In Our Minds

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It’s all a state of mind. Isn’t it?

Food. Fitness. Reality.


I. Food


I was sitting at a local restaurant and bar the other night. It was a cooling evening despite the earlier humidity that stubbornly sat over the city. Post workout, the food was delicious. The random tufts of wind that breezed by were equally satisfying. To say the least, it was a nice night.

“What vitamins or nutrients am I missing from this meal?” my friend asked, breaking the silence. Before him sat a large plate of mashed potatoes and a side dish of asparagus.

“Protein, for one,” I guessed. I pondered that for a moment and within my inner ear heard Michael Pollan chide: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” My friend appeared well off enough with his evening’s choice.

“Sometimes I wish we didn’t know about vitamins,” he went on, “then we would just eat whatever. I think it’s mostly made up in our minds anyway. We could eat whatever we wanted and not feel good or bad despite not having the ‘right’ vitamins.”

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. — Michael Pollan

And so I mulled that over a bit. We do eat whatever we want. And for the most part, on the surface,—obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart attacks be damned—we’re okay. How often does the average person consider what sort of nutritional value they receive when they plan their meals? Many, to be sure—I do myself despite the indulgences. But more likely than not, most consider taste, mood and setting before they consider the biochemical makeup of their fuel.

I have no doubt our minds are powerful tools capable of willing us to feel certain ways without us even realizing it. So there is something to be said with the idea that perhaps we feel better when we drink that coconut water after a workout precisely because we’re told that is what is supposed to happen. We need that cup of coffee in the morning to get things started because we believe it so. Ironically, placebos are real things with real effects.

II. Fitness


Earlier that day, my friend had also stated that we must be nearing a day when science could just make our bodies fit. We wouldn’t have to “workout” to get it “in shape.” Science in this near future would simply allow us to metabolize efficiently, produce muscular strength and endurance for no other reason than because that’s what we wanted (as opposed to our bodies adapting to produce physical labor.)

As we move our technology from physical manifestations—books, paintings, pen, paper, analog knobs, clocks and wallets—to the digital cloud, ebooks, tablets, and apps, are we envisioning a world in which we feel the same about ourselves? Do we wish that rather than dealing with the physical portions of our existence—the feeding of ourselves, the physical labor that so often produces physical health—are less relevant than the pursuits of our minds? Are our bodies simply annoying vessels requiring maintenance when the mind is where the “good stuff” resides?

We ascertain metaphors in books because we’ve physically experienced with our senses something similar to what is being described. What we take into ourselves and what we give out from it affects us and the world around us.

I don’t think I like that. There may come a day when we are nebulous matter floating around thinking deep thoughts about deep things. Perhaps there will be a day when we expand beyond our physical composition on a physical earth producing physical things and bringing forth creative ideas into the physical world. I don’t believe that day is around the corner. Despite our digital age, we still perceive those digital experiences in a very physical world. We ascertain metaphors in books because we’ve physically experienced with our senses something similar to what is being described. What we take into ourselves and what we give out from it affects us and the world around us. Our minds live in our bodies. Our bodies affect our minds.

III. Reality


Scooping up the remnants of our respective foods whilst discussing our day’s happenings, my friend mentioned how he spent most of his day in his fictional world, his writer’s world, more than the real world. He is quite a cerebral one this writer and so it made sense to me why in past musings he’d mentioned that he felt eating and exercise a chore. He did them to make him feel better, though perhaps given the chance, he’d not bother with them.

I chewed on that a moment as I dipped my last fry into a bit of vinegar. It occurred to me, though I am no longer religious, I certainly appreciate moments of gratitude prior to a meal. In our contemporary society, the majority of us don’t need to scavenge, hunt, kill, prep our food. Or concern ourselves with repeating it the next day. Our meals come delivered sliced, diced and cleaned whether at the grocery store or a restaurant. We don’t have to exert much physical energy to acquire our food and we certainly don’t have to worry as much about whether or not there will be anything to hunt or forage the next day. What was once our fundamental goal, our daily effort has been placed aside as a time management faux pas eating away at other things we could be doing. That’s our reality.

Maybe it was growing up knowing that a portion of my family did live that way, concerned with where the next meal was coming from and whether or not it would provide enough energy to procure more food the next day. Maybe it was growing up knowing that my parents fretted over whether this week’s funds would go towards food or another need or want. Either way, there’s a pleasure to eating foods and drinking drinks, but also a fundamental sense of accomplishment and gratitude that comes to knowing what I eat and how I use that fuel.

Our meals come delivered sliced, diced and cleaned whether at the grocery store or a restaurant. We don’t have to exert much physical energy to acquire our food and we certainly don’t have to worry as much about whether or not there will be anything to hunt or forage the next day.

I believe in a correlation between productivity and well-being, mental and physical both. I believe in a quality of life steeped in diet and fitness. While these factors are not yet accessible to the majority of the people living in this world, I do not think that is a reason for lowering the bar on well-being. I believe our knowledge, experience and humanity provided us with where the base line should be. And that it’s our jobs to see how we can get more people there.

Perhaps, if the mind is so powerful and so capable as to alter our perception of physical well-being, we may as well consider what it is we are putting into our bodies—and what we do with them. After all, the science already says diet and lifestyle will affect us accordingly, what does it hurt if we finally believe it too?

Further reading:

  1. Gut–brain connection is a two-way street, study says
  2. Mediterranean Diet Shown to Ward Off Heart Attack and Stroke
  3. Get Fit Now: Your Life (and Job) Depends on It

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