Thoughts on Eating Breakfast

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I had a dilemma. I wanted to start eating breakfast but I was addicted to coffee shops as well as coffee. I looked forward to starting the day outside my home to read and work on ideas before starting my day officially. It was starting to become apparent that I would have to give up my coffee shop addiction to start eating breakfast at home. In my previous blog I wrote about my relationship to coffee.

Recently I re-read Ben Franklin’s autobiography and was impressed on many levels. It is clear that Ben Franklin was a creative and practical genius in just about all areas of life. It was also clear from reading his autobiography that he was actually practicing macrobiotics. He had an orderly lifestyle and eating habits. He was a vegetarian from the age of 16 and he ate grains. He constantly worked on self-development and self-improvement. He had the spirit and practice of a real macrobiotic person.

One of Ben Franklin’s sayings that caught my attention was his sage advice to eat breakfast and lunch, but to eat little to no dinner. This caught my attention because, for many years, I had little to no breakfast, other than coffee. I adopted this practice because my teacher, Michio Kushi, didn’t eat breakfast. Upon reading Franklin’s saying, I realized that eating breakfast has a grounding effect on us and balances creativity. I knew then that I needed to break my coffee shop habit and start eating breakfast.

For many years I have recommended that people have regular meals at specific times. You can find the details in my book, The Great Life Diet. I have observed that eating and rising at earlier times makes us more practical and physically active. Blue collar workers eat earlier than white collar workers. Time has shown that an earlier schedule makes workers more productive. Now it has also become apparent that which meals we eat also have a profound effect on us.

I started my macrobiotic journey with a balance of practicality and creativity. It seems that my practicality has declined in favor of creativity over the years. Now that I have passed my 60th birthday it it time for the pendulum to swing back towards practicality. I am hoping that you will be able to observe my progress from my newly found breakfast habit.

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

Coffee: another addiction

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I started drinking coffee in 1969, shortly after starting my macrobiotic practice. Michio Kushi, in his attempt to make macrobiotics more relaxed and approachable, introduced his coffee-flavored style of macrobiotic practice. Around this same time, I also heard that coffee shops were referred to as “penny universities” in the colonial days. I always liked the sound of this term. It conjured up images of the founding fathers brewing up and debating the ideas that formed this great country.

At first I did not like coffee much. It made feel nervous sometimes and kept me awake at night on other occasions. However, I grew to appreciate the mental stimulation, the flow of ideas, and the active conversations that grew out of coffee drinking. Over the years coffee became an integral and essential part of who I was. I started to feel that I could not teach or counsel without my cup of coffee. I almost felt that it was my obligation to keep me at my best.

Over the years I began to realize that coffee had another, somewhat darker side. It seemed that coffee actually made me feel more tired than energized. I loved the jolt I got from a good cup of coffee, but my overall energy and stamina seemed to be declining. Maybe it was age, but I really thought it was mainly due to the long-term effects of daily coffee drinking. The one thing that bothered me most about my coffee drinking was the addiction. It began to weigh on me that I simply could not begin my day without my cup of coffee. Over the years I had tried to give up all my addictions and coffee was still getting the best of me.

This thought process went on for a year or two until I woke up one day and realized that I did not need my cup of coffee. It was a revelation. I started to drink black tea and began to appreciate the subtleties of a well brewed cup of black tea. I began learn about the tea drinking culture and, in time, I did not miss my morning coffee at all. When I travelled I would drink some coffee and go back to the black tea on my return home. Then something interesting happened. A few people sent me articles on the health benefits of coffee. Also, a few friends questioned my choice to not drink coffee. As a result, I began to think about coffee again. I had heard that Rudolph Steiner was a fan of coffee and I began to read his essays on coffee and tea. According to Rudolph Steiner, coffee creates thoughts that flow in a logical order. Tea, on the other hand, creates more diverse thoughts. One day, while struggling with my blog, I tried an experiment and drank a cup of coffee. Sure enough, my ideas started to flow freely.

I found that now that I have reintroduced coffee into my life, I am more than satisfied with my one morning cup. I hope you enjoy the results. At some point I may wish to return to tea and if I do I will let you know.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotics, Mental Health

Adding: The One Thing You Should Be Doing to Improve Your Health

Posted on by Denny Waxman

When we think about going on a diet to improve our health, we usually think about restriction and hard work. We think about cutting back on, or completely avoiding our favorite foods and activities. We want to schedule time to get over to the gym or health club for an intense workout.

In my experience and observation over many years with my clients, this restrictive approach has great limitations. It leads most people to think about when they can stop their diet, or to worry about what happens when they “cheat.” We do get short-term benefits from stopping things and increasing exercise. Many of us have experienced this. However, these improvements are usually short-lived. If we are really interested in more long-term benefits, we need a different approach. Long-term benefits are a result of what we do, rather than the results of the things we don’t do.

Small positive changes over time create substantial and long lasting benefits. Think of a long distance run rather that a sprint. It is best to pace yourself. You want to create new and health-producing habits. Do as much as you can to improve your eating habits and lifestyle without feeling stressed about it.

Remember, small changes produce big benefits over time. Think about being consistent.
Start by taking time for your meals. Try to eat one meal every day, or even a part of a meal, without working, reading or TV. How does eating without distraction make you feel? Did you enjoy your food more or feel more satisfied?

Here are a number of things that you can think about adding into your diet and lifestyle:
Try to start eating your lunch by 1 pm as many days a week as possible. Plan one meal a day around a grain and a separate vegetable dish, even if it is in a restaurant. Have a vegetable soup with one of your meals. Stop eating two to three hours before getting into bed. Go outside for a walk, a few times a week, even if it is only for five to ten minutes. Bring some more green plants into your home. Let some fresh air into your home daily.

The important part is to try these things, as consistently as you can, for two to three weeks. See how they make you feel. When you notice the positive benefits, see how you can improve upon your new good habits. Notice your energy level, moods, and how you enjoy your foods. You will find that as you improve your health you will start to enjoy your meals more and naturally lose interest in the foods that are spoiling your health. You will also find that creating healthy habits in this way can actually be fun and inspiring.

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

Bananas

Posted on by Denny Waxman

George Ohsawa is the founder of modern day macrobiotics. One of his guiding principles is that we are one with our environment. Based on this principle, the Strengthening Health Institute recommends that you choose foods that have originated in the same or similar climate in which you live. It is better to choose foods grown to the east and west of you than it is to choose foods grown to the north or south of you. This is because the geographic areas to the east and to the west of us have more or less the same climate as our geographic location. If we travel north or south, we are much more likely to encounter drastic climate changes. We should also choose locally-grown foods when possible. This is not an unbending rule; it is just better to consume out-of-climate food with some discretion.

I find it interesting that bananas, a tropical fruit, are the most popular fruit in America. Bananas are the one fruit that I tell people to avoid. When I think of a banana, I think of an elephant, eating tropical vegetation and fruit, such as a banana. They have have huge bodies, and thick skin from this tropical diet. The ability of lush, tropical vegetation to nourish such large animals shows me how excessive a banana actually is.

Bananas grow in bunches. Each bunch is one fruit and the banana is actually one of the sections. An orange has sections but they are under one skin. This also shows the extreme expansiveness of a banana.

Years ago I had a discussion with another macrobiotic counselor about which was more harmful, a banana or sugar. We completely disagreed. I thought the banana and he thought that sugar was more harmful. It is a difficult question to answer. Many health-conscious people think that sugar is bad for your health and try to minimize it. At the same time, many health-conscious people think that bananas are healthy and eat them freely. We often abuse foods that we think are healthy. On equal terms I would have to say that sugar is worse. However, practically speaking, bananas are probably worse because we feel free to eat them regularly.

I noticed many years ago that the majority of my clients who had serious or even life-threatening illnesses thought that they were already eating healthy foods. They were actually eating many foods that I thought were causing their health problems. Bananas were one of the most commonly-consumed foods among the “healthy” food my clients were eating. I began to suspect that bananas were contributing to certain types of health and allergic problems, and may have even made some types of cancer worse. I acknowledge that there is nothing scientific about these statements; they are simply my observations over a period of years. It seems that the combination of dairy foods and bananas together cause the most problems. When my clients follow my recommendations and replace these foods with healthier choices their health improves.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet

Brown Rice Friend or Foe?

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I find it interesting that I posted a blog on the wonders of brown rice on February 15 and this Yahoo News story about the dangers of brown rice was published on February 16, 2012. I guess brown rice is in the air and it is my hope that this exposure will lead to many more people cooking and consuming brown rice on a regular basis.

I am not a medical professional or a medical researcher. I am a macrobiotic professional with more than forty years of experience guiding many thousands of my clients on diet and lifestyle to recover and maintain their health. I have observed the power and benefits of the regular consumption of brown rice on the young and old over these forty years. My own children and their children follow these same dietary and lifestyle practices. You can easily observe that each generation following these practices is stronger, brighter, and more vibrant than the one before. This response is based on my personal experience along with my long-time observation and experience with people practicing macrobiotics, and not as a medical professional.

The benefits of proper macrobiotic practice are varied and all-embracing. They include recovery from cancer, allergies, diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis and weight issues. Many of my clients have also followed my recommendations to successfully overcome infertility, to have healthy pregnancies, and to raise healthy children. Macrobiotic practice can also lead to a more positive attitude towards life in general, better moods, and a renewed or enhanced satisfaction and enjoyment from food.

One of the most common points of macrobiotic practice is the regular or daily consumption of brown rice along with a variety of other grains, grain products, beans and vegetables. Brown rice syrup and other natural sweeteners are also recommended to satisfy sweet cravings. We do not recommend the regular consumption of cereal bars, energy shots or the use of infant formula. On the other hand, we do recommend a mostly plant-based diet based on whole, unrefined, and naturally processed foods. We also encourage people to eat local and seasonal foods when possible.

Most macrobiotic women choose to nurse their children because of the long list of physical, emotional and mental benefits to mother and child. When weaning their babies from breast milk most women tend to move on to homemade grain milk, made from a combination of grains, beans, sesame seeds, and sometimes vegetables. These homemade grain milks are often sweetened to the mild sweetness of breast milk with rice syrup or barley malt. They are used temporarily until the child moves on to more adult consistency foods.

There is a lot of controversy about whether phytic acid is beneficial or harmful in a grain based diet. Phytic acid is found in whole grains, beans, and seeds, including brown rice. Some people think that phytic acid interferes with mineral absorption. I doubt that is true when it is eaten as part of a varied diet together with other mineral sources. I have observed that so many of my clients have increased their bone density from the regular consumption of whole grains, beans, and leafy green vegetables. It may be possible that phytic acid actually gives protection against environmental toxins including heavy metals such as arsenic. It also seems that phytic acid has anti-cancer properties and aids in the regulation of cholesterol and blood sugar.

In order to be careful about arsenic exposure it is best to minimize the consumption of cereal bars, energy shots or the use of infant formula. It is also best to minimize the use of brown rice syrup until we have more information. I will post another blog when I have more information to share. We also recommend using filtered water for both drinking and cooking. The filters we recommend are carbon block water filters that filter out lead, arsenic and other common water contaminates.

I invite everyone and their families to share their personal experiences with the long-time, regular consumption of brown rice together with other whole grains, beans, seeds, and vegetables. Please also share pictures of your children who are born and raised on a varied plant based diet. Let common sense and personal experience prevail to let more and more people know the benefits of this way of eating and living.

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

What’s So Great About Brown Rice Anyway?

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I started to eat brown rice in 1967 after years of indulgence in an almost exclusively junk food diet. Interestingly enough, one of the few foods that I liked in my junk food incarnation was kasha and bow ties, a typical Russian dish, which my mother made on a regular basis. Kasha or buckwheat is commonly eaten in Eastern European countries where my mother is from. There was something about it that I found both delicious and deeply satisfying. It wasn’t until I encountered brown rice in 1967 that I found another food that had a similar degree of satisfaction. I started to eat brown rice because of a challenge from a friend.

Doing that brown rice challenge led me to begin my macrobiotic practice over the course of the next two years. One of the first things I noticed after I started to eat brown rice on a regular basis was that many of the foods that I had avoided in previous years started to become delicious. For years I had refused to eat vegetables other than lettuce and tomato on a sandwich. All of sudden I became attracted to eating vegetables. The only thing I could attribute this change to was my regular consumption of brown rice. One by one, my diet began to widen with healthy foods. I also found that my cravings for junk foods were declining. Brown rice transformed me from a junk food eater to a healthy foodie, almost overnight.

As I became more familiar with brown rice, I discovered that it had some other very interesting qualities. Brown rice is the only cooked grain you can eat everyday and always find it delicious. I discovered this in the early 1970‘s when the crop of brown rice would not last the entire year and we were forced to try eating other grains. Try eating oatmeal or millet everyday for weeks or months and see if it is still appetizing.

Brown rice has two other attributes that I find even more amazing. Whatever you cook with brown rice cooks in the same period of time as the rice, even if it takes much longer to cook without the rice. Chickpeas, which can take hours to cook on their own will cook in one hour when pressure cooked with brown rice. It is the same with other foods with long cooking times.

Brown rice also combines well with and enhances the taste of all other foods. Brown rice combines well with all other grains, all beans, all seeds and nuts, all vegetables, all fruits, all different types of meat, poultry fish, shell fish, all dairy foods, and finally all different types of sweets.

Because brown rice has these unique capabilities, I think it is safe to assume that eating brown rice on a regular basis will also give us unique abilities. My experience is that brown rice helps us in all areas of our life, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Eating brown rice helps us to align with or understand the thoughts and ideas of others, even if they are divergent from our own. I have seen the power of brown rice in helping people to recover their physical health and also to re-direct their lives in many ways. These are bold statements and probably seem hard to believe. So now, I pass the brown rice challenge on to you. Try eating brown rice on a daily basis for two to three weeks. If you experience positive results (and I am confident that you will), please pass this brown rice challenge on to others.

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

Paula Deen and Diabetes

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Paula Deen has brought the diabetes discussion to the forefront again. It is becoming less and less probable that one can live the modern lifestyle without developing diabetes or other serious health complications. Over the years our society has greatly increased its consumption of processed and unhealthy foods and beverages. The causes of diabetes are no mystery: excessive amounts of animal and dairy foods, rich and fatty desserts, refined carbohydrates, and sugary drinks along with a lack of natural activity.

When we develop diabetes, our bodies are starved for complex carbohydrates. Our body thrives on the complex sugars found in whole grains and whole grain products, beans, and vegetables. These whole foods have been replaced by the highly refined and processed modern diet.

Paula Deen has timed the announcement of her disease with her endorsement of Victoza, an injectable blood sugar control drug that is reported to cost upwards of $500 per month. Using an expensive drug and making attempts at pairing down a rich and excessive diet will not solve the problem. It may temporarily lower blood sugar but will not support health or address any of the causes of diabetes. My method of controlling diabetes (and other life-threatening diseases), 7 Steps to a Great Life, addresses the root causes of diabetes. Simply add to your diet and do not take away. Add whole grains such as brown rice, millet, oatmeal or unrefined pasta. Add vegetable soups. Add bean and vegetable dishes into your diet. Your new dietary choices will help change your appetite towards foods that naturally support your health. Making small changes to your current diet by adding healthful foods will control your diabetes. And my method is financially accessible to everyone.

To jump start your new lifestyle, start by walking outside for a combined thirty minutes a day– either do all thirty minutes at once, or break it up into two 15 minute walks or three 10 minute walks. Walk to the train or park your car further from your destination. Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. Walking will help cut down your cravings for sweets and other extreme foods and will stimulate your appetite for foods that will support your heath.

Maybe it is time for Paula Deen to take a big step forward and adopt some of these dietary and lifestyle changes herself. I would be happy to be her coach.

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

Ben Franklin’s Mistake?

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I have endless admiration for Ben Franklin’s accomplishments and the way he lived his life. It is a marvel that one man could have left us with so many wonderful things. At the same time, whenever I think about daylight savings time, I wonder if Ben Franklin made one mistake.

All of life moves according to the sun. We rise and sleep according to the sun’s movements.
In an agrarian society, such as our own until the Industrial Revolution, everyone lived close to nature. At that time, an extra hour of daylight would have been a wonderful advantage and saved many expensive candles. However, it also moved us away from sun time. Now that we have become so disconnected from Nature and her orderly cycles, it may be helpful to realign again by living more closely to the sun’s movement. Our daily life has lost its rhythm of movement and rest that we enjoyed not long ago.

Our sense of balance in life comes from nature. This sense of balance is necessary to maintain or recover our health. There are two ways to recreate this sense of balance in our life. One is through dietary choices and the other is through an orderly day/night cycle and meal times. In The Great Life Diet I discuss the details to recreate this balance.

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Mental Health

Great Frustrations

Posted on by Denny Waxman

In my macrobiotic counseling practice, I often say to my clients, “if people say it is good, I say it is bad.” It is my automatic response to hearing someone praise the health virtues of a certain food. I know this sounds completely arrogant or at the very least contrary. To me it is an expression of a deep frustration. It is a frustration that has been growing within me for many years.

So many of my clients come to me saying that they have been eating a healthy diet, yet they are here to see me for a life-threatening problem. I find a huge contradiction there. My experience is that a healthy diet leads to lasting health. My approach to health is simple; add healthy foods and activities into your lifestyle, and a try to cultivate a positive and embracing attitude. Food is the starting place that has the most power over our health.

Recently I read an article in the Atlantic about teens wanting to lose weight and not knowing how. The conclusion of their research was that the actions of obese teens do not reflect their desire to lose weight. Now, this is where my frustration grows again. I find it hard to believe that most obese teens do not want to lose weight. Rather, I think that they have a frustration that prevents them from losing weight. Their frustration is that what they are told does not work. As a result, they get frustrated and give up trying to lose weight.

Why is it that common beliefs about weight loss do not work?

First of all, the calorie theory does not work. Eating fewer calories and working out more do not lead to sustained weight loss. The secret to sustained weight loss is simple: if you have a healthy, balanced way of eating and natural activity, you will feel satisfied. When we are satisfied with our diet and activity we never need to think about our weight. Healthy weight is the natural outcome of a balance in diet and activity. Weigh loss systems are doomed to failure if they are based on restriction. Frustration and restriction inevitably lead to excess weight. This is not an idle theory. I have helped many hundreds of people lose weight effortlessly with these basic principles.

The modern diet causes a deep biological frustration that cannot be satisfied. It does not satisfy our basic nutritional needs. Exercise and eating less do not solve the problem. This can be seen all around us. If we teach children the basics of a healthy way of eating through the enjoyment of unprocessed whole foods and daily activity they will automatically achieve a sense of satisfaction which leads to healthy weight. The simple steps outlined in my book, The Great Life Diet, lead to sustained weight loss naturally without feeling deprived. You will learn how to be satisfied with your diet and activity and lose weight naturally. It is a great way to start the new year.

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

Revolutionary Resolutions Day 7

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Welcome to the last day of our Revolutionary Resolutions series. Today we’ll tie everything together with the seventh step.

7. Cultivate the spirit of health.

We can move in the direction of health, or in the direction of sickness. Depending on the totality of our diet and lifestyle choices, we move in either the direction of health or in the direction of sickness. If you are experiencing health problems but you are taking steps towards maintaining better diet and lifestyle practices, then you are moving in the direction of health. Recognize and express gratitude for your current state of health, regardless of what it is. Health is about the sum of the parts. Try to keep this in mind as you try to make diet and lifestyle changes this year.

Thanks for joining me for this series on the 7 Steps to a Great Life. While we are now into the second week of January, it’s still not too late to make a revolutionary resolution. Adopting one or two of the 7 Steps is a great resolution. Making small changes to your diet and lifestyle practices are the first step in making 2012 a revolutionary year. You can always find more information on the 7 Steps in my book, The Great Life Diet.

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