Chapter 9, Excerpt from “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body”
By Daniel G. Amen, M.D.

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“And what is a man without energy? Nothing — nothing at all.” — Mark Twain

Dwayne, forty-five, one of my close friends, came to the clinic for a scan. His energy had been waning, and his mind felt older than he liked. He had trouble concentrating, was starting to mix up names, was more forgetful, and was struggling with mental fatigue throughout the day, especially mid-afternoon and evening. He was working two jobs, one of which was being a psychotherapist in the evening. His wife was becoming very frustrated with him, as he had no time or emotion to give her. When we performed a brain SPECT scan on Dwayne, it showed overall decreased activity in his brain.

Dwayne had a slew of bad brain habits. He rarely got more than five hours of sleep, drank eight to ten cups of coffee a day, did not exercise, and mostly had a fast-food diet on the run. Dwayne had sent me plenty of patients for scans, so when he saw his own brain, he knew something had to change. “But I can’t stop the caffeine,” he said. “I will not be able to work at night. I will be a mess.”

“That is only your distorted thought as a justification of the caffeine,” I said. Because of our relationship and the fact that Dwayne was a psychotherapist who understood my work, I could be candid with him. “You do not want to go through the pain of withdrawal so you rationalize that it is easier to continue to poison yourself. Not that smart.”

“No, seriously, I will fall apart without the caffeine,” he replied.

“Is that true?” I asked. “Can you absolutely know that it is true?” I was borrowing a phrase from the work of my friend Byron Katie who wrote Loving What Is, a book that teaches people to question their own thoughts.

Dwayne thought for several moments then said, “I guess I really don’t know, but something has got to change.”

Dwayne realized that his thoughts were only setting him up to fail, and he agreed to cut back on his caffeine use, get better sleep, and get on a brain-healthy diet. A month later, I got an excited call from Dwayne. He told me he had completely cut out the caffeine and that he was sleeping and eating better. “I feel ten years younger,” he said. “You were right, thank you.” I love Dwayne’s story because it highlights how the little lies that we tell ourselves are ruining the health of our brains and our bodies. You can have better energy and focus by paying attention to the health of your brain.