“Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Everyone knows that eating right and getting enough exercise are important for vitality and longevity, but what we eat and how much we move our bodies also affects our ability to code and recall memories, increases or decreases our confidence levels (a highly under-appreciated component of language learning), and fosters or extinguishes motivation to do the things we know we should but don’t always feel like. I know from personal experience that when I succumb to bouts of gluttony or sloth:

  • I am far less motivated to study or work on projects.
  • Less of the material sticks if I do muster the motivation to crack a book.
  • I get serious writer’s block and hate whatever I do manage to vomit on the page.
  • I feel awkward in social situations and am less likely to make meaningful connections.

On the flip side, when I move my body (heavy weights, Wing Chun, and long walks) and eat the right things (pasture-raised meats, wild caught fish, and in-season organic vegetables):

  • I am excited to spend time with foreign languages and work on projects.
  • I understand and remember new words, structures, and concepts with far greater ease.
  • My fingers have a hard time keeping up with the flood of ideas coming forth while writing blog posts or books, and I am usually happy with what ends up on the page.
  • I feel confident in social situations, talk up perfect strangers, and find myself surrounded by serendipity wherever I go.

This is not just a matter of psychology. Eating crap and sitting on the couch significantly affect your endocrine system, screwing up the proper balance of key hormones like testosterone, estrogen, growth hormone, insulin, leptin, ghrelin, and cortisol. These hormones control myriad physical and cognitive functions, affecting everything from confidence to the size of your waistline.