying on willpower at all. If you say I only have one dessert once per calendar week at dinner, at a restaurant with you look like any text.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:32:08] Yeah, I did. I know I’m sorry, I’m fighting it.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:32:10] That was really cool, that you were trying to hold it in. I was really impressed. The way you do about it. I I would I would have just these first or stones since I got it out of this. This it’s never my idea. They didn’t teach me this stuff in graduate school. So rules actually work better than guidelines because they eliminate those decisions. If you want to stop, if you want to have chocolate 10 percent of the time, for example, it’d be better to say I only have chocolate in the last calendar week end of the month, which is about 10 percent of the time. So a little less than to say I avoid chocolate 90 percent of the time and a 10 percent of the time. The reason is every time you go to Starbucks in front of a chocolate bar, if you avoid chocolate 90 percent higher than you did 10 percent of the time, you’re going to have to make another decision every single time you’re in front of the bar. But if you only eat chocolate on the last calendar weekend of the month, then 90 percent of your chocolate decisions have been made and you don’t have to use willpower every time you walk into Starbucks. Does that make sense?
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:33:09] Yeah, absolutely. So you’re not talking about because I think that a complaint that would come back from patients would be, well, my job’s really stressful and I have to write emails and I have to respond to things all day long. And I just want that chocolate bar at three p.m. And that’s when their blood sugars crash. That’s when they’re totally spent. And what would you tell that particular patient?
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:33:33] Well, first of all, I would say that it might be that your pig wants it and you don’t. But if you really want it, then OK, let’s have it. But let’s define exactly how much you’re going to have and what you’re going to have after. And how are you going to take care of yourself in and around that? That indulgence, because, you know, I believe that we fought wars for our freedom in this country, and no one has the right to tell you that you can or can’t have this. But to avoid getting out of control with that, let’s let’s put some parameters around it. It’s like if you shoot in an archery target, there are several rungs around the bull’s eye. And sometimes if you know you’re going to be in a stressful or very seductive situation, you need to shoot for the outer rungs and not for the bull’s eye itself. And that’s OK. It’s better than shooting the hours into the audience.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:34:22] Yeah, that’s that’s actually quite interesting, because I think so many people are so stressed out, so depleted, and then the cycle continues, they eat more sugar, they eat more simple carbohydrates, exactly what you’ve talked about because it’s just go, go, go push, push, push and they they break themselves down to such a low level. And we know that the simple carbs actually increase the neurotransmitter short term and then take them down again. And so that’s why you get that vicious cycle of, wow, I feel better. I felt great when I ate that. Oh yeah. An hour later, I was completely passed out on the floor.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:34:56] And because our brains are better at short term thinking and short term and organizing themselves for short term rewards and long term rewards and unfortunately has a very addictive influence on us, I think the the hope that you get from that sugar is about 18 to thirty two minutes, right, followed by several hours of down of pain. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Unless you have more and you try to chase the dragon away, but
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:35:22] which I feel like it’s a cycle, well, I crave that. So I wanted it and I felt good and then I felt worse. So yeah, it is quite a bit the cycle. So yeah, on that. Yeah. Any other tips if somebody is struggling with this?
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:35:36] Oh, well, I mean, I’ve got a whole bunch of free things I can give them to get started. But a lot of people resist this because it seems too regimented and like it’s going to be too much work. But I tell them what we’re really doing is something you’ve been doing your whole life anyway. We’re actually building character. Like one definition of character is the way that we habitually respond in the face of temptation without even knowing it. So if if you go into a diner and there’s a $20 bill on the table because the way you didn’t see your tip yet and there’s nobody up front and there’s nobody, there’s no windows or a video camera and the waitresses, I’ll be right back. I just have to get your menu. Would you take that $20 bill? No one would
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:36:23] right with yours, right? It’s not yours.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:36:26] Because you’re not a thief, right? You have an unwritten rule in your head that says, I never steal. It’s because of the kind of person you want to be. The character trumps willpower. It’s it’s I don’t think of myself as having to abstain from chocolate for the rest of my life. I just think of myself as a person who doesn’t eat chocolate. It’s just part of my character. I’m not a chocolate eater. You can be a person who only eat chocolate on the weekends. You can be a person who only has pretzels that Major League Baseball games, and you can add rules that add things to your life also. I always put my work down. Before I take, I take a bite. I always drink two glasses of pure spring water as soon as I get up in the morning. I, I always have five servings of vegetables every day. You can add, you can add things also. And it’s it is important to avoid making rules that are overly restrictive because people who overeat are also really good dieters. And they it’s a part of the feast and famine cycle and you want to step out of that. There are some rules that you can’t make. If you make rules that deprive your body of the nutrition and calories that they need, then your body will force you to do otherwise. Eventually, just think about trying to make the rule. I will never again six six, sooner or later, your sooner or later it’s got to come back. That was not going to work. I was not going to work. I’m glad I made the last areas. OK, so character trumps willpower. Start with one rule. Start with only one rule and teach yourself how the game is played before you try to lose weight and go to town making whole big food plan. Think about your single worst trigger food or eating behavior and make a rule. You know, I I never eat standing up. I never eat in front of the TV and then watch your pig try to convince you to do otherwise. You don’t have to call it a pig. You can call it your food monster. Or you can let me. It’s not a cute little thing inside you because this is it’s like a bodily organ. The bladder is actually a very good analogy because we all live with the very intense urges from our bladder. As a matter of fact, I have one right now, but we I’m going to complete this interview before I let my bladder do what it wants to do because of the kind of person I want to be because I made a commitment to you and because it would be very messy if I didn’t. It’s the same thing with our urge to overeat. It’s just a biological urge. You don’t have to get rid of it. You have to become comfortable with the fact that these cravings exist. Sometimes there are ways to make them more comfortable and slow them down. But but as human beings, we have a we have a responsible burden to channel our strongest drives into pro-social behavior, and eating is included in that. So it’s OK that you feel like like everyone in your body is screaming Binge. That’s OK. It’s OK that you feel like if you don’t get this potato chips, you’re going to die. That’s normal. The way that our society set up. What’s not OK is to think that feelings are facts. To think that you know, they’re going to find your bones by the refrigerator tomorrow morning. If you don’t get that bag of potato chips, it’s not going to happen. And you can take a breath, take yourself out of that fight or flight emergency mode, because that’s what happens when you’re feeling so overwhelming cravings. And then ask yourself, how can I authentically take care of myself instead? Where is it? Sometimes it’s health care. Sometimes it’s stepping out of all the stress for five minutes and going to breathe. Even if you have to go hide in the toilet and meditate for five minutes. I have clients and meditate in the toilet. Even if you have to do that, you’ll be amazed at how much more willpower you have when you’re when you’re done meditating. I can’t believe I’m talking about meditating, literally, but you’ll be amazed at how much more willpower you have after that five minutes. And before that, it’s true.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:40:34] If you could just hold off the craving for a little bit, it changes.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:40:37] Yeah, yeah. Because then the body says the brain says, I guess this wasn’t a matter of survival, after all. Yeah. So the last thing I want to leave people with and then if it’s OK with you, like to tell them how they can get a copy of the book for free, of course. Yeah. The last thing I like to leave you with is the idea that this is a lot simpler than it’s made out to be because a lot of misinformation in our culture. There is a lot of confusion about having to do. You don’t have to solve all the problems in your life in order to stop binging. You don’t have to read spiritual enlightenment. Solving therapeutic problems is a good thing. Spiritual life is a good thing. I am a social person. I pursue that path myself, but it’s independent of what you need to do to stop. All you have to do to never binge again is never been together. I know it sounds ridiculous, but try it. You don’t have to believe me. You just have to try it and you’ll see you see how this works. So I set up a free copy and electronic format Kindle No. PDF at the website and every means you can become click on the big red button and sign up for the free bonus. You will get that. Two other things I have for you that will be helpful. My plan is diagnostic, even though I’m not diagnostic. The plan is diagnostics. I work with people with all different plans, and we created a sample set of rules which you customized for yourself for any particular dietary philosophy that you have. Dr. Anna Maria, you and I are more or more or less of the same philosophy philosophy about the intermittent fasting and the super low carb, but nevertheless people do it and it’s better than bingeing. It’s better than bingeing in my, in my estimation. So I have those those templates for you. I also know a lot of you must be thinking, why does Dr. Ann-Marie’s have this crazy psychologist out who’s got a pig inside him? This sounds really harsh in the abstract. In theory, it sounds really crazy. It’s not, I promise you, it’s a very compassionate thing. And if you listen to some of the sessions that I’ve recorded, which you’ll get for free, you will hear people go from feeling powerless and confused and hopeless about ever being able to control this, the feeling confident and in control and hopeful. And if you combine this with nutritional counseling with someone like Mike, like you doctor, and it’s a very powerful one two combination. If you take care of the physical needs and you organize your money, restructure your thoughts so that you know how to get through those moments and you don’t need willpower. It’s a very, very powerful combination, so I would highly recommend that they endeavor to do that.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:43:16] Yeah, that’s right. And I love all the free information you share to help out the listeners here today. It’s just so important. I put people on elimination diets initially just to figure out where their food sensitivities are for a short period of time and just the things that I hear and the struggles that people have. I just felt like this interview was so necessary to get the word out of all of the diet misconceptions, all the problems. How how long do I have to do this? Why can’t I stop eating? And why do I crave these things? And just to understand that this is not something wrong with you. It just is something that needs to be tweaked, something that needs to be addressed and it can be addressed. So I really appreciate you being here today. I just I thought your book was super helpful.
Dr. Glenn Livingston [00:44:01] Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate this also.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter [00:44:04] Yeah, OK. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed learning with us today, please give us a five star review, comment like and share our podcast with your friends and family. As always, if you’d like to learn more information about today’s guest, please head over to FearlessHealthPodcast.com Com for links to their site and other educational resources.