Cravings, A Search For Balance

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I’d like to offer a physiological perspective on cravings and how to work with them. Cravings are a way our body communicates with us. They are a way we seek balance and align with nature. For example, warm, dry weather makes us thirsty.

There are two main types of cravings.

1)  Intense cravings. Unsatisfied intense cravings tend to disappear. These cravings often signify that we are eliminating that type of food from our body and we intensely crave it as it leaves. The best thing to do with these cravings is to take attention away from them and place our focus elsewhere. These cravings usually disappear quickly. If it is something our body needs, these cravings will persist.

 

2)  The other type of craving is that of a persistent or recurring craving, usually caused by an actual need. These are more complicated and try handling them in the following way.

         -You like chocolate, but you decide you don’t want to eat it anymore and so you cut it out.

        -Then, you crave chocolate.

        -Take a moment to consider what it is about the chocolate that you crave.

         -Chocolate is essentially concentrated fats and sweets.

        -You may just be craving more high-quality rich and sweet food in your diet.

        -Or your diet may be too simple.

During a chocolate craving, try substituting walnuts and raisins or make a dessert with tahini or a nut-butter and natural sweeteners. They will probably satisfy the craving and are healthier choices.

 

The best way to handle consistent cravings is to break the specific craving down into its components (taste and consistency) and then make a choice with healthier options.

 

Two Dynamics of Cravings

1)  Yin Yang. Sweet cravings (yin cravings), for many, are a result of eating too much animal foods, cheese, baked or toasted and salty foods (yang foods). Reducing or eliminating heavy yang foods will diminish much of the sweet craving.

2)  Crunchy foods create cravings for more crunchy foods. Sweets create cravings for sweets, caffeine for caffeine. Imbalances perpetuate themselves and it seems difficult recognizing this pattern. Fortunately though, balances also perpetuate themselves. Moving towards balance is the most effective way to overcome cravings.

 

Some Substitutions for Common Cravings

1) Crunchy

         -Add a healthy, crunchy food, such as blanched vegetables or carrot sticks

2) Poor-Quality Sweets

         -Add more grain and vegetable, quality sweets such as corn on the cob (naturally sweet) or cooked onions, carrots, squash or sweet potatoes (which become sweet with cooking). Pureed, sweet vegetable soups are even more satisfying. Rice syrup and barley malt are more natural sweeteners.

3) Fatty Foods

         -Use high-quality, unrefined sesame and olive oil (coconut oil is better suited for a tropical climate) in cooking and salads

4) Animal Proteins

         -Tofu, tempeh or seitan and other plant-based protein, matching the consistency and taste of the particular craving. For example, tempeh often satisfies chicken and cheese cravings.

 

Pregnancy Cravings

A baby begins to make demands and choices from the very beginning. Many women know they’re pregnant just from cravings. Babies first choose from the mother’s blood. If it is not present in her blood, they seek it out in her constitution (teeth, hair, bones). If what the baby seeks is not there either, babies call for take-out, which is a pregnancy craving.

 

My entire approach is not on avoiding cravings, but to help create a healthy, natural pattern of balance.

Chocolate, anyone?

4 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet

Nature’s View of the Night Shift

Posted on by Denny Waxman
<a href='http://fineartamerica.com/featured/camping-under-the-stars-quincy-dein.html' size='20'><img src='http://fineartamerica.com/displayartwork.html?id=3613901&width=249&height=166' alt='Photography Prints' title='Photography Prints' style='border: none;'></a>

“Camping Under the Stars” by Quincy Dein

 

The BBC recently published an article about the effects on the body as a result of working the night shift. It is no surprise that the overall conclusion was that it is not good for us, but one result of the research was that the “speed and severity of damage caused by being awake at night was a surprise.”

 

Night shift workers are a more extreme example of what happens when we move away from natural cycles, which have developed with the rhythms of the sun. All of life moves according to the sun’s movement. The most harmonious order for our health is to rise early, eat at regular times, settle down in the evening, and sleep deeply at night. We have the best ability to get deep, refreshing sleep between midnight and four, which correlates with the time when the most stars are visible.

 

Our natural rhythm is of intake and discharge. During the day, our bodies take in for activity and at night, our organs and nervous system recharge, repair, and gather excess, which is eliminated in the morning. Upon rising, we go to the bathroom and do our morning routine.

 

According to Oriental Medicine, different parts of our body are nourished at different times of the day. The activation of our organs also follows a rhythm. Our kidneys and bladder– the seat of vitality, balance, and elimination– are most active at night when we are in a horizontal position. Our liver and gallbladder are more active in the morning to do the job of fat metabolism and detoxification.  The heart and small intestine is activated by being upright and vertical around noon. A nourishing lunch starting before 1 p.m. activates our lymph and immune systems, harmonizes our blood sugar and resets our biological clock. Walking outside during a lunch break is a very heart healthy practice. Settling down in the evening helps to regulate our lungs and large intestine. Our various organ systems work in accord with natural cycles daily as well as seasonally.

 

Another result of some studies was that “shift workers getting too little sleep at the wrong time of day may be increasing their risk of type-2 diabetes and obesity.” We have the greatest ability to release excess early in the morning and at night our body repairs itself. When we are awake at night and continuously taking in during these hours, we accumulate and are unable to normally release the accumulated excess. If we sleep during the day, our organs get out of sync. If we take a nap sometime after lunch, however, we align with the receding energy of the day.

 

For ex-night shift workers or the sleeping impaired, the best thing you can do to re-align with natural cycles is to start rising by 7 a.m. and eat a regular lunch by 1 p.m. A daily walk outside helps us to reconnect with nature as well.

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A Second New Year; Get Ready for Spring!

Posted on by Denny Waxman

If you didn’t get a chance to make your resolutions stick since January 1st, you have another chance! And this new year also follows the course of nature. This new year, February 4th, is celebrated in Asia and traces of its western roots are in the celebration of Groundhog’s Day. Groundhog’s Day is a token reminder that Spring is coming, and is related to the Gaelic day of St. Brighid. This is the time of the year we get Spring fever, where we begin to yearn more strongly for warmer weather and the outdoors.

This is because nature’s energy begins to rise, causing us to shed the heaviness we have accumulated during the winter. The height of winter also happens to be the beginning of spring. A prime example of this is that the sap in trees begins to run again. We are actually moving into the time and feelings of spring.

The new year brings change and opportunities, and we can align ourselves with this new and changing energy by incorporating lighter things into our diets. Start to cook less, bake less and start to increase lightly cooked dishes and salads. It’s especially important to be cautious about introducing strong sweets and cold foods until warmer weather stabilizes. For example, baked squash and beans are great winter dishes whereas iced coffee and ice cream are best suited for the warm summer weather when we’d like to cool ourselves.

Now is a good time to observe how we can adjust our diet and activity to align with nature’s rising and warming energy.

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Portrait of the Spreading of Joy & Health in 2014

Posted on by Denny Waxman
SHI-CCP Graduating Class 2013

SHI-CCP Graduating Class 2013

The portrait of health has been painted over and over again. People say that in order to look like the portrait that’s painted, you need to follow sets of procedures in order to be healthy and happy. You are probably familiar with those procedures: Eat well in this way, exercise in this way.

Achieving health shouldn’t seem full of obstacles. As we draw near to the holidays, here are five gentle, joyous reminders of health and encouragement for spreading the spirit of joy and health into and through the New Year.

 

Spiritual Health Guides Mental, Emotional and Physical Health.

Spiritual health, the cultivation of endless appreciation for all of life, leads to mental, emotional, and physical health. When we are positive, open and curious for everything around us, our vitality shines. Health starts with a spiritual revolution that leads to changes in our daily habits and attitudes. Physical training alone does not lead to mental, emotional, or spiritual development and refinement. So the process does not work in reverse.

 

Self-love and Self-care are of prime importance. The more you do and care for yourself, the more it spreads to others.

Care in our dietary choices and daily habits helps build a healthy community where we live. As we take care of ourselves, there is no separation from taking care of others at the same time. It can largely be said that our current mindset is one of self-interest that overlooks the needs of others in order to get what we want.  This also has broader, global implications for the health of the planet, the just treatment of all others, and our relationship to our communities. If we are caring for ourselves with spiritual health in our minds and hearts, the opposite begins to happen; we form healthier communities, we strengthen bonds, we nurture the environment and people in ways we may not even see.

 

Health is natural.

When nature is left alone to flourish and grow in its regular state, we see the abundance, diversity and beauty that results. This is a reflection of our natural state as well. Think of a healthy baby which is “unspoiled” or in a natural human state. We can’t help but be drawn to these children and share with them this joy as we remember and invoke our own natural states.

Consequently, it’s obvious to notice that 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.

 

Health is a direction not a fixed state.

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. And since it is a direction, no matter where we are towards health or sickness, we always have the opportunity to move towards health, no matter the circumstances.

 

To create these changes, two things must happen.

We need more healthy friends. These changes become useful and habitual the more we share and practice them. Surrounding yourself around more people enjoying a healthy lifestyle is key. Change will only come when you use your voice and express yourself about what you are doing, experiencing and enjoying.

 

Remember that health craves health in every sense.  This holiday, share your health with as many people as you can. Celebrate!

2 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Mental Health, Weight

Healthy Holiday Survival Guide

Posted on by Denny Waxman
A Feast Prepared and Photographed By Susan Waxman

A Feast Prepared and Photographed By Susan Waxman

The holiday season is one in which we express our appreciation with our friends and loved ones, with a time to experience real joy and togetherness. It’s easy to get caught up in the commercialization of these holidays. This year, I hope we can be more aware of what these times are supposed to impart, which is joy, togetherness and appreciation.

With some forethought and common sense, it is possible to continue with our healthy habits and practices as well as embrace the spirit of joy that the season brings to us. In this way, we can avoid feelings of depression or feeling restricted during or after the season.

Health is a direction, not a fixed state. That is to say there is not an “on” or “off” state of our health and well-being, but we can always choose to move in the direction of health. Some days and periods will be better than others on the path. Even if we take some detours, if we keep our goals with us, we will reach them. So, it is not healthy to feel overly restricted during the holidays as we enjoy them with our friends and families. During the season, keep in mind your long-term health goals, which will help to decide what you can afford. The controlling factors of our health are our eating habits, our dietary choices, and our activity and lifestyle practices. Keeping in mind the following during the season will help with maintaining healthy habits.

1) Remember to eat at the table without distractions. This is a good time to reconnect with those we may not have seen. Even if you are having turkey and cranberry sauce, sitting down and eating, rather than at a television or while standing up will deter you from overeating
2) Try to limit your eating to mealtimes.
3) Wherever possible, include grains and vegetables to maintain the format of a complete and balanced meal.
4) Include foods that naturally aid digestion such as vegetable soups, radishes, sauerkraut and naturally made vinegars.
5) It’s also a good time to go outside walking together.
6) Keep up with your daily body rub.

 

Below are two natural detox remedies you can implement throughout the festivities to maintain digestion.

-Bancha Twig Tea or Kukicha Tea is a naturally alkalizing beverage that activates digestion and circulation. Drinking a cup of Kukicha is a great way to end a meal. “Shoyu bancha” is much more effective remedy that can be used on occasion and is prepared by putting a quarter teaspoon of shoyu into the cup before pouring the tea in. Stir and drink.

-Doing a foot bath is also a relaxing way to detox and warming for cold nights. Fill a basin with comfortably hot water from the tap and mix in a handful of table salt. Soak for 5-10 minutes.

Our practices of self-care and self-love will help us extend those feelings to those around us. Here’s to a joyous season of celebration!

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Recommendations for PMS

Posted on by Denny Waxman

PMS is part of a cycle of hormones–expansions and contractions. Being aware of where you are in your cycle, what you’re eating and how you’re feeling as a result can guide you with managing PMS.

 During ovulation, hormones are causing contractions to release an egg.

The other half of the cycle, hormones are building and preparing for the shedding of the uterine lining. When there is an imbalance during the building process, it is largely related to eating foods which interfere with the hormones being produced and secreted.

 

Animal and dairy products interfere as do baked, toasted and salty foods. Non-animal dense protein such as seitan does as well. Over indulgence in sugar, alcohol and chocolate at this time interferes too, despite possible heavy cravings. Cravings(to be discussed in a future post) are sometimes the expression of the cause of our discomfort.

 

Try this regiment in your cycle and see if any of the symptoms associated with PMS are quelled. If results are not immediate, it may take two or three cycles to notice the effects as the body adjusts.

4-5 days before the onset of shedding, eliminate the above foods and focus on foods that are light and refreshing such as:

                        -boiled grains and pasta

-salads, steamed or lightly cooked greens and vegetables

  -light proteins such as beans

-fruits and mild sweets(malted barley, brown rice)

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Our Trip to Taiwan

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Susan and I are on our way to Taipei, Taiwan at the invitation of our client. We will be there for about a week to support her on her journey back to health.

We are also going to explore new foods and cooking styles. This will help us to further understand the application of our macrobiotic principles in tropical environments. So many of the vegetables and other foods she has described are so different from the ones we are using to here.

Over the years I had the chance to offer seminars and counseling in many countries, both east and west, north and south. These travels and experiences helped me develop my understanding of the best practice of macrobiotics in each of these regions. Now this opportunity to visit Taiwan will further help Susan and I make our approach to macrobiotics truly international.

We look forward to reporting on our new adventure after we return. Please also check out Susan’s latest travel blog.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy

Cooking Friend or Foe?

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Food is a touchy and personal subject. It affects us in so many ways and we often feel threatened by changes in our food choices and preparation. I hope to express these ideas with openness, curiosity and respect, as food is at the very core of our health and life.

We have grown up with so many mythologies surrounding food. Thanks to T. Collin Campbell and his ground breaking book, The China Study, it is finally becoming more widely known that plant protein is superior to animal and dairy protein in every way. I was so happy to find The China Study as it confirmed everything that I wrote in my book, The Great Life Diet.

Modern education about the importance of animal and dairy proteins has created far more harm than good throughout the world. Yet, most people still ask, “Where’s the protein?” The correct answer is that it is in all plant-based foods including grains, beans, vegetables, seeds, nuts and fruits, and not just animal and dairy foods.

At the same time we have been brought up to think that cooking destroys nutrition. That idea is also not completely accurate. It is far more accurate to say that cooking has the ability change nutrition for better or worse. Cooking can increase or decrease nutrients and their digestibility depending on the food, cooking style and length of cooking. Cooking also increases the taste and enjoyment of our food as well as giving us the ability to preserve it for long periods of time.

I have the greatest respect and appreciation for all plant based ways of eating and living. There is no doubt that these are all the way to a healthier future. At the same time I find Richard Wrangham’s research about the effects of cooking on nutrition compelling as it confirms my many years of macrobiotic practice, study and personal experience. Through my macrobiotic counseling practice, I have seen repeatedly that learning how to cook well is of central importance to creating long-lasting health and fulfillment.

The relationship between food choices, cooking and health has become my lifelong study since living in London from 1981 to 1983. At that time I was the director and main instructor of the Kushi Institute and had the experience of meeting so many people from all over eastern and western Europe that came to study there. The more that I talked with these people about their food traditions the more I began to realize that their food choices and cooking were the key to not only health but the uniqueness of the varying cultures and environments that they were from.

I like to refer to all methods of food preparation including raw, pickling and fermentation as cooking since they are all done with a specific purpose in mind. Skillful cooking has a number of advantages. It makes food more delicious and digestible. Cooking actually increases the bio-available nutrition in our foods. It also increases the energetic level of the food and provides more physical and mental energy. Think about eating a raw salad, steamed greens or a stir fry. The raw salad is the most relaxing, the steamed greens more soothing or settling and the stir fry is the most energizing.
Cooking also increases our ability to adapt to our environment by increasing our ability to disperse or maintain heat. Think about the differences of the cuisine from different parts of the world. Just compare Indian, Japanese, Mediterranean, British and German cuisine. It is easy to see that the cuisine of India is much more cooling than the cuisine of a colder climate such as Germany.

I find it interesting that most plant based approaches to eating and living are separating and polarizing rather than aligning these days. To me, the way to a healthier future personally, socially and environmentally will be fostered by combining raw foods, sprouting and juicing with a wide variety of cooked foods according our environment, desires and individual needs.

I will expand on this topic in my next blog including the use of oil in our foods.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotics

The Importance of Eating on Time

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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.

1 Comment | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet

Brighten Up Your Winter!

Posted on by Denny Waxman

The winter solstice is less than one month away. This year it will be on Friday, December 21. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in contrast to the Summer solstice, the longest day of the year. On the winter solstice in Philadelphia the sun will rise at 7:19 am and set at 4:39 pm. This only gives us 9 hours and 20 minutes of sunshine as opposed to about 16 hours of sunlight on the longest day of the year. This is almost a seven hour difference.

This huge difference in the amount of sunlight we receive can make a dramatic difference in our energy and moods. It is natural to feel more energetic and uplifted on bright and sunny days, whether it is summer or winter. We also feel more energetic in the summer, provided it is not too hot and humid!

During the winter, when sunlight is low, we can take steps to pick up our energy and moods. These are some suggestions to adapt into your diet and home or work environment.

Most of the food we eat is converted into physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual energy. During the winter months we need more warmth and energy from our foods and cooking. Grain, bean and vegetable stews are always a good choice. Hearty soups can also make a difference. Try to use sesame or olive oil daily in cooking and don’t forget some mild spice from ginger, garlic or pepper. It is also important to also have some light and refreshing dishes in the winter to complement the hearty, long cooked dishes.

We also absorb food, in the form of energy, from our environment. This includes our home and work environments, the area we live in and season. Our home and work environments can either nourish and charge us or have the opposite effect of draining us. It is easy to feel exhausted in stagnated and synthetic environments without fresh air or natural light. Try to keep these places clutter free, well ventilated and let in natural light when possible. An abundance of green plants can also make a noticeable difference in our energy and moods, especially during the winter. During the summer, when there is abundant sunlight we get more energy from the environment and need less physical food. These things are less of a concern during the warm summer months.

Try to get outside more even if you are not a winter person. Build up your resistance to the cold little by little with short walks until you feel that you can get a half hour a day in. You will feel better if you have more contact with the brisk outside air and natural light. For those of you who are a little more hearty, try finishing your hot shower with cold!

Even thought the winter solstice is the shortest day, the coldest time is still to come in January and February. Early February is when nature’s energy starts to shift and is actually the real beginning of spring. I hope these suggestions help you through the cold winter months until the spring and increased sunlight appear once again!

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