There’s a diet for everything these days; runners, yogis, athletes, dad bods and belly bloats. Each diet is tailor made to fit the needs of individuals with varying lifestyles. But what about a diet built for the high and lows of creative life? What should creatives eat, drink and do to help them become conduits of creativity?
I set out to explore something I felt to be true: If a diet is a fuel for a machine, what fuel would I need to become the ultimate ideas machine? I started by looking for a nutritionist who could help me develop a literal 'creatives diet'. A nutrition regime that would help me become the best creative version of myself. I met with Kevin Libby, a world class nutritionist who works with CEOs, actors and individuals in high demand professions, to tackle the challenge.
I identified my goals as a creative director in doing a diet. They are:
o Increase my confidence in my ability to channel creativity
o Have the energy to approach the day with optimism
o Trust my gut more and follow my creative instincts
o Be more clear, calm, open and ignited in both body and mind
No pressure Kevin. He began by suggesting supplements for reducing anxiety, increasing energy and maintaining hormone balance. We identified foods to avoid and foods to explore along with a daily 12-hour window of fasting to allow for proper digestion and improved cognitive functioning.
I committed to 21 days of the plan.
The first thing Kevin said to do was to drink ½ ounce of water per pound of my ideal body weight. Brain function depends on hydration. I became a fish, toting around a 32 oz steel bottle with an alkaline filter. I never realised how many great ideas happen in the bathroom.
I replaced my morning coffee with green tea for sustained energy and I stopped drinking alcohol. As creatives, alcohol is a big part of our lives with happy hours, client dinners and parties after pitches. Alcohol can help the mind flow freely but the negative effects (hangover and anxiety) were too significant for me so I cut it out.
What did I eat? Fruits, vegetables and cacao because they have flavonoids which help eliminate toxins. Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil to increase blood flow and improve brain functioning. Nuts, peanuts and broccoli to protect brain cells from oxidative stress. I cut out sugar as much as possible as it accelerates the aging of cells. I also had a lot of bananas, seaweed and almonds because they have tyrosine which promotes divergent thinking.
I also stopped eating processed foods. The irony is that you might have to stop eating the brands you are working on to come up with better ideas for the brands you are working on. You can find more detailed information about the diet and my experience with it here.
Here’s how the diet impacted my goals:
One of the biggest reasons people fail at a diet is also one of the biggest reasons creatives fail at an assignment: negative self-talk. I started every day of the diet with affirmations. This along with the natural energy my body was getting from the diet significantly boosted my sense of self-worth. I cared less when people didn’t like my ideas and I sold my thoughts more earnestly during client presentations.
Kevin explained how the solution to burnout isn’t necessarily an intense 90-minute hot yoga or bootcamp session. During this diet I took long walks and got lots of rest. Ideas came all throughout the day, most of them were not related to my clients or briefs. I felt like I had the energy to do more than just my job and started working on more personal creative projects.
Trust Your Gut
Intuition is everything for a creative. But how can you trust your gut if it’s out of whack? The gut talks to the brain 10x more than the brain talks to the gut. That means a lot of our thinking is being informed by our gut health. It took five days to balance my gut on this regime and I definitely felt less anxiety. I spent less time worrying about deadlines and I trusted that ideas would come.
Fat comes from stress. When we’re always overwhelmed with work, we tax our adrenal glands and put our bodies into fight or flight, causing us to store fats. Fake sugars and processed foods are neurotoxins that can cause brain fog. By removing processed foods and introducing daily meditation, I experienced clarity of thought that I haven’t experienced in years.
Change is hard. But mostly that’s because we think it’s hard. You only have to make a few small tweaks to your daily habits to feel a shift in your creative output and energy. I feel more rooted in myself, clear in my thinking and energetic about my life. This experiment showed me that getting creative about the way you approach life can make creativity come to you and through you in all new ways.
Bevan Mahaney creative director Grey Westview more - Thought Leaders