Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

Founder & CEO, Bright Line Eating®

Susan’s Story

I was born on June 29, 1974, in San Francisco, California. The hippie era was just winding down, and my early years were filled with love and openness, but not much structure. In grade school, I attended the Miss Katherine Delmar Burke School and excelled academically. I filled my time with math, puzzles, basketball, acting, and Prince music, but deep down I lived for the summers, when I went away to Camp Tawonga just outside of Yosemite Valley. My spirit soared there, as I learned how to backpack, white-water raft, rock climb…and kiss boys.

I was a normal-sized kid (maybe a little chunky) who grew into an overweight teenager. By the age of twelve, I had started to diet, and at the age of fourteen, I found the most effective diet ever—drugs. The next six years were a blur of intoxication, dropping out of high school, and multiple failed attempts to pull it all together.

That all changed on August 9th, 1994, just six weeks after my 20th birthday, when I was taken to a 12-step meeting and given the gift of recovery. Through dedication and a whole lot of grace, I remain clean and sober to this day.

Who knows what my prospects would have been if it weren’t for the community college system. Luckily, I was able to attend San Jose City College, performed creditably, and began my life from there. I transferred to U.C. Berkeley in 1995 and earned a 4.0 GPA each and every semester. In 1997, I graduated from U.C. Berkeley summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in Cognitive Science. My 15 minutes of fame came that spring when I delivered the student keynote speech at the graduation ceremony.

Two years studying cognitive science didn’t feel like nearly enough, so I applied to Ph.D. programs. I got into every school I applied to and had a tough choice ahead of me. In the end, I turned down scholarships to Johns Hopkins and U.C. San Diego and left the San Francisco Bay Area, heading east to attend the University of Rochester in western New York.

Within two years my whole world blossomed. I fell in love with David Thompson at a wedding in late 1998, and we were married on June 19th, 1999. Cliché notwithstanding, my wedding day truly was the best day of my life.

On the outside things were going great. Inside, though, a battle was raging. My weight was climbing, and each autumn when the light changed I sank into a depression that felt like being trapped under a boulder. Therapy and large doses of antidepressant medications were band-aids, and I needed solutions. For many long years my life was an endless series of groundhog days… Oversleeping. Bingeing. Weight gain. Depression. Therapy. Grad school. Wash-rinse-repeat.

At some point my weight officially climbed past the obese marker on the BMI chart. I didn’t realize it, though.

Sweet mercy finally came in the form of another 12-step program, this time for food addiction. (Actually, I had been in another food-related 12-step program for nearly eight years by this point, I just hadn’t been able to make it work.) A friend who had recently joined the food addiction program showed me how to lose all my excess weight and keep it off. I went from a size 16 to a size 4 in just a few months, shedding nearly 60 pounds. And I was given a new life, once again.

The bliss and elation I felt when I finally started living in a right-sized body are indescribable. Even better, my depression lifted, for good and for all, when I changed my eating. Huzzah!

That was the spring of 2003, and I had just finished my doctoral dissertation. I had accepted a two-year Post-Doctoral Research and Teaching Fellowship in the Psychology Department at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. So without further ado, David and I sold our house, sold our cars, found homes for our three cats and our dog, held a mammoth garage sale, and moved to Sydney with just the suitcases we could bring on the plane.

Living in Australia was amazing, but all good things come to an end. After two years in Sydney we returned to western New York. I took a position as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in the Finger Lakes region. Two years later, I accepted a tenure-track position as a professor in the Psychology Department at Monroe Community College.

During this time David and I tried, unsuccessfully, to conceive a child. Through fertility treatments we finally “fell pregnant” (as they say in Australia) and were elated when we discovered it was twins. Alexis and Zoe were in a hurry to get here though, and they were born prematurely at 24 weeks weighing just under one pound, seven ounces each. They stayed in the NICU for 100 and 117 days. It was touch-and-go there for a long time, especially with Zoe.

When I was first in labor, the doctors showed us a graph with statistics and we calculated that there was only a 4% chance that they would both survive and be healthy. There were a lot of scary moments along the way, but long story short, they are both happy and healthy today. They are miracles for which I can never be sufficiently grateful.

When I returned to work after Alexis and Zoe were born I started teaching a course on The Psychology of Eating and Body Image. I had already been investigating the psychology and neuroscience of successful weight loss for some time, but when I started teaching the Psychology of Eating my research efforts really intensified. Over the next several years I pieced together the scientific backdrop to the solution I had already been implementing to stay thin, and to help others to lose their weight as well. Through this process I developed the system I now call Bright Line Eating. I had known what to do for years; now I knew why it worked.

In 2011 a lot of pieces came together for our family. Our third (and final) daughter, Maya, was born, we moved into a beautiful and much bigger house, I was granted tenure, and David got a promotion. I was 38 years old. Everything I had ever wanted had come to fruition. But this wasn’t the end, it was just a new beginning. Something was churning inside of me… incubating… I could feel it. And I was right.

In my daily meditation at 5:15 a.m. on January 26th, 2014, in the stillness and silence of a dark, pre-dawn winter morning, I was visited with the awareness that I had to write a book called Bright Line Eating. To my knowledge, this was the first time those words were ever strung together. It came as a mandate. My chest cavity ached with the desperation and prayers of countless souls crying out for a solution to their struggles with food and weight. I had information in my brain that the world needed.

That night I set my alarm for 4:20 a.m. so I could be sitting in my writing chair at 4:30 a.m. the next morning, starting my book proposal. For months I wrote every morning for 30 minutes, without fail, before starting my 5:00 a.m. daily meditation session. But as I crafted my book proposal, I discovered I needed more than a good book for this to have the impact it was destined to have. I needed a platform.

That summer I turned 40, and officially launched my BHAG: my Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal—that anyone, anywhere, who truly wants to lose all their excess weight and keep it off, and is willing to do what it takes to make that happen, will have a roadmap that ensures their success.

What’s taken place since then, and what transpires every day, fills me with awe and gratitude, and reaffirms what I felt in my meditation that fateful morning: Bright Line Eating™ is a movement whose time has come