Seven Things I Believe In

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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.

2 Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Philosophy

Thoughts on Japanese Foods

Posted on by Denny Waxman

As part of the macrobiotic way of life, we have enjoyed a rich cultural, philosophical and spiritual heritage from Japan. This heritage has guided many aspects of our life from our approach to cooking and eating to our overall view of life. Some aspects of this way of life, from futons to tofu and miso soup, have become mainstream. Many of the ingredients we use such as miso, shoyu and umeboshi enable a moderate to good cook to produce outstanding meals.

We also have the challenge of developing a local practice of macrobiotics by reconnecting with our local foods and traditions. I think that many people within macrobiotics have been moving towards a more local practice over the years. At the same time, local food processing and seaweed harvesting have been increasing and great strides have been made in quality and taste. This is a natural progression that is necessary for us to grow and develop our capabilities more fully. It is also necessary if we want to align with the basic premise of macrobiotics that we are one with our environment.

In my experience, some of the foods produced in Japan still have a greater healing ability than the ones we produce here. I am confident that over time that will change. Many years ago, a long-time Japanese friend told me that America has already conquered Japan in terms of tofu. He thought that American made tofu was the best. What he said rang true for me. However, we can adjust the quality of tofu day by day. Miso, shoyu and umeboshi are a different story. It takes months or years to adjust them. The time it will take to perfect these products is much longer than for tofu. After all, these foods have been perfected over hundreds or even thousands of years in the Orient.

I find the contrast between the delicacy in taste and nourishing and strengthening qualities of many of the foods from Japan amazing. It is ironic that these same foods also give us the greatest protection from radiation and other environmental pollutants. These foods, including brown rice, Azuki beans, miso, umeboshi, seaweed and kukicha tea are truly unique and amazing in terms of taste, nourishment and health benefits.

I have always understood macrobiotics as a process of redefining and reinterpreting traditional practices to see if they are appropriate and beneficial for the future. This approach gives us the ability to take what is best from the past and develop it further for the present and future. It has been my long-time dream to preserve traditional food processing from both east and west. It would be wonderful to have some of these people in Japan, who have become masters of their craft, guide us in the production of these traditional foods on our own soil. I think that this collaboration and cooperation could lead to even more unique foods over time.

Because of a lack of accurate reporting from the media on both sides of the ocean, we do not really know the degree of pollution in our foods, land or water. I think it would be a big mistake to over-react and avoid foods coming from Japan completely. It is possible that we could be going from bad to worse by doing that. I have come to rely on certain people for high quality and safe foods in the same way that people rely on me to guide their health and that of their families. I am also trying to share this information openly so that we can all make informed choices.

I am not endorsing any one person or company. I am trying to keep an open mind and I will continue to study and research this situation. After regular conversations with my brother Howard Waxman of Essene,we have decided to continue to use both Japanese and local products. I have also been in contact with Michael Potter of Eden Foods. Please read the wonderful NY Times article about him and review the link to the Eden website for further information about Japanese food safety.

We know from this wonderful philosophy we have inherited that all challenges are opportunities. It is my hope that people with understanding and integrity will join together to maneuver through these difficult times. I firmly believe that an open and informed dialogue is the best approach to guide us into the future.

2 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics

Holy Cow, Part 2

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I just finished reading Mark Bittman’s blog in the NY Times with great interest and I could not agree more with his conclusions about the downside of drinking cow’s milk. I am happy to know that this subject has been published in a source that is so widely respected and available. Many more people will now be aware of the various harmful aspects of drinking milk.

I agree that lifelong exercise and vitamin D are essential for healthy bones. However, I would like to add that it is also important to regularly consume the foods, especially leafy greens and beans, that nourish our overall health including building strong and healthy bones. For more details on the essential foods for bone health please see my previous blog, Holy Cow, Calcium From the Source!

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Immune System

Sit Down to Regular Meals Every Day

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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.

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet

Keeping Cool in the Summer Naturally

Posted on by Denny Waxman

It is just passed July 4th and we are in the midst of our second heatwave of the summer, with sustained temperatures in the 90’s. I hope this is not a preview of the next couple months. There are different ways to adjust to the summer heat. We can wear shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops; spend time in air conditioning, in the pool, by the beach, or sip iced drinks all day. For most of us who are stuck in the city and having to work, only a few of these options work and we will have to wait for the pool or beach.

There is another option of changing our diets to help us to adjust to the heat more naturally. We can increase the consumption of foods and beverages that have a mildly cooling or a heat dispersing effect on our body. We can also limit the foods that hold or generate heat.

The following are some of the foods that hold and generate heat: all meat, poultry, eggs, hard cheese and heavy baked foods such as pizza. Anything cooked with animal fat also generates heat. It is best to minimize these foods at all times because they spoil our health as well as make us feel hotter.

These are the foods that you want to increase in your diet:

Less short grained and more medium or long grained rice. Less whole and more cracked grains including bulgur, couscous, polenta, etc. More pasta and less bread. Use pita, chapatti or soft tortilla instead of bread or rolls.

More beans. They are always important in hot climates.

More light vegetable dishes including steamed, blanched and raw salads. The more juicy the salad vegetable, the more cooling. For that reason I am a great fan of iceberg lettuce to keep cool, even thought it is not high in nutrients. An iceberg and cucumber salad is a summer favorite of mine. I can practically live on it when it is this hot.

Use olive oil for sautéed vegetables often, and vegetable tempura is also good for dispersing heat. Oil that is lightly cooked help us disperse heat.

Add a little bit of hot spice to your dishes. Hot spices also help us to disperse body heat.

Raw tofu with a little grated ginger and soy sauce, or some guacamole.

Drink mildly hot or mildly cool beverages over iced drinks. They have a better cooling effect in the long run. Iced drinks cool us temporarily but have a harmful effect on our sinuses, kidneys, pancreas and other digestive organs.

Finally, don’t forget the corn on the cob and watermelon. Check out my wife Susan’s recipe for an incredible marinade for roasted corn on the cob. What could be better on a hot summer day!

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet

How to Have a Healthy Vacation

Posted on by Denny Waxman

We often think that vacation means letting our health go. In many cases this is what happens, although it doesn’t have to be this way. The principles for a healthy diet and activity on vacation are the same as at home. It seems to me that vacation should be to enhance our health and leave us feeling renewed and refreshed without thinking about loosing the pounds we just gained.

Here are some things you can do to complement your enjoyment and relaxation. They are based on things that my wife Susan and I do on vacation. These practices can actually enhance rather than detract from your vacation.

Try to eat you meals at regular times. Especially try to start your lunch before 1:00 pm. This helps to stabilize your blood sugar and cut down on sweet and fatty food cravings.

Try to have grain based meals even if they are not the highest quality grains. You can choose white rice if brown is not available, oatmeal, polenta or vegetarian or vegan pasta dishes. These choices are more widely available than ever before.

Try to have cooked vegetables or salad with your meals. You can always order a vegetarian omelet without the egg. Vegetable dishes complement the grains and leave you feeling more satisfied than eating the grains alone.

Look for vegetarian soups. Be careful about this one because some restaurants think that chicken stock is vegetarian.

Go camping and cook on a wood fire or lightly cook on charcoal. This is the most delicious food anyone could eat and the price is certainly right!

Walk outside for at least a half-hour a day. Research has shown that walking outside can help regulate your weight, blood sugar, cholesterol and cut down on sweet cravings.

Finally, don’t forget to give your body some external care and do your warm water cloth body rub!

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Diabetes, Exercise, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Mental Health

Achieving Your Ideal Weight

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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!

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Diabetes, Exercise, Macrobiotic Diet, Weight

Fermented Reflections on Philly Beer Week

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Beer Week in Philly has caused me to reflect on the history and nature of beer and other alcoholic beverages. I did not like to drink beer or any other alcoholic beverages until after I started to practice macrobiotics. As a teenager I preferred sweets and ice cream to alcohol. Over the years of eating grains, and other complex carbohydrates, I gradually developed a taste and appreciation for well crafted beer, sake or wine as well as miso, sauerkraut and other similar foods. It seems that naturally pickled and fermented foods, whether they contain an appreciable amount of alcohol or not, complement a diet based on grains, beans, vegetables and other complex carbohydrates.

After changing to a healthier diet and lifestyle I became intensely interested in the history of food and it’s various methods of preparation. My studies revealed that pickled and fermented foods are the most unique methods of food preparation in the world. For example, sauerkraut is much more than cabbage and sea salt. In the fermenting and pickling process unique and beneficial enzymes, bacteria, vitamins and other nutrients are formed that were not there before. The preparation and regular consumption of sauerkraut has been an important family tradition throughout China and Europe for more than a thousand years. People have know about it’s wide variety of health benefits for a long time.

Fermented beverages date back to the beginning of recorded history. These beverages have played an important role in religious and cultural ceremonies. There is also a lot of controversy about the the benefits or harms of alcohol consumption from religious and cultural or social viewpoints. When I lived in Japan, while out drinking sake, I often heard that sake is thought of as the king of one-hundred medicines. Later I heard the second and maybe more important part of this saying, sake is also the king of one-thousand poisons. Maybe this is the key to this controversy. It is unfortunate that our nature often leads us to excesses that can prove harmful.

After World War II, naturally pickled and fermented foods have almost entirely disappeared due to the use of modern food preservation techniques. Modern preservation techniques leave us with dead rather than living foods. The action of beneficial enzymes, bacteria and yeasts are destroyed rather than encouraged, the way they are in traditional food processing.

Slowly over the years naturally pickled and fermented foods have reappeared due to the work of the Kushi’s, Aihara’s and other macrobiotic teachers. Pickling and fermentation have been an important part of macrobiotic education since the 1960’s. The introduction of naturally produced and fermented miso, soy sauce, umeboshi plums and sauerkraut has slowly sparked new industries.

Since the 1970’s local micro-brewed beers that are naturally produced and unpasteurized have slowly reached the mainstream. In the same time there has also been an explosion in organic, unpasteurized sauerkraut and other naturally pickled vegetables and foods including miso. It is my hope that these new industries will also create an renewed interest in healthier foods. I hope you enjoy your local micro-brews sensibly this week with healthy vegetarian snacks.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Events, Macrobiotic Diet

Holy Cow, Calcium From the Source!

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I just finished reading the NY Times blog on the dangers of taking calcium supplements. This was very predictable because so many things recommended as being healthy or necessary by the medical profession end up causing more harm than good. It turns out that taking calcium supplements can increase your risk of having a heart attack. What will also most likely come out in the future is that calcium from supplements causes brittle bones that break easily. Strong, flexible bones, come from plant sources of calcium. What I found most disappointing about the blog is that there no healthy sources of calcium were recommended. Dairy foods and mineral waters are not healthy sources of calcium.

Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the earth’s crust. Plants take minerals from the earth as their food. Cows accumulate great amounts of calcium in their milk through eating grass. Doctors and registered dietician’s tell us to drink cow’s milk and eat cheese in order to get calcium. This is second hand calcium and does not produce strong and healthy bones. Dairy foods also contribute to many of our modern health problems.

I find it interesting that people who have the highest calcium consumption from dairy products, also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. On the other hand, people who get their calcium from plant sources do not develop these problems. I have counseled many people throughout the years on how to remineralize their bones. Many of my clients have been frail, elderly women. Some of these women have had serious falls and have not broken bones. In every case, these women were shocked that they did not break bones from their falls. In situations where they did break bones, the fractures usually healed in about half the expected times. This also was completely predictable because plant sources of calcium build the strongest bones.

Now I would like to make you an expert on building strong bones. There are four main plant sources of calcium: green leafy vegetables; beans, especially white beans; toasted sesame seeds and miso soup. Eat a variety of leafy greens on a daily basis, including, kale, collards, bok choy and others. Eat a serving of beans often or daily. Use toasted sesame seeds as a condiment on your foods. Make miso soup with wakame seaweed and leafy greens and consume it often. To absorb the calcium and other minerals from these sources you need to use some vegetable oil in your cooking. A few or several times a week use sesame or olive oil in cooking your greens and beans. You can also cook greens and beans together sometimes. You do not need to go overboard on any of these these things. Good nutrition is natural. Just try to vary your diet with these healthy foods.

Natural exercise is also important. To make sure the calcium gets into your bones, walk outside on a daily basis to get fresh air and sunshine. Take the stairs when possible and get a variety of other life-related exercises. You will find that these recommendations benefit other areas of your life physically and mentally.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotics

Sleep, Eat, Lose Weight

Posted on by Denny Waxman

When I wrote my book, The Great Life Diet, I decided to speak from my experience and not try to document anything I said. I knew in time the documentation would appear to me. The most important documentation in recent times has been The China Study by T. Collin Campbell. His research complements the common sense and practical approach of my book. The China Study is a must read for anyone interested in better health be it personal, social or environmental.

I just finished reading this interesting study correlating that late bedtimes and late mealtimes can lead to less healthful diets and to weight gain.

Over the years I discovered that there is a direct connection between how and what we eat. Regulating our sleep and meal times regulates our metabolism; our ability to digest, absorb and eliminate the unused excess from our food. When we sleep, our body cleans and repairs itself. We also gather physical and energetic excess to be eliminated in the morning when we rise. The healthier our diet and activity, the deeper we sleep and also need less time to be refreshed. We can get the most refreshing and healthful sleep when we are in deep sleep by midnight. We also have the greatest ability to eliminate excess close to sunrise. The later we sleep into the day, the more sluggish our metabolism becomes. Most people know this from experience. When you get up late you feel more sluggish and the day does not go the same. During the day we are nourished by solid and liquid foods, at night we are nourished by more subtle vibrational energy from the celestial world. Our body does not have the ability to process the more coarse energy from the sun when we are horizontal. The sun’s energy makes us feel more physically active. This is why we feel sluggish from eating and drinking too much and from sleeping ‘in’ too late.

If our metabolism is healthy, we never need to think about our weight. Being overweight is a symptom of an imbalance in diet and activity. When we adjust our diet, activity and daily schedule, our natural weight and health follow without effort.

Here is a checklist for losing weigh naturally, and of course for maintaing or improving your health. Please check my book for additional details.

Sit down to eat without reading, watching TV or driving.

Sleep before midnight and rise by 7 am.

Eat you meals at regular times, without skipping meals: breakfast by 9 am, lunch by 1 pm and dinner by 7:30 pm

Stop eating three hours before bedtime.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Diet, Weight