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Moving Beyond "You are what you eat."

Nutrient Rich Foods, Nutrient Rich Information, and Nutrient Rich Actions

· Self Development

I am assuming in beginning this essay, that most people in modernity would accept the statement, 'you are what you eat'. It has been around for nearly 200 years, coming into the English language by way of a French Lawyer, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826, who wrote: "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es." or "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are" (Brillat-Savarin 1829).

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As the story goes, if you eat a lot of junk food, you will increase in weight, as our bodies struggle to process unhealthy foods, excess sugar, carbohydrates, alcohol and greasy foods. In contrast, the body thrives on nutrient rich foods. However, if the goal is to run a marathon, eating nutrient rich foods alone won't get you across the finish line. But in conjunction with exercise, consuming nutrient rich foods will make training for a marathon easier, as your body will repair faster, you'll be able to access more energy, your body will work more efficiently, and because you feel 'healthy', your will-power reserves won't be as drastically drained through the process of training.  

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It is easy to recognise an individual's physical fitness, as it is evident in, their accomplishments, in the events and activities they undertake and most of the time it's evident in their appearance. As a society, we also give a lot of admiration to those who compete at an elite level in sports as we recognise the dedication, commitment, will-power, focus and energy it takes to achieve a physical feat such as a Marathon, or playing elite level Football.   

This rule should perhaps be extended on two other less obvious but equally important frontiers.  Firstly for the mind, the idea that, 'you are what you consume'. If you only consume soap operas, sitcome reruns, cartoons, reality tv, or daily news articles, then your minds information is diet similar to the bodies junk food diet. 

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Your mind will process that information as the utmost importance, it will build a reality around what information you've given to it, in much the same way, the body creates its reality based on the food you put into it.   Watching the News, is similar to going to McDonalds, it's fast, it's easy, you don't have to do any work for it, they package the product up for your convenience, it's cheap, it gives you food/information, but... it isn't healthy. 

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Playing on the analogy further, watching Reality TV, Cartoons, Crime Shows, Dramas, Sitcoms, even Documentaries are similar to eating sugary snacks, they're perfectly fine in moderation, if you have a couple of chocolate biscuits each day. But, if you spend multiple hours consuming reality tv, then cartoons, then a new drama, then re-runs of friends. It's equivalent to the physical consumption pattern of eating marsh mellows, then chocolate, then tiny teddies, then ice cream. If you do this for too long, similar with the body gaining excess weight, you will have a morbidly obese mind. Where it is lazy, doesn't want to be challenged, and finds it difficult to find the motivation to get off the couch and exercise.   

Nutrient rich information then, would be articles, books, essays, poems, stories. Information that stretches you, that is outside of your comfort zone, information that you have to actively pursue, for example reading. Where you are earning the information through direct and physical interaction with the source.

Whereas television is similar to driving a car, you might be able to get somewhere faster than if you were running or riding, but you aren't doing the work, and your body as with your mind won't receive the same benefits.   In this context, the nutrient rich information, is the variety of information you consume, not just sticking to a particular field, but being more varied. 

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Reading the same information that confirms what you already know is similar to only eating one type of food. Imagine only ever eating corn for the rest of your life, there are only so many ways you can make corn interesting, this is the same with information, after a certain amount of reading, you either need to go down a specialist route where you are looking at the intricacies of the current and past research, or to move onto new ideas.    

The marathon component in this analogy is the length of time reading, similar to the length of time you spend running. I'm paraphrasing a quote I heard not too long ago, but a book is a condensation of wisdom accumulated from years, if not decades of someone's life, into mere hours of reading.  In this sense, the articles you read, might then be days or weeks of research condensed into minutes of reading. This is similar to running sprints vs running long distance. Both are extremely important and useful in their own way for the body, but if you're wanting to run long distances, there has to be a time when you move away from simply running daily sprints. 

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That being, if you'd like to incorporate modes of thinking and the inter-connection of hundreds of ideas that are available within a novel, then it necessitates the need to move away from simple structures and basic ideas contained within articles.   With this concept, there is no right or wrong type of information, variety is key, and in a similar way that your body gives you signals and cravings for different foods it feels it's lacking, your mind too will begin to give you cravings for new information. You'll begin to develop a mind/body connection, where you connect back into your inner intuition, the unconscious wisdom within you, that which our conscious minds will never be able to comprehend.   

Now for the third less obvious frontier (for lack of a better word), 'You are how you behave'. This one sounds obvious, but often it is the hardest to master. This statement incorporates both our information consumption, and our physical consumption, as well as our interactions with others, our conversations with others, how we treat others, how we treat ourselves, how we treat the environment, how we live in the world. As you can see, it is the hardest of them all. I'm sorry to use this analogy but given I have been in a similar state, it seems fitting. Can you trust the obese nutritionist? 

The nutritionist has done the mental work, they've studied the literature, they've written essays, articles and published information about the right things to do for your body, but they don't behave in alignment with what they understand.   In a similar manner, if you eat Nutrient Rich Foods every day, but spend 90% of your waking hours watching reality TV on the couch, you may 'look good', but the other 2 aspects won't be in alignment. You may not have much to add to a conversation without repeating a quote your heard from one of the Kardashian's. Given the sedentry lifestyle, there won't be much of a daily story to tell, as the couch has been your kingdom.

The reason for reflecting on these notions has to do with how we can change our consumptive and behavioural patterns through using Goal Setting, to first understand our motive, then understanding the behaviours that would encorporate our goals, then reflecting on which behaviour is the most important to change and becoming increasingly accountable to changing just 1 behaviour.

Our life is a series of repeated daily behaviours that begin at birth, and end with a never ending sleep. We often only see the changes  from physical circumstances, such as having children, stopping or starting a sport, changing job, meeting new friends, finding a partner. 

These changes we can see change us physically, but seldom see the physical evidence of how a reading habit has changed our mind, or how spending time helping our kids with homework, or giving time to help our communities, has shaped our character.