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Does Having a More Beautiful Brain Require Us to Go on Another Diet?

By Karen Spencer August 10, 2023 Health and Fitness

I have to admit I have been on a ton of diets in my life and unsuccessful with every single one of them. You name it; I have tried it …and failed.

In the past, my dieting was always with the purpose of improving my looks. I just kept searching for the next popular diet that would, for sure, get me a more beautiful body.

I now look back with regret at the amount of wasted time and energy I spent dissatisfied with all my body’s imperfections and flaws.

Me finding and going on the next miracle diet was way too often a conversation in my household. Until one evening something, or should I say someone, changed my thinking.

Through a Child’s Eyes

My 13-year-old daughter was setting the dinner table. I noticed she was only putting on 5 plates. “There’s six of us eating, honey,” I said.

“Not tonight,” she responded. “I’m going to skip dinner tonight because I am going on a diet.”

“Sweetheart,” I said, “You are 5 feet 3 inches tall and weigh 95 pounds. What are you thinking? You, little girl, do not need to go on any kind of diet… your body is just perfect how it is!”

She flippantly responded, “I don’t see what’s the big deal, Mom. You are always talking about trying out the latest diet! So, I decided to be like you and try one too.”

I gasped! Oh my God… what had I been doing?

This brief interaction with my daughter made me realize that my egotistical dissatisfaction with my shape was setting the stage for my children’s possible poor body images as well.

So, that evening, after all six of us finished dinner, I rose from my chair, and said I had an announcement to make. My husband and our four children looked up in shock, as this was unusual behavior for me.

“I want you all to know that starting now, I am never going on another diet again!” The room was quiet as I went on. “In fact, as far as I am concerned, from this moment on, in this household, the word ‘diet’ is now to be considered a four-letter word!” My son giggled and one of his sisters kicked him under the table.

That clarifying experience changed my mind about diets.

Switching Awareness to Brain Image

Then, about the time I gave up being obsessed with my body image, I started to get concerned about my brain image.

I was becoming painfully aware that the women on my mother’s side of the family were dealing with the devasting effects of cognitive issues. My mom, her mom and two of my mom’s sisters had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I suspected my genetics put my brain at risk as well.

That set in motion a journey for me to educate myself and later teach others about brain health.

Articles that used to pique my interest like Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days, annoyed me. Long-term health and fitness information was my new frame of reference. I was no longer looking through the lens of beautiful body miracles, but rather a beautiful brain.

You might say that after all these years I was finally coming to my SENSES.

I found a myriad of research that pointed out the critical importance of making healthy lifestyle choices to support and even prevent cognitive decline. Choices like quality sleep and plenty of exercise. And one particular lifestyle area that came up again and again was that of nutrition.

There is a tremendous amount of discussion in the neurological field these days that shows the gut and brain connection. In fact, the gut is often now referred to as the second brain.

What We Put in Our Gut Affects Our Brain!

One day, as I was digging deeper into the critical impact of nutrition on our brain health, I came across an article written by David Katz, MD, MPH, the founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. He is also an associate professor of public health and the author of roughly 200 scientific articles.

Wow, I thought, this Katz guy really must know some stuff!

Here are some of his words that brought home for me the power of nutrition:

Did you catch it? That four-letter word… d*et?

But I had sworn off of all diets!

And yet, there I was, actually typing ‘brain diet’ into my internet search?

A plethora of diet books appeared… Mind Diet, Brain Diet, Brain Boost Diet, The Grain Brain, Think Better Diet, Keto Diet, Mediterranean Diet, …on and on.

And, as fate would have it, a health newsletter arrived in my inbox the next day. Here’s how it began: “Let’s settle this debate once and for all… What is the best diet for brain health?”

Oh no! Was I back to where I began – looking for another miracle diet and thinking the right diet could fix my brain?

Not this time, I decided! If I was going to go back to battling with food; I was going to have a new battle plan! This time I needed to try another way.

My Diet Plan

Have you, too, had dieting experiences that left a bad taste in your mouth? If so, I want to encourage you not to give up on creating more healthy eating habits.

And, if you are like me, you want to eat better. You promise you do. But you can’t bear to face going on another diet right now.

Then might I share some tips that moved me in the right direction?

  • Decide to develop a healthy relationship and mindset around food.
  • Don’t speak about food as if it were the enemy. Have you used the words ‘starving, unsatisfying or boring’ when talking about diets? Instead, think and speak about food as a beautiful blessing. Pause while you are eating to relish and savor the life-giving energy and fuel that will nourish your brain.
  • Adopt this mantra for improving your eating habits. Progress; not perfection.
  • Keep it simple and begin with small steps.

Less Can Be More

More of These:

Less of These:

  • Unhealthy foods prepared in unhealthy ways
  • Highly processed food
  • Fake food
  • Fast foods
  • Foods with added sugars
  • Foods with artificial flavors /sweeteners
  • Trans fats
  • Sodas and other sugary drinks

Whether your goal is improving your sleep, getting more movement in your day or eating healthier, remember: Start where you are at, begin with small steps, and create healthy habits.

The goal is not a fast, easy fix but long-lasting change.

Our Beautiful Brains Are Worth It!

(If you try any new foods, pay attention for your body’s possible negative responses. If you are under a doctor’s care, make sure and check before making changes to your diet.)

Here are some practical tips you might want to follow:

Don’t Tempt Yourself

Don’t have unhealthy food around your house or your workplace if you are tempted by it. If you love ice cream, don’t buy it by the gallon. Go to your local dairy queen and occasionally treat yourself.

Eat a Variety of Good Foods

Challenge yourself to trying a new food from the produce department each week.

Progress Not Perfection

I was enrolled in a 6-month wellness program several years ago, and I was asked each week to confess when I had ‘cheated’ on my detox diet. I hated the word cheated… it made it sound like I was a bad person. I would have preferred to be asked about the percentage of times I was successful. Or how I felt like I was progressing!

Be Intentional – Create a Plan

I made created my own grocery list. That helped me with my weekly meals and snack planning.

Think Ahead

Before ravishing your cupboards and refrigerator, think about what your body and brain need for nourishment and fuel.

No quick fixes, or easy peasy wins; this time my plan of action would be a carefully intentional, well-thought program for a better brain.

Use Your Senses

Savor healthy foods by using your sense of sight, smell and taste.

Make It Fun

Instead of feeling that every trip to the grocery store has to be B-O-R-I-N-G, have fun.

Eat the Rainbow!

When my grandkids came to stay with me this summer, I created a rainbow chart for them. I bought small colorful smiley face stickers. The goal was for the children to eat the rainbow every day, as in, yummy fruits and vegies. Of course, we had a discussion that gummy bears, M&Ms, and sweet tarts did not qualify!

They loved it! They loved the competition with their siblings and the prizes they received. I always had plenty of raw vegies and fresh fruits so they could choose what they wanted. I took them to the store and had them help me pick out some foods they especially liked… that were healthy. At the end of the vacation my 6-year-old said, “You know, Grandma… actually, the truth is healthy foods taste better than junk food.”

“Yes, yes, yes!” I squealed and gave him a high five.

And don’t forget to hydrate. We tend to forget to drink enough water during the day, but this is super important and there’s a ton of literature explaining why.

You Are Worth It!

If you are like me, then you love the bargains. This is true especially when healthy choices come at a higher price. In those moments, I use this mantra: My brain is worth it! My health is worth it! I am worth it!

You know the brain doesn’t get evenings, weekends, or vacations off. It is always working, 24/7. It is in charge of your thoughts and decisions in the daytime, but it’s also responsible for your movement, breathing, senses and heartbeat.

In order to do all those tasks, your brain needs a constant supply of adequate, rich in nutrients food. So, consider the tips above and see what you are willing to do to keep your mind and body healthy.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How many times a week do you eat healthy foods? Do you follow diets that don’t give your brain enough nutrients? Do you have family disposition to any serious brain conditions, such as Alzheimer’s? What are you doing to proactively prevent early development?

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The Author

Karen is a retired college professor, a Certified Health Coach, a Brain Health Coach, a writer, a speaker and a teacher. Her mission is to educate, inspire and influence women 55 and older to step up, dream big and become healthier, happier, and more fulfilled.

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