Brain Fit Life Nutrition Coach, Tana Amen, BSN, RN, is absolutely passionate about brain and body health—and understandably so. After battling cancer several times in childhood, undergoing multiple surgeries and working as a trauma nurse, she realized that while certainly life-saving, "band aid" medicine has serious limitations. So, she began focusing her energies on prevention.
Today, she is the New York Times bestselling author of "The Omni Diet," as well as a highly respected health and fitness expert and nationally renowned speaker. "The Omni Diet" guides the dietary treatment recommendations at Amen Clinics, as well as the meal planner on Brain Fit Life, the online brain-enhancement program and community that is the next best thing to coming to an Amen Clinic in person.
This week, Tana discusses the Brain Fit Life nutrition program and shares her secrets to weight loss success, because inquiring minds want to know!
What do you love most about the Brain Fit Life (BFL) online community and movement?
Tana: Number one, we have an adage in nursing: "See one, do one, teach one." And it’s in the teaching that people actually get it. While people come to BFL to get information, it’s our hope is that they will not only get it, but then be compelled to give it away. That’s what we do. We give it away.
It’s also very clear that people get better together, because it adds accountability and support. BFL members can log on with questions and get the answers they need from the experts as well as from each other—and a ton of healthy recipes. Studies actually show that the people you hang out with determine the quality and length of your life. Basically, if you are hanging out with healthy people, you will live longer. And if you hang out with unhealthy people—well, you actually tend to be sicker and less happy.
Last, the resources are phenomenal! Being able to get this kind of specialized health information from the experts without having to pay full price for it is a tremendous value. If you think about what you’d have to pay for this information on an individual basis, it’s remarkable. BFL offers a way for people to be proactive with their own health in a more economical way.
As the Brain Fit Life nutrition coach, how do you interact with members?
Tana:I do webinars on specific health topics and make helpful videos available on the site with tips, and of course, I share my favorite recipes all the time. People can submit questions and I’m often able to answer them that way. We are always creating and adding new tools and resources.
What’s unique about the nutrition coaching that members receive on Brain Fit Life?
Tana: We have a very clear focus on the brain. But it’s important to clarify that. People mistakenly think "Oh, I’m going to get a special diet for my brain." However, the way of eating we encourage is not just for the brain—it’s a way of eating for total body health, because what’s good for the brain is good for the heart and is good for everything. I’m doing a presentation for the American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine featuring a bioidentical hormones lecture. They asked for a talk about nutrition and hormones, and guess what? It’s the same program! That’s because what’s good for your brain is good for your heart, and is good for your hormones too! You get the idea. Take care of the brain and you take care of the body.
Our nutrition program is all about prevention. We believe that neurodegenerative diseases are preventable. Some people doubt this. But we offer a way of eating that’s designed to prevent the diseases that lead to neurodegenerative disease. Our plan minimizes the likelihood of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It’s tailored to the individual too. If you have ADD, we focus on the best nutrients to promote mental focus. If you have depression, we are going to focus on nutrients for neurotransmitter balance. Our brain healthy diet ripples into every other part of your body in positive ways.
If a BFL member follows your nutrition advice, are they likely to lose weight?
Tana: Yes! Although it wasn’t created as a weight loss program, we find that people lose radical amounts of weight, if they have weight to lose. Weight loss is a stunning side effect—it’s not the focus. It’s an anti-inflammatory program that also helps to regulate blood sugar. It gets people away from processed foods and into eating whole foods. Weight loss and weight balance are the byproducts of getting healthy. And it’s not that hard!
Here’s the really cool part: When you eat healthy, you get to eat more! People mess up their metabolisms so badly by eating the wrong foods and then restricting calories. They end up restricting more and more and eventually are no longer able to lose weight. We reverse that. We get you eating the right foods. I’ve had people come to me and say, "I’m blown away—it’s so counter-intuitive. I’m eating nuts and avocados all day long. I’m losing weight and I’m never hungry." That’s because these foods are so satisfying. It’s not that they are overeating or that we don’t care about calories. They are simply eating the right foods, which regulate blood sugar, stimulate metabolism and trigger the right hormones to optimize your metabolism. The plan’s wholesome foods settle down insulin, and help support healthy leptin levels. These hormones actually tell your brain you are satisfied and messages tell your body that you do not need to store fat. You eat normal amounts of foods, you feel good, and you don’t go hungry. In fact, people often tell me they can’t eat as much as I tell them to eat!
Does BFL provide support for emotional eaters who might have trouble sticking to a health meal plan?
Tana: That’s actually one of BFL’s main cornerstones. We address your mindset, motivation and help you break through barriers. In fact, it’s the starting place.
Hormonal and neurotransmitter balance are important. Different brain types need different nutrients. For example, someone who has low dopamine needs more protein. Someone who has low serotonin is going to need more light carbohydrates. And they will need different supplements. We customize nutrition recommendations for each brain type.
Can a BFL member seek out one-on-one nutrition coaching?
Tana: Absolutely. While I’m not personally available for this, my team is. I encourage members to customize The Omni Diet using the team that helps me customize it—our Brain Fit Life Coaches! They are some of the best professionals available! One diet doesn’t work for everyone. So we customize the plan by checking the important numbers members provide [Much of this information comes from blood test results and taking a skillfully-crafted brain type test online]. Dietary and supplement recommendations are based on that information.
Can you offer some surprising facts about brain healthy foods that people may not know?
Tana: Sure. First, fat is good for you! One of the worst things that happened to our society was the low-fat craze. People are usually stunned to learn this. Our program recommends a minimum of 30% fat. But it’s the right fat from whole food sources. Fat is not the enemy.
Here’s another surprising fact. It’s best to eat protein in small doses throughout the day, like medicine. In small amounts, protein increases focus, balances blood sugar (it does the opposite of what sugar does), and it increases the hormones for healthy metabolism. Having a giant 15-ounce steak once a day because you need to get your protein intake is a huge mistake. We recommend starting your day with protein. Great options are eggs, perhaps with some salmon, or quinoa with nut butter, as quinoa has a higher protein content than other grains and it breaks down slowly. Think dinner foods—chicken and broccoli!
At what point do dramatic changes occur?
Tana: We get our best testimonials through the elimination phase of the plan. These are stories of radical transformation within the first 2-3 weeks. The plan calls for a systematic elimination of dairy, sugar, soy, corn, food dyes, artificial sweeteners and gluten. When we start to eliminate these foods, we see radical transformation. Those just starting often ask what they can eat if they have to eliminate so many foods. That’s why the community is really critical. We have so many recipes, tips and ideas. They are lifesavers in keeping people on track.
What about people who have struggled for years with overeating, sugar and weight. Can BFL and your nutrition coaching help them find lasting change?
Tana: I know they can because we have done this thousands of times! A sugar addiction can be broken in usually less than a week. There’s no magic or gimmicks. Your brain is like a chemical plant. All we are doing is showing you the chemical (food) mix that will give you the results you are looking for. It’s very simple. It’s not brain surgery—it’s brain science.
To learn more about Tana Amen and The Omni Diet, go to www.tanaamen.com.