Dr Daniel AmenWhen I first started to do our brain imaging work at the Amen Clinics in 1991 I was looking for the one pattern that was associated with depression, ADD, or bipolar disorder. But as I soon discovered there was clearly not one brain pattern associated with any of these illnesses. They all had multiple types. Of course, I then realized, there will never be just one pattern for depression, because not all depressed people are the same. Some are withdrawn, others are angry and still others are anxious or obsessive.
As we looked at the brains of our overweight patients, we discovered that again there was not one brain pattern associated with being overweight, there were at least 5. We saw patterns associated with brains that tended to be compulsive, some were impulsive, others were sad, and still others anxious, in various combinations.
This is exactly the reason why most diets don’t work. They take a one size fits all approach, which from our brain imaging work makes absolutely no sense at all. The Amen Solution Brain Type Questionnaire will help you know your brain type or types. You can take the quiz at http://amenclinics.com.
Here are the 5 Types:
Brain Type 1 is “The Compulsive Overeater”People with this type tend to get stuck on the thought of food and feel compulsively driven to eat. They often say that they have no control over food and tend to be night time eaters because they worry and have trouble sleeping.
Compulsive overeaters do best when we find natural ways to increase serotonin. Serotonin is calming to the brain. Physical exercise boosts serotonin as does using certain supplements, such as 5HTP or St. John’s Wort. 5HTP actually has good scientific evidence that it can be helpful for weight loss, and in my experience I have found it to be especially helpful for this type.
One other secret, stop the night time eating after dinner. New research suggests that people who eat late at night tend to gain even more weight than people who eat the same number of calories during the day. I know many people who say that the only time they feel hungry is at night, but that is usually because they have a lot of bad brain habits, like skipping breakfast or going too long between meals.
Brain Type 2 is “The Impulsive Overeater”People with this type have poor impulse control, they get distracted easily, and just reach for food without thinking.
Impulsive overeating is common among people who have ADD or attention deficit disorder, which has been associated with low dopamine levels in the brain. People with ADD struggle with a short attention span, distractibility, disorganization and impulsivity. Research suggests that having untreated ADD nearly doubles the risk for being overweight. 42% of morbidly obese people, in one study, had ADD. And, without proper treatment, it is nearly impossible for these people to be consistent with any nutrition plan.
My research team and I have published several studies showing that when people with ADD try to concentrate they actually get less activity in the prefrontal cortex, which will cause them to have even less control over their own behavior. For these people, literally, the harder they try to lose weight the worse it gets. Overweight smokers and heavy coffee drinkers also tend to fit this type.
We help impulsive overeaters by boosting dopamine levels in the brain and strengthening the prefrontal cortex. Higher protein, lower carbohydrate diets tend to help, as does exercise and certain stimulating medications or supplements, such as green tea or l-tyrosine.
Any supplement or medicine that calms the brain, such as 5HTP, typically makes this type worse, because it can lower both your worries and your impulse control.
Brain Type 3 is a combination of types 1 and types 2 and is called “The Impulsive-Compulsive Overeater.”On the surface it seems almost contradictory. How can you be both impulsive and compulsive at the same time? Think of compulsive gamblers. These are people who are compulsively driven to gamble and yet have very little control over their impulses. It is the same with these overeaters. Our scans tend to show too much activity in the attention region of the brain, so people over-think and get stuck on negative thoughts, but they also have too little activity in the prefrontal cortex so they have trouble supervising their own behavior.
People with this type benefit from treatments that increase both serotonin and dopamine, such as exercise with a combination of supplements like 5HTP and green tea.
Brain Type 4 is “The SAD Overeater.”People with this type overeat to medicate their feelings of sadness and to calm the emotional storms in their brains. They often struggle with depression, low energy, low self-esteem, pain symptoms and they tend to gain weight in winter.
For this type, besides boosting vitamin D when it is low … exercise, fish oil and certain supplements, such as SAMe, can be very helpful to balance the brain, improve your mood, help with energy and decrease pain.
Brain Type 5 is “The Anxious Overeater.”People with this type medicate their feelings of anxiety with food. GABA often works well to help reduce anxiety.
You can take the test at http://amenclinics.com
©2010 JJ Virgin & Associates, Inc. Nutrition and Fitness Expert JJ Virgin is a the author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy and the co-star of TLC’s Freaky Eaters reality series. Visit her at http://www.jjvirgin.com to grab her free audio: Top Ten Hottest Tips to Get Slim and Sexy Fast