'You Are What You Eat': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on December 15, 2023

Have you ever wondered what it means when people say, 'You are what you eat'? If so, you've come to the right place. In this article, you'll learn the idiom's meaning, its origins, and how to use it in a sentence.

If you're just here for the short version, here it is:

  • When we say, 'You are what you eat,' we're referring to the fact that what we eat and how we feel are closely connected. If we eat healthy food, we'll feel vibrant. If we eat junk food, we'll feel crappy.

What Does 'You Are What You Eat' Mean?

This expression is a perfect example of how idioms can't be interpreted literally. Idioms are groups of words used to express a concept that only makes sense as a whole; the meaning can't be deciphered by looking at the terms separately.

When we say, 'You are what you eat,' we don't mean you're literally going to turn into food. You're not going to wake up one day and be a hamburger because you ate a hamburger. But what we do mean is that the food you eat and how you feel are closely connected.

  • The better the quality of the food you eat, the better you'll feel inside. If you eat a lot of junk food, you'll probably feel like junk. 

This saying serves as a reminder of the importance of making good dietary choices and is often used to encourage people to be mindful of their food choices for the sake of their health.

Imagine, for example, that your housemate complains they've been feeling quite lethargic lately, and their mood has been low, too. You might say:

Well you've been eating a lot of takeaways lately. I'm not surprised you're feeling lousy. After all, you are what you eat.

Unlike many idioms, you can't change the form of the verb. The only acceptable form to use it is in the present indefinite tense.

Where Does 'You Are What You Eat' Come From?

The exact origin of the idiom 'You are what you eat' is not well-documented, and it has been attributed to various sources over the years. It gained popularity in the 20th century, particularly during the health and fitness movements, when people began to pay more attention to their dietary habits and the relationship between food and health.

One notable figure associated with this saying is French author Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who wrote in his 1826 book Physiologie du Gout, ou Medetations de Gastronomie Transcendante:

Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.
[Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.]

Later, Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach used the expression in German in his 1863 essay titled Concerning Spiritualism and Materialism:

Der Mensch ist, was er isst
[Man is what he eats]

Despite its early apparition in other languages, it was a while before the phrase became popularized in English.

Examples in Sentences

Now that we've covered the meaning of this idiom and its origins, here are some example sentences that use it.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help you stay healthy because you are what you eat.

If you consume too much junk food, you might find that you feel sluggish since you are what you eat.

She believes that a balanced diet is essential because, in her opinion, you truly are what you eat.

His weight gain is a clear example of the saying "you are what you eat."

As a nutritionist, I often remind my clients that their food choices determine their well-being because you are what

you eat.

People who regularly eat high-sugar foods may experience dental problems since you are what you eat.

If you want to have more energy, you should consider improving your diet because you are what you eat.

Her glowing skin and overall vitality are a testament to the idea that you truly are what you eat.

Over time, a poor diet can lead to health issues, reinforcing the knowledge that you are what you eat.

It's important to make wise food choices since, in the end, you are what you eat. 

Other Ways to Say 'You Are What You Eat'

There are plenty of other ways to say that what you eat and how you feel are closely related. They're great to use if you're looking for alternative phrases.

  • Your health reflects your diet.
  • Your body is a reflection of your eating habits.
  • Good food, good health.
  • A healthy outside starts from the inside.
  • Eating well is living well.
  • Healthy food, healthy body.
  • You get out what you put in.
  • Nourish your body, nourish your soul.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article about this popular idiom. To summarize, when someone says, 'You are what you eat,' they mean it's essential to eat good food in order to be healthy and fit. 

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more! 

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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