Two years ago, Steve Nicander was suicidal. He weighed 638 pounds and struggled with depression, sleep apnea, hypertension, diabetes, a 25-year addiction to alcohol and nicotine, and chronic pain in his feet that tortured him day and night. He was so big that whenever he fell one or two people could never get him up. He would have to call 911 for a team of people to get him off the ground. At the time he was considering taking his own life, but for the last seven months could not make it up the stairs to get his gun.
Then he fell again and the paramedics took him to the hospital, where he confronted the decision to live or die. He chose life. Steve's sister saw my program, "Change Your Brain, Change Your Body" on public television and got him my program, which he later told me, "changed my life!"
He followed the program religiously and over the next two years lost nearly 400 pounds, all without any surgery or medication. In addition, Steve has gone from 10 medications to two and he has also lost his pain, diabetes, alcohol, cigarettes and depression. Not only does Steve look and feel dramatically younger, but his brain is younger as well. He has better focus, energy and memory. Ultimately, Steve used his brain to change his age and in the process he saved his life.
So what was Steve's secret to success? He started by making better decisions. He avoided anything that hurt his brain, including alcohol and bad food. He engaged in regular brain-healthy habits, like exercise and new learning, and even though he weighed over 600 pounds, he started by dancing in his chair to music. Plus, he learned as much about his health as possible. He ate only whole, high-quality food and not too much, took some brain-smart supplements and checked his important numbers. He learned that you need to know your vitamin D level, thyroid and testosterone levels. All of these were low for Steve. In fact, his testosterone level was so low his doctor actually measured it three times. By getting his blood work balanced, he felt so much better and was able to stay on the program.
Plus, Steve never saw this program as a diet. He saw it as changing for the rest of his life. The first three letters in the word diet are DIE. Diets don't work long term. If Steve can use these principles to get healthy I know you can too. And, you want to!
Avoiding The Dinosaur Syndrome
There are a host of new studies that show that as your weight goes up, the actual size and function of your brain goes down. The first study was done by my friend Cyrus Raji, Ph.D., M.D. and colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh who found that being overweight or obese was associated with 4 to 8 percent less brain volume than healthy weight individuals. At the Amen Clinics, we then looked at our own normal group of adults and found the same finding on the brain imaging study we do, called single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). It was then in my head I coined the term "The Dinosaur Syndrome": big body, little brain, become extinct. At first I thought I would never say the term out loud. It could hurt people's feelings. My mother taught me to be kind to others. But, one time at dinner with a colleague who was not taking his weight problem seriously enough I let it slip out. The next month he lost 17 pounds. Then I used the term in lectures and people responded in a positive way. It was a graphic illustration of the truth. Then I used the term in a public television special and it seemed that people had no idea that their weight problems were affecting their brain health and got much more serious.
And, the good news. It appears that if you get serious about being healthy, you can reverse the brain damage. But now is the time to start.
Steve wrote to me, "I've learned nothing is impossible if your mind is nourished properly and in the right place. My ability to now tell my story and pay forward my inspiration to the others still struggling, seems to be one of the main reasons I was spared my life. It has now become my intent and purpose."
What's Steve resolving to do in 2012? He is planning skin removal surgery, as well as producing a documentary film to tell his story and encourage others to fight obesity by taking care of their brain.
Love your brain and body!
 Cyrus A. Raji, April J. Ho, Neelroop Parikshak, James T. Becker, Oscar L. Lopez, Lewis H. Kuller, Xue Hua, Alex D. Leow, Arthur W. Toga, and Paul M. Thompson "Brain Structure and Obesity," Human Brain Mapping, March 31, 2010, 353-364.
 Kristen C. Willeumier, Derek V. Taylor and Daniel G. Amen "Elevated BMI Is Associated With Decreased Blood Flow in the Prefrontal Cortex Using SPECT Imaging in Healthy Adults," Nature Obesity Journal, February 10, 2011.
For more by Daniel Amen, M.D., click here.
For more on weight loss, click here.
For more on brain science, click here.
Daniel G. Amen, MD is the founder and medical director of Amen Clinics, Inc. (ACI) in Newport Beach, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. He is a multiple New York Times bestselling author, and has a new book coming February 14th (love your brain day) titled Use Your Brain to Change Your Age.