“You are what you eat.”-John De Cola
I first heard this quote from the French physician Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in the year 1969. At the time I was an impressionable 15-year-old high school sophomore working out at a local gym in Framingham Massachusetts preparing for my first varsity football season. I heard it from John DeCola, the gym owner and 5’8″ human anatomy chart who was working out himself that summer for the 1969 professional Mr. America competition. As part of your membership, he did an analysis of new members, gave you your own program, and gave nutritional advice. I remember him telling me that I had “long clavicles,” which I could tell by his enthusiastic tone of voice was a good thing. He also told me that I had to lose my “spare tire.” I didn’t know what a spare tire was, but I could tell by his expression this wasn’t too good. John went on to win the 1969 Mr. America title and I’ve been fighting to keep that spare tire flat ever since. I also remember him telling me that “70% of this game is diet. It’s very important. Remember, you are what you eat.”
Today research indicates that John’s advice is still true. There are, however, a lot of other things that we consume that can sabotage our best efforts at maintaining our health and wellness besides diet. Certainly, we consume much more today than ever before. Food, although very important, is only part of what we consume. We not only eat, but we drink, breathe, and consume massive amounts of news and information. All this input contributes to the state of our health and well-being. What we ingest becomes the fabric of who we are, what we think, our values, and how we live our lives. Today the best way to be sure we are healthy and happy is to engage in conscious consumption, being more aware of what we are taking in and consuming.
Here are a few things you may be consuming that you may want to pay a little more attention to:
⦁ News and information. A recent article published in the Huffington Post suggested that as little as three minutes of news watched each morning could negatively impact a person’s day for the next eight hours. Three minutes! Negative news stories contribute to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, as people get overwhelmed by stories that they can exert no control over. Human evolution has wired our brains to be on the alert for potential danger and threats. We are more likely to think negatively than positively and, as a result, we gravitate more towards negative sensory inputs. This means we are more wired to remember news stories that threaten us with terrorist attacks than that story about the kitten that was rescued from that tree. It also explains why we can’t turn away from that car crash we drove by on the way to work. Sigmund Freud referred to this fascination as our “death instinct.” Our brains are designed to notice these and retain them as a warning for ourselves. In 2016 the average person consumes as much information in one week as a person would in a lifetime a century ago. For more see http://mindbodycoach.org/media-madness-media-influences-mental-health/
⦁ Gossip, celebrity news, and social media. We also have only so much bandwidth for empathy, concern, and emotional connection. Getting involved in the latest drama from the lives of the rich and famous is like consuming junk food. It fills us up emotionally, but has no lasting value. It also diverts our attention from potentially important relationships in our real lives, such as our spouses, partners, children, and family. We probably better off spending time with our actual friends and family than our virtual friends and our social media contacts. It takes more time to nurture the real world relationships, but the benefits are certainly much more significant.
⦁ Screen time. Since the 1950s social scientists have been concerned with the amount of time that we spend watching television. We’ve come along way from three channels that you marveled at in 1960. We still have television to contend with, but we also have iPhones in our pockets, Netflix, streaming video on demand, and jobs that require us to spend eight hours a day staring at a computer. Research indicates that all this screen time not only can cause eye strain and migraines, but that it also contributes to metabolic syndrome, difficulty processing emotions in the real world, and is as escapist as consuming moderate amounts of psychoactive drugs. As people spend more time engaged in the fantasy dramas of others, they are becoming numb to events occurring in real life. Excessive screen time has been linked to the rise of bullying in American children and has become a primary factor in most divorce cases. It also has been shown to rewire the brain and a negative and non-productive way, causing us to experience difficulty regulating our emotions.
⦁ Air. Not only is the air that we are breathing today far less healthy for us than it was for our great grandparents, but most people don’t know how to breathe correctly. As we spend less time being physically active, more time hunched over computer screens, and leading lives that are more psychologically stressful, we have begun to breathe inefficiently. Ask the average person to “take in a deep breath,” and you’ll notice that they take an unproductive breath as their upper chest and shoulders expand. Proper breathing involves expanding the abdomen and lower lungs with virtually no involvement of the shoulders. Breathing is by far the number one most important consumption activity that we engage in. It is said that a human can go three weeks without food, three days without water, but only three minutes without breathing. For a How To on breathing properly see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iypetAkg_pY
⦁ Water. Yeah, we all know that we should consume approximately 8 glasses of water each day. Most of us like to think that we do, but do we really? We have so many beverage choices that many people grow up consuming very little water. In fact, many Americans have the belief that “water tastes gross” and drink very little of it, substituting all kinds of other liquids in its place. There has been a lot of research published recently that shows Americans are becoming more aware of the negative health impacts of cola and soft drinks, but there are many more culprits flying under the radar. Many sports drinks, energy drinks, juice drinks, and other beverages are hidden sources of sugar, empty calories, and chemicals that we could do without. The bottled water industry has become one of the most productive businesses the world. Unless you live in a third world nation, your tap water is probably okay. Learn to develop a taste for it. The human body is 70% water, so what we drink is as important as what we eat.
⦁ Food. By food, I mean real food, the kind that Great Grandpa had waiting on the table for him after a long day at work. There are a lot of reasons that Americans are more impatient, fat, lethargic, and unhappy while living in the most abundant time in human history. John DeCola was 100% correct, we ultimately become what we eat. Every cell in the body regenerates within a seven-year period of time. That means that every seven years our physical body is entirely new. How well our cells reproduce is determined by what we eat and consume. Many people pay more attention to the motor oil that they put in their cars than the food that they put in their mouths. Your body is your most important vehicle. Fuel it carefully. For more see http://mindbodycoach.org/sugar-sugar-compulsive-eating-conspiracy/ and http://mindbodycoach.org/food-mood-connection/
“Garbage in, garbage out.”- Unknown
Ultimately, we are what we consume. That which we consume literally becomes who we are. And, it is very important. Be aware of what you consume, food and otherwise. Conscious consumption should be a governing principle for all of us. Be discriminating about what you take in. Your life is guaranteed to be a fuller and richer one..
“We consume so we never have to answer the hard questions. When we are bored we eat. When we are lonely we watch a movie, read the newspaper, jump on social media. Each time we do we cover up our real emotions and keep throwing another layer of confusion and anxiety on top, making it almost impossible to dig ourselves out of the hole, or at least see which way is up.” – Evan Sutter, Solitude: How Doing Nothing Can Change the World
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