Forgot What You Were Looking For Lately?

Tonja Ward | 3/12/2009, 6:52 p.m.
A lot of us are frying our brains and we aren’t even taking drugs. Well, okay, our brains will not ...

[caption id="attachment_2863" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Tonja Ward & Diana Patton"]

Do you remember this 1987 public service announcement? A man held up an egg and said "This is your brain," before picking up a frying pan and adding, "This is drugs." He then cracks open the egg, fries the contents, and says, "This is your brain on drugs." Finally he looks up at the camera and asks, "Any questions?"

What a vivid memory forever etched in our minds. Some of you may not remember the commercial but it had a basic message: “take drugs and you fry your brain…your brain cells literally die!”

A lot of us are frying our brains and we aren’t even taking drugs. Well, okay, our brains will not literally die on the spot – but over time, if our brains are not exposed to environments that are enriched, complex and novel, our brains loses their “neural plasticity,” says Paul D. Nussbaum, clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct associate professor of Neurological Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Here’s what losing neural plasticity means: You go to your car and try to unlock it but see that you have forgotten your keys in the kitchen. You go back to get them but see that the trash needs to be emptied so you gather it up and notice a few cups that didn’t make it into the dishwasher so you put them in. Then you take the trash out and head back to your car only to discover that you still left the keys on the counter.

Thank goodness, Dr. Nussbaum says that if we expose our brains to “enriched environments across our lifespan and adopt a Brain Healthy Lifestyle, we can develop new brain cells, build up our brain reserves, and increase our cellular connections which may delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and related dementias.”

What does all that “fancy-shmancy” stuff mean? We need to “shake things up” a bit.

Dr. Nussbaum has a few suggestions:

• be more forgiving

• join social groups

• develop new hobbies

• walk more

• become ambidextrous

• play more board games

• problem solve (e.g. soduku or cross word puzzles)

• pray daily

• attend a formal place of worship every week

• slow down

• breath deeply daily

• eat more Omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, cod liver or fish oil supplements)

• decrease our intake of processed foods; and

• eat one sit down meal a day with others

Sounds like a lot, and it is. But the key is to start. We can tell you now that this is not an overnight process. Experience in successfully helping people make sustainable lifestyle changes has taught us that initially having a singular focus is the key. And what a perfect time of year to focus. This is the season of lent, the time before Easter and in many religious traditions people give up something or focus on something for the season. Why not join in and give up holding grudges, give up driving everywhere, give up rushing, give up a processed or artificial food.

You can do it. Don’t go it alone. Form a group, get with a group, get some help from a health or fitness professional or contact us and we can help too!

Diana and Tonja co-own and operate a company called FITatudes, a Christian Wellness organization offering small group programs, workshops, seminars and classes that empower you to make the healthy changes needed to lead the High Performance Lifestyle using the FITatudes concepts. Go to to learn more or e-mail us at to sign up for the upcoming Spring Cleanse Class!