We spent much of the summer discussing the back to basics approach to diet and nutrition by Dr. Mark Hyman (beginning here). We don’t believe in crash diets or starving yourself, but Dr. Daniel Amen does offer a different approach to Hyman that is worth a look.
Dr. Amen’s approach is outlined in his book
Change Your Brain, Change Your Body,”
and is based on the doctor’s study of different people’s brain scans. He found that there was no one pattern in the brain associated with his patients who were overweight. He deduced that because of this, there is no one diet or exercise program that is going to work for every person. People are overweight for different reasons and the area of the brain affected will not respond to the same diet as someone else. There’s no “fix-all” approach, which contradicts our society’s obsession with the “it” diet.
The doctor discusses five different types of over-eaters, and each deserves their own custom approach to weight loss and life change. He has found that these five types of over-eaters are often easily identified without even doing a scan. Dr. Amen’s book goes into the various places of the brain affected, as well as the reasoning behind each approach. The types are as follows:
1. The compulsive over-eater: These are the type that think about food constantly, and this is often caused by low serotonin levels in the brain. This type does not respond well to a low-carb diet, or diet pills. However, a boost in serotonin combined with a practical diet that still includes carbs works well.
2. The impulsive overeater: This person has all the best intentions to eat well, but often “cheats” on their diet on impulse when they encounter a fast food joint, or a plate of cookies in the office break room. This is caused by a lowered dopamine level in the brain that causes a difficulty with impulse control. Eating a protein rich diet and drinking green tea can combat low dopamine levels.
3. Impulsive-Compulsive Over-eater: This is a combination of the first two. It requires a combination of the two approaches for weight loss.
4. The sad over-eater: This person eats when they are lonely, sad, upset, bored, or depressed. In order to lose weight, this over-eater should deal with their sadness/depression through counseling when appropriate. Exercise and focusing on positive thoughts can help this type of over-eater from reaching in the pantry when they are not truly hungry.
5. The anxious over-eater: This type eats when feeling anxious. To combat the anxiety, Dr. Amen recommends a combination of vitamins and relaxation exercises.
Just as your weight problem is related to your brain activity, suggests Dr. Amen, your weight loss will improve your brain’s functioning long into the future. The risk of Alzheimer’s doubles when you are overweight. Your entire body’s functioning improves when you are at a healthy weight for you.
Check out Dr. Amen’s weight loss theory in
Change Your Brain, Change Your Body
for more details on how to combat each of these types of overeating.