You Are What You Eat?

The phrase “you are what you eat” indicates that to be healthy you need to eat healthy foods. The Phrase Finder describes the history of this notion. In 1826, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, wrote in an essay “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” (Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are). In 1863/4 Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach wrote in his essay about materialism & spiritualism “Der Mensch ist, was er ißt (Man is what he eats). They were both saying that the state of your health & your mind is dependent on what you eat. 

Are we too focused on fad diets & the individual foods that we consume rather than on the overall effect of our daily intake of nutrients has on us? Lets explore that idea.

Cynthia Sass, a nutritionist, personal trainer, health educator & author has written an article “Why You Really are What You Eat”. She explains how our cells have a “shelf life” & are constantly being replaced. In order to do that properly the body needs the nutrients from the foods we consume. As she says, we are literally what we eat. This article is important to read because she takes you through how our systems use the nutrients to build a healthy, functioning body. 

When people are confronted with the idea of a change in diet to help them to build their immune system or to regain their health they think in terms of diets & exercise. For example, they get caught up in the super food list, fad diets, & new exercise regimes. Not realizing that the foods we eat will work together, synergistically, to build a healthy body. It is not about just one food item, an apple or a lettuce leaf, but about a balance of nutrients from all food groups.

If we eat a healthy, balanced diet, will our outer appearance be healthier too? According to this article it will be. WebMD: Foods for Healthy Skin: You Are What You Eat  “What you put on your plate is even more important than what you put on your skin.”

In this article the author quotes Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a clinical nutritionist at NYU Medical Center in New York City. She points out that not only will your skin look healthier with a healthy diet but all sorts of skin problems will occur if we don’t pay attention to what goes in our mouths. Thus, what you eat will have an impact on skin conditions. 

WebMD: The Skin “The skin is the largest organ of the body, with a total area of about 20 square feet. The skin protects us from microbes and the elements, helps regulate body temperature, and permits the sensations of touch, heat, and cold.” Obviously we should be paying attention to looking after this organ. Food matters externally as well.

What about our mental health. Does “you are what you eat” also mean “you are emotionally what you eat’? Read the following article & reflect on your mental well being.

Harvard Medical School, Health Publishing: Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food NOVEMBER 16, 2015, by Eva Selhub MD, Contributing Editor  “Think about it. Your brain is always “on.” It takes care of your thoughts and movements, your breathing and heartbeat, your senses — it works hard 24/7, even while you’re asleep. This means your brain requires a constant supply of fuel. That “fuel” comes from the foods you eat — and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference. Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.” Read the rest of the article.

Our mental health does depend on the nutrients we consume daily. We can also argue that the healthier we are, the more energy we have & the happier we are. Yet we hear about celebrities & athletes that are fit, healthy & trim but have problems with depression & anxiety. There is now scientific evidence that certain foods will affect us emotionally, and the lack of needed nutrients will also affect us emotionally.

In an earlier post I discussed the brain~gut connection. This is an important part of the equation. The healthier the gut buddies are the healthier the brain is.

Putting together what we have learned; what we eat affects us internally, externally & mentally, then this weeks news should make you think differently about the problems of obesity. Child and teen obesity spreading across the globe 11 October 2017  Looking at the obesity rate of children & teens from 200 countries over the last 40 years, the Lancet reported that it has increased 10 fold; 124 million children & teens are obese. The World Obesity Federation  talks about the astronomical increase in health costs with this trend. They are looking at physical diseases. Mental health will also be a problem. “Researchers believe wide availability and promotion of cheap, fattening food is one of the main drivers.”

This morning I saw an obscure headline, in my world health news, by Fortune: KFC Needs to Take Responsibility for Africa’s Obesity Crisis The article is about Ghana’s obesity crisis. The food culture of the Ghana people has changed with the opening of fast food places, in particular the most popular, Kentucky Fried Chicken. What has followed with this new way of eating is an epidemic of obesity, diabetes & heart disease. This is a good article pointing out how the western food culture, namely ours, has changed the health of every country in the world! This is nothing to be proud of.

We know that cancer is one of the problems that can occur with obesity. Cancer: 40 percent of all cases related to obesity, overweight  “A new report warns about the role of obesity in cancer. As many as 40 percent of all cancers are related to obesity, according to the new research, which suggests that these cancers would be preventable if weight was kept under control.” 

This an interesting piece to read. The researchers, grouped and analyzed the data by sex, age, ethnicity, geographic area, and the site where the cancer appeared.” The bottom line on this report is to promote strategies for cancer prevention including helping people to get to a healthy weight & to keep their weight under control.

Once again, the main strategy should be to promote healthy eating. This preventative strategy should start with families & their children. Education is such a powerful tool.


The Mediterranean, DASH & MIND diets are the best ways for most people to eat. It is difficult to change. With the Mediterranean diet there is wiggle room for personal tastes without losing nutrients. You can also go out to eat with family & friends still adhering to this way of eating. No peer pressure! Keeping the Mediterranean diet pyramid in mind will help you to plan stress free meals. Plus it is made up of all those super foods & brain foods you read about on the internet 🙂 

How do I justify being a Vegan or a Vegetarian setting aside animal rights? If a person finds foods that cause the body harm then they must omit or limit them. As I have been open about, I have Lupus. Along with this diagnosis comes brain fog, rashes & lots of joint pain among other symptoms. In order to decrease the intensity of these symptoms I have had to omit & limit food groups. But…I have learned to replace these food groups with foods that will give me the same nutrients. My meal plans are balanced to make sure I get the essential vitamins & minerals too. There are unhealthy, obese vegans & vegetarians. We need to pay attention to the quality of the food we consume just like everyone else. 

This article from the New York Times is excellent. Please take the time to read it. Good Vegan, Bad Vegan By Jane Brody, October 2, 2017.  This is about more than being a vegan. The author has used scientific based facts in her article. She explains why moving your diet towards a plant based diet, not necessarily vegan or vegetarian, is the ultimate way to maintain a healthy body. 

By the way, I totally agree with everything she says. Although I did like the documentary “What the Health”, I have to agree with her assessment of it. It was a bit over the top. 

Here is a bit of humor about being vegan or vegetarian. My personal pet peeve is when eating out & I say I am a vegetarian & the waitperson says; “But you do eat chicken & fish right?” Where did they learn what a vegetable is?  #VegetarianMonth: Things never to say to a veggie “To mark World Vegetarian Day, we asked some veggies to share what they wish meat-eaters would stop asking them.”  🙂

I sincerely hope that you will take another look at yourself & ask if you are healthy inside & out plus do you have a healthy mental outlook. Then look at what you are eating on a daily basis. Remember my journal rant? Write down not only what you eat but how it affects you mentally & physically. Then & only then can you create a personal diet plan. 

I realize how difficult it is right now to maintain a happy, healthy attitude. A friend of mine said it so well. “There is a worldwide collective pain right now. Knowing that, I either need to learn to dance in the collective Joy that also exists or learn to be neutral.”

Lets all dance in the collective Joy. Until next week…Mary 🙂