How Can I Maintain My Weight & Keep My Brain Strong During The Holidays

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Over the years, the focus of the Thanksgiving holiday has gone from gratitude to gluttony, which makes it exceptionally difficult for people to both celebrate the holiday and maintain their healthy lifestyle. So what can Brain Warriors do? In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen give you tips for avoiding those weapons of mass destruction while saving face with the relatives.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years. Using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: Tana and I want to wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving. And as we go into the holiday season, it's actually going into the illness.
Tana Amen: It really is.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The number one day for heart attacks is Christmas day.
Tana Amen: It is.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And it starts with Halloween and goes through Thanksgiving holiday parties. I'm sort of not okay. We're celebrating the birth of Jesus by stuffing ourselves with poisonous toxic food.
Tana Amen: Well, and you add to that the stress of traveling, the weather change, the time change, which actually is a stressor. All of those and a lot of people aren't happy during the holidays because they're missing someone or they're grieving or there's something going on or they're worried about finances because it's insane. The commercialism. There's so many factors that go into the holidays being stressful. And if you think about where the idea of Thanksgiving started, it started with the pilgrims being thankful because they were hungry, they were struggling and they had this...
That was a day of gratitude for what they did have. And it's turned into instead of this day of gluttony, and then it carries on through all of the holidays. It's like, how did that happen? How do we switch from gratitude to gluttony? It's a good question.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Wow. So how do brain warriors do the holidays? And growing up for me there was just... My dad's a grocer, so we always had food and lots of it.
Tana Amen: While you're Lebanese, let's just like lay it out there. I'm Lebanese, you're Lebanese and every time I walk in the door there's someone stuffing food in my mouth, you're too skinny. You need to eat, you need to eat please.
Dr. Daniel Amen: By your grandmother who's five feet tall-
Tana Amen: Was way overweight.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... and 200 pounds.
Tana Amen: Way overweight and had diabetes and heart disease.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Diabetes. Right. Right. You need-
Tana Amen: But that's typical of that culture.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because we're not thinking about giving the gift of health. As I was looking at our core values Amen Clinics and BrainMD recently, one of our core values and you should ask yourself what your core values are for your home, for your work, for your church, whatever. It's live the message. Because if you don't live the message you suck as the messenger and I actually changed live the message to authentic. Because what's authentic? If you're a brain warrior, you're armed, aware, and prepare to win this fight of your life.
Tana Amen: For your life.
Dr. Daniel Amen: One of the biggest battles for brain warriors is the holidays, right now-
Tana Amen: Because it's three months. People think, "Oh it's just a week or two." No, it's like a three month stretch of time. The problem with that is when you start it, it then triggers this addiction cycle that becomes hard to break. We get people kicked off of their sugar and it's like, "Great." We get them all psyched and then it triggers that cycle of addiction and it triggers... It's like having the blues post holidays. It's this whole thing we have to start all over again. That's why I'm not a fan of new year's resolutions because people...
Studies show that within less than six weeks, people have given up on them and you just keep repeating the cycle over and over and over, which you're reinforcing now, "Oh, I'm going to do this every year." We just want you to have a system for doing this all the time and be thinking... So what I want to just give people a couple of tips by the end of this podcast or this week. We want them to have several tips that they can use.
Because if you do come from a family where food has been the vehicle that they celebrate love with, I want you to just think about that for a second. Food has no place being in the same place in your brain, occupying the same space in your brain as your love for a child, your love for another person. But yet that's what we do. So if that-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right now I've seen things online where one year olds are putting their hands into cake and cupcakes and then they're just slathered in it and they're associating happiness with sugar and happy-
Tana Amen: Well, it happens in our own family we know that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... bad Food. Oh no. And it horrifies me when it does. But before we go on, do you have a review?
Tana Amen: Yeah. And then we'll talk about the tips because I want to give people tips by the end of this week. So we have a podcast here. I love this. I've already downloaded the Think Dirty app and I'm amazed by the scores of the cleaning products that are targeted to all natural and green homes. There's so many. It's so great. I love listening to you both. I've learned so much and I'm officially obsessed. I might need a scan for that. Keep up the amazing work and keep creating brain warriors. What you do is so important.
I left mental health after 15 years because I just felt current strategies were ineffective and we were not treating the root of the issue. Your podcast books and knowledge rang true for me from moment. I heard it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you from Valerie. Love that. Thank you so much.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well we are so grateful and if there's one thing you learned from this podcast, please post it on any of your social media sites, hashtag Brain Warrior's Way podcast. You can also leave us a review or question at and we'll enter you into a raffle to win one of Tana cookbooks and we're going to announce a winner this week. So you have tips.
Tana Amen: Well, so you want to... The first thing is to be aware, is your family one of those families where if you don't eat what's cooked and you don't clean your plate off, they're going to be offended. So you have to have a strategy for that, right? So strategies can vary. For me being very direct and just straight forward about is the best strategy. But not, that doesn't work for everybody.
So learning how to say no thank you and have a reason for it without offending people for a lot of times that works. It's like, "I'm really working on my health this year." And if they continue on it's like, "Don't you want me to be healthy?" Like having something that you say in response, if it's because you-
Dr. Daniel Amen: So we should role play this a little bit, because I remember when one of my grandchildren was born, someone said, "Do you..." because I went over to help and someone said, "Do you want something to eat?" I know she didn't want to give me healthy stuff. I said, "No, thank you." She said, "Are you sure?" I said, "Yes." She said, "Well, are you really sure that you don't want something to eat?"
This went on for six times and I finally gently said, "Why do you want me to something I don't want to eat?" And then it shut it down. But because people are often socially anxious, they give in and damage themselves rather than set appropriate boundaries. And we just had John Townsend, who's the author of Boundary.
Tana Amen: Right? And another thing you could say is I'm really here for the company. That's the thing that I came for is, I'm here for the love. I'm here for the company. I'm not here for food.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So I'd like to hear how you'd respond.
Tana Amen: Well, people don't usually challenge me that much. My family does. My family does.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Don't you want a piece of cake.
Tana Amen: No, thank you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Are you sure? It's really good.
Tana Amen: I know it is. I would actually love that cake, but it doesn't love me back and I'm really working on my health. But thank you so much.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Everybody else is having it.
Tana Amen: I know. I'm here for the people, not the cake, but thank you. I'm going to go get some fruit.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Low-glycemic fruit.
Tana Amen: Right? But I'll be right back. I'm going to come, I want to actually visit with you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But you're too skinny.
Tana Amen: I guess I'm just going to have to be too skinny. I feel good at this weight.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So you think you're better than us
Tana Amen: If that means I'm not eating cake. I guess so. If your idea of being better than us is not eating cake, I guess you're going to have to deal with that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Do it with me.
Tana Amen: Would you like a piece of cake?
Dr. Daniel Amen: No. Thank you.
Tana Amen: Are you sure? It's really good.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm as sure as I can be.
Tana Amen: Jackie spent all day in the kitchen cooking and making these goodies in these pastries, in this cake. And she really wants you to have a piece.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Weapons of mass destruction.
Tana Amen: Really.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's like Jackie spent a lot of time-
Tana Amen: Trying to kill us all.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Trying to kill us all. So I actually had a funny thing. My dad was sick and I put him on a gluten free dairy, sugar free diet and then my mom like spent all day making bread.
Tana Amen: That's hilarious.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I went over and saw that and I'm like, "Dad, she's trying to kill you early." I think she's got a guy on the side.
Tana Amen: That's so funny.
Dr. Daniel Amen: My 88 year old mother.
Tana Amen: My point is is if you want to do this, you'll find a way and if you don't, you will find an excuse. That's just the bottom line. If you want to be healthy, you'll find a way. And if you don't, you'll find an excuse. Now, we aren't saying that people are perfect, we understand they're not perfect. If you're going to have a bite of something... So what I do is I have a three bite rule. If I'm going to have something... First of all, we have a 95, five rule. That's the first rule is 95, five. 95% of what we eat is our brain warrior... Right?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Do the [crosstalk 00:10:33].
Tana Amen: Brain warrior strategies, the 5%... Okay. I'm not going to obsess about it and feel guilty about it. If I eat something, if I know I'm going to have something, I have it and I'm done and I get back on track. I don't sit there and go round and round and use it as an excuse to fail. Don't use it as an excuse to fail. And a three bite rule will keep you from totally sabotaging yourself and triggering that cycle of addiction.
So Jackie's cake, if I decided nine times out of 10 I'm going to say no to it. I'll tell you why. Because frosting for me is crack. It's just my crack. So when I start eating frosting, it just starts this downward spiral for me. Now, if it were something else and I knew it wasn't that thing for me, that triggers me to just start my downward spiral. If you're an alcoholic, you're not going to go drink, right? Because you know it's going to trigger you into the spiral.
So if it were something else and I decided, all right, I'm going to taste it. I'm going to have no more than three bites, not elephant sized bites, but three bites, because that will not... Then it's like I've satisfied it. It's not going to be any more satisfying to go gorge. In fact, you're going to feel bad, but the three bites then move on, then go get some fruit.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So when we first started to help people with their weight, our first program was actually in 2009 and it was called Lose Weight Through the Holidays. The week of Christmas for our group, the average weight loss was 2.5 pounds because you don't have to be sick in January. If you don't want to be sick in January, now's the time to start. And you just want to have the right mindset and I mean you can get well any time.
I mean, I think doing it on January 1st is just sort of silly that you... When you get the mindset, I'm going to start now, not tomorrow, but today, now. That's when you'll really be a brain warrior.
Tana Amen: So I actually would like to show them something in the cookbook, in the Brain Warrior's Way cookbook, I have... I don't know if you can see this. Well, you probably can't see it. It's a brain warrior holiday meal plan. It literally goes through every step of how to have a brain warrior approved holiday with recipes and strategies, all the tips we're giving you plus a whole bunch more ways for you to break your own cycle of addiction.
If you're starting to feel like, "Okay. I want to eat healthy, but I'm feeling like I'm going to give in." What do you do? How do you encourage your family and friends? How do you have them help encourage you? There's a whole strategy in here along with recipes, whole bunch of them that are beautiful, delicious, nutritious, and are not going to set you up to fail.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So what's one thing you learn? The one thing I learned is you don't have to be sick in the holidays. What's one thing you learned? Post it on any of your social media sites? Hashtag Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Leave us a comment, a question, or review at or review on Apple or any of your podcast sites. We are so grateful that you're with us.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying the Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe, so you'll always know when there's a new episode and while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at or 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at 855 978 1363.