Have you ever heard the term “You are what you eat?” The origin of this phrase can be traced back to the French physician, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (credited as the inventor of the popular paleo diet). In 1826, Jean wrote in his seven-volume book, The Psychology of Taste, “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” A literal English translation is “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Which has since been shortened to the now popular saying “You are what you eat”. This saying is popular among health nuts, dietitians, gym rats, doctors, etc. Most people take the quote at face value and apply it to their diets and their consumption of food, in order to feel better and get better results for their body (#bodygoals). But what about applying it to your life as a whole? Let’s take this a step further and look at this saying in another way. Here’s some food for thought (pun intended).
The act of eating, is the art of consuming food (I made this up but it sounds good….at least to me). You take a piece of your favorite food, place it in your mouth, chew it up, analyze the taste with your taste buds, and swallow (“mmmm good”). From there it goes to your stomach and gets broken down by acid, which in return produces glucose and gets transported to the necessary parts of your body to provide energy. The body uses what it needs then discards the rest via bowels (Sorry science nerds, I know it does more than that but bear with me, deal?). If you are regularly eating food that has little to no nutritional value, then you are bound to get sick or not feel at your best. The same can ring true for what are brain consumes.
In the year 2018, our brains are always on the go, meaning we are pretty much always using our mind to take in new information. Our brains are consuming and processing the new information at a rate that is faster than ever before. Throughout the entire time of our waking hours, we tune into our smart-phones, social media, TV, radio, internet, and other things that take us out of our physical environment, mentally. We are consistently told, in one form or another, what we should desire. Just about everywhere you look there is advertisements for various products and the reasons as to why we should want these items.
The way products are marketed these days help to create a collective thought among people of your demographic. This collective thought helps to attach meaning to not only the product, but the types people who consume the product. Our conscious minds consume so much throughout the day that it influences not only our decisions but also it helps to shape our identities. That’s right, marketing helps us to form an opinion about the identity and character traits of others. We have a habit of seeing these products that are being marketed to symbolize and represent certain qualities about us and others. The consumption of these products can and does impact our identities by making us feel inferior if we cannot afford to buy them or take action, or superior if we can afford them and take action on them. So much so, that people go into financial and emotional ruins over them.
We make judgments about other people that are influenced by what that person consumes. For example, when we see a man sporting a Rolex watch, button up shirt, a Gucci belt, nice fitting jeans, Gucci shoes, and driving the newest model S500 Mercedes Benz, we will probably identify him as financially successful (in most circles). The man’s use of those luxury items associates him with the idea of financial success. This association isn’t done by accident; he is purposely trying to communicate how successful he is by showing off these possessions. Or what about if you were to take a woman on a date and you go to Ruth Chris instead of McDonald’s?
How did we come to know what communicates success and what doesn’t? How do we know that Gucci is one of the top luxury clothing brands in the world or that Mercedes Benz is a luxury car? How do we know that a date is better at Ruth Chris vs. McDonald’s? Why do certain things scream success and others do not? It’s because we learn about these items and products through the use of marketing and advertising. We discover what symbolizes success and what doesn’t.
What people consume and our judgments about these things shows that products have meaning. The meaning we give to these products powerfully connects with the views these products represent in our specific cultures and social groups. Since we all see the same marketing and advertising messages we can every so often correctly assume someone’s identity from that person’s possessions. When building and keeping our own identity and character, we are thoughtful enough to purchase products that will send the “right” message of ourselves to others. By sending specific messages to others with our possessions, we also indicate our membership in a social group. For example, if I were going to a Philadelphia 76ers game while wearing a Ben Simmons basketball jersey, it will signal that I am a part of a group of 76ers fans or at least a group of Ben Simmons fans.
One thing that most people learn at a young age is what makes a person beautiful. But what metrics are used to define a person as a beautiful? The answer to this question is deeply and profoundly influenced by our consumption of the media’s representation of ‘perfection’ when it comes to humans. We tend to eat these images up without realizing that these images are often unachievable and unrealistic. Using these metrics of beauty can not only lead us to form identities that include negative ideas about our own attractiveness, but it has the potential to lead us to spend a large amount of money consuming products in the hope of changing our appearance and reshaping our identities to others. For example, a man might spend money on jewelry, cars, clothes, late nights in the clubs, etc. Attempting to recreate images he may have seen on TV or in other forms of media to achieve a specific feeling that he wants to identify with. A woman may buy the latest make-up that Rihanna releases, various lotions and creams that claim to make skin look tighter, lighter and younger, and even get lip injections or cosmetic surgery. But ultimately buying these items or participating in these activities rarely, if ever, convert into us looking or feeling like the ‘beautiful’ people we see in the media, and we’re left unsatisfied and still feeling negative about ourselves.
In our culture, which is based on consumerism, it is undeniable that products and items represent who we are as people. This consumerism culture can lead to misery and disappointment within ourselves if we do not monitor what our brains consume. We must first understand that we are one of one. There are no two people that are exactly the same on the planet earth. Our genetics, our DNA, and our experiences are all different. My advice to people is to monitor what eat in all areas of your life. Protect your mind, body, and soul. Remember what you buy is who you are, and you are what you eat. But who does the dishes?