Absolutely. The physical benefits of a sound diet are easily recognizable with body fat being our most visible factor in assessing a healthy body. However, we don’t always look at the mental and emotional aspect of health as a marker for good dietary habits. You may have heard the phrase, “you are what you eat.” This is a scientific fact. Our tissues, our blood, our bones and our cells are manufactured each day from the nutrients we ingest. Notice that I mentioned cells. This includes your brain cells. Therefore, not only can a poor diet lead to an unhealthy physical state but it can also result in an unhealthy mental state. Of course the most severe condition is some form of mental illness which can often be correlated with a vitamin or mineral deficiency. I am not suggesting that. But, short of mental illness, a poor diet can easily translate into a lack of precision in thought and action. Which is the very thing that every organization wants their leadership team to be good at?
30% of your daily dietary intake goes to feeding your brain. The vitamin B complex is necessary for the health of your central nervous system which is critical to brain function. Essential Fatty Acids promote cellular function and trace minerals provide that “conductive spark” which makes us intellectually sharp. All of these nutrients can be found in whole foods like whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, and animal sources. Eating a processed food diet (e.g. white flour, processed sugar, and trans fats) that is lacking in vitamins and minerals not only fails to provide those things but it also depletes the vitamins and minerals stored in your tissues and bones. That’s because in order to digest and metabolize food your body uses those nutrients. On top of that, virtually all of our mass produced processed food has added artificial flavors, preservatives and food colorings. These added products are nutritionally void and can cause disruptions in normal brain functions. Whole foods come with everything it needs, processed food does not. If you continue to eat food that doesn’t come with their natural source of vitamins and minerals, like Mother Nature intended, the result is an “imbalance” which will ultimately lead to disease. If you are taking a vitamin supplement this may provide you with some necessary vitamins and minerals but it will probably not be enough to protect you from a poor diet. That is because we don’t know all of the components that make up food. We have identified many, but not all, and we can’t provide a supplement for something that hasn’t been discovered yet. That is why real food wins “hands down” every time for promoting good health.
How do we define health? There are several definitions but according to the World Health Organization it is not necessarily the absence of disease. We can use some physical assessments like body fat percentage, blood pressure, resting heart rate, or aerobic capacity to assess our physical health but what about our emotional or intellectual health? By all outward appearance you could look healthy but are you a healthy decision maker? When I speak to a group of managers I ask the following questions:
Info about the author: Mike Neller attended the U.S. Naval Academy where after graduation he served as a submarine officer for 28 years and commanded the nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, the USS FLORIDA (SSBN 728). Mike has over 30 years of experience in the area of sports, health and fitness. He has been a competitive athlete at the collegiate level and coached at the High School level. He was a Navy Fitness Instructor for over 10 years and has worked as a personal trainer with a certification from the Cooper Institute of Aerobic Fitness in Dallas Texas. In the late 90’s he developed and ran a remedial fitness program for Navy personnel who failed to meet the Navy’s physical fitness requirements. This program was unprecedented in that it achieved a nearly 100 percent success rate. As a Nutritionist he has a Master of Science Degree in Holistic Nutrition from the Clayton College of Natural Health, is board certified in Nutritional Wellness from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and holds a Master Herbalist Certification. He is available as a leadership and wellness lecturer.
" ...it was one of the most dynamic and interesting talks I have ever witnessed on general leadership and effective management. I thought it was very interesting to see how you approached the topic from the bottom up -- from the grunt's perspective. This made the topic very easy for me to relate to and gave me ideas on how to develop the leaders I am responsible for."
Noel S. Salac, P.E.
Nebraska Dept. of Roads