How To Find Motivation To Eat Healthier, with Mareya Ibrahim

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

Have no illusions, adopting healthy eating habits is no simple task. With the messaging we’re constantly being shoveled from the food industry and even social media, acquiring a healthy body and mind can seem out of reach. But there are ways to find motivation that work for you. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Tana Amen and “Fit Foodie” Mareya Ibrahim give you practical tips you can use to integrate a healthier nutrition routine.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And 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
Welcome back. We are still here with my friend, Mareya Ibrahim, and we are talking about Eat Like You Give a Fork. This is a book that my husband and I both endorse. In fact, he endorsed the back of it.
Mareya Ibrahim: So great.
Tana Amen: We're going to be doing a book giveaway, so make sure that you write into if you want this book. We're going to do a drawing. We're going to give this away.
Also, make sure you tag us because what I want you to do is think about this. In this episode, we are going to talk about why people don't change and what you can do if that's you or someone you love.
We want to hear what your biggest breakthrough is. Please tag us. You can tag ... Where can they find you? On-
Mareya Ibrahim: @eatcleaner.
Tana Amen: Eat cleaner?
Mareya Ibrahim: Eat cleaner on Instagram and Facebook.
Tana Amen: Okay, and you can find me @tanaamen on Instagram, or you can tag ... You can write into our podcast, so Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. We want to hear from you, and we want to hear who you know that has this problem, and if you are one of these people, how did you change, if you changed, or what you're struggling with. Just let us know.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yeah.
Tana Amen: We left off the last episode with your mother, who didn't change, and I'm in the same ... I have the same thing. My grandmother did not change. She's one of the reasons I became so inspired to do what I do.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yeah.
Tana Amen: Besides the fact that I was saving myself. My family was very sick. I have obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer. It was just all in my family, and I got cancer. And so, it was a huge wake up call to me, but I never could figure out why my grandmother, who was 4 feet 11 and weighed almost 200 pounds, and she was beautiful when she was young, I mean stunning when she was young. Tiny little waist, gorgeous, and then just gave up, but it's easy to say she gave up.
When I really looked into her history, that woman could not turn the news on without every single day, breaking down and crying. She'd gone through-
Mareya Ibrahim: Ah, sounds so familiar.
Tana Amen: She'd gone through a war, and my uncle was murdered. So, her son had been murdered, and so after that, she gave up. Now, that's one of the reasons we do what we do, right?
Mareya Ibrahim: Yeah.
Tana Amen: We want to know what's going on with you. Do you have PTSD? Have you had a head injury? That's what we do.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yeah.
Tana Amen: So, tell me about your mother and what happened.
Mareya Ibrahim: Boy, I just got chills.
Tana Amen: Because sometimes it's not as simple as it sounds.
Mareya Ibrahim: It really isn't, and you bring up a few very important things. I mean, my parents were immigrants. They came to the United States with nothing, not knowing anybody-
Tana Amen: My family, too.
Mareya Ibrahim: And having no money. My mom had a stillborn before me, so she carried a baby to term.
Tana Amen: To term.
Mareya Ibrahim: He died in the delivery room, which I can never-
Tana Amen: I can't.
Mareya Ibrahim: Wrap my head around-
Tana Amen: No, I get chills, I... no.
Mareya Ibrahim: How she got over that. I think leaving her family in general, and she was a pharmacist, and she got her pharmacy degree in Egypt, again in New York, again in Colorado.
Tana Amen: Wow. She's just smart.
Mareya Ibrahim: She's a smart woman, and she's very dedicated to that, but a lot, a lot of pressure, and I think probably didn't know how to deal with all of that and didn't have an outlet for that.
I remember, most days growing up, it was just ... They were busy, so it would be like food was just sort of like a free for all, and then on the weekends, we would eat really healthy. Then, we'd go back to Egypt, and we would see how our family actually ate, and it was very, very different, so all of these things.
I think you bring up such an important point. You've got to want it, and you've got to make your brain then take charge, because it's a decision. It's a decision.
Tana Amen: If you're not doing that, my challenge to you is ask yourself why. When we started The Brain Warrior's Way, I told you, I think we were a perfect match, right? I wrote The Brain Warrior's Way with my husband. We start with this concept of mastery, so it's mindset is the M in mastery, A is assessment, right?
Mareya Ibrahim: Yeah.
Tana Amen: So, mindset and assessment, you have to ask yourself why. Why is it that you want to do this? Why is it a must, not a should, right?
Mareya Ibrahim: Yes.
Tana Amen: It's got to be a must, not a should, but if you're not able to do that, or you're like, I want to do it, but I can't, then you again need to ask why. That's the assessment part, okay?
So, we need to know what's going on. Is it biological? Is it because you've had a head injury? Is it because your vitamin D is low? Is it because your hormones are off? What is it?
Mareya Ibrahim: Yeah.
Tana Amen: Is it psychological? Is it because you have PTSD? Is it because you are not blending into ... You're an immigrant, and you are not blending into society, and the stresses are just way too high? Is it because of ... Whatever reason, we've got to get that assessed and treated.
Mareya Ibrahim: A hundred percent, and in my health coaching, always the first meeting would be like, what is your motivation? What is your reason why? What's your why?
Tana Amen: Right.
Mareya Ibrahim: I will tell you that, 8 times out of 10, it would be just people expressing from their heart how difficult of a time they were having.
Tana Amen: Right.
Mareya Ibrahim: So, not even focusing on why they want to do things, but the hardships that they've had, and your heart goes out to them because you realize everybody is in their space, but if we really try and turn it around to what is motivating you ... And I even talk about it in the book, and I say, "What's your BHAG? What's your big audacious goal?"
Tana Amen: Hairy goal.
Mareya Ibrahim: Your goal, you're amazing. Your goal is probably more advanced than other people's goals, and other people might want to do tremendous things. Everybody's goal is their own amazing audacious goal.
Tana Amen: For some people, it's just I want to survive to see my child graduate college. That's okay.
Mareya Ibrahim: Or I want into the jeans that I couldn't wear because I had a baby. Everybody has their goal, and it's okay to honor that goal. If you want to fit in your jeans, and that's your goal, that's your goal.
Tana Amen: Just make sure that that goal, in my mind, is going to last past the event you're going to, right? We don't want you to do it short term and then gain weight and then short term and then gain weight.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yeah, absolutely.
Tana Amen: Make it a permanent—
Mareya Ibrahim: It's going to be a step in the ladder, and I think, let's maybe focus on what your goal is, so that you feel like this is something. For many people, it's, like you said, you want to be around for your daughter. You want to be around for your husband. You want to be around. I want to be ... I'm a single mom. I have to take care of my two kids, you know?
Tana Amen: Absolutely. [crosstalk 00:07:02] You need to do that.
Mareya Ibrahim: It's required.
Tana Amen: Yeah. And so, sometimes when people tell me, "Well, I want to fit into my jeans." I'll keep digging. It's like, why? Why is it important to you? And you keep digging. It's like why is that important? We'll finally get down to what it really is, and then that will often help them. Because I've had people come in, and they're like, "Well, I need to fit into a bathing suit by the time I go on vacation." Why? Why is that important?
Mareya Ibrahim: Or they tell you they need to lose a certain number of pounds.
Tana Amen: Yeah, why?
Mareya Ibrahim: I always question that. Why the pounds? Why are you focused on the pounds?
Tana Amen: Because, behind that, is the real reason.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yes.
Tana Amen: And if I can get them to focus on the real reason, it won't be just for the vacation, right? It will turn into something they realize they need to do.
Mareya Ibrahim: Or there's this perception that they need to be a certain way when, in fact, you ask them why that number, and they kind of pull it out of no where.
Tana Amen: It's because they've read it in a magazine.
Mareya Ibrahim: They've read it in a magazine, so I think it's healthy to have these discussions, and it's really ... The Brain Warrior's Way as the beginning of figuring things out, and then, when you get your brain in order ...
And that's why I love the Daniel plan so much.
Tana Amen: Yeah, me too.
Mareya Ibrahim: It's not about one thing.
Tana Amen: It's because it's five pillars.
Mareya Ibrahim: It's the five pillars, and you need those five pillars to really have, not just health and longevity in your food life, but in your personal life and your spiritual life, in every aspect of what you do.
Tana Amen: Yeah, no. I agree. It's such an important thing. So, I just think that was really important to touch on, why people don't change when they know they're sick, when they know this is important, when they know it's life and death sometimes.
My grandmother ended up dying of the effects of diabetes. She died of the heart disease. She had neuropathy in her lungs, and she had heart disease, and she ended up dying of that. She was legally blind. And it just broke my heart.
Now, oddly, that is what inspired me to be different, right? So, I became a nurse, and I decided I love my family, and I don't want to be anything like them because I saw myself starting to head down that path because I didn't know better when I was little. I had no idea.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yeah, I saw it in my family too. On my mom's side of the family, many of them have heart disease. I see it's the same lifestyle choices. It's the same poor food choices, even though they have plentiful food. It is lack of activity. It's a mindset. It's those three things, and I didn't want to be that way either.
I saw that they were very sedentary, and that made me want to be active. I just can't imagine life not being that way because it makes me feel so good.
Tana Amen: You're vibrant.
Mareya Ibrahim: I feel like this is how you age well, right?
Tana Amen: Right.
Mareya Ibrahim: Both physically in your body and emotionally.
Tana Amen: Absolutely.
Mareya Ibrahim: So, I feel like when you get a taste of that, that's when ... It's kind of like, "Ooh, I like that. I want to do more of that."
Tana Amen: And I love that. Things do change. Like, I'm 50 now, and I always said—
Mareya Ibrahim: Me too.
Tana Amen: Are you really? Oh my god, you look so amazing.
Mareya Ibrahim: You look amazing. Oh my gosh, look at you.
Tana Amen: You've got to be kidding me.
Mareya Ibrahim: Are you kidding?
Tana Amen: So, when I remember being ... I was probably in my best shape when I was in my mid 40s, up until I was 47. And I remember saying ... I had a lot of muscle mass. I'm going to be healthier at 50 than I am now at 47. That was a goal for me. Excuse me. So, I've worked towards that goal.
Now, things happen, right? I ended up having surgery last year, and that shifted my hormones. At first, it really through me for a loop emotionally. I'm like, "Whoa." I don't look the same as I did at 47. It made me really kind of frustrated, and I'm like, "I don't have the same muscle mass I had. I'm getting skinnier." I actually don't like being that sort of frail skinny look. I want to be muscular.
So, it frustrated me. But, I had to do that same work that I do with my people on myself, that I do with people I coach. I did the same work on myself, and I went, "What is your goal?" Is the goal to be a certain body fat and muscle mass, or is the goal to be vibrant and healthy?
Because you are going to age, right? You are going to change.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yes, we are going to age.
Tana Amen: So, my life is amazing. It's vibrant. It's like, "Okay, I have to take what I have now and maximize it." It's always about optimizing what you have, being vibrant, being healthy, being full of life for the people you live.
Mareya Ibrahim: And I think it's being flexible.
Tana Amen: Flexible.
Mareya Ibrahim: Being able to shift with the times. I think getting this ideal whatever it is that the media might be prescribing out of your mind and living your own truth because you and I, I don't know about you. I know you're in amazing shape, but you're probably in karate, and you're like, "Shoot, I can hang with the 20 year olds."
Tana Amen: Which blows my mind sometimes.
Mareya Ibrahim: You know what I'm saying? That is a great feeling.
Tana Amen: It is.
Mareya Ibrahim: So what if you're not 20. Who cares?
Tana Amen: So, that number doesn't bother me, but I had to do the work. Actually, I feel better because I love my life now. What I had to do the work on was as my body does physically change, I had to learn how to honor what was going on.
I am 50. I had a hysterectomy. I have had a neck injury, right? I want to be vibrant and healthy when I'm 80. So, rather than push it like I did when I was young. It's like, "No, you're going to do this anyways." It's like, "No, I'm going to actually be smart about this. I'm going to love my body the way it is. I'm going to take care of it for what it is now, and I'm going to accept the fact that, yeah, it's changing a little bit."
Mareya Ibrahim: And that's a healthy place to be. What I'm really encouraging people not to do is compare.
Tana Amen: Exactly. It's so unhealthy.
Mareya Ibrahim: I think the comparison is where we go down a place that is really ugly.
Tana Amen: Right.
Mareya Ibrahim: If you are in your own truth, and you feel vibrant and healthy, you're going to be satisfied in your own skin without comparison.
Tana Amen: Exactly. I love that. And this thing? I have people post for me. No, I have people post for me. I do not like social media. I will not look. I don't scroll. I don't look. I hate it. It is the devil, I'm telling you.
Because, and even my daughter's finally come to that. Because it's just there are so many great things on there, but even the great things, you start going, "Well, I'm not like that." Guess what? They aren't either.
Mareya Ibrahim: It's everybody's highlight reel, right?
Tana Amen: That is right. You have to know it's the highlight reel.
Mareya Ibrahim: And so, I think being surrounded ... This has been ... This doesn't necessarily have to do with food, but just part of the aging process is I've had to really edit what I surround myself with, you know?
Tana Amen: Yes. Because people are contagious, and you want to be able to be around people who inspire you, be around people who you know are real but don't compare yourself.
Mareya Ibrahim: Correct. And that might be a smaller group of people. It might be different objectives.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I refuse to hang out—
Mareya Ibrahim: I don't want to go out on a Friday night and get hammered. That's not who I am. I'd rather be doing a yoga class and then maybe having people over for dinner.
Tana Amen: Well, and I just don't do the OC housewife thing. I'd rather go hang out at karate.
Mareya Ibrahim: What's that?
Tana Amen: The Real Housewives of Orange County.
Mareya Ibrahim: I'm like, "What is that?"
Tana Amen: Right, exactly. I don't go to the country club. I go to the karate. I do the things that I know are going to feel empowered.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yes, and finding your truth, I think this is such a beautiful thing for every age. I look at my daughter, who's about to turn 18, and something that I'm really proud of her is that she's not a carbon copy of the people that are around her.
Tana Amen: My daughter also. I love it.
Mareya Ibrahim: She likes to serve, and she is active, and she likes to eat well, and she removes herself from drama.
Tana Amen: My daughter too.
Mareya Ibrahim: It's something we can all do that rounds out your whole health.
Tana Amen: And that probably says a lot about you. That reminds me of my daughter. She came home when she was in, just started eighth grade. She goes, "Mom, I'm not going to know this people in 10 years. I can't. It's so distracting being at school because just what's going on with the drugs and the sex and the problems at school."
Mareya Ibrahim: She's so beyond her years.
Tana Amen: Oh my gosh. She's like, "Can I homeschool?" I'm like, "Excuse me? Say that again?" And it's just been a magnificent thing, and she now volunteers. She volunteers 15 hours a week.
Mareya Ibrahim: That is so cool.
Tana Amen: Yeah, it's pretty cool.
Mareya Ibrahim: She's a lovely human being. I love her.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I love it. So, I would love to meet your daughter and see—
Mareya Ibrahim: We have to do that. Yeah, but I think, we are the role models of our kids and people around us. Just like you saw with your grandma, just like I saw with my mother. How we show up and the habits that we have and all of the ways that we choose to live our lives, our priorities, are a mirror. We reflect on everybody.
I think, especially important when you have children or people who are looking up to you to truly live that way. It's not an act. It's not like I'm this way on camera, and then I'm this way at home. Level up, I think, with yourself and know what your priorities are and base your decisions on that.
And food works into that. And food doesn't have to be complicated. One part of the book that I talk about is simple, convertible meals.
Tana Amen: I like that.
Mareya Ibrahim: Where maybe you boil some eggs, and you have them in your refrigerator, or you grill some proteins. You have your produce that you wash. We make a great wash for cleaning produce that extends shelf life.
Tana Amen: I've heard your wash is fantastic, so—
Mareya Ibrahim: I should have brought you some. I will bring you some. It removes residues, pesticide residues, and it helps your produce last up to five times longer. So, you can get all your produce prepped in advance, and then your food is a salad bar. Your refrigerator is like, you've got that. Maybe you've got some black rice that you've cooked.
Tana Amen: I like that. Your refrigerator is a salad bar. That's great.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yeah, and it's mixing and matching. So, it's not like you have to cook and reinvent the wheel every single time. A lot of the recipes in here are based on that approach is getting your refrigerator in order, so you can mix and match.
Tana Amen: So, Eat Like You Give a Fork. We're going to do the giveaway, so make sure you reach out, Tag us. You can tag Mareya at—
Mareya Ibrahim: Eat cleaner.
Tana Amen: Eat cleaner. And you can tag me @tanaamen. I want you to answer that question we first asked you. So, are you struggling, or have you had a breakthrough? Tell us what you've done or what you need. If you're not changing, and you know you need to, why.
We're going to come back. We've got one more episode together, and I want to talk more about your solutions for fast food, like food on the go and snacks.
Mareya Ibrahim: Yes, awesome. Great.
Tana Amen: All right, stay with us.
Mareya Ibrahim: Great subject.
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 interested in coming to Amen Clinics, use the code podcast10 to get a 10 percent discount on a full evaluation at For more information, give us a call at (855) 978-1363.