The last time Marilu Henner ate red meat was in Houston on Aug. 4, 1979, a Saturday. That's the way the actress and best-selling author peppers her conversation these days.
Her friends and family have always known they could rely on Henner as their personal memory keeper, but since she was interviewed by Lesley Stahl for "60 Minutes" -- the show originally aired Dec. 19, 2010 -- the rest of us have come to know Henner as one of 12 people in the world documented to have a highly superior autobiographical memory.
Her life as an HSAMer, as she calls it, is documented in her new book "Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future" (Gallery Books; $26), which just made the New York Times best-seller list. Henner will be in Houston Thursday as the keynote speaker for the Christus LiveWell Women's Conference at the Omni Hotel Houston Westside.
Henner remembers every event in her life -- every day, in fact -- from the time she was a young girl. She can tell you the date and day of the week, what she wore, what was said and details about every person she was with.
"(My memory) pops in all the time. I see things or hear a song on the radio or smell things ... it's like a pilot light that's always on. I can turn up the flame or say 'let's think about it later.' That's what I want to encourage in other people who think they are losing their memory. It's in there, it just hasn't had the right prompting."
Henner's book is loaded with tips, quizzes and exercises people can use to test their own memory and work to make it better.
Not only can a better memory improve quality of life for older people, but Henner believes it can be a self-help tool at any age.
By tapping into what's in our "mental hard drives," both good and bad, we can make better choices about our future, whether it applies to jobs, relationships, health, even weight, she said.
For example, Henner -- who is 5 feet 7 inches and now weighs 120-125 pounds -- said she has always struggled with her weight.
As a young woman she weighed as much as 174 pounds. She'd go on diets, but none were long-term solutions for her.
When she gave up meat, gave up dairy products (Aug. 15, 1979, a Wednesday) and started exercising, she lost weight and never returned to her old way of eating.
"I've been disciplined enough to develop my memory to say it's this path or that path," she said. "If I know one path made me miserable, why would I choose it?"
But for women who think their goal is perfection in every part of their life, Henner urges them to think "progress, not perfection."
By setting goals and preparing for them, Henner said, women can take small steps each day or week to make changes that will stick.
During her visit Thursday, Henner said she'll give her audience a good-health pep talk.
"I'll tell the women, 'You are closer than you think. ... It takes a little tweaking here and there, and pretty soon the domino kicks in and you are on your way'," she said.
"You are never too old or too young to feel better than you do right now."
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