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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 2, Issue 13, 07/24/08

The Care and Feeding of Introverts

A couple weeks ago I was having a solitary supper, eating a subway sandwich about twice as long as I needed, and starting a book I've been curious about for awhile: French Women Don't Get Fat.

At the back of my mind I was wondering what I'd write for The Introvert Energizer, plus hoping that reading the first chapter about French women would cancel out half my subway.

The activity at the back of my mind - worry about overeating, wondering about my writing - was fruitful. I suddenly remembered that Marti Olsen Laney, in The Introvert Advantage, says a lot about the care and feeding of introverts. Time for a re-look, to see what I notice.

In the meantime I turned into an introvert grandmother, so I wrote about that instead. But now, halfway into the secrets of French women, I'm still thinking about introverts and food.

When I learned about the physiology of temperament - that it's literally a physical experience to be an introvert or an extrovert - at first my mind was boggled. It hadn't occurred to me that my vague identity as an introvert (I thought about it essentially never) would have anything to do with how my body works.

When I first read The Introvert Advantage I was trying to understand the information about the brain and nervous system. I was having a paradigm shift - introvert and extrovert brains?! By the time I got to the chapter about food, I was on information overload. I read it but it didn't stay with me.

Some time later I heard Laney speak. One of the things she said, with conviction, is that it's very important for introverts to take the supplement lecithin - to build the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

(Acetylcholine is the key neurotransmitter - brain chemical - introverts use on our dominant blood pathway in the brain. It triggers our ability to focus and concentrate deeply for long periods. It helps us feel calm and alert. The temperament researchers say that keeping the acetylcholine level strong is essential for introverts.)

Laney's matter-of-fact conviction about lecithin got my attention. I did a little lecithin research, decided it was reasonable and doable, and have been taking it daily ever since.

But will there be an introvert cookbook?!

Reading French Women Don't Get Fat is the latest example of my participation in the American sport of Figure Out Food (And Keep Eating:-) I think it's a game I'll be able to play as long as I want.

In that spirit, here's a nutshell of things I find useful as I re-visit what Laney offers from her research:

Our brains and our neurotransmitters - and our bodies - are affected by things like food, exercise, stress levels, rest. It's a good idea for introverts (and extroverts, too, of course) to get support from food.

Foods that are known to help increase our main neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, are fish (like salmon, mackerel, sardines and others), egg yolks, wheat germ, liver, meat, milk, cheese, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.

Introverts tend toward low blood sugar. Eating slow-releasing carbohydrates (the ones that don't make your blood sugar spike) helps maintain optimal blood sugar levels. It also helps produce another neurotransmitter, serotonin, which promotes calm.

Dopamine (the main neurotransmitter for extroverts) increases alertness and makes us feel less hungry. It's created by eating protein. Eating smaller amounts of lean protein throughout the day helps maintain alertness.

And one small secret from the French women: evidently they don't read while eating. A lovely idea I'll keep in mind :-).

End of food for thought - on to some practical ideas:

A Practical Idea for Introverts

Think about taking the supplement lecithin.

A Practical Idea for Extroverts

Ask an introvert in your life how they're doing with their acetylcholine production. (Just kidding.)

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