THE KEY TO A BETTER BODY—in shape, energized, and youthful—is a healthy brain.
With fifteen practical, easy-to-implement solutions involving nutritious foods, natural supplements and vitamins, positive-thinking habits, and, when necessary, highly targeted medications, Dr. Amen shows you how to:
* Reach and maintain your ideal weight
* Soothe and smooth your skin at any age
* Reduce the stress that can impair your immune system
* Sharpen your memory
* Increase willpower and eliminate the cravings that keep you from achieving your exercise and diet goals
* Enhance sexual desire and performance
* Lower your blood pressure without medication
* Avoid depression and elevate the enjoyment you take in life’s pleasures.
Based on the latest medical research, as well as on Dr. Amen’s two decades of clinical practice at the renowned Amen Clinics, where Dr. Amen and his associates pioneered the use of the most advanced brain imaging technology, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body shows you how to take the very best care of your brain.
Whether you’re just coming to realize that it’s time to get your body into shape, or are already fit and want to take it to the next level, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body is all you need to start putting the power of the brain-body connection to work for you today.
From the Hardcover edition.
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About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
THE BRAIN-BODY SOLUTION
Ten Basic Principles to Change Your Brain and Your Body
Develop brain envy.
Loving your brain is the first step toward getting the body you want.
Over the years, I have personally had ten brain SPECT scans to check on the health of my own brain. Looking back, my earliest scan, taken when I was thirty-seven, showed a toxic, bumpy appearance that was definitely not consistent with great brain function. Initially, I didn’t understand why. All my life, I have been someone who rarely drank alcohol, never smoked, and never used an illegal drug. So why did my brain look so bad? Before I understood about brain health, I had many bad brain habits. I practically lived on fast food and diet sodas, worked like a nut, rarely got more than four or five hours of sleep at night, and didn’t exercise much. My weight was fifteen pounds above where I wanted it, and I struggled with arthritis and had trouble getting off the floor when I played with my children. At thirty-seven, I just thought I was getting older.
My most recent brain scan at age fifty-two looks healthier and much younger than my first scan, even though brains typically become less active with age. Why? Seeing other people’s scans, I developed “brain envy” and wanted mine to be better. As I learned about brain health, I put into practice what I’m teaching you and what I’ve been preaching to my patients for years. In doing so, I got more than just a better-looking brain. I also feel more energetic, look healthier, have lost weight, and have better body tone, no arthritis, and smoother-looking skin.
In this chapter, you will find ten basic principles that explain why it is essential to love and nurture your brain in order to have your best body possible. These are the same principles that underlie our work at the Amen Clinics, where we have helped thousands of people learn to love their brains in order to improve their bodies.
TEN PRINCIPLES TO CHANGE YOUR BRAIN AND YOUR BODY
1. Your brain is involved in everything you do.
2. When your brain works right, your body looks and feels better. When your brain is troubled, you have trouble with how you look and feel.
3. The brain is the most complex organ in the universe. Respect it.
4. Your brain is very soft and housed in a really hard skull. Protect it.
5. The brain has only so much reserve. The more reserve you have, the healthier you are. The less reserve, the more vulnerable you are.
6. Specific parts of your brain are involved in certain behaviors. Trouble in specific parts of your brain tends to cause certain behavior problems. Understanding your brain can help you optimize it.
7. Many things hurt the brain and make it harder for you to get the body you’ve always wanted. Many things help the brain and make it easier to get and keep a body you love.
8. Brain imaging gives great insight into healing the brain so you can have a better body.
9. One prescription does not work for everyone—we are all unique, and you need to understand how your own personal brain functions.
10. Yes, you can change your brain and body!
Your brain is involved in everything you do.
Your brain controls everything you do, feel, and think. When you look in the mirror, you can thank your brain for what you see. Ultimately, it is your brain that determines whether your belly bulges over your belt buckle or your waistline is trim and toned. Your brain plays the central role in whether your skin looks fresh and dewy or is etched with wrinkles. Whether you wake up feeling energetic or groggy depends on your brain. When you head to the kitchen to make breakfast, it is your brain that determines whether you go for the leftover pizza or the low-fat yogurt and fruit. Your brain controls whether you hit the gym or sit at the computer to check your Facebook page. If you feel the need to light up a cigarette or drink a couple cups of java, that’s also your brain’s doing.
The moment-by-moment functioning of your brain is responsible for the way you think, feel, eat, exercise, and even for the way you make love. The impact of the brain on your body goes even deeper than that. It is at the core of your very health and well-being. Whether you live a long healthy life, suffer from a debilitating condition, or have your days cut short by a terrible disease, your brain is at the center of it all. In fact, researchers from the University of Cambridge, England, found that when people made bad decisions with their brains, they took fourteen years off their life spans. People who drank heavily, smoked, didn’t exercise, and had poor diets at the age of sixty had the same risk of dying as someone with a healthy lifestyle who was seventy-four. The decisions your brain makes can steal or add many years to your life!
When your brain works right, your body looks and feels better.
When your brain is troubled, you have trouble with how you look and feel.
A healthy brain makes it so much easier for you to have your best body possible. When your brain is working at optimal levels, you are more likely to stick to a diet, follow an exercise routine, and adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors. That adds up to a slimmer, trimmer body, a more youthful appearance, brighter skin, better immunity, fewer headaches, less back pain, and improved health.
On the other hand, a troubled brain often leads to trouble with your body. That’s right, extra pounds, wrinkles, chronic pain, and health conditions can be linked to the way your brain functions. Making poor food choices, blowing off the gym, and engaging in unhealthy behaviors are more common when your brain isn’t working at its best.
Jack, a fifty-two-year-old divorced engineer, is five feet ten inches tall and weighs close to 260 pounds. He tries to diet, but just can’t stick to it. Every morning, Jack wakes up with the intention of eating healthfully that day, but he never gets around to planning his day’s meals or stocking the refrigerator. When lunchtime rolls around, he’s starving and stops at the first fast-food restaurant he can find, where he orders a cheeseburger and fries. After coming home from work, he gazes into an empty refrigerator and then calls the local pizza delivery place for dinner.
With three young children, a demanding job, and a strained marriage, Megan appears older than her forty-three years. She’d love to recapture a more youthful look, but hasn’t been able to do it with the creams and lotions from the cosmetics counter. She rarely gets more than a few hours of sleep at night and whenever she’s depressed, stressed, mad, or sad, she seeks refuge in a cigarette and a glass of wine—or two or three or four glasses of wine, or maybe even the whole bottle. Smoking and drinking calms down her nerves and makes her feel better—temporarily.
Sarah is twenty-eight years old and would love to have a better body. Although she isn’t technically overweight, she wants to tone and tighten the 135 pounds she carries on her five-foot-six-inch frame. She knows that exercise could help her achieve her goals, but she just can’t seem to muster up enough energy or motivation to hit the gym. Sarah also struggles with feelings of anxiety and nervousness and is constantly thinking of what can go wrong in her life.
For years, Jack, Megan, and Sarah have been chalking up their problems to a simple lack of willpower or laziness, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Their inability to get the body they want lies within their brains. Jack’s lack of planning and poor follow-through are common signs of low activity in an area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This is the part of the brain that is involved with planning, goal setting, forethought, impulse control, and follow-through. When this area isn’t functioning at the proper level, it makes it very hard to be successful.
Smoking or drinking to calm emotions, which is keeping Megan from getting the youthful look she wants, may signal excessive activity in the deep limbic system of the brain. This part of the brain is involved in setting your emotional tone. When it is less active, there is generally a positive, hopeful state of mind. When it is heated up or overactive, negativity and feelings of depression or sadness can take over, making you look for solace in nicotine, alcohol, or drugs.
Sarah’s energy is drained by anxiety and worry, which may indicate a problem in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia. Located toward the center of the brain, the basal ganglia are involved with integrating feelings, thoughts, and motivation. When there is high activity in this area, it can cause problems with anxiety and may drain people of their energy and get-up-and-go.
What Jack, Megan, and Sarah show us is that your brain heavily influences your behavior and your body. Your brain can either help you have a better body or make it more difficult for you to have a body you love.
The brain is the most complex organ in the universe. Respect it.
The brain is the most complicated, amazing, special organ in the universe. Your brain weighs only about three pounds, but it is more powerful than even the most sophisticated supercomputer. Even though it represents only about 2 percent of your body’s weight, your brain uses about 25 percent of the calories you consume, 25 percent of the total blood flow in your body, and 20 percent of the oxygen you breathe. The calories, blood flow, and oxygen feed the cells inside your brain.
It is estimated that the brain contains more than one hundred billion nerve cells, which is about the number of stars in the Milky Way. Each nerve cell is connected to other nerve cells by thousands of individual connections between cells. In fact, it is estimated that there are more connections in your brain than there are stars in the universe! If you take a single piece of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand, it contains a hundred thousand nerve cells and a billion connections—all “talking” to one another. Information in your brain travels at speeds of up to 268 miles per hour, faster than the race cars in the Indy 500, unless of course you are drunk—then things really slow down. When we do full-body scans, the brain is lit up like a little heater while the rest of the body appears ghostlike. Your brain is the organ of your personality, character, and intelligence and is heavily involved in making you who you are.
Your brain is very soft and housed in a really hard skull. Protect it.
If you are like most people, you probably think your brain is firm and rubbery. In reality, your brain is very soft. Composed of about 80 percent water, its consistency can be compared to soft butter, custard, or tofu—somewhere between raw egg whites and Jell-O. To protect your soft brain, it is housed in a really hard skull filled with fluid. Inside your skull are a number of bony edges and ridges. Some of these ridges are as sharp as knives and in the event of a head injury or trauma can damage your soft brain. Your brain was not meant for your head to be hitting soccer balls, playing tackle football, boxing, or participating in Ultimate Fighting Championships. Brain trauma is much more common than you think. Each year, two million new brain injuries are reported, and millions more go unreported. Brain injuries not only damage your brain, they can ruin your body.
If you think brain injury means only serious injuries like flying through the windshield of a car or falling off the roof onto your head, you are wrong. It doesn’t have to be a “serious” injury to have serious consequences for your body and your health. After viewing more than 55,000 brain scans, it has become very clear to me that what many people think of as mild trauma can have a significantly negative effect on people’s brains and can significantly change their lives and their ability to look and feel their best. Many times, these injuries go unnoticed, in part because mental health professionals never look at brain function.
Studies show that people who have suffered brain injuries, even mild ones, often experience emotional, behavioral, or cognitive problems. When you have trouble thinking or reasoning, you can’t make the best decisions for your body. Suffering a brain injury is also associated with a higher incidence of alcoholism and drug abuse—both of which lead to premature aging, possible weight problems, potentially devastating health conditions, and homelessness. Protect your brain.
The brain has only so much reserve.
The more reserve you have, the healthier you are.
The less reserve, the more vulnerable you are.
Think about your family, friends, and coworkers. When there’s a crisis, do some of them completely fall apart—racing for the candy bowl, reaching for a pack of cigarettes, or searching for solace in drugs and alcohol—while others manage to soldier on with their lives in a healthy way? Have you ever wondered why that is? I have. In my work, I have noticed that stressful events, such as the loss of a loved one, layoffs at work, or divorce can lead to depression, changes in weight, a lack of motivation to exercise, and bad daily habits in some people but not in others.
After looking at brain scans for nearly twenty years, I have come to believe that these differences have to do with a concept I call brain reserve. Brain reserve is the cushion of healthy brain function we have to deal with stressful events or injuries. The more reserve you have, the better you can cope with the unexpected. The less you have, the harder it is for you to handle tough times and injuries, and the more likely you are to gobble up a bag of Oreo cookies or swig alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Mary and Katie are identical twins. They share the same genes, the same parents, and the same upbringing. Yet their lives—and looks—are very different. Mary, who is very fit, is a successful journalist in a long-term happy marriage with three great children. Katie, who is overweight, barely finished high school, suffered with depression and a bad temper, and went from job to job and relationship to relationship. Their lives and looks are nothing alike.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Brain Basics
Introduction: The Missing Link
Boost Your Brain to Get and Keep the Body You Have Always Wanted 3
1 The Brain-Body Solution
Ten Basic Principles to Change Your Brain and Your Body 13
Part 2 Change Your Brain, Change Your Weight
2 The Craving Solution
Use Your Brain to Increase Your Willpower and Calm the Urges That Prevent Your From Achieving Your Goals 37
3 The Weight Solution
Use Your Brain to Achieve Your Optimal Weight 53
4 The Nutrition Solution
Feed Your Brain to Look and Feel Younger 81
5 The Exercise Solution
Exercise Your Body to Strength Your Brain 109
Part 3 Change Your Brain, Beautify and Strengthen Your Body
6 The Skin Solution
Brain Signals to Soothe and Smooth Your Skin 129
7 The Hormone Solution
Balance Your Hormones to Turn Back the Clock 140
8 The Heart Solution
Use Your Brain to Strengthen and Soothe Your Heart 164
9 The Focus and Energy Solution
Boost Your Energy to Stay on Track Toward Your Goals 179
Part 4 Change Your Brain, Increase Love and Vitality
10 The Sleep Solution
Rest Your Brain for a Slimmer Shape and Smoother Skin 195
11 The Stress Solution
Relax Your Brain to Reduce Your Wrinkles and Improve Your Immune System 213
12 The Memory Solution
Remember What You Need to Do Every Day 236
13 The ANT Solution
Think Your Way to Being Thinner, Younger, and Happier 256
14 The Passion Solution
Make Love to Recharge Your Brain and Body 272
15 The Brain Health Solution
Treat Brain Disorders to Protect Against Physical Illnesses 287
16 Change Your Brain, Change Your Body, Change Other People's Bodies
How Your Brain Influences the Physical and Mental Health of Others 306
Appendix A 15 Important Numbers I Need to Know 311
Appendix B Amen Clinics Abbreviated Brain Systems Questionnaire 314
Appendix C The Supplement Solution 320
Note on References and Further Reading 351
What People are Saying About This
“Come on, people, the health of our society is going the wrong way! We can do so much better. Dr. Amen’s groundbreaking work gives us a blueprint for a better brain and a better body. I highly recommend it.”
“Daniel Amen continually demonstrates why he is truly one of the most original thinkers in medicine today. As he correctly points out in his newest book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body, the brain is the integration center that ultimately controls not only the way we think and feel but also the way we look. More important, he provides the dietary advice that has been clinically demonstrated to improve brain function. If you want to optimize your life, this book is a must-read.”
—BARRY SEARS, Ph.D., author of The Zone
“Buy Change Your Brain, Change Your Body for yourself, the people you love, and your physician. . . . This book can save your life, improve the quality of your life, and motivate you in helping those people that you love!”
—EARL R. HENSLIN, Psy.D., author of This Is Your Brain on Joy
“Change Your Brain, Change Your Body is a marvelous book. . . . Highly readable and hard to put down, it is packed with insight, information, and practical tools for the care of both adults and children.”
—MICHAEL GURIAN, author of The Wonder of Girls and The Wonder of Boys
“Dr. Amen has been my source for a better brain for a long time. I have been a student and a fan, but this is new. If a ‘brain boost’ can give me a better body, I say bring it on!”
“In this entertaining and user-friendly book, Dr. Amen gives you a scientifically based, individualized plan for your own brain and body chemistry, helping you optimize every aspect of your health and well-being. No side effects—only side benefits!”
—HYLA CASS, M.D., coauthor of 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health
“Change Your Brain, Change Your Body is an essential book for anyone trying to improve their body and their health. By blending cutting-edge research with his wealth of clinical experience, Dr. Amen has presented this material in a way that fully integrates what we know about the connection between the brain and body. Dr. Amen’s unique perspective is a tremendous gift for so many seeking out how to achieve a better state of mind and health.”
—ANDREW NEWBERG, M.D., noted brain imaging researcher at the University of Pennsylvania and coauthor of How God Changes Your Brain
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I saw Dr. Amen on a previous PBS special -- Change Your Brain, Change Your Life -- and was impressed enough to buy his book. Recently he was back on PBS in another special -- Change Your Brain, Change Your Body -- and WOW! he was slimmer, trimmer and looked younger than in the previous special! He is a walking billboard for his theories. I followed his advice on adding some supplements and have lost 13 pounds in less than 3 weeks! It has been effortless! I have been fighting my weight for decades and now the pounds are melting off! My cravings are gone! My impulsive/compulsive eating behavior is gone! I am eating for nourishment instead of entertainment or solace. All I can say is amen to Dr. Amen. I am extremely grateful that he is sharing his knowledge and research for the health and happiness of everyone's brain! Buy this book, your brain and body will thank you!!!
I am the founder of a company that provides mind-body programs to women experiencing infertility (Circle + Bloom), so the brain-body connection is something that I know a lot about. This book was compelling to me in that vein, and that more prominent medical professionals are beginning to talk more and more about the opportunities for health stemming from our thoughts and emotions. I would recommend this to anyone seeking to learn more about their bodies, their choices, and things they can do to live a healthy, energetic lifestyle. This book was the first thing to really convince me of the power of supplements as well. I have started taking a high quality multi-vitamin and some other herbal supplements and reduced some wine drinking. I am already feeling more energetic and getting better rest at night. Thank you Dr. Amen!
It motivated me from the very first chapter and I read the book in two sessions. I am now rereading it. I have read many books on the subject but none so concise and straightforward.
The book is, no doubt, informative, and I do find Dr. Amen's studies fascinating. However I'm rather disappointed. It's readily apparent that this book's primary objective is to sell his supplements. The book directs its readers to take an assessment test on his website. After the test, the site identifies your issues and recommends his supplements. Now, we're familiar with this type of marketing approach. However, what's troubling is that the assessment test itself is very general, as well as vague and ambiguous. I highly doubt the computer's ability to make an accurate assessment of one's medical condition based on such over broad questions. Hence, the recommendation of specific supplements also seems dubious.
I have been reading this book in between t.v., cooking, shopping and I have even printed off the shopping list for "Brain Foods" from the appendix so I can carry it with me. It gives a very compelling argument that if we don't take care of our brain then everything else on our body will suffer. I liked the way Amen put guiding principles in caption boxes that you can quickly review and then he sums up the most important details again. I enjoy the real photos of what a normal brain looks like compared to one that is lacking certain nutrients. It really inspires you to take care of your body because he proves that if you don't consume the right foods then you're headed down the path to a unhealthy life. The "Action Steps" are simple ways to actively take charge of your body and brain. Very helpful.
I saw Dr. Amen on Public TV. I never watch PBC or very rarely. This man caught my eye and kept me spell bound. Having a problem with weight all my life,I was amazed at what he was saying. I kept saying,"Thats me,I do that,I feel that way." It was like Dr Amen was talking right to me. This was a Sunday afternoon,I went right over to Barnes and Noble and bought the book. I have been promoting it to all my friends.I quote several sections and have convinced several of them to purchase the book. It is the type of book that you can read through, or pick up and put down and still remain interested. I cant believe how many people knew who Daniel Amen is. I cant wait to get on his web site to get further involved.
I have started to implement the sugestions based on what I read in this book. The changes I have made were not major changes. I have added Green Tea and a fish oil supplement to my diet. The quality of my Sleep has also imporoved.
Change Your Brain, Change Your Body is a captivating book. Amen, a neuro-scientist and psychiatrist, has performed thousands of brain scans. He uses his research to give practical tips to live life fully. I especially enjoyed the information on stress management as I can now understand an employee who is often anxious and stressed.
I heard about this book from a mitivational speaker Ron Ball. He is a scholar, reader and loves to learn. He recommended this author and his research very highly. I was not disappointed when I read this book. Fabulous reading! I love the idea that the power to change my mind, life and my body is in my own brain!
Understanding of anything will lead to a better outlook. Dr. Amen has extensive experience and reading the book is like talking to a Dr. Sure, it's detailed but it's also extremely on target. If you want to benefit from cutting edge data, take the time to learn and understand. You will become fitter, thinner, smarter and live longer!
This book is pretty amazing! While I admit that the assessment contained isn't the best at self-diagnosing (which shouldn't probably be expected anyhow), if you blatantly follow a pattern, it's relatively clear to decipher. Once you have a better sense as to your "brain issue", the book contains all types of helpful information as to why you may act/behave in certain ways, what you need to consider medically and natural supplements to better support the condition. Dr. Amen doesn't push his own services/supplements on the readers, though he does self-promote (but again, to be expected)but it is tasteful. I read that by adding 5-HTP to my regiment would help with a lot of my own concerns and after 4 days, I can honestly say that I do see improvements. I cannot vouch for all suggestions in the book, but for my small experimentation to kill my own doubt, I am pleasantly pleased and anticipate implementing more of what I read. This book is VERY worthwhile! I would imagine in utilizing a lot of his tips/suggestions for supplements that you would ultimately save yourself/dr time in figuring out your problem and also save a lot of money. For some, this book may be all that they need.