You Are What You Eat; The Importance of Sensory Experience

I never realised to what extent the old adage “you are what you eat” was true until Vegan Month. Vegan Month was one of my recent lifestyle experiments, and aside from one desperately hung over Sunday where I decided in the throes of alcohol-induced delirium that pizza was medicine, I was absolutist.

I have been a vegetarian for a few years already so it wasn’t a massively dramatic change – however within the first two days I was feeling much lighter, tranquil, and somehow cleansed. Now it’s not as though I am habitually in a state of stress or anxiety, but I do have a tendency to get increasingly fidgety throughout the day, sitting at my desk at work. This was no longer the case (and yes, I was still drinking coffee) – it was like my mind was a vast, deep lake (I know, cliché right?!) and nothing caused even a ripple. For someone who has always struggled with mental balance, this was like heaven. If I could have bottled and sold it to people like me I would have been sipping cocktails in Bali the next day.

At first I assumed this was just the result of finally living in accordance with my values, but after a couple of weeks I realised it was also strongly linked to my body; that in fact I loved knowing exactly what was going into building it, my cell walls, my muscles, my neurons. I had never eaten so healthily before (no milk chocolate or cookies allowed!) – most of my food was in its primary state (at most secondary as cooked vegetables, hummus, or guacamole) and it felt amazing to know that everything I was ingesting was truly nourishing. That feeling of being fully aware of every ingredient going into my body was so intense that it also heightened my awareness of everything else I was consuming; everything I read, everything I heard, everything I saw.

Everything we consume or are exposed to becomes part of us. This is obvious with things like food (nutrient extraction and absorbtion in the stomach) and air molecules (through the lungs, into the blood), but also applies to what we take in through our ears and eyes. Music changes the molecular structure of water crystals*; our bodies are made up of 55% – 65% water, our brains approximately 75% – what we listens to affects us, changes us. What we see, both consciously and subconsciously, creates our personal version of reality within which we place ourselves, and which informs all of our decision-making.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her fabulous book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, “The yogic sages say that all the pain of a human life is caused by words, as is all the joy. We create words to define our experiences and those words bring attendant emotions that jerk us around like dogs on a leash. Take away the power of words, and see what is left”.

Who are we without our senses? Who would I be if I had no connection to the outside world?

*This assertion is based on the highly controversial research conducted by Masaru Emoto – despite the criticism of his work, it makes sense to me that the different vibrational frequencies of music affect the vibrational frequency of water (which results in varying molecular crystalline structures)