We have all heard the claim, “You are what you eat.” And to varying degrees, we all believe it. We get that what we put into our mouths affects our health–for better or worse.
But we don’t have the same conviction that what we put into our eyes and ears can have an effect on our lives. Somehow, we seem to think that our food habits can help or hurt, but our reading, watching and association habits do not. Is that logical, or is that lazy? Perhaps it is easier to pass up junk food in favor of something healthier than it is to say “no” to junk TV in favor of a motivating book. Which is easier, watching innuendo-laden sitcoms, or reading the biography of a successful person who bootstrapped their life? And which is going to make us better? And which do we choose and why? And association? You bet; associations are powerful influencers. If you tell me the incomes of the five people who you spend the most time with, I will tell you yours within 10%.
On the positive with food, we believe that if we eat and drink healthy foods and beverages, we’ll be healthier. We can be convinced that foods that are farm-fresh or organic, or grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, and wild caught fish are worth the extra money. We are happy to take vitamins and other supplements. “Farm-to-table” is a new phrase in our vocabulary. Farmers markets thrive because you can get fresh food, and fresh is healthy. And the name implies farm-to-table. Entire businesses have been started and thrive based on people’s desire to have access to healthy foods and supplements. Whole Foods and GNC to name but two.
On the negative side with food, we believe that avoiding unhealthy foods will also be beneficial. Salt–limit it or risk high blood pressure. Fat–limit the bad fats and take in the good fats. (Why else would anyone eat baked potato chips?)
The same type of positives and negatives apply to what we put into our brains. And the consequences are at least as determinative in our lives.
“Healthy” books topics would include personal growth, motivation, inspirational stories (even better when true), and biographies of people who have persevered and overcome. Think about it: with an autobiography, you hold the keys to that person’s life in your two hands. They had to live an entire life to learn what you can in a few hours. How-to books, like being a better parent, spouse, worker, or manager abound. Books are part of the courses open to the public at local colleges and learning centers. Learning or relearning a language is wonderfully useful and a great mental exercise. The brain grows with use, just like a muscle. And there really are informative and educational shows available for your TV.
Unhealthy choices include romance novels, most military fiction, and escape books–often labeled “beach reading.” And the same holds true for TV shows and movies. “Whoa”, I can hear you saying, “Are you really telling me that I can’t read books or see shows like that?” Not at all. Just as a little junk food is fine and a lot is not, a little junk reading is ok, and a lot is not. We don’t need to be fanatical here in order to make an important and beneficial lifestyle change. You want to toss in a favorite dessert from time-to-time? Go for it. Escape into a beach book once a while? No harm done. Just remember that these choices are acceptable exemptions when they are part of a program of otherwise sound choices. The point here is to create a pattern of positive choices in both what goes into our mouths and heads–not to develop a rigid, inflexible set of rules. We are fully capable of staying on track without having to put ourselves into straitjackets.
The key here is not simply knowing that what you put into your mouth or head is important; we all know that. What we need are reminders and encouragement. This blog serves as a reminder. Let’s encourage each other through our blog comments–comments including advice, personal stories–or just plain human-to-human encouragement.
Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs
P.S. The Bible says that what comes out of your mouth is more important that what you put into it. What you put into your head will have a profound effect on what comes out of your mouth.