Your Brain Health Episode 5

Introduction: This is Your Brain Health was noted Neuroscientists, Dr. Kristen Willeumier. Your Brain Health explores strategies to maximize your cognitive functions through life.

Dr. Kristen Willeumier: I’m Dr. Kristen Willeumier and you’re listening to Your Brain Health. Here’s part two of my interview with NFL legend. Big Ed White. I think you give really important insights and you know, it’s America’s pastime. I mean a hundred and I think it was 111 million people watched the Super Bowl in 2017 so you know, a lot of people love football and I think, you know, teaching people ways to make it a safer game and to protect the brain will be very important moving forward. And we even showed in our big NFL study that we could help rehabilitate brain function. So allowing people the opportunity to, you know, if they’re going to play to really be on the side of how do we take care of our brain is really important and I at least wanted to make sure I closed and asked you about the things that you’ve been doing to improve your health since your recent diagnosis. I know how proactive you are. And for several years, I mean, I taught a weight loss clinic for NFL players who we worked with, which went for a period of two years and Ed was one of my stars. He lost, I think, did you lose 80 pounds.

Ed White: I think so, yup.

Host: Extraordinary because having excess weight on the body can impair brain function. We actually published two studies on that. So really, you know, weight management, the kind of foods that you eat are really important, but you know, share a few of the things that you’re doing that you feel have been helpful.

Ed White: Well, I think first of all, I’ve increased my exercise. I’m eating more vegetables, you know, more glycemic index foods. A little unnatural sugar, not fruit, but you know, I’m trying to keep that down. But fruits like pineapple, and which I know has a lot of natural sugar in it, but it’s healthy for your brain. And trying to eat a lot of greens and green foods. It’s been, I was diagnosed probably two months ago now, and I haven’t had red meat, very little chicken, mostly salmon and some sardines you know, that kind of stuff for in terms of protein. And you know, that’s basically a lot of nuts. And what else? That’s pretty much it. What I’m trying to do.

Host: So you follow food? Yeah. Whole foods, plant based. You will have givens. Should I know him? What’s up? Should I know Yule Givens?

Ed White: Yeah, no, I said you remembering you’re not old enough so remember Yule Givens.

Host: That’s what I’m saying. I don’t know him. Oh gosh. Well your whole food plant based, your low in processed foods and sugars and you’re eating clean, healthy fats. You’re having, you know, fruits and vegetables, which I love. You’re eating low on the glycemic index. So we want to make sure you don’t elevate your blood sugars. And you know what our diet is sort of, taking hold of our diet is such an important factor in supporting our brain health. And I want to just share with the audience, you know, you are an extraordinary artist. You know, you and I are also friends on Facebook and I see all these amazing paintings that you do. And I remember I called you up because there’s a fun little trick that we can do that actually can help to support our brain function. So I also thought in closing I wanted to share one way that we can work both sides of our brain is if you’re a well, there’s also handedness.


So right-handed person versus left a lot of times if you’re right handed, what I’ll tell people to do is practice writing with your left. Practice, doing things with your monodominant hand because it actually helps to connect right and left side of the brain. But when it comes to art, I’ve also taught people that you should try to draw something inverted. So if you’re looking at a vase of flowers, I want you to try and draw it upside down. And what that helps to do is shift your perspective. So your ability to take an object, invert it. And what that will do is sometimes take you out of your left brain where we’re very analytical and we tend to overthink things and get us into our right brain or more creative side. And it helps to reduce stress in people. So what I had Ed do, it was a fun little exercise because he’s such a great artist, is to take some things, so to draw something and then give me the inverted picture. And then he said, you know what, Dr. K, I’m going to challenge myself and I’m actually going to draw the picture with my left hand and inverted. And so do you want to share with people like your experience?

Ed White: Well, it was, it was difficult, but I was happy with the results and you know, I, I liked it so I thought I sent it to coach K and see how she liked to have that.

Host: I have to tell you that he sent it to me and my jaw dropped because the pictures were so beautiful. What he drew, you drew me the normal picture and then the inverted picture which looked as good as the normal picture and then he drew with his nondominant hand, which still looked really good and I thought, Oh my God. I mean it just shows how extraordinary that brain is still working very well and I want you to keep doing that. But I wanted to just close and share with the audience that they can learn more about you and to see your beautiful art at, that is, and Ed is also the executive director of Oak Lake Art Center, which works with at risk youth and 50% of the proceeds, so if you do decide to purchase anything off of Ed’s website. Go to the Oak Lake Art Center, which is a 401 C3 that teaches art. And I just wanted to share a beautiful quote you have on your website and I think everybody would appreciate it. Ed says, what motivates me as an artist and as an athlete is being in the zone, the space where cruise control takes over and your connection is from your hand to your soul. The brain is disconnected. I just thought that was really so beautifully stated.

Ed White: Thank you. Well, it’s true and it’s fun. And I’ve expanded to from at risk youth to at risk adults as well. I did a class, I’m doing a class in Julien an after school program Wednesday. And I did one in Borrego for the retired people. It was an art guilt project and they were all retired older folks like myself. And we had a good time, but I, you know, my mantra is artist medicine because it’s neat to see how you know, people bloom and flourish when they do something with their hands and create something. And I’m actually enjoying it. I do things with veterans and I did a thing. And so I, you know have done a lot of variety with the program and it is fun.

Host: Ed, you are an extraordinary person inside and out. I mean, I adored you when I met you nine years ago and I’ve so much love and respect for you. You know, I’m in your corner. I’m here for you whenever you need me. He will keep doing your amazing work, your art and you know, touching the world with, with your story. And you know, thank you so very much for being a guest on my podcast and I do hope I can have you back again.

Ed White: Thank you coach K and I appreciate everything you’re doing. And you know guys that have used their head, whatever, whatever, and gals, whatever it’s soccer, football, whatever know that you can you personally can do something by diet and exercise and to keep that brain healthy.

Host: Oh, what a beautiful message to close with. Thank you so much Ed and I look forward to staying connected.

Ed White: All right, coach. Talk to you.

Host: Bye. Bye.

Ed White: Bye, bye.

Host: For several years. I’ve had the distinct privilege of coaching Ed White along with numerous NFL players on brain health. As a brain scientist and football fan, my hope is to empower players to take a more proactive role in supporting the health of their brain at an early age, given the risks involved in playing collision based sports. I’m Dr. Kristen Willeumier and I thank you for listening to Your Brain health.

Conclusion: You’ve been listening to Your Brain Health with Dr. Kristen Willeumier. For more information or to contact Dr. Willeumier, visit That’s D, R, W, I, L, L, E, U, M, I, E,