It’s becoming apparent that macrobiotics is the healthiest approach to diet and lifestyle. I’ve spent the past 43 years developing and refining the best possible ways to achieve the maximum benefits from this way of eating and living. A student of mine once said that no one can dispute that the practice of yoga is more than just a physical practice around movement and stretching. Yoga is based around a core of spiritual beliefs that guide the practice. The same can be said about macrobiotics. The development and cultivation of a deep sense of appreciation for food and all of life guides and completes the practice. In a practical sense, we emphasize an orderly and structured approach to eating and living.
The most important aspect of these practices grows from a desire to be healthy. The approach that we take helps people rediscover their natural appetite that leads to lasting health. We stress eating habits as much as food choices so we can experience deeper satisfaction from our meals and greater enjoyment of our food. I’ve compiled this list of things to keep in mind to move you in the direction of health. Use this guide as a primer for planning anything from meals, to menus, to outlining goals for transforming your lifestyle practices.
—good eating habits lead to healthier food choices and greater satisfaction
—orderliness and regularity with our eating habits leads to an increase in openness and variety
—balance perpetuates itself
—our sense of balance comes from aligning with nature’s orderly cycles
—indigenous and local foods create the strongest connection to the environment
—format meals around grains, beans, vegetables, and local, seasonal fruits at home or away
—have vegetable soup with one meal every day
—emphasize life-related activities (such as walking outside, cleaning, or taking the stairs)
—surround yourself with green plants in rooms where you spend time
—create a strong and nurturing support network
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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.
I am a recent convert to yoga. It has been a little over a year since I attended my first class. I resisted practicing yoga for many years for some reason that is still not clear to me. It seems that since my 60th birthday has passed, I have found a new openness to many things that did not interest me before.
Last spring my wife Susan came home after attending a yoga class near our house. She started to talk about the class and the teacher. Her excitement peaked my interest and I joined her for the next class. I was hooked after my first class! It was an Anusara yoga class and the instructor was Sarah Robinson. I was immediately impressed by her warmth and expertise and have continued to attend classes whenever possible. At a recent class Sarah excitedly talked about an inspiring Youtube she had seen titled, Never, Ever Give Up. Arthur’s Inspirational Transformation! It is a Youtube about hope and the power of a yoga practice. I found the video to be highly inspiring and definitely worth the nearly five minutes it takes to watch it. Sarah was amazed at how many yoga instructors turned this gentleman away without even trying to help him. After watching the video I shared her amazement.
Macrobiotics is also about hope. It gave me hope when I needed to change my life. Before starting my macrobiotic journey I was not physically ill, I had a far more serious problem. I was lost and could not find any meaning in life. From the time I was a young teenager I was aimlessly searching for a meaningful direction in life. Reading George Ohsawa’s books, attending a Michio Kushi lecture and improving my way of eating gave me hope. these changes also gave me the clarity, vitality and confidence I was searching for to live a more meaningful life. Now, as a macrobiotic counselor, I experience the power and importance of hope in a different way. I can see my clients transform before my eyes when I tell them that they can recover from their problems if they are willing to practice this healthy diet and lifestyle.
I have also found that hope alone is usually not enough for a total transformation. Hope needs to be combined with beneficial lifestyle practices. In my macrobiotic healing practice over many years I have found that the combination of diet, orderly lifestyle practice and activity have the most powerful results.
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!
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!
I read, The Challenge of Going Vegan with great interest and agree with many of the points of the blog. Change is always difficult, especially with something so basic as food. I am not completely vegan since I do eat fish from time to time. In 1969, I started to eat brown rice and move towards a macrobiotic diet. My diet has been based on grains, beans, vegetables and a large variety of plant-based foods since that time. I have never looked back at my old way of eating.
Before my macrobiotic practice, I was a confirmed junk food eater: hamburgers, hot dogs, cheesesteaks, pizza, toasted bagels, coke, pastries and Breyer’s vanilla fudge ice cream. I went from a picky eater as a child to a junk-food eater as a teen ager. I shunned most things that were considered real and healthy foods. When I started to eat brown rice on a regular basis I started to crave other foods that I had never eaten before in my life. Other healthy foods started to become appealing. It was a revelation for me. I experienced an intense excitement about discovering and adding new foods to my diet. With each new dish I added, cravings for past foods began to fade away. This process became self-perpetuating. Over the years, I developed my approach to health based on emphasizing adding over taking foods away.
When most people think about diets, losing weight or improving their health, they think about restricting themselves. They think about what they shouldn’t be doing and which enjoyable things they will be giving up. My long time observation and experience is that restriction leads to excess and that this approach is doomed to failure. Food is our strongest desire in life and our cravings inevitably win over time. When a client tells me that they are following my recommendations, but they do not enjoy the food, I know they are headed for trouble. I then spend some time finding out what they do enjoy and how to build on that.
Try to think about adding foods in three categories: grains, vegetables and soups. These are the basics of a healthy way of eating. Add foods that you are familiar with first. For grains try adding brown rice, couscous, oatmeal or polenta into your diet. Complement these grain dishes with steamed greens, sauteed vegetables or a raw salad. Next think about adding vegetable or bean soups made without meat or chicken stock. Try to observe how these new additions affect your appetites and cravings. Focus on finding new, healthy foods that you find exciting and satisfying. Go to restaurants that offer a variety of vegan dishes to get some new ideas.
Natural food and natural activity also complement each other. Go for a walk outside and see how this affects your appetite and taste for healthy foods. Try a yoga class or other more natural activities and watch your craving for foods that are spoiling your health fade away.
Over the years, I began to think that taste is more biological than learned, and is based on our health. When we eat healthier foods, we begin to improve our health and consequently other healthy foods become appealing and satisfying. This only works if we have an open mind and think about adding and eliminating. The process also works in reverse, the more junk-foods we eat, the better they taste. I tell my clients and students that taste for food is a barometer of health. The better your health, the more satisfying healthy foods become. If we lose our taste for healthy foods, something is off in our diet or activity that is causing an imbalance. Correcting this imbalance restores our taste for healthy foods. Think of these changes as a new adventure. Good luck on your new journey.
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.
Walking helps all aspects of our body, emotions, and mind in children and adults alike. Walking aids our digestion and improves circulation. It harmonizes the left and right sides of our body including the intestines, liver and spleen, kidneys, lungs, two chambers of our heart, left and right sides of our brain, and two branches of our autonomic nervous system. Walking helps all of these organs and systems work more harmonious and efficiently. It also stimulates bone metabolism and enhances flexibility.
In Oriental medicine, the digestive system and mind are considered front and back. They are one system. The digestive system processes liquid and the brain and nervous system process vibrations. Healthy digestion leads to a healthy mind, thinking, and learning ability. All natural, life-related activity increases our ability to think and figure things out. When you combine healthy eating with healthy activity you have the best of both worlds. These simple practices are all part of my 7 Steps to a Great Life.
Walking outside makes us feel better in every way– it clears and refreshes the mind and lifts the emotions.
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.
A recent article in the New York Times discusses a link between psychiatric troubles and imbalances in thyroid hormones. Quite often subtle imbalances in thyroid hormones can create depression, anxiety and other psychiatric problems.
From a macrobiotic or energetic point of view, the thyroid is the balancing point between the pituitary and adrenal glands or, you could say, mind and body. The pituitary gland at the base of the brain is the major endocrine gland that regulates all others. The adrenal glands, just above the kidneys, help regulate vitality, metabolism, and help us deal with stress. The thyroid shows an overall balance between mind and body. Problems in the throat region can also be related to difficulty in expressing ourselves or in accepting situations.
Many of my clients express how much more positive, energetic and calm they feel, even after one visit. When we add balance into our diet, activity and lifestyle practices, our hormonal system including these major glands naturally rebalance themselves. The adrenals like beans and root vegetables and the thyroid likes leafy greens and the natural sweetness of vegetables such as onions, carrots and squash. Walking outside also helps all upper body problems.