J500 Media and the Environment

We Are Not What We Eat by jackiemcc

While I was growing up, I was exposed to many different cultural foods. After my parent’s divorce, my dad introduced my sister and me to a local Indian restaurant. When my stepmom came along, she introduced us to her favorite type of food, Thai. And in high school I had a few friends with different ethnic backgrounds, in which I learned about different types of food from. Before encountering these cultural foods, I was a little skeptical to try them, because I didn’t know if I would like them. However, I usually try new foods at least once. And I’m glad I did, because these cultural foods have been an important part of my family.

This led me consider my personal eating habits, and how they reflect who I am. I don’t think the saying ‘we are what we eat’ necessarily holds true; I think it’s more about ‘what we eat reflects who we are.’

Just because I have a can of green beans in my cupboard, doesn't mean I am a tall, jolly green giant. I am quite the opposite in fact. Photo by Jackie McClellan

Believers of the former popular saying argue that ‘we are what we eat’, because if you eat fatty and sugary foods, you will gain weight and become fatter, and vice versa, if you eat healthy foods, you will lose weight and become skinnier. This may be true for some people; however, it is not true for everyone. Someone with a high metabolism could eat a lot of bad foods, and not gain a pound. It all depends upon your body type.

Also, I would like to beg to differ that ‘we are what we eat’ in regards to our personality. Sometimes they are just not compatible. For example, I know plenty of people who like sweets, and whose personality is not so sweet.

Let’s also consider the literal meaning of a food. Simply said, we are not animals. I mean just because I eat parts of a pig, doesn’t mean I’m a pig; in fact I’m far from it, I’m one of the most organized people I know.

This concept is more focused on ‘what we eat reflects who we are.’ I say this because our bodies conform to what we eat. We can’t control how that affects our bodies; it will either affect us in a negative or neutral way.

We can also be shaped based our cultural experiences and family traditions with foods, like I mentioned above with the Indian and Thai food. My family isn’t Indian or Thai, but it shapes our family values. Everybody enjoys different types of food, and that shapes who they are, what they eat, and where they go. A certain restaurant can be a family tradition, and mean something to that family. For example, when I was a younger, we always went to a nearby country club for Easter brunch every year. It defines us because we have many memories from there.

From a literal standpoint, I can’t stand here and say ‘I am what I eat’, that just doesn’t seem right to me. I look at it from the viewpoint that ‘what we eat reflects who we are.’ We are shaped by what we eat, we are not what we eat.

-Jackie McClellan


8 Comments so far
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I am wondering if eating Thai and Indian food stopped at the restaurant, or did it infiltrate your home and bring up cultural issues, as well. Also, after saying that food “reflects” who you are, how do you think your diet reflects who you are? -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

The Indian and Thai food has had a little bit of an impact in our home. Occasionally my stepmom will make Thai food at home, but it is not a daily occurrence. A lot of it has to do with being in the restaurant. It is a place my family likes to go, and because of that, my dad has brought many friends and ex-coworkers there. In fact, my dad used to go there with his ex-partners from his old work company probably weekly. It had affected his relationships with his friends a lot.

I wouldn’t say it brings up cultural issues in our home, we just like to try to incorporate it into our home sometimes.

As for how my diet reflects who I am, I will say I am not the healthiest eater in the world, that’s for sure. I do try to eat healthy when I can though, and I try to follow the food pyramid if possible. The foods I eat the most are probably sandwiches, pasta and fruit. This reflect who I am because it can have an impact on where I go to eat with friends for example. And with the foods I don’t like, people may remember me because of that. For example, I don’t like strawberries, and every time I tell people that, they’re always like “You don’t like strawberries?!” or “How can you not like strawberries?!” They are very surprised, and they remember me because I don’t like them.

-Jackie M.

Comment by jackiemcc


I am curious to know how your encounters with various cultural foods helped to shape your eating habits? Also, after eating Indian and Thai food, did it incite you to learn more about those cultures?

Micole A.

Comment by micolea

As I also said in my reply to Kristina’s comment, eating cultural foods has changed my eating habits a little bit. Occasionally my stepmom will make a Thai dish at home. It also shaped my eating habits because now I am more likely to try different types of cultural foods whereas some of my friends may not be so open to it.

Also, after eating these foods, it didn’t necessarily incite me to learn more about these cultures on my own. Instead, I opted to learn more about the people from these countries. I found my friend Raeshma who is from India to suddenly be more interesting to me. It wasn’t necessarily about the culture as a whole, but more about the individuals from those countries. Although I did learn about their culture from them, just by being around them.

-Jackie M.

Comment by jackiemcc

I think you are taking to saying “you are what you eat” a bit too literally. Your last sentence, about being shaped by what you eat, is more how I’ve always interpreted it, and if having a varied, eclectic diet has been your life, maybe that’s the kind of person you are overall (this is, fyi, a good thing).

~Ben C.

Comment by Ben

I realized after I posted this blog that we all probably have the same basic interpretation of ‘we are what we eat’.

When I was considering what to write my blog post about, I took it more as the literal meaning. I guess that is just more my personality. I take things literally, and find it hard to find hidden meanings behind things.

I’m not saying my diet is always eclectic, I just like a little variety every now and then, which I’m sure we all do.

From your comment, it made me realize how similar yet different our meanings of this phrase can be. I think we all have the same general idea of what this phrase means, but how literal we take it can make all the difference.
Good point to bring up! I didn’t think of it that way before.

-Jackie M.

Comment by jackiemcc

I see what you are saying, but I think that ‘you are what you eat’ does mean that it shapes your lifestyle. Like you said, eating Thai and Indian food was a way of life for you. It shaped how you saw yourself. That is how I interpret ‘you are what you eat’.
I enjoyed your post.
-Becca N

Comment by beccan

The more I think about it, I keep going back and forth between the two sides. I think it is a combination of the two. Like I said in my reply to Ben’s comment, I think we all have the same basic understanding of what this phrase means, but I think the difference lies in how literal we take it. And I took it more literally when writing this post.

I do agree with what you said on how it shapes our lifestyle, because it does affects what I eat and where I go.
Thanks for bring up that point of view! I didn’t think of it that way before.

-Jackie M.

Comment by jackiemcc

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