Activate your brain with diet and Agile

By: Rich Stewart
Published Date: 16 December 2018

I recently had the opportunity to hear Scott Halford deliver an outstanding keynote talk at my company’s internal training event on the topic of “Activate Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Success.” Halford is the best-selling author of Activate Your Brain: How Understanding Your Brain Can Improve Your Work – and Your Life (2015) and an inductee into the exclusive National Speakers Hall of Fame.

Cover image of Activate Your Brain


Impact of diet on your brain

Both my wife and I are very aware of the impact of diet on our energy level, focus, and short and long-term health. So, as I was sitting and waiting for Halford to deliver his talk, I thought to myself that it would be a big miss if he didn’t include the impact of diet on how our brains function.

I am more than a little cynical about the lack of focus on diet and preventative health by the mainstream medical profession. Fortunately, Halford does not have a medical background and he was not trained solely to treat symptoms. Instead, his research of neuroscience led him to understand the direct impact of diet on brain function.

What did I learn from Halford about the impact of diet on brain activation? I won’t give an exhaustive list here since Halford devotes a good chunk of a chapter to this topic in the aforementioned book. Here are a few of my favorite highlights.

He validated my daily habit of eating berries (usually blueberries) as part of my breakfast. Turns out berries boost memory function and for someone who has suffered from CRS (can’t remember sh*t) for most of my life, I need those berries. It won’t enable me to keep up with my wife, but it might narrow the gap. She is one of those rare people who is able to recite an entire conversation word-for-word, sometimes even months or years later. Very useful for her in her career, but as a husband sometimes I’d prefer she couldn’t recall some things I’ve said.



I also got validation for eating an apple after lunch every day. Turns out apples make you smarter. At least for a little while. They contain choline, which helps synapses fire rapidly.

Later the same day after the keynote talk, I got a lot of mileage out of this knowledge. I was eating an apple while sharing lunch with my Agile team members prior to a training we were about to conduct and I couldn’t help saying “I’m getting smarter” while munching on the apple. Unfortunately, karma is a bitch and a little later I did or said something stupid and my team members gave me crap for my apple comment.

The final diet tidbit I’ll share is about turmeric. This is the spice found in curry. Turns out Alzheimer’s disease was basically nonexistent in India with a traditional diet that included curry as a staple. Who knew? I have to wonder how many early-stage Alzheimer’s patients are encouraged to add turmeric to their diets by physicians practicing traditional medicine. Well, actually I don’t have to wonder.

Our bodies aren’t too efficient at absorbing turmeric in solid form, so unless you’re eating a diet rich in turmeric on a daily basis, it might be best to try an organic herbal tea with turmeric. Many grocery stores now sell this product or it’s easy to purchase online.

One more diet-related rant before I turn to Agile. I mentioned the traditional diet in India. While I haven’t been to India, it’s high on my list because I work with a lot of wonderful people from various parts of that country and because I had a thing for India when I was a kid. Could have been a past-life memory but that’s a topic for another day. Anyway, I strongly suspect if I visit India I’ll find their diet has begun to be corrupted by western fast foods and processed foods. I found this very thing in the US territory of American Samoa when I lived and worked there for about eight months back at the turn of the century. It just took a short puddle jumper flight to the independent country of Samoa to see the stark contrast in the stature of the same native peoples when they were still eating a traditional diet.


Impact of Agile on your brain

So, what is Agile and what does it have to do with activating your brain? Agile is a term widely used in software development as an umbrella term to describe how work gets done and both teams’ and individuals’ mindset about doing same. (I capitalize Agile for this purpose.) Think of the well-known picture of the evolution of man.