Food

Some of the World's Most Successful and Richest People Have Quirky Eating Habits: Is There a Connection ?

A diet and success link, perhaps?

First Lady Michelle Obama helps prepare food from the White House Kitchen Garden with local students who helped plant the garden in the spring, during an event in the State Dining Room of the White House, June 12, 2014. At right is Dora Rivas, Executive Director, Food and Child Nutrition Services Department, Dallas Independent School. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Photo Credit: Amanda Lucidon/White House

Simone Biles celebrates a win with pepperoni pizza. Steve Jobs was a vegan who ate only carrots or apple for weeks on end. Beyoncé sings that she has hot sauce in her bag and Hillary Clinton claims she carries spicy condiments in her purse. Bill Gates demands diet Cokes in his hotel refrigerators when he travels and eats cheeseburgers for lunch on an almost obsessive basis.

Some of the world’s most successful people have quirky eating habits. Are their eating habits an indication of their creativity and quirkiness or rather a look into what powers them to success?

Over the years, extensive research has linked healthy diets to academic success for young students, correlating lower fruit and vegetable consumption to lower grades and eating a nutritious breakfast to higher standardized test scores, but do similar results extend to professional success as an adult?

“Diet is completely linked to success, as are many lifestyle choices,” Tricia Williams, executive chef and founder of Food Matters NYC, a personalized food service company, said. “Food produces a biochemical response in the body that effects our mood and brain function.”

“I always tell our clients, if you are going at to an important business breakfast, what are you going to eat: Bacon and eggs, or pancakes? To make bold powerful decisions you need the fat and protein in bacon and eggs,” Williams said. She also believes that what we eat converts to intangible energy. For example, if you need to feel more grounded, you should eat things that grow in the ground like root vegetables rather than foods that grow high on trees. In this case, eating is believing.

“There is no doubt dietary habits can impact productivity in the workplace,” naturopath Jen Stagg said. “In fact, healthy diets, rich in fruits and vegetables, have been associated with higher job performance.” Just look at companies that invest in workplace wellness programs focusing on diet and exercise, many of which provide meals and snacks as well as gym memberships or in-office workouts to encourage healthier, and therefore more successful, employees.

While nutrition and success are linked, the diets of successful people are not always nutritious. Warren Buffet “eats like a six-year-old,” famously claiming to eat chocolate chip ice cream for breakfast and regularly snacking on Coke with Utz’s potato sticks. Buffet may be the third richest person in the world, but his junk food routine may be an outlier when it comes to eating for success, especially when you’re measuring success in your career.

“Interestingly enough, many high-profile CEOs and successful entrepreneurs have been documented to have notoriously unhealthy diets, and sometimes extremely strange eating habits,” Stagg said. “We know there are many factors that drive success in these people, including a positive mental attitude, meditation and continued focused learning. The flip side is that although they are mentally ‘wired’ for success, they could possibly achieve more if they added healthy eating into their daily routine…we don’t know how much more successful these individuals could have been had they valued healthy eating.”

In her practice, Stagg has witnessed “highly successful executives” improve their performance by improving their health through diet and exercise. 

Unconvinced that your diet can help link you to success? While the diets of professional athletes may best fuel them for success in the physical fields, success is broadly defined. For your best personal success, be it a happy life, achieving career milestones or breaking down barriers and striving further toward your goals, empirical evidence shows that eating a well-balanced diet can help lead to the type of success you envision for yourself.

“Diets that are built for success include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and dairy rich foods,” said nutritionist Maria Sorbara Mora. “Foods that are loaded with good fats such as avocados, nuts and nut butters and fatty fish support critical brain development.”

Of course, you should always speak to your doctor before drastically changing your diet, but consider shifting toward a healthier eating regimen to boost the success in your life. Here's how that works.  

You’ll save money

A December 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health proved that those with healthier diets rich in fruit, vegetables and lean proteins saved $1.50 a day on food, or roughly $550 annually, not to mention the eventual lower healthcare costs associated with eating a balanced diet. Extra cash flow can be invested in education, leisure or just saved for the future, all of which can lead to greater success down the line.

You’ll feel happier

Food affects your mood, and we’re not just talking about feeling hangry. “Dietary changes can bring about changes in our structure (chemically and physiologically), which can lead to altered behavior,” webMD explains. Getting carbs from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes which have other nutrients and are high in fiber can boost your mood as well as consuming foods with omega-3 fatty acids and eating a balanced breakfast.

Psychology Today also notes that low-nutrient, high-calorie foods as well as alcohol and caffeine can contribute to depression, while several healthful foods can act as natural antidepressants, like foods rich in vitamin D and selenium. Eating dark chocolate has also been linked to boosting serotonin in the brain, which can lessen symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. And less stress can lead to so much more success!

You’ll sleep better (and have more energy)

The National Sleep Foundation says that eating a balanced snack of carbohydrates and protein before bed will get you the best nights sleep. As opposed to eating simple carbs, which cause a crash during the day and will cause drowsiness, fill up on fiber and protein for longer-lasting energy and an eventual better night’s rest. And when you’re well rested, you can think, work and live better. Look at Today Show’s Al Roker, who told Bon Appétit in 2013 that, “after my 7:30 weather [segment] I usually make a protein smoothie which consists of protein powder, fiber powder, 8-ounces almond milk, frozen berries, a little ginger, and a little agave. Maybe I will throw in a little almond butter, too." And this is all after waking up at 3:15am and biking to work.

While the proven key to feeling your best, and therefore producing your best work (in many cases), is eating a balanced diet, immensely successful people still have their diet quirks. Take a look at the Infographic below that explores the unusual eating habits of successful people. 

The above infographic was produced by Unum Limited. Reprinted with permission.

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Melissa Kravitz is a writer in New York City who writes about food and culture for First We Feast, Thrillist, Elite Daily, Edible, and other publications. She is a writing fellow for Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute. Find her online at melissabethk.com. Follow her on Twitter @melissabethk.