I bought the book Change Your Brain Change Your Body by Daniel G. Amen because I’m interested in the way the our brains, minds and thoughts affects all aspects of our lives. Amen, a clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist and brain imaging expert, focuses on how the physical aspects of the brain can affect weight, skin, heart, energy and focus. Probably most notably, he points out that diets fail because they do not address the neurological issues that cause particular types of overeating. According to Amen, there are five types of overeaters. Those include compulsive overeater, impulsive overeater, impulsive-compulsive overeater, the sad overeater and the anxious overeater.
Type 1: The Compulsive Overeater
The compulsive overeaters are those who eat compulsively all day and think constantly about food. Amen connects this to low serotonin levels.
Type 2: The Impulse Overeater
Amen calls these people “grabbers.” In other words, no matter how good their intentions, when they see food, they can’t resist it. Amen connects this type to low levels of dopamine.
Type 3: The Impulsive-Compulsive Overeater
This group has very little control over their impulses and get stuck on thoughts of food. Amen says that these people need a combination approach that raises both serotonin and dopamine, such as green tea and 5-HTP.
Type 4: The Sad Overeater
These are people who eat as a way to sooth feelings of sadness, depression, loneliness, or boredom. Amen associates this type with “high activity in the deep limbic system.”
Type 5: The Anxious Overeater
Like the sad overeater, these people eat to sooth themselves. Amen says this can be caused by low levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA.
Amen concludes that unless a person is aware of what type of overeater they are, they will be unable to address the underlying reasons for their behaviors and will not be able to lose weight. He goes on to recommend treatments for each of the types-the treatments are often supplements or exercise.
While this book has a lot of good information, I felt that it consisted mostly of lists and that Amen tended to be repetitive. I also wondered about some of the “facts” that he includes-like that technology is causing brain problems and that diet soda causes arthritis. There seemed to be only anticdotal evidence for his claims. In the case of the arthritis/diet soda connection, his only source was his personal experience. This aspect of his work made me feel a bit skeptical about even the less radical ideas he presents.
It also seemed that most of his material could be boiled down to a few pages-or maybe just a few lines. If I were to sum up the book in a few words I could says, “Eat good food, exercise, get enough sleep, and try to have positive thoughts.” Of course, Amen is also very big on taking supplements, some of which he sells on his website. This made me worry that maybe the book was just a big infomercial. On the other hand, it is a good references book to have around, as some of the lists Amen includes are actually quite useful. I may just use his list of “good brain food” as my new shopping list.