Installment #13: What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Adult Learning

In today’s installment of What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Adult Learning, let’s talk about food. Actually, let’s talk about fuel. Mac needs fuel — good fuel — on a regular basis (like every few hours) to keep going and to keep learning. When he doesn’t get good food on a regular basis, just as when he doesn’t get good sleep on a regular basis, we’re in for trouble!

Snack Time

I know from my own experience that when I am hungry, I am not very effective at thinking, acting, or behaving very well. My mom tells stories of me as a baby needing to eat RIGHT!!! AWAY!!! upon waking up in the morning or from a nap. Forget dry or clean diapers or hugs and kisses: GIVE ME MY DAMN CHEERIOS NOW, WOMAN!

That's me, eating, as much and as fast as possible.

This hasn’t changed much for me as I’ve gotten older, the same holds true for Mac, and I am pretty certain it’s the case for most of us. Food — especially good food — fuels us. We need it to run our bodies and our brains.

In his book How We Decide (which I started reading after I had to make a difficult decision), Jonah Lehrer cites an experiment led by a psychologist at Florida State in which students who received lemonade made with real sugar made better decisions than the experimental group who received lemonade with a sugar substitute (if you’re interested, read the whole description of this study on page 152). The reason, as Lehrer explains it, is this:

The rational brains of these students [who received the substitute] were simply too exhausted to think. They’d needed a restorative sugar fix … This research can also help explain why we get cranky when we’re hungry and tired: the brain is less able to suppress the negative emotions sparked by small annoyances. (p. 152)

Too exhausted — too hungry — to think… Right?!?! I know that feeling!

So … what is good food? (It’s probably not sugary lemonade.)

The more I read about this subject, the more I am coming to appreciate Michael Pollen’s Food Rules, and I highly recommend his “Eater’s Manual” for an easily-digestible (pardon the pun) version of his work. Pollen’s three basic rules are:

  1. Eat food.
  2. Not too much.
  3. Mostly plants.

Mac and Bapa shucking fresh corn for dinner.

With all my might (and it takes a lot of might), I am focusing on this for Mac’s diet — and the fourth line I’d add is this:

  1. Eat food.
  2. Not too much.
  3. Mostly plants.
  4. On a regular basis (every few hours) to keep blood sugar levels stable.

I know there will come a day when Mac will be exposed to the addictive nature of McDonald’s french fries, and already he constantly lobbies for “yogurt stars,” which are basically cookies made to look healthy (thanks a lot, Trader Joe’s). For now, as long as we can hold back the temptations, we’ll do our best to follow Pollen’s rules, such as these:

  • #19:  If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
  • #57:  Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
  • #60:  Treat treats as treats.

Alas, there are already times that we need to call on Rule #64: Break the rules once in a while.

I know, I know: It's an Otter Pop! Long Live Rule #64!

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS OF “WHAT MY TODDLER HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT ADULT LEARNING” CAN BE FOUND HERE:

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2 thoughts on “Installment #13: What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Adult Learning

  1. Pingback: Installment #14: What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Adult Learning « PrattleNog

  2. Pingback: Installment #15: What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Adult Learning « PrattleNog

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