Monday, April 28, 2014

The Amen Solution: The Brain Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

Amen is the last name of the doctor who wrote the book. He got his medical training in the military and works with many ex-NFL players on concussion issues. His first book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life was a best seller as it was geared toward people who have experienced anxiety, depression, impulsiveness, excessive anger or worry, and obsessive behavior. He also co-authored the book The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life which is a book my church and many other churches follow for fasting. According to the Washington Post  he's "the most popular psychiatrist in America." He runs a chain of clinics called the Amen clinics in NYC, Atlanta, VA, CA, and WA and sells his own brand of expensive supplements.


The Amen Solution basically says that if your brain isn't healthy you won't be successful at losing weight. It’s your brain that gives you the will power not to eat something and it’s your blood sugar that determines your food cravings. There are three supplements he recommends to all of his patients because they are critical to optimal brain function: a multivitamin, fish oil (or omega-3), and vitamin D because they will help decrease your cravings. He says that when you don't have enough vitamin D, you feel hungry all the time, no matter how much you eat. As I said in my last post about vitamin D, make sure you have your doctor have your vitamin D levels checked.

He recommends the first thing you need to do is write down your specific motivation for losing weight so you can look at your list daily for encouragement and to keep a daily gratitude journal. He said that the best ways to boost your mental power is to set SMART goals to help you achieve your goals.

Dr. Amen doesn't agree with the people who say "everything in moderation." For example he says that sugar is more addicting than cocaine, thus cocaine in moderation is not a good idea. He says that the less sugar in your life, the better your life will be. This is the same advice Dee McAffrey gave in her book. Dr. Amen admits that he used to think weight loss was simply about calories in versus calories out. The logic being that if you stay within a certain calorie range, you should fine. That’s how some people justify a sugary treat because they saved up calories for it. He explains that the problem with that is eating sugar activates your cravings and makes it very hard to stay away from things that are bad for you. He says you have to focus on eating "high quality calories." You know when you drink wine you want to eat more? That’s because alcohol is metabolized in the body the same way sugar is, so drinking alcohol can trigger sugar carvings.


Here's a picture of the kitchen at my job. We always have bananas, and then the fruit rotates between kiwi, plums, mandarins, pears, tiny apples or whatever is in season. Pretty awesome my office does this instead of having a vending machine or candy jar. However there's also a basket full of cereal bars from Trader Joe's. Now while calorie wise they're pretty low, however Dr. Amen says that "a lot of those 'diet' snacks have enriched flour, which is just like eating sugar. The effect on the brain when you eat sugar or enriched flour is the brain asks for more." Thus once again the less sugar and flour one eats, the better. I've literally had to eat one of each over a period of time before I was finally able to quit these bars! lol

You can only conquer your cravings by keeping your blood sugar balanced because self-control failures are more likely to occur when blood sugar is low. Low blood sugar levels can make you feel hungry, irritable or anxious. So eat a nutrient-rich breakfast to help get your blood sugar off to a good balanced start. Add cinnamon to your oatmeal, because this spice has shown to help regular blood sugars. Eat snacks throughout your day to keep your blood sugar level.

Dr. Amen says that eating breakfast increases your attention and focus. Breakfast protein helps to balance your blood sugar. So a high carb breakfast like a bagel with cream cheese will just make you want to sleep through your morning at work. That's another breakfast I had to quit 8 years ago when I realized it was just empty calories with very little protein to keep my full long. People who maintain a weight loss eat a nutritious breakfast.

The book explains that physical inactivity is the "fourth most common preventable cause of death." Exercise increases your brain’s ability to regulate insulin and sugar. Exercise improves your heart’s ability to pump blood throughout your body, which increases blood flow to your brain. Exercise increases your memory, your ability to think clearly and your ability to plan. Weight lifting increases your metabolism to help you burn more calories throughout the day.

Something new I learned was not to eat bread first in restaurants because it just makes you hungrier so you eat more. Bread spikes your blood sugar, it’s a simple carb, so then you’re more likely to get dessert. Bottom line: Eliminate sugar and refined carbs from your diet.

Here a video with Dr. Amen explaining this himself.
 

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