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Does the food you eat affect the quality of your thinking?

I’m an avid reader of Steve Pavlina’s Blog, and an entry I was reading today, got me thinking.. I just had to post a response.

Steve Pavlina, for those of you who’ve never heard of him, is a Personal Development Innovater, who through his blog, and website is sharing his experiences with the world, with regards to his own personal growth and development.  He often experiments publicly, and shares the results in a very live, and timely manner.  At times, it’s almost as if you’re going through the trials with him, and living through the daily experiences that he shares.  His thoughts and insights are certainly truly eye opening, and I’m reminded whenever I read his blog, of just some of the wonderful qualities, that I pray one day I might posess.

He recently shared an interesting take on health.  Admittedly, it’s not the first time that I’ve heard the analogy.  In fact, my own personal inspiration towards living a healthy and active lifestyle is Jason “The Juicemaster” Vale, author of Slim 4 Life, and a man to who I owe a deep debt of gratitude, for introducing me to the juicing way of life.. Cheers Jason!

So as I was reading this blog entry, that talks about the cells detoxing, and about how diet can affect our thinking and our ability to experience peak mental and emotional states, and I wonder how consciously do I choose the food that I eat?? Do I sometimes choose to deliberately supress elevated states of heightened awareness, and deeper emotions??  I know at times I’m drawn to eating meat, partly because it makes me feel heavier, and denser, and less aware, and less conscious.  It has a numbing effect, perhaps a bit like alcohol might, for people who drink alcohol to drown their sorrows.

At other times, I’ll be drawn to carbohydrates, like breads, and rice, to give me a “heavy” filled feeling inside.  It’s almost as if it’s not enough to eat and be fed, I need to feel “full”.  But that “fullness” is sometimes something that isn’t necessarily a very empowering state.  I know that at times I’ll experience a craving, ravenous hunger, which will make me just want to continue eating, and then eventually, once I’m satisfied, I’ll have to just stop for a while and let my body digest.  Jason, talks about it as your body going comatose, whilst it deals with this influx of food, which if the body doesn’t shut down every other system, and deal with, you would end up dying.. An example being the typical Christmas post-lunch snooze, which is more a coma induced recovery period, where the body is frantically trying to process all this freshly eaten food, before it shuts the body down completely.

It might seem an intense, or extreme view to take, but having self-induced these over indulgent meals, where the body just doesn’t seem to be able to cope with the sheer quantity of food that I’m consuming, it naturally puts me in a spot, where I end up just slowing down, resting for a while, to let my body digest, and get back into being alive again a short while later.

Paradoxically, I’ve found that I can always get a comfortable “full” feeling, and not feel like I’m about to shut down completely, whenever I make sure I have lots of wholesome, fresh, raw fruits or veggies as a part of my meal (either as juice, or typically as salads).  Whenever I eat like this, then I end a meal feeling filled, but not on the verge of having to shut down, and I continue with my life.  Interestingly, my emotional and mental states seem to almost feed on these cravings, and the mood swings seem to play a key part in the emotional attachment to eating.

What I have found particularly interesting, is that when I’m working on something meaningless, and empty, the feeling inside is the same, and the desire to eat more occurs.  I used that partly to my advantage with my previous employer, where I would stock up on snacks of fruit, knowing that I would want to snack away whilst working, because of how unengaging the work was.  Equally I knew that by snacking on fruit, at least I would be positively contributing to my health, instead of allowing it to continue to deteriorate.

Conversely, whenever I complete something that’s really meaningfull, or feels like it’s a real accomplishment, I feel that same fullness inside, that I would sometimes experience with food.  The biggest difference being that when I eat something and feel full, I know I’ve been fed, on a very physical level.  When I write something, or complete some piece of work, and it’s “done”, I’m apparently still fed, since the sense of accomplishment, in writing or completing something mirrors that sense of being filled.  The difference is, that when I’m engaged with something that consumes me, all thoughts of food, and hunger become secondary, and I no longer engage with food on the same terms.  It’s almost like food becomes a distraction to my work, and I genuinely am not interested in eating anything, until I finish what I’m in the middle of doing.

Interestingly, I completed fasting for a whole month, during the Muslim month of Ramadan recently, and during Ramadan, as an observant Muslim, you don’t eat between sunrise and sunset.  What I found was that in the first few days, whilst I might notice the fasting and the hunger closer to the end of the day, by the end of the month, my body was completely adjusted to the new eating patterns, and didn’t even twinge a little, when seeing others eating food, or when the typical lunch time came around.

Now, a few months on, I’m starting to wonder.. is it because I know that I’m not going to eat, that perhaps I kept myself engaged in activities, that were sufficiently engaging, that I didn’t feel hungry??

Is hunger really a physical hunger anymore?? With the amount of processed foods we eat these days, and with a real availability of food whenever, and wherever we want it, do we really know when our bodies are truly hungry anymore??  Is part of our conditioned “hunger” response to do with some of the suggested artificial sugar highs, some of the false hungers caused by eating too much refined sugar, or white refined carbs??  What would we naturally feel hungry for, if we didn’t have chemicals, and mental conditioning to influence our natural hunger patterns?

I’m sure in time I might get to the bottom of these questions myself.  For now, I’m just going to observe Steve Pavlina’s experiment living on nothing but raw juice for 92 days, and pay more attention to the food I’m eating, and the emotional highs and low’s I’m going through.

Though it really does make me wonder.. are we as a planet, plagued by diseases like obesity, because we’re so caught up in the physical world, and have so conditioned our bodies to respond to food, as a satiating source of hunger, that we mask up and hide the true hungers of our minds need to be expressive? Of our emotions needs to be felt? and of our individual, personal need to contribute in a valuable and meaningful way??  Share your thoughts and insights in the comments below..

Now that I’ve fed my soul, time to go nourish my body, with some food ;)

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2 Responses to “Does the food you eat affect the quality of your thinking?”

  1. Hi Farhan,

    Interesting observations that you have had.

    My wife and I are really experimenting with food and fasting. Today I am aiming to do a dry fast – no food and no water as advocated by David Wolfe. I think I will be fine as I eat a highly nutritious 90% diet so have plenty of nutrients streaming around my body.

    I have also heard that it is very beneficial to fast on a full moon.

    I am really becoming much more aware about the foods I eat and the impact it has on my thoughts and feelings. Every one is different and it is all about increasing our awareness.

    You soon realise that amount of energy your body needs to digest food, even water – hence the ‘dry fast’.

    When I fast and detox I find I get up much earlier and have a very clear mind and on top of that I end up with about 5 more hours (since I do not have to go to the supermarket, eat food, prepare food, wash dishes, or think about food) it really is liberating.

    It really is amazing the more you read about fasting and powerful it is for your body. Just allows it to do so much without interfering. I just thought of an analogy – it is like sitting down to do a task and the phone rings and you get distracted.

    The same goes when your body is trying to repair then you eat some food and a lot of your resources are diverted before being able to return to what they were doing – repaaring again.

    Most people do not give their repair processes a chance as their bodies are so busy trying to clear out the backlog of crap – they are over worked, tired, stressed and need extra buffers to keep going…coffee, alcohol…and it piles one on top of the other before everything shuts down and says ‘that’s enough’.

    You can see how fasting takes so much pressure off you body which makes you look younger (in comparison to an average person). The body really is amazing.

    Anyway, on with the experiment…

  2. Hey Clint!
    During the month of Ramadan, we actually perform Dry Fasting, as you’ve described it. No food, no water, between the hours of sunrise and sunset. It has a wonderful effect, until we start eating, since usually the food we have tends to be more greasy, and fried, like samosa’s and pakoras.

    Though one thing I have noticed, is that the body does become much more relaxed, and less distracted, when I knew I didn’t have to think about food. Of course there were days, when the hunger becomes noticeable, but that’s normally only during the adjustment period.

    Look forward to hearing about how you get on with that.. do be sure to blog about it, or at least email me, an update :)

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