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Is Food Affecting Your Creativity?

by jenny sansouci on March 7, 2013

Last year, I did a 10-day juice cleanse. It was a crazy awesome yet mildly insane experience. At the end of the cleanse, I had firmly decided that food and creativity were deeply linked. In fact, at the time, I thought for sure I was going to write a book on eating for creativity. Maybe I still will.

I felt so strongly about the link between eating and creativity during this cleanse because I had gotten rid of all the crap in my diet – all the sugar, the flour, the caffeine, the dairy, everything. All the things that I never realized might be affecting my creativity. I never would have even thought about it, really. But during the cleanse I had crazy bursts of creative energy, and felt an almost uncontrollable need to express myself creatively. Everything I experienced was touching me on such a deep level, and I had so much clear, vibrant energy at times that I found myself completing entire projects in one day that I normally would have taken a week to do. I didn’t want to stop. Some nights it got excessive, and I would stay up writing until 2 or 3 in the morning because I had creative energy pulsing through my veins.

I know that sounds intense, and it was. I love intensity. But I realized something at the end of the cleanse. Once I started eating regular foods again, I found I didn’t need to be juicing exclusively in order to feel creative energy, but there were a few things that DEFINITELY, without a doubt, blocked me from feeling inspired, caused me to hit energetic walls when I was trying to create something, and caused my energy levels to dip deep into the caverns of creative apathy.

There are certain foods that can lead to fatigue more than others, that can cause us to crash, feel lethargic, and even moody, anxious and depressed. While I certainly believe that depression can lead to deep creative insights (hello, some of the best songs in the world), even the most emo songwriter needs to actually have the energy and mental clarity to produce.
So what are some of the things can block creative energy? Here are 4 that do it for me. I’d love to hear in the comments if you have others to add, or if you’ve had a similar experience.

Gluten – Even those without a gluten allergy can feel lethargic, have a suppressed immune system, experience digestive distress and become foggy-brained after consuming gluten. A muffin is not your best friend when trying to get something creative done.

Sugar – Oh, the rollercoaster of mental insanity that comes with this drug. A sugar high might give you instant gratification and giddy energy for like, a second, but the crash can bring you to new lows of awfulness. A sugar crash can make you feel unmotivated, unproductive and creatively bankrupt, and that’s just not cool.

Coffee – I hate to add this one, because MAN do I freaking love coffee. But, unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way so many times with this abusive lover. I always think YES, if I have that cup of coffee, I’ll be able to just bust through this project quickly and be done with it (same feelings I had back in the day when I used adderall, which is no coincidence). It’s the instant gratification feeling. But for me, this often leads to a crash that only leaves me wanting more. Oh, I feel like crap now and I’m exhausted, but I need to finish this work so I guess I’ll have another coffee. That, my friends, is called borrowing energy from your future, which is in turn creating an energy deficit in your body. As you get more addicted to that artificial energy, the crashes get lower and lower every time until it just starts to ruin your life. (Whoa, I’m ranting). Listen, I totally get that some people can have a cup of coffee, enjoy it, and go on with their life just fine. And when I’m just enjoying a coffee once in awhile (not using it to create continuous fake energy to work on a creative project), it can be a completely enjoyable, sane thing (so don’t come up to me and say anything if you see me drinking a coffee at brunch). I’m just saying that using coffee as a means of enhancing your creative energy can, for some people, be a slippery slope.

Overeating anything – When you overeat, your creativity is all blocked up because it’s taking so much energy to digest all the food. Can you really produce something creative when all you want to do is take a burrito nap? I can’t, anyway. I think the key is not to let yourself get so stuffed that you can’t operate at full capacity. Steve Jobs had it right when he said “stay hungry.” I know he didn’t mean it like that, but still.

Have you experienced this with anything I mentioned here? Do you agree or disagree? I would love to hear how you think eating affects your creative energy. Enlighten me!




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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen March 7, 2013 at 10:24 am

I find this to be SO TRUE. I am also a big time coffee lover and turn to it when I am going to class after an 8 hour work day. But I also know something in the back of my mind, it does jack shit for my energy levels and attention span. On the nights I grab my Americano I always seem to have nothing to say when the teacher asks for our opinions. It’s those nights that I get chai instead that I can’t seem to shut up about the subject and am so consumed and inspired by it (Psychology classes, ugh cant get enough of em).

I’d like to see what it may be like to cut out the other things too. It would be interesting to see how it affects my studies this semester. Thank you for this post, I really enjoyed it!

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jenny sansouci March 7, 2013 at 10:57 am

Awesome, Kathleen. Thanks for sharing your experience…and good luck!

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Bex @ Vegan Sparkles March 7, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Ohhhh how I have learnt my lesson (several times over) with sugar. I handle it with care now and avoid the refined stuff altogether. I found it made me moody and emotional too, which is definitely not the right track for beautiful creativity. I still add a date or two to my raw cacao smoothies but my refined sugar addictions are thankfully a thing of the past. Great article, thank you!

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conspiritech March 11, 2013 at 5:51 pm

i don’t think gluten does me any harm and i don’t eat large amounts of sugar. but definitely large amounts of oil/grease, such as chicken fingers do it. best thing for a light swooshy feeling: beans and rice withextra spices and herbs and onion/tomato/cilantro topping as desired. plus highly spiced veggie/chicken broth (good as beverage, esp3cially if 6ou partied too much last night). and i dr8nk way too much coffee, but herbs tea can contribute nicely. right now i have green tea/tagetes lucida/fresh chamomile and cali poppy plus rhodiola. make it strong though, not like the instructions for green tea say. somehow i don’t think a juice fast equates to ‘cutting out sugar’ but whatever.

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Emily-Jane May 16, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Sounds like a really intense experience..i know that if i go past a couple of coffees a day I am in trouble in many ways :(

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Debbie June 10, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Boy do I ever agree! I used to have a sandwich every day for lunch and couldn’t understand why I needed a daily afternoon nap. I have been off flour and sugar (I do eat rice, spelt and corn cakes and gluten-free oats) and have tons more energy and no need for a nap! As to coffee, I drink a cup of decaf in the morning because I enjoy it. Not for energy.

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