Brain Diet

Picture this. On a table in front of you is a plate with a protein-rich entrée, a tasty salad or veggie dish, and a warm carb offering of comfort food. You only have a few minutes to grab a couple bites…

or How to Enjoy Reading Again, part 2

Picture this. On a table in front of you are several plates, one with a protein entrée. Another with a tasty salad or veggie dish. The third has a warm carb offering of comfort food. You only have a few minutes to grab a couple bites before you have to hit the road. What do you do? Stuff just one in your mouth or grab a little of each?

The answer is: a little of each.

The best way to discover or restore reading as a daily, enjoyable habit, is to start with small, reasonable goals and a balanced approach. Plan your reading the way you plan your diet, balancing the basics.

Knowledge is the protein in all the puff pastry out there. It’s what your mind needs to stay healthy. Whether you are satisfied with small frequent amounts or devour large gluts of intellectual sustenance, without a steady influx of knowledge, your reasoning and analytical skills will atrophy.

This isn’t as hard to implement as it sounds. Find something within the realms you already visit. If you like social media, make a conscious decision to follow and read posts by people who have some mental protein in their content. Ignore the others while you’re training yourself to be a better brain consumer.

Action is the fiber of your brain diet. What does that even mean? Properly digested information and ideas WILL GENERATE action, mental and physical. You should be thinking. Dreaming. Imagining. Applying new thoughts to your own situation in some way. It should stir something within you! If your reading doesn’t inspire any actual response, it’s worthless.

How can you find fiber for your brain food? It’s easier than you would think. Consider your needs, interests, questions, and ignorance. Let them direct you when choosing what to read. Don’t just be compelled along like flotsam on tides of waste, bumping into whatever drifts near you, scrolling, searching, clicking, from one to the next to the next with almost no sense of decision.

Repeat after me: I choose what I read.

Say that as many times as you need to, then do it.

Ideas are the carbs and fats you need for practical ongoing activity. Nowadays, our ideas are coming into our mind almost exclusively as images, pictures, and video clips. This is like sugary sodas and candy. They blast their way into your bloodstream the moment they’re in your stomach—heady, exciting, energizing—followed by a crash, weariness, lethargy and discouragement. The secret to slowing down your idea intake, and forcing your brain to digest calmly is WORDS.

Picture media addicts are going to find this hard but take a few moments to find a good article about one of the pics you like—and read it. All those subterranean chambers of the brain, like bowels, will ponder and massage that info, drawing out micronutrients you didn’t even know you needed.

Stories are meals prepared for your brain. This is how we store memories, process experiences, and apply what we learn. Wisdom can’t exist in our minds without some story context. Knowledge that is digested and stirs action will develop into a personal biography, a living tale.

We need to make sense of the sequence of happenings in our lives, the ebb and flow of circumstances, the cacophony of a multitude of tiny decisions made all day, every day. Story is what draws out meaning and imbues the life of an average person with value.

Reading is a habit.

Whether you’ve loved reading or avoided it at all costs, you can build a new habit. Discipline yourself 10 or 15 minutes a day to read, consciously choosing quality brain food, and give yourself 30 days. Having a regular reading spot helps, so does reading at the same time every day.

Articles, quotes, blogs, online snippets—they’re fine for daily light reading as long as you balance your intake and include enough mental substance.


Choose amazing books. Why do I say something that you would think is obvious? Because it takes effort. Don’t read formula books. Don’t read stupid books. Don’t read poorly written books that grate on your mental ears. When you’re trying to revive a love of reading, you can’t waste time on something you despise; (this doesn’t apply to overly critical readers).

If you read before bed and get drowsy, let it lull you to sleep. You’re still establishing a habit. Before long you will look forward to your bedtime reading—though you may want to focus on something that doesn’t keep you up at night.

If reading has never been a joy but you wish it were, consider this. Pattern recognition can be learned at any age and practice will make it easier. Set up a reasonable plan. Choose a book that is captivating and easy. Even children’s books can be great classics.

We have the power to influence our thoughts with reading and shape our minds with the information we absorb. Using our eyes to take in and digest new ideas gives us food for thought and creativity. It’s brain food. It’s heart food, too. Even people who have an aversion to reading ought to find ways to glean sustenance for their minds and souls. At the core, we all need the same things and it’s okay for our tastes to be different.

There are delights in reading books that can never be tasted any other way.

How to Enjoy Reading Books Again

Books used to be doors into other dimensions. Nourishment for the imagination. Escape from the tedium of life…

When did reading stop being fun? When did I lose the thrill of turning pages, devouring printed words, and escaping into another world where adventure and new ideas exploded into my mind?

Maybe it was the starving in the book desert, combing through dry brush, scratched up by the cacti of cheap, poorly written novels. Mirages of ‘great’ books shimmering in the distance. Chewing on fibrous stems looking for a few drops of liquid. Tongue parched and swollen.

Or maybe I didn’t know how to dream anymore.

Or I didn’t care anymore.

Books used to be doors into other dimensions. Nourishment for the imagination. Escape from the tedium of life. They were food for thought, exposure to new culture, and opportunities to have fun.

The book world has suffered the same onslaught as the food industry. Cheap additives, poor substitutes, and tons of sugar. By the time we pick up a good book, we’re already mildly sickened by swallowing bite after bite of shallow words. Tweets, memes, emails, texts, posts, video clips with subtitles. Ads and more ads and more ads. Headlines that pretend to be news but are really just hooks for more ads and more ads.

I took to reading classics but that didn’t solve the problem. What I really wanted was to find new authors I could enjoy without being subjected to all the junk that was clogging my intake valve.

Our brains are turning into bigger couch potatoes than our bodies.

What if all these word-clips—mental junk food—were required by law to include a list of ingredients? The shock would do us good. In fact, the only way you can do this idea justice is if you walk into a grocery store, or your kitchen for that matter, and pick things up and start reading the ingredients out loud. Bread crumbs, ranch dip, granola bars… try it.

Now picture this. Before you’re allowed to read a word-clip about the latest fad to improve your figure, you’re given an ingredient list that goes something like this:

Ingredients: mockery, shame, selfishness, embarrassment, fun, sexual pressure, and traces of an increased sense of immediate danger.

And this is also tacked on:

Warning: content has been determined by the FCC to be addicting in nature and unsuitable for minors or the elderly or people with compromised mental stability.

It unlikely we’ll see anything like that in the near future, and maybe it’s just as well. There’s enough stress in the modern world without obsessing about the burden of modern info-mania.

The solution is simple.

A brain diet.

I’ve reviewed a few indie books I enjoyed and will continue to do so, looking for stories that nourish the mind.

Suzanne Hagelin

Writing and publishing books with nutrition for creative minds. 

VPR books