IC026: Never Binge Again with Dr. Glenn Livingston

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Margy and Jess are excited to be exhibiting for the second year in a row at FinCon in Dallas! On today’s episode, we feature an interview with longtime client, Dr. Glenn Livingston.

What was life like when you were obese, personally and professionally?

  • Glenn grew up in a family of psychotherapists, and always wanted to be a psychologist on the radio (like his dad)
  • Glenn started as a couples and family therapist
  • His work required a lot of presence, but he couldn’t say present because he was so preoccupied by food
  • In addition to his concerning mental obsession with food, he was also experiencing serious health risks

What role did shame play in your life when you were binge eating?

  • Shame played a big role
  • Glenn has realized that bingeing is only possible when you are also self shaming
  • This led Glenn to think about the survival role that guilt and shame play in keeping us alive
  • Like physical pain, shame can draw your attention to mistakes and prevent you from doing destructive things again
  • Glenn calls his inner destructive self his “pig”
  • Removing shame and guilt made it possible for Glenn to recover

What can we do as individuals and as a community to help people struggling with shame and disordered eating?

  • As a community, we need to recognize the economic, sociological and physiological forces aligned in the culture to create binge eating
  • It’s amazing that anyone is able to eat normally
  • Billions of dollars go into engineering super concentrated starches, sugars and other unhealthy food chemicals designed to short circuit the pleasure centers of the brains
  • When rats can directly activate the pleasure center of the brain, they will do nothing else (sacrificing things they need to survive like food in favor of pleasure)
  • The mammalian brain will engage in serious self neglect in pursuit of pleasure
  • The advertising industry also helps convince us that we can’t live without unhealthy foods
  • The addiction treatment industry gives the message of “you are powerless to resist”
  • As a society, to remove shame we can look at what’s happening in the society as a whole and have compassion for how it’s creating binge eaters
  • Glenn presents the idea that people whose drug of choice is food are more selfless, because unlike drugs addicts they don’t affect the people around them with their addiction

Who have your biggest critics been over the years?

  • Glenn is a compassionate person and is also highly educated on these topics
  • Ultimately, Glenn figured out that he couldn’t “love himself thin”
  • Glenn has developed a paradigm where you distance yourself from the lizard brain (which he calls his “inner pig”)
  • He draws clear boundaries (no chocolate on weekdays)
  • Some people believe Glenn’s philosophy and use of the word “pig” is fat shaming, but Glenn’s theory is that this lizard brain (or “pig”) is NOT you
  • This relates to the Buddhist practice of realizing that your thoughts are not you
  • What we think of as our identity is a subset of thoughts driven by our neurology
  • You can make a statement of character like “I’m not the kind of person who eats chocolate during the week,” forming an identity around that statement of will

What’s the balance between loving yourself and also wanting to be thinner and healthier?

  • Glenn doesn’t know if a happy fat person exists
  • From what he’s seen, there are a lot of health consequences to being overweight
  • Plus sized people should be loved and accepted, and because of the perfect storm, it’s not easy to get control over eating
  • Hopelessness can cause people to give up on getting thinner and healthier
  • If you can be a happy, healthy fat person, Glenn is ok with that
  • He hates to see people give up on being a thin person without really understanding what’s going on psychologically and how they can leverage that to get thin
  • Glenn is not very supportive of the notion of just “accepting your weight.” He feels people should strive for a medically healthy weight

How has being interviewed on podcasts so frequently impacted you?

  • Glenn’s goal is to help a million people a year stop overeating
  • He’s had almost 300k downloads of his kindle book
  • He is consistently in the top 5 Amazon books for eating disorders
  • He sees a spike in book sales every time a podcast goes out
  • Podcasting has also helped with Glenn getting more personal coaching clients
  • Another benefit is that podcasts are a “safe” type of publicity to hone his message before going on more mainstream media outlets

At what point in your journey as a guest did you start to see the effects of podcast interviews?

  • Glenn averages an extra 100 downloads every podcast, 10-15 opt ins and about one paid client per podcast
  • It took a couple of months for the podcasts to start coming out and then it became a very steady bump in Amazon stats
  • In retrospect, he wishes he had bought a word of mouth domain for his call to action

Are there certain types of shows that are more effective for you?

  • Glenn is against the 12 Step programs, which makes him unpopular with some mainstream addiction recovery shows
  • The best are any type of health podcasts, particularly the fitness shows because his approach is very disciplined

What is the connection with religious shows?

  • Glenn isn’t religious, but the structure of his philosophy is very compatible with religion (like separating the angel and the devil on your shoulder
  • His average review on Amazon is higher among people who buy religious books

What role does isolation play in addiction?

  • Addiction is an isolating behavior
  • “Narcissus didn’t die of self love, he died of self neglect”
  • You can fight addiction with connection, and it’s part of the process
  • What Glenn objects to in the 12 Step process is not the community, but the concept that it’s a disease and people can’t help themselves which leads to fear and the feeling of powerlessness

Resources Mentioned:

FinCon2017

Health at Every Size

Milner and Olds Studies

Jack Trimpy Rational Recovery

Jean Paul Sartre

Rat Park

NeverBingeAgain.com