Fitness · Food

Use Your Brain to Change Your Age by Dr. Amen

Have You Had Your Brain Checked Lately? I have just had my brain kick me in the pants and it’s appalling! Three things happened recently that have completely changed my thinking on food and nutrition and the effects on the brain.

Of course, I am old enough to have already heard all of the reasons that I needed to clean up my act. I knew that I had to start exercising again and that I had to revise my unhealthy diet, plus I knew that I needed to start taking supplements again.

heart healthy foods

Years ago, I stopped exercising because I am lazy  did not have time.  I stopped taking supplements because I figured that they were costing way too much and I no longer wanted to spend the money on them. My diet turned to ice cream and pizza because I didn’t want to spend the money on “healthy” food either. It costs too much (I told myself) to buy organic this and organic that.

My night job is very physical with lots of lifting, pulling, walking and moving heavy items. To compound the physical effects of my job, you can add in lots of stress to boot. It’s well know that a graveyard shift adds to the chaos going on within a person’s body. Needless to say, I felt tired and sore all of the time. I felt old with new wrinkles appearing daily. I had high blood pressure and was over weight. OK, I’m still overweight, but that is changing.   In general- I was not feeling so great.

diet cokeI knew that I needed to STOP with the Diet Cokes already. I needed to stop living in la-la land and wake up to the harm that I was doing with artificial sweeteners. And with four or five cups of coffee a night? Oi!  Oh, have I mentioned that I did not eat anything green? For most of my adult life? And I was a sugar addict. I would live on candy and ice cream alone if I could. Oh, OK and throw in a pepperoni pizza or two and a couple huge dinners of Mexican food WITHOUT the green cilantro, of course.

So back to what prompted my recent, radical look at myself – back to the three things that have changed my eating and exercising habits and for GOOD!

The first thing that happened a couple of months ago is that I started having panic attacks at work. My first attack came out of the blue and even landed me in the ER since I seriously could not breath. I passed out at work and I didn’t know what the heck was wrong. Don’t worry – the docs said that it was nothing more than a panic attack closing up my wind pipes. Nice. Then the attacks started coming on more frequently. I even yelled at my bosses a couple of times while in the gripping pain of trying to ward off an attack. NOT a good career move! But, it woke me up to the fact that something was horribly wrong. I do not yell. I am not a screaming, tantrum throwing type of person. In fact, you could even say that I am generally reserved and would NEVER yell at my bosses or anyone else for that matter. This was so not me. This was not right.

The second thing happened at home. I got out the can opener to open a can of tuna and suddenly I could not, for the life of me, remember how to use it. I was struck completely dumb by this thing that I was holding in my hands- this thing that I have used my whole life- well, not the same opener, but you get the idea.  It was like I had never seen a can opener – ever! I was horrified but also embarrassed so I covered it up by asking my husband to open the can since my hands hurt. He didn’t think anything strange of it because I have arthritis and my hands often hurt. I snapped out of my stupor as soon as I saw him use the opener, but it scared the buh-jeebers out of me. This was not an “oh, Sandy is so ditsy” sort of time. This was NOT my normal brain behavior.

Secrets to Look, Feel and Think Younger Every Day.
Secrets to Look, Feel and Think Younger Every Day.

The third thing that was pivotal in my transformation was a book. I listen to books on my MP3 at work so I go through a lot of different and random types of material.   I downloaded a book  from the library called  Use Your Brain to Change Your Age by Dr. Amen. I figured that I was looking and feeling old so maybe there was some type of voo-doo shortcut to erase these wrinkles mentally. Well, I found out that there is and there isn’t. The Doctor’s premise is that if you feed your brain healthy food, then your brain and your body will function better. You will loose excess weight and you will feel better and it will show on your features. hmmmm…. All true, but I already knew all of that stuff and I probably wouldn’t start exercising any time soon. Boy, was I wrong! As I listened to the book’s reader (who has a very compelling voice by the way) I actually learned stuff that I truly did not know about the brain and it’s functions. It was so interesting that I forgot to pooh-pooh all of the good information that I was getting.

Believe me, it was an ah-ha moment when Dr Amen pointed out that scientists who work for the large food corporations are not doing it for your culinary entertainment. They are working for employers who are trying to get you “hooked” into thinking that you are not full and that you need to keep eating such and such processed product. Here I had been wondering why it has been so hard to control my appetite lately. I didn’t seem to have a “Full” switch anymore. Even as I was eating I was thinking about what else there was to eat.

Agave nectar running off a metal spoon.
Agave nectar running off a metal spoon. DR Oz has a great article about how Agave and high fructose corn syrup are related. Also how both will make you think that you are hungry, even when you are not.

A second “ah-ha” moment came for me when the doctor pointed out that you have to stop letting your inner child run free. Guilty. There was not a whole lot of food when we were growing up and certainly no candy, cokes or chips. I remember telling myself, even as a child, that when I was grown and  in charge, I was not going to deny myself any of that stuff. And I didn’t.

Then Dr. Amen wrote that what you are denying yourself when you are self indulgent with food is good health and good looks in both body and brain. It’s like he was speaking directly to me and my inner child. BINGO!

Prior to listening to Dr. Amen’s book, I just thought that none of the “healthy food” looked good to me. But, for some reason, the info in the book went straight to my brain and I became really interested in changing my habits. (It’s that audio book reader, I tell you). With all of this brain information combined with my new fear of Alzheimer’s, I really had to take a good look at how badly I have been treating my brain. Ive been carelessly feeding it with a huge surplus of fake sweeteners, Diet Cokes, Coffee, and a major overload of junk food. In short, I was feeding my brain with a LOT of fake food and fake drinks.

All of that changed after listening to Dr. Amen’s book. In just a month on my new regime, I have lost nine pounds without even trying. My focus isn’t even on losing weight anymore. It’s on cooking good food that will support me and the life that I want. I eat until I am satisfied and that’s it.  I am trying to eat “clean” and organic. I eat a light meal every two to three hours. Now, suddenly, I do have an “off” switch for appetite.

Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred DVDI’ve also started to exercise and take vitamins and supplements. My niece turned me on to Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. My niece is a busy working, single mom with a toddler to run after. She convinced me that if she has twenty minutes a day then so do I. Really, the Jillian Michael’s DVD is fast and not boring at all. And it does get results.

I am EASILY losing weight just by making my diet consist of more than 60 percent vegetables every day. Now that I am exploring cooking “real foods” I’ve come up with a really good recipe for Organic Edamame spaghetti.

Shrimp scampi with Organic Edemame Spaghetti
Shrimp scampi with Organic Edemame Spaghetti

I now realize that I am a sugar addict so I don’t have any processed cane sugar anymore. There is no such thing as “in moderation” for me and cane sugar. I will have a bit of organic honey or Stevia here and there, but I don’t have the awful cravings for sugar anymore. I cannot honestly say that I have given up caffeine altogether yet, but I’m working on it. I’m down to one cup of coffee before work. And even that is often decaf or I forgo the coffee altogether.

In place of my chemical soup called Diet Coke, I drink a lot of water, juice and green tea. I’m preparing my healthy breakfasts and lunches so that I can grab and go. And I’m having a blast trying to come up with new ways for old favorites. Like pumpkin pie. Hint: You use coconut milk for the topping instead of cream and it’s really good. I’ll be posting that soon. 🙂