I wanted to address some of the points made in an article from The Guardian. The article states that detox itself is a myth and that there is little we can do to aid in the process of eliminating toxins. I agree that there is no one solve-all detox method. I’d like to bring some understanding and clarity to this whole process. Detox is a very real thing that we perform all of the time. Detox is a natural part of a healthy life; it is the ability to let go and release the physical, energetic, and emotional excess we’ve gathered throughout the day and over time. It is a similar process to cleaning a room; we tidy today’s mess, but we also clean the mess that builds up over time. Detox is more than what goes into our body, it is also about what we can not release. The ability to consistently and rhythmically gather, process, and release excess is the way I define a healthy metabolism. We regulate metabolism through mealtimes and food choices. Eating consistently at regular times and basing our meals around grains, beans, and vegetables allows us to create a healthy metabolism. Our metabolism is further strengthened by sitting down to eat our meals, thoroughly chewing, and also by walking, cleaning, and other natural activities. During the day, we are active and taking physical nourishment. At night, our bodies utilize the foods we’ve eaten during the day to maintain, repair, and gather the excesses for elimination. Early to bed and early to rise are they keys to creating a healthy metabolism, ideally sleeping before midnight and waking no later than 7 a.m. Sources of toxins The process of detox Our kidneys and intestines, liver, lungs, and skin are all part of the detox process. In order to eliminate, our body needs to localize excess first, in various areas of the body. The most healthy and efficient way of eliminating excess is through our kidneys and intestines. If there is excess that can not be be completely eliminated through the kidneys and intestines, the lungs and skin assist the detox process. The liver breaks down and metabolizes fats, as well as neutralizes both toxins and acidity. Detox is further aided through natural outdoor activity, expression, and even thought. With a positive mind, the ability to gather and eliminate excess increases. When we are depressed and closed off, there is a higher chance of stagnation and gathering of excess into toxins. This is why there can be no one method for detox, because the process is comprehensive and related to our entire diet, lifestyle and outlook. The body is constantly trying to create order, to clean, and renew itself. Healthy dietary and lifestyle habits contribute to a more efficient detox process. I’ve found that the causes of many illnesses are from what we are unable to release. The 7 steps explained in “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet” are designed around the daily practices we can adopt for healthy nourishment and elimination. The combination of our food choices, eating habits (such as sitting down to eat and specific mealtimes), integrated life activity, and the body rub, detox occurs naturally with little to no forethought. Detox can be aided through different types of internal and external home remedies. However, remedies must be combined with diet and lifestyle habits to be effective in the detox process. Detox remedies can not replace or substitute for good diet and lifestyle practices.
-Environmental pollutants. The most common in today’s environments are heavy metals, industrial pollutants, plastics, and some forms of radiation.
-Food choices. There are always parts in foods that our body doesn’t use in the digestive process. Even the healthiest food will have some waste that must be eliminated. Poor quality (refined and processed), and more excessive foods (animal, dairy, and added sugars), leave behind more harmful byproducts for elimination.
-Poor digestion. The combination of eating habits and food choices may contribute to poor or sluggish digestion. Foods lacking fiber and overeating often stagnate the digestive system. There is physical limit to how much our digestive system can process. A weaker digestive system has more difficulty breaking down foods and absorbing available nutrition. This often leads to a lack of satisfaction and overeating. The later we eat a meal, the longer it takes for our body to digest the same amount of food, and with each hour, digestion becomes more sluggish. When we eat within three hours of falling asleep, we don’t have enough time to digest the foods, and while horizontal, digestion slows even more, which also causes foods to putrefy.
I wanted to address some of the points made in an article from The Guardian. The article states that detox itself is a myth and that there is little we can do to aid in the process of eliminating toxins. I agree that there is no one solve-all detox method. I’d like to bring some understanding and clarity to this whole process. Detox is a very real thing that we perform all of the time.
Detox is a natural part of a healthy life; it is the ability to let go and release the physical, energetic, and emotional excess we’ve gathered throughout the day and over time. It is a similar process to cleaning a room; we tidy today’s mess, but we also clean the mess that builds up over time. Detox is more than what goes into our body, it is also about what we can not release. The ability to consistently and rhythmically gather, process, and release excess is the way I define a healthy metabolism.
We regulate metabolism through mealtimes and food choices. Eating consistently at regular times and basing our meals around grains, beans, and vegetables allows us to create a healthy metabolism. Our metabolism is further strengthened by sitting down to eat our meals, thoroughly chewing, and also by walking, cleaning, and other natural activities.
During the day, we are active and taking physical nourishment. At night, our bodies utilize the foods we’ve eaten during the day to maintain, repair, and gather the excesses for elimination. Early to bed and early to rise are they keys to creating a healthy metabolism, ideally sleeping before midnight and waking no later than 7 a.m.
Sources of toxins
The process of detox
Our kidneys and intestines, liver, lungs, and skin are all part of the detox process. In order to eliminate, our body needs to localize excess first, in various areas of the body. The most healthy and efficient way of eliminating excess is through our kidneys and intestines. If there is excess that can not be be completely eliminated through the kidneys and intestines, the lungs and skin assist the detox process. The liver breaks down and metabolizes fats, as well as neutralizes both toxins and acidity. Detox is further aided through natural outdoor activity, expression, and even thought. With a positive mind, the ability to gather and eliminate excess increases. When we are depressed and closed off, there is a higher chance of stagnation and gathering of excess into toxins.
This is why there can be no one method for detox, because the process is comprehensive and related to our entire diet, lifestyle and outlook. The body is constantly trying to create order, to clean, and renew itself. Healthy dietary and lifestyle habits contribute to a more efficient detox process.
I’ve found that the causes of many illnesses are from what we are unable to release. The 7 steps explained in “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet” are designed around the daily practices we can adopt for healthy nourishment and elimination. The combination of our food choices, eating habits (such as sitting down to eat and specific mealtimes), integrated life activity, and the body rub, detox occurs naturally with little to no forethought.
Detox can be aided through different types of internal and external home remedies. However, remedies must be combined with diet and lifestyle habits to be effective in the detox process. Detox remedies can not replace or substitute for good diet and lifestyle practices.
I was happy to read Dr. Neal Barnard’s blog yesterday which shares some of the inner workings of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee at the National Institutes of Health and how the recommended diet for people across the country is made. He says this year, the advisory committee listened to the urgings of the Physicians Committee doctors and dietitians to promote and encourage a more plant-based diet to the people. This blog entry demonstrates that we are beginning to move in a direction of health. There are signs that we can see through the media and our personal conversations every day showing that we are on the cusp of a nutritional and biological revolution.
My presentation this year at the Kushi Summer Conference centered around the theme of the age of macrobiotics. I feel that the age of macrobiotics will begin its unfolding within two to three years. My interpretation is based on recent changes in society, mostly in the attitude and acceptance of the connection between diet and health and between food, agriculture, the environment and climate—including global warming. The caring for and attitude towards animals is also changing. Our consciousness is expanding to include all of ourselves, the planet and all of life. We are also recognizing that the largest way we can stem global warming is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animals, especially beef. There is not an agreement on the ideal way of eating yet, but there is general consensus that what and how what we eat is the most important factor on regulating our health.
I call it the age of macrobiotics because I feel that macrobiotics itself is coming into its time. This is because macrobiotics is much more than a diet, it is a way of life, which includes our approach to eating, as well as activity and lifestyle practices. In today’s day and age, it is difficult for many people to listen to their bodies and intuition. Macrobiotics rekindles a relationship with our inner voice, which helps us to get in touch with what is really important to us. It also realigns our life in a healthy and meaningful direction.
It’s my observation that health craves health and health is contagious. Healthy people, simply speaking, want to make more and more healthy choices in all aspects of their lives. They also want to share health with as many people as possible. It’s an exciting time because there are so many people coming together to make changes for healthier people and a healthier planet. Macrobiotics is unique for its ability to unify and harmonize diversity. It is the philosophy of balance, harmony, and change. Care and love of quality are also inherent to macrobiotics. It’s my hope that this way of life will be the hub that can strengthen and unify our movement towards health.
2 Comments | Tags: 7 Steps
NPR shared some commentary on a study conducted by Cornell about walking. The idea was simple: when people went for a walk under the impression that the walk was a scenic tour, they were less likely to splurge on chocolate pudding after the walk. Another group went for the same walk. This walk was treated as an exercise, and those people were 35% more likely to indulge in more pudding. Exercise often makes people want to reward themselves. The commentary concluded that there is a relationship with the perception of exercise, and the necessity to “make workouts fun”.
The main idea is confusing activity with exercise and thinking that exercise is important for good health. We don’t need structured exercise; we need activity that is enjoyable, stimulating, and challenging. Healthy people like to be active; they are naturally drawn to walking and other activities, sports, or projects. We enjoy a natural activity because it is, for lack of a scientific word, fun and engaging. When children are at play, they do not want to eat. Food is far from their minds when they are playing. But when you tell kids to do their homework, or clean their room, they’ll almost always suddenly be hungry. Play is an open-ended experience that enhances our appetite for healthy food, to sustain our healthy play.
Most of my clients report that they greatly enjoy their walks. Walking is a natural activity and different from a being on a treadmill or taking power-walk. Walking as a part of your daily life or for the sake of walking is fun; you can simply enjoy observing what’s around you or let your mind wander. Integrating activities that you enjoy doing that are fun and challenging to you is like being a child at play.
Less structured exercise leads to less unhealthy snacking. In a recent blog about snacking, I talked about how snacking is perhaps a general response to a deeper frustration we may have. Feeling like we have another task at hand that is exercising is another form of work. And as they say, “All work and no play…”
1 Comment | Tags: 7 Steps
When I was writing my book, The Great Life Diet, I made a conscious decision to only speak in terms of common sense and not try to validate anything I said scientifically. I wanted to speak from my long-time experience and understanding about the connection between diet and health. These observations and the understanding that followed were developed over years of working with clients, together with my personal experience. I knew intuitively that over time that science would confirm and validate my understanding and observations.
I just read a blog on mealtimes and weight loss that again confirms my personal experience and observations. Our weight is as strongly influenced by the time we start our meals as it is by what and how much we eat. We cannot discount calories, but they are not the main factor that regulates our weight. Our food choices and the amount we eat are regulated by the time we start our meals.
When we eat at the proper times our metabolism becomes more active. When we eat in between meals our metabolism stagnates. I see metabolism as our ability to digest, process our food and eliminate efficiently.
Everyone knows people who eat plenty and do not gain weight even without excessive exercise or workouts. You probably also know people who do not need to eat much to start gaining weight. Both of these situations are very common. This means that other factors regulate how we use and metabolize the calories we consume.
Our digestive system is not on-call 24 hours a day to receive and process nutrition. It is only active at certain times. These times have come to be known as mealtimes and have a consistency throughout the world in similar climates.
Mealtimes align us with the rising and falling of nature’s energy and also regulate our blood sugar. Our blood sugar follows the sun’s movement. Blood sugar rises in the morning so that we can be active and gently falls in the afternoon so that we can settle down in the evening. Simply speaking, hypoglycemia means that our blood sugar cannot rise properly in the morning and falls too quickly in the afternoon. This hypoglycemic condition causes us to crave more sweet and rich foods. It imbalances our natural appetite.
Lunch is the meal that has the greatest effect on regulating our blood sugar. When we start our lunch no later than 1:00 pm our blood sugar starts to find it’s natural rhythm. The later we start our lunch the lower our blood sugar dips and the more sluggish our metabolism becomes. The same foods eaten mid afternoon cause us to gain more weight than if we would have eaten them earlier.
Please do not take my word on this. Experiment for yourself. Start your lunch everyday for at least three weeks no later than 1:00 pm. For the next three weeks start your lunch at 3:00 or 4:00 pm. Keep a record of you energy, emotions and weight and see if there is a difference. To make this experiment stronger, start you breakfast by 9:00 am and dinner by 7:30 pm consistently day by day. Try not to skip meals. Eating at the proper times activates your metabolism. Eating late and skipping meals stagnates your metabolism.
I hope these suggestions have you looking and feeling good for the spring and summer.
My wife Susan wrote a blog today that inspired this blog. I was fortunate to discover a health practice many years ago and to adopt it into my life. This practice has become so much a part of my life that a day without it does not seem the same. If you do this practice in the morning your day goes better and if you do it at night you have deeper and more refreshing sleep. I am referring to something that I call the Body Rub or The Art of Skin Rejuvenation. It takes 10–15 minutes in the morning, night or both.
This is a traditional technique that has been practiced in various ways in different parts of the world to help improve the skin, lymph and general health. I originally learned it from my teacher, Michio Kushi, as the body scrub. It is generally recommended to scrub vigorously with a damp cloth, dry cloth or body brush to invigorate and exfoliate the skin and improve circulation.
After years of practicing the body rub in different ways, it occurred to me that a gentle rub is even more effective than a vigorous scrub in many ways. I would like to explain the reasons I have made this fundamental change to this long-standing practice.
Our skin renews itself every 28 days. As long as your skin can get oils, moisture, nourishment and oxygen from inside it will always be young, fresh and blemish free, at any age. This sounds too good to be true. but it is not. The body rub is a life changing technique. You can think of it as technique that literally winds back your biological clock.
A gentle rub with a hot damp cloth encourages our pores to open and allow fats and toxins stored in our skin to release. The harder we scrub, the more we seal our pores, preventing this release of toxins. I have observed for many years that people who do the body rub the way I recommend have skin that looks much clearer, brighter and fresher than others.
Simply fill your sink with hot water, dip in a folded cotton cloth, wring it out so that it is damp, and gently rub your skin. Try to cover your entire body. Do the body rub separate from the bath or shower. You can learn the specific details in my book, The Great Life Diet, or at an Intensive Seminar at The Strengthening Health Institute.
I am now going to make some more bold claims about the benefits of the body rub. The only way you will know if these claims are true is to do it faithfully everyday for three weeks. You can then determine if you want to incorporate this practice into your life. The body rub cleans your mind as much as it cleans your body. You will find it much easier to let go of worrying or irritating thoughts after doing the body rub. Day by day you will find that you become more aware of your body and will experience an improved self image. Make sure to rub the areas that you are not fond of. The body rub is also a mindfulness and spiritual practice. It is a deep expression of your self appreciation. I hope that you find the body rub to be an enjoyable and valuable addition to your life and a resolution worth keeping. This is your time, no kids, cell phones, iPods, etc. Just gently rub your skin and allow your mind to be free.
When I think about our children I worry. We want our children to grow up to be healthy and happy. We want our children to live long, exciting and hopefully prosperous lives. Despite claims about our increasing longevity, this generation of children is the first that will live shorter lives than their parents.
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last thirty years. It is estimated that one third of the present generation of our children will develop diabetes. Diabetes greatly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, nerve system disease, blindness and amputations. It is not a pretty disease.
I just finished reading the NY Times blog by Mark Bittman, “Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes?” Mr. Bittman’s blog makes perfect sense to me. The pancreas is our deepest organ. The deepest parts of the pancreas produce and secrete insulin. In diabetes the pancreas is not producing enough insulin or our cells are not using it properly.
In macrobiotics as well as Oriental medicine all organs are seen as having a complementary organ or being part of a system. Problems in one side of this complementary relationship effect the other. For example, the lungs and large intestine. The lungs process gas, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The intestines process liquids, the absorption of water and water soluble vitamins (B & C) and then form our bowels for elimination. Problems in one side of the pair signal problems in the other as well. Digestive and lung problems are understood to be closely associated in macrobiotics.
The digestion system and our brain is another complementary system. Our brain processes vibrations, thoughts and memories. In other words, our ability to think, figure things out and remember. The ability of our digestive system to process solid and liquid foods, absorb the nutrients and eliminate the excess regulates our minds ability to process thoughts. The pancreas specifically is associated with our intellect.
The pancreas is harmed by strong animal foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, hard cheese, tuna and shell fish. It is also harmed by refined carbohydrates, simple sugars, especially fructose, soft dairy foods like ice cream and yogurt, tropical fruits especially bananas and iced drinks or cold foods and beverages. In other words, our modern, fast food diet.
The pancreas processes food into energy for life. It regulates our physical nourishment. Our brain process this nourishment vibrationally to guide our life. Our poor diets and lack of natural activity are destroying our health physically and mentally.
Simply speaking, excessive and poor quality animal foods overexcite and eventually exhaust our pancreas. Dairy foods dull our thinking ability and sugar, refined carbohydrates and tropical fruits consumed in colder, temperate climatic regions erase our memories.
Whether you look at this problem from an eastern or western view the end result is very similar. Our modern diet and lifestyle are destroying us physically and mentally and these two problems cannot be separated.
There is a solution to this problem that I discuss in my book, The Great Life Diet. My approach to health is based on adding, not taking away. Complex carbohydrates found in grains, beans an vegetables regulate our pancreas as well as our thinking ability and memory. Systematically reintroduce whole unrefined grains, beans, vegetable dishes, salads, soups, nuts, seeds and fruits into your diet. Start to get more natural outdoor activity. Then just let nature run its course. Health craves health. Eating more healthy foods helps to cultivate our appetite for more healthy foods. Healthy helps us to want more natural outdoor activity. Sound too easy to be true? Try it for a few weeks and let me know.
These are some things that I have been thinking about recently that I wanted to share with you.
1. Everyone has the right to health and happiness. Unfortunately in our country the majority of people do not enjoy these basic rights. There is a severe lack of the understanding of the basic principles that create strong and lasting health. So much of the information available is confusing, misleading or just plain wrong. Many people also do not have easy or affordable access to healthy food choices.
2. Your body wants to be healthy. Health is more natural than sickness. It takes about 10% to 15% of the time to return to health as it did to become sick. Even if we have spent a lifetime abusing our body and getting sick, our health starts to return quickly from dietary and lifestyle adjustments. As a macrobiotic consultant, my clients often tell me how amazed they are with their health improvements in a short time. Even after two to three weeks they report sleeping better, better bowel movements, more energy, more enjoyment and satisfaction from their meals and feeling more positive, motivated and inspired.
3. Health is a direction in life. Health or sickness is a direction not a state. Every day we are moving towards health or sickness. Health is not a static condition. It develops though our daily habits. Sickness is the same. The combination of a good diet and eating habits, activity and lifestyle practices over time move us towards health. We all have the ability to improve our health on all levels day by day through these lifestyle choices. It is unfortunate that most people are unnecessarily moving towards sickness each day due to a lack of understanding of these basic principles.
4. Health is simple. We do not need to do special or complicated things to be healthy. Good food, good activity and a good attitude are the basis of strong and lasting health. Good food means a varied plant based diet, local when possible. Good activity includes anything that is life-related; walking outside, taking the stairs, cleaning, dancing, yoga, mindfulness practice, meditation, outdoor recreational activities and sports for fun and self challenge, rather than professional sports. The Strengthening Health approach to macrobiotics helps create a good attitude. A good attitude means that we try to be positive and open to the possibility of change and creating lasting health. It also includes the development in the confidence of our ability to create our own health.
5. Lasting health is a spiritual condition. Spiritual health, the cultivation of endless appreciation for all of life, leads to mental, emotional and physical health. Health starts with a spiritual revolution that leads to changes in our daily habits and attitudes. This process does not work in the opposite direction. Physical training alone does not lead to mental and emotional development and refinement.
6. Your daily choices influence society, the climate and environment. What you do for yourself, you also do for others. The process of self love and caring through our daily choices, activities and attitudes also influence others. Eating a plant based diet ensures that there will be enough food for everyone on our planet. There is enough food when we eat the grains and beans directly rather than feed them mainly to animals. Eating a plant based diet preserves precious natural resources, especially water and land. It also greatly decreases pollution and green house gases that contribute to global warming. According to recent research most modern diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many common cancers are preventable or reversible with a plant based diet. There are many other benefits that I will discuss in the future.
7. Two important changes have occurred in the last couple years that will allow large-scale change to happen. I have wondered for many years if these ideas can become mainstream and start to create large-scale changes in our society. I have hoped I could see these changes in my lifetime but often doubted that I would. Due to recent changes in our attitudes I now believe that I will be able to see and experience these changes. The relation between diet and health has become mainstream. Recent research alone has shown that eating less meat alone can make a major difference in global warming. This is a social, environmental and health practice that is open to all of us. More and more people believe that they can make a difference through their daily lifestyle choices.
In the early 1990’s I formulated Ten Steps to Strengthening Health. My first step was: Sit Down to Regular Meals Every Day. In many ways it is the most important step because it sets the stage for everything that follows. Interesting enough, it is the most difficult step for many people to follow these days. We have lost the order of day and night and meal times in our society. Meals have become an inconvenience or after-thought for most of us.
When I formulated these steps I decided to not document them. I only wanted to speak in terms of common sense. I thought that the proof and research would naturally appear over time. Recently I came across this article on late night snacking.
In my latest book, The Great Life Diet, a practical guidebook to your macrobiotic practice, I further refined and clarified these ideas. Our digestive system is not on call 24 hours a day to process foods and absorb nutrition. There are certain times when we can digest foods efficiently. These are starting times for healthy meals. Try to begin your breakfast by 9 am, lunch by 1 pm and dinner by 7:30 pm. Earlier is better when possible.
I am using metabolism to mean a three stage process; our ability to digest our food, then absorb and process the nutrients, and finally to eliminate the unused excess. Starting our meals at these times activates our metabolism so that our bodies work more efficiently on all levels and develop the ability to naturally detoxify. When we start our meals at times later than these, it actually has the opposite effect of stagnating our digestion and metabolism. Skipping meals also stagnates our metabolism.
Sitting down to regular meals regulates all of our physical, emotional and mental processes and abilities. This sounds like a bold statement. The only way you will know if it is valid and true is to eat at regular times, in the time frames that I mentioned, regularly for three weeks. Keep notes on how you feel, your vitality, mental clarity, emotions and productivity. Then start to skip meals and eat at random times again and see if there is a difference.
It has been my long-time observation that how we eat is just as important as what we eat. Eating habits set the stage for better digestion and greater enjoyment and satisfaction from our meals. Sharing our meals with family and friends amplifies all of the benefits of eating healthy foods.
I find it alarming that we are gaining so much weight as a society and that this weight gain is starting at younger and younger ages. More than one-third of adults, age 20 years and over, are obese and about the same percentage are overweight. In addition, nearly 20 percent of children, aged 12 to 19 are obese. At my daughters high school graduation recently, I found it hard to accept that so many of our young people are starting off life in this way.
These massive overweight conditions are contributing to heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. According to a New York Times blog last month, nearly one in four teenagers are being diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes. I wonder how we be able to function as society in coming years.
Over the years I have helped thousands of people loose weight successfully and more importantly, keep it off. There is not doubt that the modern diet and our sedentary lifestyle are the cause of this weight and health epidemic. It is easy to observe that all cultures that adopt our dietary and lifestyle practices, gain weight the same as we do. The problem with weight loss is that there is a lack of understanding about the underlying causes of the weight gain in the first place. Weight gain is a symptom of an imbalance in diet, activity and lifestyle practices.
Weight loss programs that are based on restriction and unhealthy foods are doomed to failure. Restriction inevitably leads to excess. Eating less causes you to eat more of the wrong foods. Foods that do not satisfy our basic biological need for health do not lead to long-term weight loss either. It is not so much what we eat that makes us gain weight, it is what our body cannot eliminate. If our metabolism is healthy and active, we naturally eliminate more than we consume. We never have to think about our weight. By metabolism I mean our ability to digest and process the food, absorb the nutrition and eliminate the excess. If we eat the proper foods at the proper times, without skipping meals, our weight adjusts itself properly. Please read my book, The Great Life Diet for more specific details proper meal time and what constitutes a healthy, balanced meal.
When we eat the modern diet chaotically, we start to gain weight. The more we try to eliminate or restrict the foods that are fattening, the more we fuel our appetite for those foods. When we skip meals or eat at random times, we stagnate our metabolism and gain weight. When we do too much strenuous exercise to loose weight, we naturally want to reward ourselves with unhealthy foods. We end up gaining rather than loosing weight. Here are a few suggestions that can help you loose weight successfully and help your life in many other ways as well;
Try to eat a comfortable amount of plant based, whole and unrefined foods, including grains, beans, vegetables and soups. Sit down to eat without reading, watching TV, talking on the phone or driving your car. You will reestablish a connection with your food that will leave you feeling more satisfied with less food. This automatically leads to healthier food choices. Eat quickly steamed green once or twice a day. Walk outside for at least thirty minutes a day. Try to sit less and be active more. Find activities, sports or hobbies that satisfy you more than food. Good luck on your new adventure!
The family meal has played an important role in the history of all cultures. A recent article published in the Daily Mail suggests that the family meal is disappearing. Our busy lifestyles are compromising this long-standing tradition. Snacks, alcohol, and microwaveable foods are replacing cooked and shared meals.
I define a meal as a cooked grain and a separate vegetable dish. This is the minimum requirement of components to get complete, balanced nutrition and to feel satisfied. The centerpiece of any meal should be a cooked grain, such as brown rice, pasta, or polenta. Granola, muesli, popped corn or other dried grains, such as rice cakes, do not count as part of the grain component for meals. The meal is then completed by any type of prepared vegetable dish, like a stew or a salad. Brown rice and steamed kale or pasta and salad are excellent examples of complete and balanced meals.
Meals serve a valuable function in our life. Eating at regular times without skipping meals regulates all of our body’s functions including digestion, elimination, blood sugar, appetite, and moods. The time at which we begin our meal regulates our metabolism and our ability to digest, process, and eliminate the unused portions of our food. Eating at the proper times makes our metabolism healthy and active. Skipping meals stagnates our metabolism and contributes to excess weight gain and blood sugar problems. Try to make lunch your most regular meal. By starting your lunch before 1 pm you will help to stabilize your blood sugar and metabolism.
I think of meals as the glue of society. Meals bring stability to the family and build communication and a sense of belonging. Even though my mother passed away many years ago, I still have fond and powerful memories of our family meals, especially at holidays. Now my own children look forward to these family gatherings, even after they have grown and moved on to develop their own lives. I even observe my three year-old grandson already walking in the door, anxiously awaiting a family meal. Meals also connect us with the past. They preserve our traditions and unite us as a family. Meals brings a richness into our lives that cannot be replaced. The rewards of emotional and spiritual nourishment and enrichment are well spent.