Tana Amen – The Omni Diet
Jonathan: Hey everyone! Jonathan Bailor, back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. I hope you are sitting down for this show because this is going to be a passion pact show.
Today’s guest, she inspires people, literally, all around the world. You’ve seen her all over national television, all over everywhere, helping people to live better lives through whole natural foods and it’s just brilliant. She’s got great energy. She’s got a great spirit, a great soul and she’s a registered nurse. She is an author. Her most recent book is called the ‘Omni Diet’; New York Times bestselling which is really exciting. You can learn more about her at the website which is also her name, tanaamen.com. Tana, welcome to the show.
Tana: Thank you so much. Very excited to be here.
Jonathan: You are just full of passion about this message.
Tana: I really am because it’s personal to me. A lot of people don’t realize just how personal it is.
Jonathan: If you don’t mind, let’s get personal. This is about more than just writing books for you. Why?
Tana: What people don’t realize is that I created this program out of desperation to heal my own health. The ‘Omni Diet’ is the program that we use at the Amen Clinics. We have six psychiatric clinics where we really treat more than psychiatric conditions.
We really treat the whole people. We start with nutrition. That’s a huge component of what we do. This is the program that we use in our clinics but, really, I started this as a way to treat myself because I suffered with terrible health from the time I was very, very young child. I was really sick of it. I went on this health crusade and as a nurse I’m very science-driven and I wanted to know what role does food play because I was tired of having doctors put me on these laundry list of medication. I have nothing against medication but I just wanted to know, is there a better way, what is the way and what role the food and lifestyle play?
Jonathan: One of the things that resonated especially with me, is that, you can tell that you are focused on results. People talk about plants based, science based. I think there’s also new field that no one really talks about but maybe in spirit, is results based. You just wanted to feel better and because of that, your routine your lifestyle that you talked about it’s not this or that. It doesn’t fit neatly and some of this established camps. You talk about a 70 to 30 plant to protein model. Can you talk a little bit about that and the focused on results?
Tana: I call it a Bipartisan plan because it really bridges the gap between the extremes. I don’t know, Jonathan, if you have ever been in a room with vegans and meat eaters but there will be a food right. It is the craziest thing I have ever seen but people fight more about food than they do about politics and religion. Frankly, your body doesn’t care. It needs what it needs.
The sad part is that I did those extremes. I did both extremes. I was a vegan for years because I thought that there was some science that all plant based diets where great for you and they are all good for a lot of things. But then there was science that shows that the high protein diets did a lot of good too. Then I went, “You know what? I don’t want to cut out any of these benefits when it comes to my health. I want it all.” So I went on this crusade, I figured out what was the best of each of this world because I didn’t do well on the vegan diet. Guess what? I got some benefits on the high protein diet but there were some things that were missing.
So I went on this crusade, figured out what the best of both worlds where put it together but I want it to be science-driven so I did do research. Recently, women’s world did an interview with me and I was on the Doctor’s show as well. They tagged my diet, The Doctor’s Diet. I loved it because they interviewed Nemy Tauss (4.07). They interviewed the doctors that were on the Doctors Show. They interviewed my husband. They interviewed all of these doctors and they asked them, “What is it that you think is the healthiest?” Guess what they said? A semi vegetarian program that’s about 70% plant based with some high quality protein and that’s what science is showing.
Jonathan: It’s just focused. The irony is it’s this radical simplicity it seems on the far side of the complexity. When you dig of all the science, at the end of the day it says, “Eat that which provides the most nutrients and the least of all the garbage.” That comes from both plants and animals, just the highest quality of each. It’s not either, it’s a both and, just focused on the upper ends, right?
Tana: Right. You add the things that heal; you get rid of the things that poison. I dare to venture into the middle of the road. Wow, what a concept!
Jonathan: That is so different though because for such a long time, what you just mentioned, this whole heal first is very different from the eat less. That’s really just drink less contaminated water. Literally, if you are drinking contaminated water the message would be, “Just drink less of that contaminated water.” No, no, no. We’re saying drink more pure, crystalline, healing, healthy water, not just deprives yourself of less of the garbage. It’s pursuing the positive rather than attacking the negative, right?
Tana: Oh yes! You are absolutely had to do both. You’ve got to add the things that heal as well as get rid of the things that hurt. The interesting thing is people, for so long, for some reason, we have this idea that extremes are good. We supersize everything and then we go on this extreme diet. It’s the craziest thing. Calories aren’t just calories. I mean a calorie not just the calorie. It’s not calories in versus calories out. That is such an outdated myth and we’re having a hard time convincing people of that.
If you are eating the right food, you get to eat two or three times more of these great, amazing, incredible foods and you don’t feel deprived. As a society I should say, because other societies don’t necessarily have this, we’re hard-wired to think it’s all or nothing.
Jonathan: Tana, I just collapse on the floor with joy because you just said, “Calorie isn’t a calorie.” It’s not about metabolic math. There’s so much going on here and you have been through disease. You have been through illness and you look so healthy. Can you tell us a bit about how individuals who has been on this earth and live through this great nutritional depression and this a calorie is a calorie and it’s just eating fewer calories. How can we shift our minds? Because it’s a radical different way to perceive food and nutrients. How do we fix it in our minds?
Tana: When I teach the classes at our clinics, when people first start our classes, it’s a little different for them. It’s a big paradigm shift. When they come in, they look at me like deer in the headlights for the first week. I give them the program and they’re a little stunned because they’re eating more than they’ve ever eaten. They’re eating fats, very healthy fats but they are eating a lot of it and they don’t know what to do with that. They’re like, wait a minute. You want me to what? You want me to eat four or five times a day. You want me to eat fat. They are confused. They don’t really quite get it because it’s contrary to everything they’ve been taught about dieting.
That’s why I hate the word diet. I didn’t want to put it on my book but publishers have to have their way. I wanted to call it the ‘Omni Health Revolution’ but they needed a word related to food somehow. I have to convince them, “This is what I want you to do. We are going to eliminate the foods that are hurting you, for everything we eliminate we’re going to add two or three things. So it’s about replace, don’t erase.
There are alternatives; for everything I’m taking out of your diet, I’m going add two or three things. You’re going to have so many alternatives to pick from that you’re not going to miss it. They’re a little stunned. They don’t quite know what to do. For the first week they’re a little confused but this is music to my ears. They come back after the first week. I tell them, “Don’t think too much. Just do what I tell you to do. I’m going to give you the format. I’m going to give you the blue print. Just do it.”
After the first week they come back and it’s music to my ears. They walked in and they almost all say the same thing. “I don’t understand. I’m confused. How come I’m not hungry for the first time in my life? I can’t even eat all the food you are telling me to eat.” It’s the first time they haven’t had cravings because it’s not about calories; it’s about triggering the right hormones. Your body is smarter than you ever give a credit.
You’ve got these hormones. Your body is a chemistry lab and your kitchen is your pharmacy. You have to go in there and understand that when you prepare certain foods you’re triggering these hormones to send this signal to your brain that you’re full, that you are satisfied and that you’re healthy. It’s turning on this health-promoting genes. When you eat other foods, it’s not triggering not only illness but it sends a signal to your brain that you haven’t eaten even though your belt is about to burst. You’re still hungry.
Jonathan: Tana, I get so excited because it is revolutionary and it so good news. Certainly, there’s a lot of work for us to continue to do. There’s no shortage of employment opportunities for us because there continues to be so much misinformation. A great example, like how often do we hear, Tana, because what you just talked about is a chemistry lab. Food does so much more than just what provides your body with calories. Literally, pick up any magazine off the shelf, any health related magazine, and the first thing it will say is something along the lines of, “If you eat this processed garbage, if you jog for this long, you’ve cancel it out.”
Tana: It’s not true.
Jonathan: Exactly. It’s just like you can’t cancel out smoking a cigarette by jogging because it’s doing all this other stuff, it’s all that other stuff matters a lot.
Tana: In fact, you’re doing more harm. When you over exercise in order to burn off calories, if you do extreme exercise in order to burn calories, you are creating oxidative stress and damaging DNA. You’re actually adding fuel to the fire. I know; I did it. I just work out two and a half hours a day. I was thin, taught I could eat whatever I want it. You are hurting your body if you do extreme exercise while you are eating poorly.
Jonathan: Can you tell us a little bit more about biologically what’s happening there because I think some people, unless they can understand why, that just seems like that can’t possibly be true.
Tana: ` What we tell people to exercise smarter not harder. There’s a lot of signs and evidence now. It’s not about how much you exercise; it’s about the way you exercise. In fact, in our clinics we do brain scans and the scans for extreme exercisers – because we do a lot of professional athlete and marathon runners and things like that. They have the worst brains and they also have the worst labs. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a professional athlete. I’m not telling people they can’t enjoy…
I do karate, I do a lot of things but you have to do it in a way that’s smart. Number one, don’t over do it. Number two, know what to do to count or balance it. Eat correctly. Take the right supplements. Get the right sleep. You have to do things to negate those effects because some people don’t understand what oxidative stress is. It’s a little like if you think about a car outside that’s been sitting for so long, when rust start to form on it. Okay, that’s oxidation. It’s the break down. Think of rust happening in your body. I’m just giving you a simple example, but that’s oxidation happening in the body. That’s why we take anti-oxidants. That’s why we want to eat food that’s full of antioxidants. It’s to counter balance the effects of that oxidation happening in your body.
When you over exercise, you speed up that process. You also damaged DNA, something you don’t want to do. That’s how your cells repair themselves. You don’t want to damage that DNA. You want to exercise in a smart way but if you accelerating aging process.
Jonathan: Tana, it is so important to get this message out there because when we look at it, what is the common approach people take? I asked this before so I apologize listeners if it’s getting redundant but people keep doing it so we got keep saying it. If someone says, “I want to get healthy. I want to burn some fat. Tana, hears what I’m gonna do, I’m going to wake up two hours early,” okay, strike one, “then I’m going to go jog for two hours in the time I should have been sleeping and then that’s going to cause me to crave processed sugars and starches all throughout the day so I’m going to eat more of those.” Strike one, strike two, strike three. They are trying harder and doing worse.
Tana: And going backwards, right. Actually, in my book, I talk about mimicking calorie restriction. People are totally confused. I don’t have time to go into the story. It’s a cool story about these gorillas. This thing they did at Cleveland Metro Park Zoo, it’s amazing. Basically, mimicking calories requires five processes. What is it is eating smarter calories, so eating healthier calories like we talked about. You get to eat more if you eat the right kinds.
It’s about sleeping your way to the top. You actually get thinner, smarter, and happier if you sleep more. If you don’t managed your stress, it will kill you early. There is no question about it. I talked in my book about assessing and how to manage stress and then you must exercise smarter. So not harder but smarter. Also, I talked about supplements that will help you to bridge that gap. You cannot diet or exercise your way out, let me take that back. You can’t supplement your weight out of the bad diet or too much exercise, but the supplements can’t breach the gap.
Jonathan: Tana, it does. Another way I’ve heard people describe it which is, again, we really want to stay away from any idea that you can just take pills and powders and you’ll be all set. Definitely don’t want that. However, if you have a cut in your arm and you’re bleeding, there might be some temporary things you need to do temporarily to stop the bleeding right now that you won’t need to do a long-term but in the short term, you need to do. Is that what maybe supplementation would do?
Tana: I call it “Bridging the gap.” Let’s face it, like I said, you cannot supplement your way out of a bad diet. Forget that thought. You must eat right. You must do all things – sleep, exercise, all that stuff – but, let’s face it, we don’t live in a perfect society. If you are experiencing stress, let’s say you’re in a crisis or you’re experiencing stress at work or wherever, you’re not sleeping for whatever reason at a time, maybe your diet is not perfect because you are travelling. There are things going on in your life. None of us is living in a vacuum.
You can manipulate and bridge that gap a little bit, if that makes sense. Some women, one of the biggest complains we get is that women don’t sleep well, especially when they get close to menopause. A little bit of melatonin and magnesium can really help during that time. So little things like that. There’s place to play with it and just help bridge that gap because you have to sleep. There’s just no way around it. That’s what I mean by bridging the gap. It’s not the end all. It’s just a way to help you get there.
Jonathan: Tana, correct me if I’m wrong here, but I know your message and my message is similar in another way which is that certain foods almost can and should be thought of a supplement because they’re so healthy. They’re almost therapeutic in and of themselves.
Tana: Especially things like super foods and spices – herbs and species. They are my favorite thing. I load my food down with super foods and herbs and species. To clarify for people what constitute the super foods, it’s not really, technically an official term but it’s what a lot of us have adopted because, what that signifies is a food that is loaded. It is concentrated with phytonutrients but has no down side. Does that make sense?
Tana: I mean, you know that. So that’s what we constitute as a super food. Things that are concentrated forms of the food. If you add those things like smoothies or, in my case, I make really healthy desserts because I have kids in my house – my husband and my 10-year old. I have to make desserts a lot and when I do that I add super foods or I add a little bit of protein. Then I add some herbs and spices.
Now for kids, who it’s hard for them to eat a lot of vegetables, great to add things like rococo and cinnamon and vanilla. Those things have a lot of nutritional value to them. So nutmeg, cloves; there’s an amazing power on those things. You add those to everything you cook.
Jonathan: It’s so exciting, Tana, because we are always looking for something that… it just seems like human nature. It’s like, where’s this pill, this powder, yada, yada, yada, but if we can start, because this is transformative to me as I believe it was for you. I was joked at, you’ll walk in to supplement store and you see this powder and there’s all this marketing, there’s this tag line, there are all these benefits. If someone just through 10 million dollars at marketing spinach, like the health benefits and the awesome like hype we could generate around that food would be amazing.
Tana: You know, Jonathan, the reason you said there’s never gonna be employment issues for people like us is because the food industry is so busy creating opportunities for us. I call us ‘The health mafia’ because we have to go out and fight every day all of the marketing that’s going on with this unhealthy foods. That’s something that’s outgoing. What I really want people to take away from this is that that’s our job, to go out fight that battle. Really, what people need to understand is that this can be fun because when I started this my husband loves to go out and tell people and humiliate me in a fun way, but he tells people I went from disaster to master. I did not start off cooking.
When he met me I was a complete disaster, I couldn’t boil water. I really started cooking and doing this out of complete necessity because I was tired of not feeling well because I went on this crusade and because I had a child. As soon as I had a baby, I did not want her growing up in the same environment I did. So I grew up really in an environment of illness and I wanted to leave this culture of wellness for her. I wanted to leave her with something different than I grew up with so I learned how to cook. What I do is I bring her into with me. I make it fun.
I’m not afraid to let her make a mess. We make it fun. We are creative. Sometimes people look and they’re like, “Oh my gosh I can do this.” I’m like, you know what? So what? Just play with it. This is just a template. When I figure that out, finally, I don’t have to follow the recipe exactly; it’s just a template. Play with it. Mix in match. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you don’t like something, switch it out for something else. It’s just a way to go have fun and be healthy. Let’s not take it all so seriously. Let’s have a good time.
Jonathan: In the spirit of having a good time, Tana, I get excited and I know you feel the same way. People probably say, “Tana, what do I eat when I’m eating this way?” It’s kind a like, “What are you eating right now because I can show you how you can do that in a smarter way. It’s just do it smarter.”
Tana: Right. My husband, that’s another thing he says, is that, one thing I learned how to do again because when you have children – and husbands are like children – so I don’t know if there’s…
Jonathan: I am a husband. (crosstalk 20.35)
Tana: Husbands are a little like children in that, if the food doesn’t taste good, they won’t eat it. I had to learn to take his favorite foods, some of which were not healthy, and I have to learn to make them healthy. That’s one of my gifts; it’s taking popular food that has not been always healthy and making it healthy. I’ll take the worst recipe and I will rehab it.
My books are all loaded. I have 300 recipes in my cookbooks and they are all pretty much that traditional food that people think of, like even apple cobbler and I will make it healthy and so that’s what I do. To get started, to get people thinking in the right way, I suggest you pick up some of those books – I’m not the only one that has them. Like I said, there’s a lot of us who’s doing this. It gets you thinking in the right decision and pretty soon you go, “Oh, okay, I get it. I know now what to switch out.”
Jonathan: Tana, I love it and certainly there are so many circumstances and unique situations for all of us that there is no shortage of people to help in various paths to get there. It’s awesome that we’re all doing this together and a health mafia. We got to come with…maybe health missionaries or something. I don’t know something. So Tana, what’s next for you? You’ve been doing so much. What’s coming up next?
Tana: I’m working with a new PBS show with my husband about ADD. We are filming our new PBS show in October. It’s going to be on ADD and I am going to have a new little book on food and ADD. What’s the elimination diet? What are the recipes and how do you help increase focused in ADD people.
Jonathan: Excellent! Excellent! Food as medicine. Someone really smart said that a really long time ago. Yes! Hippocrates. Yes.
Tana: Right, exactly.
Jonathan: Nothing new under the…
Tana: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” right? “Food be they medicine.”
Jonathan: Exactly. I love it. Tana, thank you so much for joining us today. Folks, obviously you can hear the passion and the wisdom that today’s guest, Tana Amen, has to show. Please check around at her website which is her name, tanaamen.com. Also, the books we mentioned today are the ‘Omni Diet’. Tana, thank you again. It’s been such a pleasure.
It’s all good stuff and again, that’s Tana Amen, wonderful passionate lady. I hope you enjoy today’s conversation as much as I did. Please remember, this week and every week after – eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. Chat with you soon.