One of the most fascinating business trips I ever did was to Las Vegas. I remember one night I went out without my watch and as I walked through the casino in the Venetian hotel where we were staying I wondered how late it was. I looked around to find out the time and it struck me then how the hotel had managed to eliminate all signs of day or night. There were no clocks or windows. All around the edges of the casino were restaurants and all of them had signs advertising breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. The staff said ‘hello’ instead of ‘good morning’ or ‘good evening’. The hotel even had a whole floor that had been turned into a replica of the Grand Canal. It had a ceiling made to look exactly like the sky mid morning sky, electric lighting that was indistinguishable from day light and additional oxygen that was pumped in to give the feeling of being outside. Wherever I stood there were three or four competing noise sources – the fruit machines, the nightclub, the piped casino music, the dancing girls. It was very difficult to maintain a sense of reality and who knows, in that reconstructed world with no indication of day or night, someone might end up spending hours and dollars at the tables without even realising…
Las Vegas is an extraordinary experience. Everything is replicated and reproduced and its wonderful, audacious inauthenticity makes it one of the must-visit places on the planet. Las Vegas is Las Vegas, however, and if inauthenticity becomes a way of life then something is wrong. Yet it seems that we are steadily moving into a Las Vegas way of life where we lose touch with who and where we are, what we feel. There are so many conflicting sensations and influences and our environments are so removed from nature that it is hard to know what is real. This is not to say that we should go back a couple of centuries but simply that we can be aware of what our bodies need at any given time and act accordingly.
Without awareness, we can easily end up treating our health poorly, this lowers our energy levels and depresses our state of mind. To pick ourselves up, we eat ‘quick fix’ food and drink that exacerbates this cycle. The more we override the signals the harder they are to perceive but it does not mean they are not there. Our bodies are designed to tell us what they need to be healthy. But as we burrow deeper into our sedentary, artificial, air conditioned, electric lit environments and clog up our bodies and minds with over-processed food, alchohol and sugary drinks we grow more and more distant from what our bodies are telling us. And when the body protests so loudly that the signals actually do make reach our awareness – they are then often silenced by drugs without the actual cause being even acknowledged.
These signals are like the coats of the first people to arrive at a party. Initially visible, they gradually get covered by more and more layers until they are almost impossible to find. Then if the first people to arrive are the first people to leave (it does seem to happen that way) all of these layers of coats and scarves and hats and bags need to be removed.
We are starting to realise the value of eating well and using our diet for the tool it is, or as Loehr and Schwartz call it ‘eating strategically’. John C, a creative director at an advertising agency said, “When I know I need to be able to think very clearly and keep going for long periods of time, I actively avoid bad food. Not so long ago, if we were working into the early hours of the morning on a pitch or a big client presentation, we would send out for burgers and chips and we would tuck into crisps and chocolate. We don’t do this anymore – we have fruit, nuts, muesli bars and smoothies to keep us going. I notice the difference. We have the energy without getting hyper or irritable – we’re calmer, we think more clearly, we can keep going as long as we need to.”
The more energy, strength and vitality we have – mentally and physically – the more options we have about what to do with this gift of life.