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dinner microI do understand that many of us live incredibly busy lives. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that many of us have what I call “toxic schedules.” Rest is a luxury we frequently yearn for. And, when it comes to food, our fast-paced, modern lifestyles have produced the mindset of, I am too busy to cook, and convenient foods at least give me a little bit of time to do what I want. I just need a break. Sticking that TV dinner in the microwave, and getting your comfy chair ready in front of the TV to watch the latest celebrity show, seems to be a far better deal than fussing about in the kitchen trying to prepare something edible, knowing you will have to clean all those pans later. After a long, hard day’s work in your cubicle, even the idea of preparing quinoa and chopping some fresh cucumber and tomatoes seems as if you have just been handed one of those 20-page paper topics you were assigned in college.

Although modern technology has made our lives easier in many respects, thereby saving time for the things we like to do, it is nevertheless a two-edged sword. As James Gleich notes in Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything, these advances have, in fact, made it easier for us to work all the time. We essentially live under the directorate of time. The clock has become our master. Indeed, we can fall into the trap of living under an unnecessary sense of urgency, which can put us in chronic toxic stress and make us ill—and give us terrible indigestion. Is it any wonder more and more of us suffer from discomforting stomach ailments?

This “hurry sickness” now drives a significant part of our daily lives, challenging the value of a good, homemade meal with fresh, real food ingredients. Sitting in front of the television and watching in-depth discussions on famous break-ups with your microwave meal in hand now seems like a much better deal for many of us. Certainly, I am taking some liberty with my caricature, yet if we are honest with ourselves, there is more than a little bit of truth in the picture I have painted. It never ceases to amaze me that more people know about the latest hair color of a celebrity than where their food comes from. And yet, healthy food is essential for life!

The rise of what journalist an activist, Eric Schlosser, calls a “fast food nation” has contributed to our hurry sickness. According to Gleich, fast food establishments have created whole new segments of the economy by understanding, capitalizing on, and in their own ways fostering our haste. The more we patronize such institutions with our hard-earned money, the more we build a mindset that food should be cheap, fast, and prepared with little effort or time.

Under this “Directorate of Time”, you can become nutritionally starved, even though you are surrounded by what appears to be an abundance of food. Today we have a new health threat. More and more people suffer from both obesity and malnutrition. Our current food system is overloaded with empty calories that do not sufficiently meet our nutritional requirements, and more and more of us are suffering, mentally and physically, as a result.


Talking about the nonconscious and conscious mind in terms of food marketing necessitates a discussion about television, and how it plays into poor food and eating habits. First, I am in no way against television, in general. I have my own television show, and my son, Jeffrey, loves film production and screenwriting. I, myself, watch television (yes, I am a Downton Abbeygo!), and I believe that all forms of media can be wonderful sources of relaxation, inter- and cross-cultural communication, as well as learning.

Yet, excessive television viewing is one of the defining features of our modern culture, and correlates with mental and bodily ill-health. For example, a study of more than two thousand toddlers showed that watching TV between the ages of one and three was linked to attention span issues and a decreased ability to control impulses later on in childhood. Every hour spent watching TV increased the toddlers’ chance of focus and attention problems by a frightening 10%. A 2015 study, published in the journal Infant Behavior and Development, supports the findings of this earlier paper, putting this correlation in startling terms: “Cognitive language and motor delays in young children were significantly associated with how much time they spent viewing television.” Similar correlations between viewing time and mental and physical well-being have been found for both adolescents and adults.

How is this risk related to our eating habits in particular? In light of the fact that governmental bodies and food conglomerates use the television to market their food-like products to both adults and children, the Modern American Diet (MAD) food diet is being wired into the non-conscious minds of every individual who is not aware of its influence, including toddlers. We merge with our environments because of the plasticity of our brains, and environmental influences can become our new norm if we are not guarding our thoughts. Wired-in mindsets are learned mindsets, and may feel normal because of familiarity, even if the mindset or habit is essentially unhealth.

In my book and online app program, 63 days to Think and Eat Yourself Smart, I give you twelve practical, mind-driven lifestyle tips to help you beat the MAD food system we are all confronted with today.

Copyright © Dr. Caroline Leaf
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Caroline Leaf
Web site: Dr. Caroline Leaf
Dr. Caroline Leaf is a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist with a Master's and Ph.D. in Communication Pathology and a BSc Logopaedics, specializing in cognitive and metacognitive neuropsychology. Since the early 1980s, she has researched the mind-brain connection, the nature of mental health, and the formation of memory. She was one of the first in her field to study how the brain can change (neuroplasticity) with directed mind input.

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