Changeability Podcast: Manage Your Mind - Change Your Life







May 2016
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How to use your brain to change your weight

This week we’ve gone from consuming 5 course dinners every night in a lovely hotel on holiday in Wales, to thinking about weight and the brain. It’s sweetly ironic and rather timely.

As part of our mini series on health and wellbeing, this week we think about weight and if we can use our brains to help us lose weight. Today’s featured author certainly thinks so as Dr Daniel G. Amen devotes the second section of his book, Change your Brain, Change your Body, to the subject.

Last week we looked at 10 brain principles for the body you’ve always wanted. Continuing with our exploration of the link between your brain and body and how having a healthy body and making healthy decisions all starts with your brain, we turn to the subject of weight.

Weight is an aspect of our bodies that many of us want to do something about.  We might want to change our weight upwards or more commonly downwards, for our health and because we think it will make us feel better about ourselves.

So what does Dr Daniel G. Amen say about this? 

How can you use your brain to achieve lasting weight loss?

Dr Amen, puts forward four major solutions to how to use your brain to change your weight.

1 - The Craving Solution

This is about using your brain to increase your willpower and calm the urges that prevent you achieving your goals.

How often do we have a day where everything’s going well and then someone offers us a cream cake? In Dr Amen’s case  it was a caramel apple which he resisted it by walking away – but why was everything in him craving it?

Essentially, there are centres of the brain responsible for focus, judgment and impulse control – the pre-frontal cortex in the front of your brain – and there is also a pleasure and motivation centre deep within your brain plus we also have emotional memory centres that trigger behaviour.  All this comes together to influence our behaviour.

By understanding these brain circuits of willpower and control you can work towards gaining mastery of your brain and body.

It starts with our first experiences of pleasure or intense emotional experiences. These first experiences can get locked in the brain and lay down the tracks for later behaviour and addictions, because we want to replicate and repeat what led to our first pleasurable experiences.

For Dr Amen it was linked to the pleasure he associated with some of his earliest memories of making fudge with his sweet-maker grandfather.

What about you? What are your earliest memories of pleasure or intense emotional experiences?

I remember eating ‘milky way’ chocolate bars at my Grandma’s house when I got home from school and my Mother’s sherry trifles were legendry at family parties and celebrations of every kind.  

For Julian the stodgy puddings of school dinners and getting enough of it after it had been passed down the table of older children first, loom large in his memory (yes he is that person that loved school dinners)!

So going back to the idea there are different centres of the brain responsible for focus, judgment and impulse control plus a pleasure and motivation centre, it’s the relative strength and weakness of each of these brain areas that goes a long way in determining how much control we have over ourselves and how well we are able to stick to our plans.

Regaining control of these different centres of the brain depends in part on the area in question but it generally involves balancing your brain systems. If, for example your Prefrontal Cortex is out of balance, you might need to treat any PFC problems that exist but in more general terms you can strengthen this area by:

  • Good sleep
  • Maintaining a healthy blood sugar level
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • And creating focused, written goals. All of which are designed to boost activity and blood flow to this area of the brain. (Couldn’t agree more with this and if you want to know more sign up for our Changeability Starter Kit)

Solution 2 – The Weight Solution

Here, you’re using your brain to achieve your optimal weight. While according to Dr Amen we might exhibit different clinical presentations and brain patterns and require different approaches, he outlines 13 things all of us should do to maintain a healthy weight.

  1. Know your brain type – not everyone has the same brain type. There are six main types (detailed in the book)
  2. Get a complete physical and focus on having healthy vitamin D, DHEA (a hormone in the body which can become depleted), and thyroid levels
  3. Know your BMI and caloric need numbers – the approximate number of calories you need to maintain your current weight. He gives you a formula which you can use to calculate the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight.
  4. Know the approximate number of calories you eat a day by keeping a food journal and calorie log and work on getting ‘high-quality calories in versus high-quality energy out’. This is useful because people lie about their food intake, or to put it more kindly, we often underestimate our daily intake and keeping a food journal overcomes this tendency. You start using your brain to become educated about the nutrition you put in your body and can then take control over it. You can not change what you can not measure.
  5. Exercise 4-5 times a week, starting with walking fast and light strength training.
  6. Optimise your hormone levels
  7. Get great sleep
  8. Use simple stress-management techniques
  9. Stop believing every negative thought that goes through your brain
  10. Use hypnosis to keep you slim
  11. Take supplements to keep your brain healthy
  12. Use the advice in his book, to keep your brain young and active in order to lose 10 pounds (5 kilograms)
  13. Take control of your weight and do not let other people make you fat

Solution 3 – The Nutrition Solution

This involves feeding your brain nutritious foods to look and feel younger, on the basis that we are what we eat, and that the foods we eat affect our moods and our energy levels.

We’re constantly getting the wrong or unhelpful messages about food. As a society we’re bombarded with messages encouraging us to adopt bad eating habits.

‘Do you want to supersize that?’, ‘Do you want bread first?’ ‘Do you want a larger drink? It’s a better deal’, the All you can eat buffet!

Many of us send out the wrong messages to our children ‘If you’re good, you can have a treat when you get home.’ We use poor nutrition as a reward for good behaviour which later in life translates to us rewarding ourselves with food that is not good for us.

To follow the Nutrition Solution of how to use your brain to change your weight:

  1. Drink plenty of water, some green tea, and not too many calories
  2. Watch your calories
  3. Increase good fats (unsaturated fats) and decrease bad ones (saturated and trans fats) Unsaturated good fats include: avocadoes (thought you’d like that one), olive oil, rapeseed oil, peanut oil and nuts such as almonds, cashews and pistachios.
  4. Increase good carbs and decrease bad ones. Carbs are a necessary part of a healthy diet, the amount you need depends on your brain type Good carbs are complex carbs which take longer to digest: fruit, veg, beans, pulses and whole grains. Bad carbs or simple carbs are digested quickly and provide little or no nutritional value: e.g. sugar, pastries, sweets, fizzy drinks, fruit juices, doughnuts, white bread, pasta and white rice
  5. Dump artificial sweeteners and replace with small amounts of natural sweeteners.
  6. Limit caffeine intake to one or two normal cups of coffee or three cups of tea a day.
  7. Eat great brain foods, which include Acai berries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, spinach, raspberries, brussell sprouts, plums, broccoli, beetroot, avocadoes, oranges, red grapes, red peppers, cherries and kiwis
  8. Reduce salt intake and increase potassium intake
  9. Plan snacks. Interestingly, he says don’t listen to the idea of avoid snacking. Going too long without eating can wreak havoc on your brain function and make your blood sugar levels drop too low. But make them healthy snacks.
  10. Take a multivitamin supplement and fish oil
  11. Recognise when you or someone you care about has hidden food allergies.

Solution 4 – The Exercise Solution

Exercise your body to strengthen your brain.

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – Edward Stanley

We’re becoming more sedentary – driving to work, sitting all day at a desk, lounging on the sofa. This is bad news for our brains, our bellies, our backsides and our backs.

Exercise is part of the solution because it:

  • Encourages the growth of new brain cells
  • Enhances cognitive ability at all ages
  • Enhances your mood
  • Helps alleviate depression
  • Calms worries and anxiety
  • And helps us sleep better, amongst other things

Episode 95 of the Changeability Podcast

Join us to hear us talk about all of this and more in episode 95 of the Changeability Podcast

What about you?

Is this something you’d like to change – sign up for our free Changeability Starter Kit.

Links mentioned in the show:

Direct download: CA095.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 4:41pm UTC

10 brain principles for the body you want

Is it possible to utilise the power of your brain, to reach your ideal body weight, to look younger and boost your energy?

That’s the question we’re asking today.

And it’s the bold claim Dr Daniel G Amen makes in his New York Times bestseller, Change your Brain, Change your Body - the subject of this week’s blog and Changeability Podcast. 

What’s the idea behind Change your Brain, Change your Body?

In his introduction, Dr Amen tells us

“Fifty percent of the brain is dedicated to vision. How you look plays a large role in how you feel. To look and feel your best, you must first think about and optimize your brain.”

Let’s unpick this a bit.

We’re visually orientated, with our brain devoting half of its processing power to sight.

Being visual creatures – how we look, or how we perceive we look, plays a large part in how we feel about ourselves and that can often determine our ultimate success.

For our own underlying health – and not just for vanity sake – we should therefore concern ourselves with how we look and feel.

And that ultimately, to look and feel your best you need to first think about and then optimize your brain.

So as the title suggests, this book is about understanding and optimizing your brain to help you reach your ideal weight, look younger, boost your energy, change how you feel about yourself and that process of changing your body (via your mind) will in turn ultimately determine your success.

In essence then, this book is about body/mind integration, mind/body connection and how you can use your brain to improve your body and health.

And I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s an interesting premise.

But what do we know about the author and how he comes to make these claims? 

Background and credentials of the author

Dr Daniel G Amen is a doctor with three decades of clinical practice at the Amen Clinics.

His interest in the brain-body connection started over 30 years ago – where intriguingly he was influenced by an oncologist who taught people to use visualization to boost their immune system in order to fight cancer.

At medical school he became trained in hypnosis and saw the effect it can have on healing the body in a variety of treatments.

But it was in 1991 that he truly started to understand the mind-body connection when he started doing the brain imaging work which he now does at his clinics.

“Our brain imaging work opened a new window into why people do what they do. It provided the missing link and allowed people to see what was going on in their brains, so they could do things to improve their brain and bodies.”

Addressing the effect rather than the cause of body dissatisfaction

How often do we look in the mirror and see things we don’t always like?

We look at our reflection and we see lines on our face we don’t always want there, or we catch a glance of ourselves sidelong and see a tum which frankly we’d prefer not to have. We notice a few split ends in our hair or excessively dry skin on our face.

What do we do?

Well, we could make an appointment with a hairdresser for a haircut.

The wrinkles – we might slap all sorts of lotions and potions onto the skin to moisturise, cleanse and fill the cracks, so to speak – and some might nip along to their doctors to make an appointment for Botox.

Basically we try and fix it ourselves (diet to lose the tum) or get some professional help. We address the effect.

But Dr Amen would say that we need to address this issue by thinking about the health of our brain, the cause.

And that many of us are walking around with brains that could do with some serious help, but we don’t know it, so we don’t do anything about it to address the issue.

The things we see in the mirror are symptomatic of our brain health and instead of addressing the causal symptom we address the effect. 

10 brain principles for the body you want

Amen’s book is based on 10 key principles about the brain and its relationship with your body, and ultimately the health and wellbeing of our bodies.

  1. Your brain is involved in everything you do. It is at the core of your very health and wellbeing and the good or bad decisions we make with our brain ultimately determine whether your stomach bulges over your belt or your waistline is trim and toned. Essentially, the moment-by-moment functioning of the brain is responsible for the way you think, feel, eat and exercise.
  2. When your brain works right, your body looks and feels better. Here the idea is that when you have a healthy brain, it’s easier for you to have the 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 wellness lifestyle behaviours.
  3. The brain is a complex organ and we should respect it. The brain is an incredible organ, more powerful than the most sophisticated supercomputer. It is also responsible for our personalities, our character, our intelligence, indeed who we are. Yet often we don’t respect it, with the things we put into our bodies or the lifestyle we live.
  4. Your brain is soft and housed in a really hard skull and needs protecting. The consistency of the brain is not firm and rubbery as we might believe but very soft – like butter or custard. Although protected by a hard skull it can still be damaged easily. Many studies indicate that a lot of contact sports can damage our brains and demonstrate that even people who have suffered minor brain injuries can often experience emotional, behavioural or cognitive problems.
  5. The brain has only so much reserve. The more reserve you have, the healthier you are. The less, the more vulnerable. In times of stress some people deal with the situation better than others and the conclusion from Dr Amen’s brain scan work is that this is something to do with brain reserve – the cushion of healthy brain function we have to deal with stressful events or injuries.
  6. Specific parts of the brain are involved in certain behaviours. Trouble in specific parts tends to cause certain behavioural problems. The brain is divided into various parts or systems. If these parts of the brain show low or high activity (which can be seen with brain scanning) we exhibit certain behavioural problems. By addressing that under or over activity through the use of supplements and lifestyle changes we can help our ability to have the best body possible.
  7. Many things hurt the brain and make it harder for you to get and keep the body you’ve always wanted. Many things help the brain and make it easier to get and keep a body you love. Things that harm include: physical trauma, drugs, alcohol, obesity, hormonal imbalances, malnutrition, inflammation of the body, stress, sleep deprivation, smoking, too much caffeine, too much TV, violent video games, dehydration, lack of exercise, negative thinking, and also making the list - excessive texting and social networking on the internet.
  8. Brain imaging gives insight into healing the brain so you can have a better body. Brain imaging can often give clues as to the type of issue – from the list above, but also the area of the brain affected, which can then be treated.
  9. One prescription does not work for everyone. We are all unique and you need to understand how your own personal brain functions. We need individualised approaches based on our own brain type and needs.
  10. You can change your brain and body! Here Dr Amen imagines a really exciting breakthrough in medicine where by targeting specific interventions and lifestyle changes, you can improve both your brain and body.

So that’s it, the 10 principles that explain why it is essential to love and nurture your brain to have your best body possible and optimal wellness.

Next time, we explore how to use your brain to achieve something many of us struggle with – lasting weight loss; plus the many ways your brain can help you beautify your body and achieve lasting wellness and good health. 

Episode 94 of The Changeability Podcast

Hear us discuss the 10 principles and more in episode 94 of The Changeability Podcast, or subscribe to all our previous episodes on iTunes

Links mentioned in today’s show

  • Dr Daniel G Amen – Change your Brain, Change your Body
Direct download: CA094.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 7:00am UTC

Nicole Keating is on a mission to live a life of Epic Wellness, and to inspire and help others in their quest for The Art of Epic Wellness – a life of physical, spiritual and emotional vitality.

Nicole maintains:

“If you treat your body as a temple, then your body is going to treat you with beautiful energy and epic vitality”

And who doesn’t want more energy and vitality? We know we certainly do.

Behind the concept of epic wellness is the belief you have the right to know what’s going into the temple that is your body, and the responsibility to share what you know with the people you love.

“It’s all about becoming involved with your food”, Nicole tells us.

And this carries on from ideas we explored on last week’s Changeability Podcast where we were talking about wellness and wellbeing.

Nicole’s website, and her podcast of the same name seeks to do just that, to explore, uncover, question, unburden and uplevel your wellness journey. After all…

“When you invest in clean food going into your body you won’t to have to invest later in your healthcare.”

With a life voyage of such life changing proportions, we thought the only decent and British thing to do was to invite her onto the Changeability Podcast to discuss not the science but the Art of Epic Wellness.

And when the California State (where Nicole lives) and good old blighty meet – that’s home to Kathryn and I – there’s bound to be room for lively discussion on living a life of such epic proportions. 

On today’s Changeability Podcast

Hear Nicole, Kathryn and I discuss: 

  • What is Epic Wellness?
  • What is Nicole’s new Art of Epic Wellness Manifesto?
  • Food integrity – the importance of source, and eating seasonally
  • Nurturing our four quadrants:
    • the heart
    • the mind and creativity
    • the spirit
    • and the body.
  • Nicole’s tragedy that brought urgency to the idea of epic wellness.
  • The changes you might need to make in your life to achieve your own epic wellness.
  • Why you might need to try an elimination diet to determine potential allergens in your body
  • How we can live more in a state of physical, spiritual and emotional vitality.
  • The concepts of unburdening and uplevelling ourselves
  • Mindfulness and eating – creating one mindful meal a day
  • How you can start that wellness journey
  • And more

“I like to think of my meal as a palette, I’m building a beautiful canvas of food in front of me and I want to see all the different colours, I want to have different textures, I like to have some things cooked and some things raw and whenever I am cooking, I’m thinking about it that way.”

Links mentioned on this week’s show

Direct download: CA093.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 7:00am UTC

What the heck is wellbeing?

Here at Brilliant Living HQ and our Changeability Podcast we’re all about helping you and us manage our minds to make changes and have more success and our best life and business.  As well as looking at mind management techniques and processes to do this, we thought it would be fun and hopefully helpful to look at some of the key areas of life that many of us want to do something about.  Earlier this year we did a series of podcasts and posts about relationships and today we start thinking about wellness and wellbeing.

“Everything that brings us well being is achieved through allowing ourselves to flow with life and be in harmony. Pain happens, it is our attachment to the pain and our resistance to change that causes suffering.” Alaric Hutchinson

Today is a beautiful day. It’s the first week of May and spring has sprung here in our little corner of England. The evenings are light and the days getting longer every day. The sunshine is making us feel better and it’s amazing the difference it makes. In fact we could say it’s increasing our sense of wellbeing - it certainly feels like that to us.  But what the heck is wellbeing?

What does wellbeing and wellness mean to us?

This notion of wellbeing seems to be everywhere, in the work-place, in magazines, all over the internet, in fact there is a whole wellness and wellbeing industry out there. 

Wellbeing is big business.  It’s a world populated by spas, therapists, therapies, fitness, gyms, dancing, exercise classes, weight loss, relaxation, supplements, closely associated to the health industry and being in a healthy state.

Wellness is the manifestation of wellbeing. Wellbeing is a particular way or specific state of being encompassing many different aspects such as:

  • Body and physical health
  • Mental and psychological wellbeing
  • Emotional wellbeing
  • Economic wellbeing
  • Social wellbeing

Psychologists, economists and policy makers are all interested in wellbeing and try to measure it, so they can use it to understand more about populations and the policies needed in the future.

While our focus at Brilliant Living HQ and in the Changeability mind-work is on mind management, it doesn’t mean we ignore the physical or body side of things.

The two are totally entwined.  We know this is area where lots of us want to change things – and that’s great because we believe mind management is key to making those changes, as much as it is to making any changes in life or business.

Is it an area you want to change? Ask yourself if your level of wellbeing is having an impact on your life, work, business, interests, family or relationships?

Mind body and spirit

When we talk about wellness in terms of Brilliant Living, we see wellbeing encompassing body, mind and spirit. For us it has to be a holistic definition and approach to wellbeing that takes all three elements into account.

How do you define wellbeing? What the heck does wellbeing mean to you?

We asked our Changeability Facebook Group and is what two of our members told us:

‘Giving your body what it needs (fuel, movement, rest and recovery) self care, connection, emotional support/nurturance... Just some ideas off the top of my head 😉   Vicky

‘Wellness for me has to do with both mind and body, but I sometimes have to go along with wellness also including pain/discomfort as well. So it isn't the absence of problems, more like being happy where I am, appreciating all the good things, having a sharp mind to play with and a very useful body! Other people, communication, meaningful activities, and all the basic needs met are of course in the mix. (There’s no of course about that list for so many people, so gratitude is in there too!)’  Janet

Thanks to Vicky and Janet for these insightful definitions. 


Just as health is not the absence of disease, there’s something much more positive to it rather than being just an opposite to a negative thing, wellbeing is something positive in its own right.  As Jan points out, it isn’t about the absence of problems, but about being happy where we are – which is a relief for all of us as we’re never going to have a completely problem-free life, but we can still have wellness and experience wellbeing.

How we think and feel about wellbeing is context dependent, as wellness and wellbeing are a relative concept. It might change at different times and stages of life, and different levels of health and fitness, but the key to wellbeing remains the same. 

The key to wellbeing is feeling good

That’s it really isn’t it?  The answer to what the heck is wellbeing is – ‘feeling good’.

As our feelings and emotions are connected to our mind this brings us back around to mind management as the way to help us experience wellbeing.

So how can we summarise what wellbeing means to us?

Wellbeing is a combination of factors, some of which are more important at different times than others, but all impact on our levels of wellbeing including:

  • health and fitness - both physical and mental
  • self-esteem and self-worth
  • confidence
  • energy
  • enthusiasm and a zest for life
  • happiness
  • feeling good

That’s our quick introduction to wellbeing, what it is (and isn’t) and we're looking forward to delving into this subject a bit more and talking to some guests about it over the next few weeks.

The Changeability Podcast Episode 92

Hear us talk about all of this and much more – including how and 11 year old Kathryn got this definition of wellbeing and times she hasn’t been feeling it – on episode 92 of the Changeability Podcast.

Getting to Know You survey

Thanks to those fantastic people who’ve completed our ‘Getting to know you’ questionnaire.  If you haven’t done we’d love to hear from you.  It’s very quick and easy with only handful of questions. It’s anonymous unless you want to leave your details and will help us get to know and serve you better. Thank you.

Direct download: CA092.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 8:00am UTC