The Connection Between Health and Personal Growth

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“Your body is precious. It is your vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care” – Buddha

It was Aristotle who made the students in his philosophy school train with the wrestlers and other Olympic athletes. The legendary Indian monk Bodhidharma, who traveled to China to teach Buddhism, is credited with being the source of the famous muscle tendon change and bone marrow washing classics. The exercises contained within the two classics are said to aid physical strength, health and well-being.

Today we can learn from the examples set by two of the worlds wisest and most lauded thinkers. Many people – such as those who believe in the Law of Attraction – believe we are what we think. I agree, however I also believe some take this thinking too far in rejecting the old adage that we are what we eat. To reject this adage, to my mind, is to fall into an extreme view.

I also think it is too simplistic. It was Montaigne who said, “I feel quite a different person before and after a meal.” This observation by the famous French philosopher holds the key to why great thinkers such as Aristotle and Bodhidharma required their students to be physically fit and healthy. For, while we are what we think, how we think is deeply affected by what we eat and our physical state of health and well-being.

Factors That Affect How We Think

Factors such as the foods and drink we consume, our level of fitness, blood sugar level stability, breathing, temperature, heart rate, and so forth all have an enormous impact upon how we think. Processed carbohydrates such as bread and pasta often cause us to be sleepy and tired after consumption. Their refined nature produces a quick spike in blood sugar levels. The body responds with insulin release but releases a little too much before blood sugar levels eventually come back up and even out.

Trying to think clearly at such a time is very difficult. Ask anyone with diabetes or hypoglycemia how good his or her cognitive abilities are during a blood sugar crash. In fact I’ve heard of a group, some would call them a cult, who apparently keep members in line by feeding and stupefying them with a diet high in process carbohydrates.

Similarly Neuroscience has discovered the process of excitotoxicity that occurs in the brain. Excitotoxins are amino acids that when consumed excite certain nerve cells in our brain to such an extent that they actually die. Common known excitotoxins in processed food are Mono-Sodium Glutamate (MSG), Aspartame, artificial sweetener, hydrogenised vegetable protein, yeast extract, and flavor enhancer.

Excitotoxins are associated with neural-degenerative diseases, neural-developmental abnormalities, diabetes type I and II, endocrine disorders, obesity, immune dysfunction, enhanced cancer growth and spread, gastro intestinal disorders, autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis and sudden cardiac death.

Beyond processed food what about whole foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables and whole sources of protein such as eggs, meat, and fish? Even if you’re vegetarian the tons of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and rodenticides that many food producers are continuously spraying on your food are akin to neurotoxins. The chemical fertilizer your food is grown in is very closely related to gunpowder. Plants growing under these conditions where the soil is denatured and lacking in a hugely important microorganism population are not healthy plants nor can the food produced by such plants be healthy.

The grain cows, chickens, pigs and so forth are fed is generally of very poor quality, grown under the same conditions mentioned above. The grains are often not fit for human consumption. They may be moldy which means your steak can contain mycotoxins from fungus. Add to that the animals may be given growth hormones and fed antibiotics that end up in the meat, the fat, eggs, milk, and butter. Like the plants mentioned above such animals and food produced from them cannot be considered healthy animals.

An Inconvenient Truth

The simple fact is we cannot become healthy while eating sick animals, sick plants or processed food. Eating such foods could never result in health. In today’s modern world it isn’t easy to find out where our food is coming from or what conditions it was grown under. Some imported fruit and vegetables are grown in countries that use pesticides that are banned elsewhere.

For many eating whole foods and not processed foods was thought to be enough. I assure you that I agree anyone who eats this way will be far healthier then someone who eats food that comes in a man-made packet. However I feel that there is another level of a health. Another step to take beyond such measures and to me that means properly certified organic food.

Final Thoughts

Whatever your personal choices are as you continue on your lifelong journey of personal growth, I hope you will remember to not ignore the importance of proper exercise, nutrition, and rest. Remember, we may be what we think but what we think is influenced by our physical health and wellbeing.

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8 thoughts on “The Connection Between Health and Personal Growth”

  1. Sounds like you’re venturing over to the raw food arena. Are you?

    Because if you are, let’s support one another. I’ve been on it for the past 30 days with astonishing results. Wrote an update in today’s post about my experience over at my blog.

    You’re right – there’s a HUGE connection between health and personal development. In fact, when you decide to embark on a certain (and clean/healthy) way of eating, the discipline, thought processes and everything else inevitability spills over to other areas of your life.

    For instance, most raw foodists I’ve met so far are the most generous, spiritual, positive, happy people. Why? Because they nourish themselves with vibrant foods, feed their minds positive thoughts, treat others well (because they treat themselves well), etc.

    Great job!

  2. I really like the list of areas that affect how we think. You are right here and unfortunately most people just ignore all of these since thinking is not something that is easy to see.

    I think everyone should read some books on brain science and how what we put into our bodies affects our brains. Then again, I’m not sure many would care that much?

    Mike Kings last blog post..Boredom is a Sign of An Unchallenged Mind

  3. Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for pointing us in the right direction re: what we eat.

    I spent most of my life eating whatever I wanted without too much regard for the health aspects. Fortunately I gradually began to pay attention to warnings about certain foods, and have begun to move to healthier cooking, eating fresh foods and selecting organic alternatives.

    I’ve definitely experienced the difference in the foods that slow you down, and the ones that clear your thinking. Although I’m not a vegan or raw food aficionado, I definitely have embraced the wisdom of you are what you eat.

  4. Thankyou to everyone for your comments! I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

    @Stephen – I’ve been on a restricted diet since I was 17 due to food allergies. I’m like the canary in the coal mine. If something is not good for humans to eat it will make me ill very quickly and in small amounts. Perhaps I’m just more tuned into listening to my body then others. In the time between when I was 17 and now I’ve tried a lot of different things and undertaken a lot of dietary experiments.

    What I’ve found for me may not work for others and may go against certain beliefs. For example I have been vegetarian but have since found a healthier diet that my body tells me is right for me. While I certainly advocate the eating of as much alive food as possible I’ve learnt and felt the difference between commercial produce and organic produce. For me that includes organic grass fed meat, eggs and yogurt. Take a spin around my blog if you like and you’ll see my current take on diet. It is an evolving process.

    @Mike – While an article on excitotoxins I wrote has received a lot of attention generally speaking I have a feeling you may be right. Many people are neither listening to their bodies nor concerned about how what they are consuming is affecting their state of being. The big realization for me was when I started treating everything as if it was a drug. From water to carrots to bread to chocolate. Everything that comes into the body has an effect upon the state of the body.

    @Flora – I really noticed the difference between being slowed down and really energized and awake when I experimented with the Warrior Diet. It called for very little food during the day and one big meal in the evening. I was studying at university at the time and experienced a massive change. I went from falling asleep while reading textbooks in the middle of the day to powering effectively through my work. I’ve taken many things I learnt from that experiment with me.

    Stephens last blog post..The Difference Between Kettlebells and Dumbells

  5. After reading this quote awhile ago, I copied it onto the first page of the notebook that I always carry with me:

    The preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality. – Herbert Spencer

    I was really struck by that. It is good for us and everybody else when we treat ourselves well, and we need to realize that means physically as well. It *is* a duty that we need to step up to.

  6. Processed food sure has received an attack in recent years as it has been shown to not have the value that standard food should have. Also, personal growth matched with a loss in health is in fact not personal growth but a loan that will soon have to be paid. Health is an item that is not able to be skipped over if one is looking to grow.

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