Home » Dr. Pam Peeke on Hooked, Hacked, Hijacked: Reclaim Your Brain from Addictive Living at TEDxWallStreet (Transcript)

Dr. Pam Peeke on Hooked, Hacked, Hijacked: Reclaim Your Brain from Addictive Living at TEDxWallStreet (Transcript)

Dr Pam Peeke at TEDxWallStreet

Full transcript of renowned expert and speaker in women’s health, Dr. Pam Peeke’s TEDx Talk: Hooked, Hacked, Hijacked: Reclaim Your Brain from Addictive Living at TEDxWallStreet Conference.


Dr. Pam Peeke – Renowned expert and speaker in women’s health

Yeah, I’m the doctor, and I’m here to save you.

No, I’m not. What I’m here to do is to fill the survival void a little differently than you’ve been doing for a long time. Not everybody but lots of you are filling that survival void with what we call ‘false fixes’. And that is…you know what I’m talking about. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not apples and kale.

When things get a little tough out there, it’s usually that national ‘ménage à trois’, especially for women. Late at night: you, Ben & Jerry. And who was it that told us that a pint of ice-cream has four servings in it? No-no-no. Law & Order marathon, perimenopause, a rotten day: one serving. And there you have it! Anesthetized, ready for another day. Sounds familiar?

So, what I’m going to do is describe the problem and prescribe a little bit of a brand new solution based upon hot new science that most of you may never have heard about before. A twist on survival.

Well, you know how it goes. All of the false fixes we are used to in life. I look specifically at that wine bottle, and I think about this brand new Facebook that has an amazing following of a thousand women. And it’s called: “I need a glass of wine, or I’m going to sell my children.”

Do you think we have a problem here? And look at everything else we do. You see, you live an addictive lifestyle, and you don’t even know it. It’s addictive-like behaviors that happen throughout the day. Any question about this, just give up one of those behaviors and see how it feels. You know how it feels. Staring at screens?

What about getting to work at five in the morning and leaving at midnight? Anything wrong with that? What happened to eating? And what do you eat? And do you sleep at all? We’re going to get into that. These are what we call ‘false fixes’. Oh, sure they fix, sort of, for a short period of time, and then they boomerang right back in your face.

So as we are thinking about this, what I’d like to do is take you on a journey. Mind, mouth, and muscle. I want to go deep, and I want to show you a little bit more about these false fixes that you may not be aware of at all. We’re going to start with the mind. Ah, the mind…

Well, it’s very important…You laugh? This is highly scientific. Now, listen up. Men, left hemisphere, task-oriented. Honey, you’re either on or off.

Women, we’re complicated. We have many knobs. That’s because we work off two hemispheres. We have more connections between hemispheres. We spend money differently. Men spend more money on entertainment and basically period than we do. What do they spend it on? Booze. Women, shoes, and caregiving. Helping ourselves, and everyone who comes within a hundred feet of us even if we don’t know them, we’re caregiving them. We’re eternal caregivers, to our own detriment.

So keep that context in mind as we push forward. Now I told you that you most probably have addictive-like behaviors, and you don’t even know it. You don’t even know you’re filling that void with this. I’m going to show you something you’ve probably never seen before.

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Now what you’re actually going to see is a PET scan, and this PET scan is extraordinary. You have a normal brain — there’s one left in the United States, but we use it a lot in these experiments — and what you see up there is red-orange: the red-orange of the reward center.

Now the reward center lights up normally, when dopamine — that fantastic, lustful, pleasure neurotransmitter — links up with dopamine receptors. That’s what it’s supposed to look like.

Look at the other brains. It could be anything that you do. Yes, it’s not just substance abuse: it’s everything abuse. Food addiction, actually, is real. We actually have addictive-like habits around foods. Surprisingly, it’s not kale. This is usually hyper palatables like sugary, fatty, salty foods. But they do a number on your brain.

You see, it’s not a black box anymore. We can peer in there with scans. And what we see is, we see actual damage to the reward center. Is it reversible? Absolutely. And you know exactly what you need to do. I don’t have to tell you that. It’s a keen grasp of the obvious.

Now let me tell you more. Did you know that sugar is more addictive than cocaine? Yes, refined sugar. Lately, there was a study on Oreos that you might have heard about. Actually, I did a nice little piece on this, and it was fabulous. And what it was: they took rats and they injected them with morphine, and they injected them with cocaine, and then they offered them an oreo. You’ll just never guess what happened.

What we were measuring was one particular gene in the reward center of the brain. We wanted to see whether or not the oreo caused the same changes as morphine and cocaine. Guess what happened. What do you think happened? The same thing and even worse.

Do you know that rats bagged the morphine and the cocaine and went right for the filling? Just like you and I have done for years. Sort of a metaphor, isn’t it? They literally — we watched them, we have videos of this — ripping the cookie apart and going for the filling. Yeah. Brings back great memories. And then more and more and more. What’s going on?

Let’s look at the next part of the brain that gets hammered with all of this. As we are describing this problem, we’re looking at the prefrontal cortex, or the ‘smarty-pants’ part of the brain, or on Wall Street, ‘where the executive function hangs out’. Tap your forehead, it’s right behind there.

Now when you’re living an addictive-like lifestyle with addictive-like behaviors, guess what happens. What we notice in that scan is that the ability of the brain to be able to muster up all of the wonderful skills that you see in the prefrontal cortex, which are organizing, strategizing, staying vigilant, being mindful, reigning in impulsivity, impatience, and irritability — guess what ends up happening? — you can’t do it anymore. It gets hammered, it gets impaired, and you’re out: end of story. Not so good.

What else hammers this? Stress. There is a reason why ‘stressed’ spelled backwards is ‘desserts’. Think about that.

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Stress absolutely impairs this entire part of the brain. At the same time, sleep does. What about zzz’s? Zzz’s please! People walk around being very proud of the fact they got just four hours of sleep. Really? Do you want a belly that extends from here to the next state? That’s a great way to do it. Don’t have enough sleep. None of growth hormone on board when you sleep at night time, when you’re impaired this way. You have too much stress hormone, big belly. There you have it. And that big belly is full of increased incidence of disease, morbidity, and mortality. Who the hell needs this? We’ve got to clean this up.

So let’s go to the body if we’re going to clean this up. You’ve probably never-ever heard of sitting disease. Google it sometimes. Mayo Clinic tells you that if you sit for too long, that you increase your risk for heart disease, and more importantly, metabolically, you ‘glaciarize’. You can’t move your blood sugar. Actually, I’m a physician, this is killing me. I want everyone to stand up. Everyone stand up. Oh, doesn’t that feel better? I’m saving your life.

Now if you really want to get something out of this, high-five the guy next to you. Didn’t that feel good? Sit down!

Your genes are absolutely flipping with happiness, and at the same time I just helped to save your life. Are you happy? Good. Let’s move it along.

Now I know most of the guys in the room are staring at this saying: “Yes, that’s me.” Women, of course, are laughing very heartily.

Now I told you, I go deep inside you: mind, mouth, muscle. Let’s go into the belly. That’s what his belly looks like if I cut him like a salami, and that’s a CAT scan. See the white in there? You’ll only see this in research. This is from our laboratory. That’s fat, a whole lot of it. What happens, however, when you fall asleep at the mea? Even Michelangelo packed on a few. Right? This is what it looks like.

What you actually see is way too much fat. Is this reversible? Absolutely. The guy is swimming in it right now, and obviously, this is not the way to go. False fixes lead to this. A life of false fixes.

Here’s the solution. How many of you ever heard about epigenetics? Epigenetics is the hottest new science. If you don’t know it now, then make certain you know at some point. What this is, is so straightforward. I’m going to go right down to the gene. I’m going to show you how easy this is.

For the longest period of time, we thought you were stuck with your DNA. Whatever you’re born with, honey, that was your destiny. That’s not the way it works anymore. Instead, what we have is a brand new science that says: every single thought you have, every single mouthful of whatever you’re eating, and every single step you take changes gene expression, changes the way the whole body is talking to itself, and changes your destiny. That’s right: you write your own life script.

So let’s see the birth of epigenetics. Very simple. We took a mouse that was basically condemned to death. It had the Agouti gene deep inside it. And this Agouti gene basically made it fat, floppy, yellow, because there was a color-of-the-fur thing linked in with the Agouti gene. It died of every disease very early.

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What we decided to do was just something fun. We fed it greens — that’s right, mom was right — and the greens — you didn’t know — have something called the methyl donor, just a little side chain. It’d pick them up every single time it’d have greens and good whole foods. At the same time, when you do physical activity, at the same time, when you meditate, the same thing is happening: you’re changing gene expression.

So, we went ahead and fed the mice this. And then they had babies. And the babies were born lean, mean fighting machines with green. We never knew this. This was 2007, which is why you’ve probably never heard of it. Now it’s the hottest new science. Now when you go to the produce section of the grocery store, you don’t look for greens: you’re cool, because greens are so last-year. Instead, what you actually say: “I’m going to score some methyl donors. I’m going to methylate my genes. I’m going to change their expression.” You’ll be way ahead of the curve.

This is what a human being looks like when they’ve been methylated. Betty Lou Sweeney: 250 pound, 68 years old, 26 medications, and half dead. And then she got the big clue — I call it an ‘epipha-me’ — when she was stuck in an ICU, half dead. And this is what she ended up doing.

What she ended up doing was turning it all around. She fought her food addiction. She fought her every single addictive practice she had. She slugged it out; it took her 2-3 years. And guess what she ended up doing. Ending up in the Guinness Book of World Records for holding up the longest plank. That’s right. It’s 36 minutes. Most of us can’t make it beyond what? And you don’t even know what a plank is. OK. I’m good.

And lest I forget as I wrap this up. All right. We need mentors. We need to know now that we could take this on to generation after generation. We feel so good when we put mind, mouth, and muscle together. When we change gene expression, when we go epigenetic. But there’s one other piece of this too: God, you feel really good too. I met this happy camper at the Senior Olympics. 93 years old on the track and field, when I was covering this for television, and he taught me one other thing that you can’t forget. He stalked me for three hours. He didn’t know he was 93. He thought he was 23. Just showing you that when you go epigenetic, when you fill the void with healthy fixes, everything is looking up.

So, epigenetic transformation. And do remember the last lesson: The real wealth is health.

Thank you.


Resources for Further Reading: 

Courtney Griffins: Epigenetics and The Influence of Our Genes at TEDxOU (Transcript)

How You Know You’re in Love: Epigenetics, Stress & Gender Identity by Karissa Sanbonmatsu (Transcript)

How Stress Affects Your Brain: Madhumita Murgia (Transcript)

The Biology of Our Best & Worst Selves: Robert Sapolsky (Transcript)


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