Food, Longevity, Cheat Days, Bizarre Times and the Little Lies

Adapted from “Use Your Brain to Change Your Age”

Published in the United States by Crown Archetype, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. Available at

by Daniel G. Amen, MD, featured expert in the upcoming telesummit 7 Days with 7 Celebrity Docs. For more info, please visit

If you want to live longer, look younger, be healthier, happier and smarter getting your food under control is critical.  In fact, it may be THE most important factor in increasing your longevity odds.  Food is medicine or it can be poison.  The changes in your diet will be critical to success and if you stick with it for the long haul it will likely save and extend your life.

Getting your food under control in our current society is no small feat as we live in a very bizarre time.  Nearly everywhere we go we are being pounded by the wrong messages about food that will make us fat, depressed and feeble-minded. There are:

  • Foot long hot dogs at the ball park
  • Huge meal portions at restaurants
  • Food pushers who ask us to supersize everything for less money, and
  • The billboards pushing monster foods that WILL kill you early.

I was recently driving down the 405 freeway in Los Angeles when I saw a billboard for a huge fast food sandwich.  And, then, no lie, as I turned my head to the other side of the freeway I saw another billboard for losing weight with Lap Band.

Indulge yourself, continually make bad decisions, and then pretty soon you or your patients will need surgery to get your inner child under control.  Sounds pretty crazy.  We need a better way, which is to start being smart about our nutrition and stop the lies that perpetuate illness.

Here are some of the recent lies I have heard people tell themselves about why they have to eat poor quality food and my response in parentheses.

  •          I can’t eat healthy because I travel. (I am always amused by this one as I travel a lot for my public television shows.  It just takes a little forethought and judgment when ordering.)
  •          I work hard and eat out a lot. (I often think, probably not harder than me or many other really healthy people.)
  •          My whole family is fat, it is in my genes. (This is one of the biggest lies. It is our behavior that triggers the expression of our genes.  My genes too say I should be fat, but I do not give in to the behavior that would make me so.)
  •          My family won’t cooperate. (If your family started to do cocaine or steal would you join them? It is better if you do it together, but ultimately you are responsible for you.)
  •          It’s my boss’ fault. (For the ineffective person, it is often someone else’s fault.  When you take responsibility to be better, you are much more likely to win.)
  •          It’s Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, my birthday, my dog’s birthday.  It is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  (There is always a reason to cheat, to celebrate or to commiserate.  You get healthy with food when you realize it is medicine or poison.)
  •          I’ll start tomorrow!   (I used to say this year after year, then realized tomorrow never comes.)
  •          My son will only eat Captain Crunch for breakfast. (I recently did an exercise with my wife where together we cleaned out the kitchen of a woman at our church.  She said she was mostly a vegetarian and ate really healthy.  Her cabinets were loaded with bad foods.  When we got to the Captain Crunch she told us that was the only food he teenage son would eat for breakfast.  “Really,” I asked.  “If you did not have Captain Crunch he would starve?”  At that point, she turned her head away and said, “No.  He would find something else that was healthy.” The little lies do not only hurt us, they hurt the people we love.)
  •          Good food is expensive. (Being sick is really expensive.  In fact, the cheapest food is the most expensive in terms of illness and lost productivity).
  •          I would rather get Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancer or diabetes than give up sugar. (This one always shocks me.  But I understand addiction.  Certain combinations of fat, sugar, and salt actually work on the heroin centers of the brain and can be totally addictive.)

Check back Thursday, June 21 for part two of Dr. Amen’s article!