Cultivating Success In The Body
Success is a subjective and multi-faceted notion. Its definition differs from person to person, it even changes in time for the same person.
Regardless of how we personally define success, we are all looking for it.
Success is not only a mindset. It’s not only something we cultivate through our thoughts and mental practices. Success is something we cultivate also in our body, through the food we eat and through the physical practices we embrace.
I often observe in people’s lives a dissociation between body and mind. Many people are either unaware or consciously disregarding the direct correlation between the two.
The old Latin phrase ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ meaning ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’ speaks directly to that.
The idea of cultivating success in the body is beyond just an empirical concept. It is a known fact that the foods we eat affect the chemistry of our body and our brain, as food is electrically charged.
Our brain is made of billions of neurons, commonly known as the brain’s cells, which are electrically excitable cells that process and transmit information via electrochemical signaling.
There is a direct correlation between the way we feed ourselves and the way we think.
In order for us to embody success, we need to have a highly adaptive nervous system that meets our daily requirements without overload or residual stress.
Nutrition is key to having a highly adaptive nervous system and is the foundation of being successful.
There are two major aspects of nutrition that we need to understand: blood sugar regulation and proper macronutrient intake.
The blood sugar level is simply put an indicator of the available fuel our cells have available to convert into ATP energy. It has a major impact on the way our body functions and it is directly influenced by our eating habits: it cycles up or down based on the food we eat, when we eat it, and how often we eat it.
Proper brain function is critically linked to these cycles.
We need sugar in the blood, and both its highs and lows need to stay within a certain threshold. When our blood sugar rises too fast and too high, our body produces insulin, whose role is to bind to the sugar molecules and transport them from our blood to our cells. The more sugar we have in our blood, the more insulin we produce. What happens immediately after this spike is a very rapid dip, as soon as there is no more sugar in the blood.
These two extreme states are called hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.
So what does this have to do with the brain and with success?
The spike creates an almost like an adrenaline feeling in the body and things get a little frantic in our system. We can no longer focus. We lose cognitive capacity.
Now we are running on a very low reserve, which our body interprets as being kind of a crisis as it’s lacking energy. This triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol in the body to keep us functioning.
The other thing that happens is that we will be looking for a rapid source of energy and we will most likely be looking to fulfill this energy requirement by eating something high in fast-sugar content (Mars, Snickers, MilkyWay!!). And this will trigger the same cycle as before, keeping us in a continuous loop, fast in – fast out, which gives us no control over our body.
When the brain gets foggy and we get hypoglycemic, the body gets into the fight or flight center. The midbrain takes over because it’s energy-efficient and we lose the high-reasoning function.
When we are functioning from the midbrain, the abilities to problem-solve, to see the big picture, to be creative, to find solutions, to collaborate with others are disabled.
The goal with blood sugar is to keep it as even as possible. When we regulate the blood sugar levels, the mental capacity is increased, the metabolic capacity will better regulate and we will be sleeping and recovering better.
So how do we keep blood sugar even? We do it by paying attention to what we eat, when we eat, and how we eat.
What do we eat?
When talking about food, there are 3 things (macronutrients) that we must have with any meal: carbohydrates (carbs), proteins, and healthy fats.
We have to eat carbs. But there is a caveat to this: we have to eat slow carbs, carbs coming from vegetables and fruits, which will fuel us and keep us healthy and feeling energized, not the ones coming from refined sugars and grains.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about carbs, fueled by a lack of basic nutrition education. Carbs turn into sugar, sugar is energy, therefore carbs are mandatory for proper body and brain function.
SO IT’S NOT NO CARBS, IT’S SLOW CARBS.
The kinds of carbohydrates we consume determine how fast or how slow our blood sugar spikes and dips.
Examples of the most sustainable carbohydrates we can eat are cruciferous vegetables and fruits: broccoli, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, berries.
These foods support the frontal brain capacity, keep us out of the stress center, which is going to allow us to think differently, plan differently, act differently.
We also have to eat good quality proteins.
Regardless of the diet you’re on, consuming good quality proteins (amino acids) is how we get the building blocks to make all the brain’s neurotransmitters which control everything from sleep cycles to experiences of love and emotion. We are producing neurotransmitters that we need in order to feel successful from the proteins that we eat, and we need to feed properly in order to be able to produce them.
Some good quality proteins are beans, grass-fed animal products, seeds, nuts, nutritional yeast, ancient grains.
And we also have to eat healthy fats.
The brain is 60% fat. Eating healthy fats gives us the building blocks to fuel our brain cells for proper nerve functioning.
Healthy fats include fatty wild-caught fish, olives and extra virgin olive oil, avocado and avocado oil, coconut and coconut oil, seeds, and nuts.
All our meals should be balanced, combining all these macronutrients to give the body all the building blocks that allow us to function at our highest level.
On my website, you can find a list of the 8 must-have foods for a healthy successful life.
You don’t have to implement big changes to your nutrition to start cultivating success in your body, as these will not be sustainable in the long run.
Start with small steps: think of one thing that you can commit to adding to your diet and one thing that you can exclude for you to get closer to your definition of success.