Our minds and bodies require a wide variety of nutrients to thrive.
No great mystery here. The idea of a diverse and balanced diet is often introduced through the food pyramid, at an early age. Whether we agree with the classic interpretation or not, the core principle remains true- different foods support us in different ways.
Fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy, fats and oils, and whole grains all contain different nutrients that perform different jobs throughout the body. From building muscle and immunity to aiding digestion and supporting hormones, all of these foods and nutrients work in concert to keep us healthy.
The same is true for information we consume. News, entertainment, communication, and education all supports us in different ways- from providing comfort and inspiration, to helping us learn new skills, make better decisions or connect with others.
But just like there are both root vegetables and leafy greens, fish and red meat- true diversity of information goes a level deeper.
- Within news media you have global vs national vs local news. There are also opposing vs affirmative viewpoints
- Within entertainment there is inspiring vs comforting media, passive vs active content, or fine art vs pop culture.
- Within communication, you can interact with people you know in real life or with strangers from around the world.
- Within education you have both philosophical and practical knowledge, from vetted experts and everyday people.
An optimal balance considers diversity and prioritizes quality at every level
Consuming a wide variety of food and content may be beneficial- but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Our food and media culture have become extremely streamlined thanks to Big business and automation. The agriculture industry prioritizes certain crops and varietals, while media outlets and algorithms prioritize certain content and narratives. (We dive much deeper into how food and media is produced and what is lost in favor of corporate interests in our previous post.)
Issues arise when things fall out of balance. When we eat too many carbs and not enough fiber our digestion suffers. When we consume too much entertainment and not enough education our decision-making suffers.
However an optimal balance looks different for everyone. There is no hard and fast rule about what each of us requires, which is one of the many reasons people take issue with the classic food pyramid.
There are countless factors and philosophies you can weigh to create a balanced diet that meets your specific needs.
- Lifestage: Consider the different dietary requirements of babies, growing teens, pregnant women, seniors. Our bodies need support in different ways as we develop, and age.
- Season: Seasonal eating isn’t just about what produce is freshest, it’s also about what foods support us best throughout the year. For example, watermelon, cucumbers and berries grow in warmer temperatures to help hydrate, root vegetables are ready for harvest in cold months when we need heartier, more comforting foods.
- Values: Some people avoid certain food groups- esp. animal products -for religious or ethical reasons. If this is the case, they need to double up on plant protein sources like legumes and nuts.
- Lifestyle or goals: In some cases our passions and habits can dictate our ideal balance. Athletes boost their energy by carb-loading. To promote eye health, serious gamers are recommended more fruits and veg high in vitamins A,C.E.
- Hormonal: Women’s bodies crave different nutrients throughout their monthly cycle. Iron needs to be replenished during the menstrual cycle, while a need for liver support arises during ovulation.
- Allergies + sensitivities: Some people have adverse reactions to certain types of foods, like dairy for example. Their optimal balance takes these omissions into account and ensure they’re getting ample calcium and vitamin D from other sources.
These different food lenses can help us calibrate our optimal balance when it comes to content and information too:
- Lifestage: It would be unusual for a young child to consume large amounts of news media. just like it would be unfortunate for a grown adult to consume none. The types of information we consume naturally and should evolve over time.
- Season: Seasons impact our moods and energies. If you suffer from seasonal depression, then it might make sense to ease up on news media during the cold months, while consuming more comforting entertainment to self- soothe or instructional content to occupy your time with fun projects. When we’re feeling more active and rejuvenated in the warmer months, maybe it’s time to lessen our content consumption altogether.
- Values: Our values already heavily shape the media we consume, esp news media, as we tend to favor outlets that highlight our preferred political perspectives. To create balance it’s important to offset by seeking out diverse and oppositional analysis to create a more comprehensive worldview. (Ad Fonte’s Media Bias Chart is a a great tool to ensure balanced, high quality news intake)
- Lifestyle or goals: Different goals can lend themselves to different media diets. Say you want to become a game designer- then it’s extremely beneficial to load up on gaming content. If you’re a journalist, then it would make sense for you to take in more global or national news than the average person. Your optimal balance is tailored to who you are and who you hope to become.
- Hormonal: Much like the seasons impact our energy and moods, hormones determine the sort of bandwidth we have and support we require. Your luteal phase may be the perfect time to start decreasing your news intake , while increasing your comforting entertainment.
- Allergies + sensitivities: Some people have different sensitivities when it comes to violence, if watching the news disrupts your sleep for days then it’s ok to say “I’m not going to stay on top of thing so religiously”. If certain movies or shows leave you feeling queasy- cut them out, no matter how popular.
It’s not necessary to weigh every single one of these factors when thinking through your ideal diet. Laying out all these options is simply meant to illustrate the breadth and variety of things you can explore. Intuitive consumption allows you to choose whichever method or philosophy resonates most, at this moment in time.
We won’t meet our goals or achieve perfect balance every single day, but the habit of reflecting on our overall digital intake and balance naturally leads to intentional habits.
Over the next 24 hours make a list of all the types of information you consume.
***TIP*** Don’t be too specific (e.g. The Bachelor, Washington Post article) or too general (e.g. entertainment, news) Think: reality TV, global news.
Reflect on the following questions:
- Intuitively, does your intake feel balanced or weighted towards any specific type of content?
- What content feels beneficial to your day to day or larger goals? Which feel distracting?
- Within each of the categories, are you exposed to a broad or limited range of sources or narratives?
Make a plan by marking up your list:
- Underline what you want to boost
- Cross out what you want to limit
- Star what you want to diversify
- Write in one you want to stat add