You are what you eat (The content that you consume)

Strive Karadzangare | September 11, 2021

You are what you eat. "But, in what sense?", you may question. Let us have a brief overview of human development; and its contributing factors, in order to shed some light on that matter.

Human development (growth) features a set of delicate and intricate processes that foster changes to people, of all ages, ultimately determining who a person is (or becomes) at any given point in life. Certain growth processes require several inputs, such as nutrition. Normally, you choose what you want to eat; and what you eat, in turn, influences your physical growth. If you regularly feed on unhealthy food, your growth may be adversely affected. Conversely, regularly feeding on nutritious diets, certainly enhances one’s growth. Of course, that fact is pretty obvious, but the interesting take-away from it, is that: to a certain extent, you are in charge of your development. You can partly alter your physical development - just by cautiously choosing what you eat (what you take in).

The same sentiment holds true for the other areas of development: such as the development of thoughts and social behaviour. The role played by informational content (what we read, watch or listen to), in shaping our thoughts and behaviour, has increasingly come to the spotlight; especially in this era, which is marked by disruptive technologies and revolutionary ideas. I have recently bumped into a Twitter thread by a gentleman named Owen Marowa, (username: @van_0z) which serves as a good example of an increase in awareness, about the role of media content consumption on development. In his thread, he develops the notion, "You are what you eat", in a bid to urge people to pay particular attention to the type of media content that they expose themselves to. The tweet led me to think differently about the effects of the informational content at a person's disposal on the development of their thinking and behaviour. Moreover, it led me to intuitively realise a sense in which, we are indeed what we eat, from the dimension of content consumption; alone.

Below is the thread of tweets in the pictorial format:

The newfound perspective

Amazingly, unlike machines, we do not have bulky, removable parts which can be periodically replaced by bigger parts - whenever there is a need to expand the body. If we were like that, then human growth would have simply been a matter of swapping smaller parts, with bigger parts. For example, to make a person taller, we would only have to replace a pair of short legs; with a pair of long legs. On the contrary, humans progressively become bigger and more powerful; owing to the nutritional value of the food that they consume every day. The body continuously extracts chemical molecules (e.g. proteins, fats etc..) from what we eat; and uses them to augment the size and strength of our body tissues, ultimately leading to noticeable changes in height, weight and strength. In essence, all these materials inherently become [part of] us. Normally, we do not get these materials elsewhere, except the food that we either eat or drink.

So, as a generalisation, we are [materially, made up of] what we eat! Clearly, food and drink are important inputs to the developmental processes. Nevertheless, several other inputs influence all aspects of human development, beyond mere physical growth. In fact, food is largely important to physical development. However, human development extends beyond the physical development aspect; and includes other complex areas of development, such as the development of reasoning and social behaviour, which both require nontangible inputs, due to their intrinsic nature.

The development of reasoning, thinking patterns and social behavioural traits (development of the mind) has a critical role, in broadly defining: how we conceptualise things, how effectively we interact with other people and how we deal with different situations in life. In fact, it is a type of development that defines who we are, beyond our physical characteristics. However, similar to physical development; such type of development also requires some inputs, which you can regulate, in order to influence development. In the case of physical development, we have already established that you can regulate the inputs, such as food, in order to alter the physical growth outcomes.

In a similar way, you can also regulate your exposure to particular concepts, beliefs, attitudes and ideological perspectives; if you desire to improve the development of your mind. It is worth noting that, we are particularly exposed to those concepts and ideas in our daily conversations and the content we consume, whether in the media or in literature - as affirmed by Owen Marowa, in his Twitter thread. Furthermore, discussions centred on the effects of entertainment, on the development of the mind, are somewhat controversial because many people generally turn a blind eye towards the potential effects of their choice of entertainment. This is quite disturbing, given that formal inquiries into the matter, have often confirmed that our choices of entertainment, indeed play significant roles in shaping our attitudes and beliefs.

The effects of media content on your thinking and behaviour

A report in an article by the World Bank relates the conscious and subconscious effects that media content may have on people's beliefs and attitudes, which also happens to relate to the sentiments expressed by Owen Marowa, in his tweet. The article reports that heavy viewers of television may come to believe that the real world is similar to the television world. Additionally, the article reported two other effects that may affect an individual that is chronically exposed to 'culturally polarised' media content. One of the effects is called mainstreaming, which happens when heavy users of a certain type of media (e.g television) begin to lose the attitudes, beliefs or customs of their cultures - in favour of the ones that they are repetitively exposed to, in the media.

The other effect is called, the mean world syndrome, which develops when media consumers become so overwhelmed by negative portrayals of [disloyalty, injustice,] crime and violence, such that they may begin to form exaggerated views and irrational beliefs of the cruelty which exists in the real world. Moreover, you may have noticed that the mean world syndrome is in close agreement with what Owen Marowa, mentioned in his 3/4th tweet. Such an agreement, indeed confirms that these effects are real and relatable. Thus, you and I ought to be particular about our choices of entertainment and the amount of time we devote to our entertainment. Better yet, we may even positively harness media effects, such as the mainstreaming effect, for our own benefit.

Although certain content may have undesirable effects on people, some of it is actually beneficial to people. In fact, a lot of wholesome content exists out there. Therefore, I urge you to keenly search for wholesome media content. When you do find it, please try to leverage the mainstreaming effect, as previously outlined; by harnessing the wholesome content, as a tool for substituting negative attitudes and thoughts with uplifting, positive attitudes and ideas, that are expressed by personalities who are featured in good media programmes.

In particular, I have come to realise that, the effective individuals who are portrayed in good media programmes mostly have characteristic patterns of thinking, behaving and socializing; which lay a foundational framework for their effectiveness. You too can come to internalise and emulate those qualities. This realisation struck me when I discovered a Zimbabwe-based show entitled: In Conversation with Trevor, which unbundles the experiences of leaders, who have proven to be effective in some aspects of their lives; mostly their careers. From that show, I was particularly impressed by how relatable their experiences are. Some of the participants had to put up with many failures, but their attitudes toward failure were so remarkable, that they helped me to embrace failure as a clue to what I still have to learn. In essence, failure presents all of us with the chance to develop ourselves. It was certainly good to get those lessons from that media program.

In a world where technology is at the centre of an information revolution, we can never run short of wholesome content, in the form of books, online articles and movies that are packed with uplifting lessons. Some documentaries from which I drew positive lessons include Ford vs Ferrari, The Men Who Built America and The Good Doctor. This is merely a small list, from an extensive one; of some of the content from which I drew lessons. I am perpetually in search of good content because it helps me to simultaneously satisfy both my desires to learn and to be entertained. Speaking of, you are at liberty to suggest some good content, in the comments section.

As stated by Owen in his tweet: if you are looking to regulate your development, you will never go wrong if you regularly consume personal growth content. Fortunately, since you are reading this article, you are in just the right place because this platform (Inspishare) aspires to host a great deal of personal growth and 'effectiveness' content. I sincerely hope that consuming good content will enhance your growth because you are what you eat. Bon appetit!

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I would like to express my gratitude to:
- Owen Marowa, for letting me borrow insightful points from his tweets
- Amanda Mukonoweshuro, for her excellent, work in editing this article
And to everyone who has offered their support for Inspishare in any way

Reference Links:
The Television show entitled: In Conversation with Trevor:

The web article by Corporate Coaching group:

Article on Human Growth and Development:

Article on Media Effects by The World Bank:

Amy Mukonoweshuro A well-articulated and formulated article, which is thought provoking and absolutely relevant; especially in this tech era. Was a joy to edit! Keep up the great work, Mr S.
Amy Mukonoweshuro A well-articulated and formulated article, which is thought provoking and absolutely relevant; especially in this tech era. Was a joy to edit! Keep up the great work, Mr S.
Strive Karadzangare Thanks for your wonderful feedback, Amanda. I am definitely motivated to share more of these articles.