The U.S. Leads the way again! Unfortunately, it is individual obesity rate.
How many people do you know practicing macrobiotics or other plant-based diets have issues with being overweight or obese?
The U.S. Leads the way again! Unfortunately, it is individual obesity rate.
How many people do you know practicing macrobiotics or other plant-based diets have issues with being overweight or obese?
Nature continually seeks balance. We can look to the natural world as a model for our health as we ourselves are a part of nature, inseparable from it even. An image I follow in my macrobiotic counseling practice to guide others to return to health is that of a mountain stream.
In this mountain stream, water flows uninterrupted in a perfect amount and at a perfect rate. Within this equilibrium, the water constantly cleans and renews itself. It is fresh, slightly alkaline and full of oxygen. Water comes from the clouds and atmosphere surrounding the mountain, it bubbles up from under the ground and flows down the mountain, and reaches the bottom. Each drop goes through the water (hydrological) cycle and returns to the sky again, in a beautiful, perpetual loop with the mountain. Though the water coming to the mountain may have evaporated from an ocean or a river, in the process of becoming part of the stream, impurities disappear, as they themselves “go with the flow”. They transform into different things, bond with other things, settle in the sediment, become rocks, etc. As long as there is unimpeded movement through the volume it carved for itself over a long time, the stream as a whole takes care of itself.
However, things can cause a stream to lose its pure vitality and balance.
*Lack or Excess of Water Affects Flow
1] Say there is a drought. Imagine the earth beneath the stream loses moisture, and is overdrawn due to lack of rain as water previously saturating the soil drops to a lower level. Though the original source of the water may have been pure, the water putrefies in stagnation. The stream becomes a network of puddles that are now breeding grounds.
2] Imagine heavy snows all winter and in the spring, the snow melts and tumbles into the stream, causing flooding. The flooding erodes the banks of the stream, dredges in sediments that were previously undisturbed and inundates the natural filtration system of the stream.
*Interfering Elements Affect Flow
1] A storm comes. A tree falls. No one hears it, but it falls over the stream, slowing down the flow or perhaps blocking it all together.
2] Perhaps a boulder rolls into the stream and settles there. The water, as it’s flowing, hits the boulder and “splits” apart around the boulder. On the edges of the boulder where the water suddenly changes course to converge again on the other side, sediments and other impurities, collect along the edges of the boulder and build up.
A healthy stream is one whose flow is in balance. I enjoy this image and example from nature because the stream is very much a reflection of our own bodies. For health, there is a balance between the food we eat, our digestion of the food and the circulation of its nutrition. Food is the water, digestion and circulation are the volume of the stream and flow of the water.
*Lack or Excess of Food Affects Digestion & Circulation
1] When our food is too simple or we are not eating enough, then our bodies can stagnate and degenerate, even if the food is natural and unrefined.
2] When we eat foods that are too rich or excessive, our bodies become inundated with things we can not process as well, also leading to degenerative illness.
3] Food of poor quality affects our nourishment, digestion and circulation.
4] Our emotions also behave like water in that they can flow through us, and affect us. Anger is a surge and depression a stagnation. Healthy emotions, on the other hand, like healthy streams, clean and renew us.
*The Trees and The Boulders in our Bodies
1] Blockages in our body can come from clogged arteries, fatty deposits, calcification, chronic overeating.
We can recover our natural sense of balance by aligning ourselves with nature’s orderly cycles. Orderly cycles such as the stream, but there are other rhythmic cycles too, such as that of the sun and moon. If we align ourselves to wake up and go to sleep with the natural rhythm of the day and night, our bodies and emotions align more naturally to the “flow”. If we align ourselves to practice having specific mealtimes, we align with the rhythm of the sun. Aligning in this way also helps up to be more aware of how the food we eat affects us physically and emotionally.
Health is natural and our bodies are always trying to clean and renew themselves and we lessen the burden when we are aware and tend to our food, digestion and circulation. With our unique approach to macrobiotics at the Strengthening Health Institute, we teach people to apply these principles to create lasting health. We can use our diets, eating habits, mental, emotional, spiritual practices and activities as tools to seek and find the balance that nature seeks, much like the mountain stream.
*If you are interested in learning more about me or scheduling a consultation, please visit the home page of my website here.
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.
Dr. John McDougall recently posted a blog about Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy. Immediately after reading, I was so inspired to elaborate on some of his ideas. I admire Dr. McDougall because he presents research in understandable terms, but in experience with my clients I have seen that there are other necessary dietary recommendations that he failed to elaborate upon. He is rightfully one of the medical superstars in our popular culture.
I am aligned with him in thinking that although problems such as breast cancer are large and terrifying, and the solution can be far less difficult and far more enjoyable than it seems. My experience, through my business as a healthcare practitioner, is that health is natural. The body wants to be healthy. We need good food, good activity, and a good attitude, but people don’t know what this means. Too much information and too much unqualified instruction exists. I went back and found a testimonial from a client and remembered how much impact concise and correct information can do. After consulting with me about/for her diagnosis of breast cancer, her medical records now conclude she has had an unexplainable disappearance of cancer. This is why Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy concerns me. Woman make these types of decisions to drastically alter their body in order to prevent cancer. But according to the ground breaking research by T. Collin Campbell, there is another option. He proved that nutrition controls the nature of our health.
Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, proves that nutrition controls the way that genes express themselves by demonstrating that diet activates gene markers. In essence, we turn on the cancer genes by eating unhealthful foods. He even discovered an upper limit for animal and dairy protein as well, which is ten percent of the diet. When less than ten percent of the protein in our diet is animal and dairy based, we turn off our cancer genes. The confusion lies in, “What is healthy?” Most people think they are eating well, but they’re not practicing the right behavior to cultivate health.
Some of the foods that most consider harmful, are actually helpful. Traditional soy products such as miso, tofu and tempeh protect against harmful estrogen. Japanese woman have the one of the lowest rates of breast cancer in the world…What do they eat regularly? Tofu and miso soup.
The main culprit that turns on the genes necessary for breast cancer: cow’s dairy. This includes milk, cheese, butter, ice cream and especially yogurt which is so popular theses days. As infants we need our mother’s milk to promote growth, but as adults we’re not trying to grow at a rapid rate. Dairy confuses our system. From your own experience, you can probably relate to how dairy contributes to the severity of skin problems and allergies. When you stop eating dairy within a short time, you feel better.
In macrobiotics, we discuss emotional health as it parallels to nutrition. In my practice, the breast cancer victims have a commonality in that their underlying philosophy is to over nurture others at their own expense. Cancer is a disease of overdevelopment, not deficiency. So, this makes sense that the breast, an organ used for nurturing, would house cancer in over nurturing people. Alarm bells go off in my head when I hear parents say, “I need to do this for my children.” I help them to understand that the most lovable thing they can do it nurture themselves too. I tell them to put on their own oxygen mask FIRST.
People who take the time to nurture themselves through food and lifestyle become happier. I think this is because they experience control over their health.
So here are my suggestions on how gain some control back in preventing and recovering from breast cancer:
One sidenote: If you are worried about developing breast cancer, avoid night shades like potatoes and tomatoes because they are highly acidifying. Acid weakens our blood, lymph system, and our ability to absorb nutrients.
Other foods and activity that are particularly helpful:
Eat our two most important grains: brown rice and millet. Try quickly steamed greens like kale, broccoli, and bok choy served with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Eat miso soup every day (even instant miso soup is great if you can’t find real miso easily). And be sure to walk outside. Walking is great for helping the body eradicate upper body complications. All natural and life-related exercise is helpful including gardening, cleaning and yoga. Begin this practice everyday: Rub the wrist, hands and fingers; feet, ankles and toes; face and neck. Use a warm cloth to activate the circulation and improve the movement of lymph. Peripheral stimulation activates lymph, so gently do this on your skin for at least ten minutes a day.
I’ve helped woman gain their health back after breast cancer. If you are interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email at email@example.com. In the subject write
Your Name: Nutrition to Yield breast health.
Please also check out Susan Waxman’s blog for recipes and more information on breast health.
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.
We all know the value of a good nights sleep. We are told about it from when we were young and the value of a good nights sleep just appeals to our common sense. Unfortunately, an ever increasing number of people have difficulty sleeping, difficulty waking up and getting out of bed or just not feeling refreshed and ready for the day upon waking. There is mounting evidence that our diet affects our sleep.
A lack of sleep is associated with an increased number of accidents while driving or at work, chronic degenerative illnesses and obesity. When we feel tired even our food does not taste the same and we are likely to eat foods that we would not think of eating when we are well rested. When we feel tired our memory is not as sharp, we get irritated more easily and often do not experience the same degree of appreciation for life as we usually do. Sleep affects all aspects of our life and well-being.
In Oriental medicine and diagnosis, which is the basis of my macrobiotic counseling practice for more than 40 years, opposites show each other. The day shows the night and the night shows the day. In other words, the combination of our diet and eating habits during the day regulate the quality of our sleep at night. One of the most common things that I hear from my clients is how much better they are sleeping from following my recommendations. They also report on better energy, mood and a sense of well-being.
Please follow these steps to steadily improve the quality of your sleep and overall well-being.
Eat at regular times without skipping meals. See my previous blog.
Stop eating three hours before getting into bed.
Eat a plant based diet including a variety of unrefined grains and grain products, beans, vegetables, soups and other foods. This will help even if your diet is not exclusively plant based.
Walk outside for at least a half hour a day. It can be a combined half hour. All outdoor activity is helpful especially when surrounded by nature.
If you have a sedentary job, take regular breaks from sitting to walk around and stretch.
Keep green plants in your bedroom.
Even small steps can start to make a difference in your sleep. Just get a start in the areas you are comfortable with.
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.
I just read a blog about the importance of eating green and orange vegetables that I wanted to share with you. In my book, The Great Life Diet, which is a practical guide to a macrobiotic lifestyle, I define the meaning of a meal as a cooked grain or grain product and a separate vegetable dish. This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The interaction of the grain and the separate vegetable dish provide the most complete and balanced nutrition available and consequently help us to feel the most satisfied. Grains and grain products include, brown rice, millet, barley, polenta, oatmeal, couscous, pasta, etc. You get more energy and nourishment from a vegetable when you eat it together with a grain at the same meal. The grain or grain product forms the basis of a healthy and satisfying meal and the vegetable dish creates completeness, balance and satisfaction. This combination is different from eating a grain and a vegetable cooked together in the same dish. Try them both ways at several meals to start to understand the difference.
When we have a conversation with someone each person brings something interesting out from the other person. Our conversations, topics, energy and content change with different people. It is the same with the interaction of grains and vegetables. Different combinations of these foods bring out different nutrients, energy and satisfaction.
Greens such as kale, collards, Chinese cabbage, bok choy and watercress are more uplifting and refreshing mentally and emotionally. Orange and yellow vegetables such as winter squash, carrots and sweet potatoes are more deeply satisfying and give us a consoled feeling.
Cooking styles further effect and enhance the energy and nourishment we get from our meals. Steaming is more settling, oil sautéing is more energizing and raw is more refreshing. Experiment with different cooking styles, preparations and combinations and take notice how you feel physically and mentally after each meal and at the end of the day.
During the winter cooking is more important than in the summer. During the summer we get more energy from the sun and environment. During the winter we do not have this same energy available and cooking can make up for the difference. I hope these suggestions help you get through the winter more enjoyably and ease your spring fever.
At the end of every year I like to write a list of the ten most important social, environmental and personal events of that year. It is a practice that I learned from my teacher, Michio Kushi, many years ago and have found it to be a valuable practice. It serves as a basis for personal and social reflection and helps us clarify a direction for the future. The second part of this practice is to write your own list of goals for 2013.
Interestingly, nature had different plans for me this year. I was under the weather with a cold or flu for nearly three weeks. This was very unusual for me considering if I ever get sick it is for two to three days, not weeks. As a result I missed the holidays and years end for the most part. Most of these year end events remain clouded in mist for me. It is only now, a week into the new year, that I am trying to catch up and regain some clarity in my life.
The events that come to mind immediately are a bit staggering, Super Storm Sandy, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and California Proposition 37 that called for mandatory labeling of GMO foods.
In Oriental Diagnosis, which is an integral part of my healing practice, the small or part shows the large or whole. Our hands, feet, eyes or tongue can show great detail about our overall health condition and direction. This principle applies to social and environmental situations as well. I think that Super Storm Sandy and Sandy Hook Elementary School are indications of the conditions brewing socially and environmentally. It is unfortunate that these type situations will probably worsen for the foreseeable future, as they have continued to in our recent past.
I also find it amazing that Proposition 37 almost passed despite enourmous opposition from Monsanto and related companies. This indicates a change in society that will become an enourmous power over the next several years. Our right to know and our ability to choose health will become paramount.
The most important change that I have observed in society is not limited to 2012. These ideas became more observable a few years earlier and now are in the mainstream. I am referring to the relationship between diet and health. It is now widely accepted that our diet is the number one factor affecting our health and now trumps environmental and genetic factors. The second change is the relationship between food and the environment. It is finally becoming known that our daily choices in diet and lifestyle have an enourmous affect on society and the environment. The power of change is in our hands with every meal.
What is not widely known is that these ideas developed out of Boston, Mass from the macrobiotic teachings of Michio and Aveline Kushi. These ideas of local, organic, unrefined and plant based foods combined with having the ability to create our own health changed and fueled my life since 1969. They are more relevant today that ever. Now that 2012 is behind us we can start to live the lives we would like to see with renewed passion in 2013.
I find it interesting that everything that I thought was healthy for more than forty years is now reported to be harmful or at least not beneficial to our health. These are the same things I have been consuming personally and recommending to my family, friends and clients during this time. I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, but this seems to be too much of a coincidence for my natural skepticism.
Grain is the most important food on the planet for so many reasons. I will not explore all the reasons at this time. All of the world’s long-standing civilizations developed around grain cultivation and are also synonymous with the grains that they ate. You cannot separate rice from Asia, corn from the Americas or bread from Europe, for example.
The gluten grains, wheat and barley, are two of two world’s principal grains and have been cultivated and consumed for more than 10,000 years. Now, an increasing number of people have gluten sensitivity or gluten allergies. More recently modern wheat has come under attack because it has been overly hybridized.
I cannot argue that many people have various types of reactions from eating these grains in many forms and feel better by avoiding them. It may be that these grains alone are not the problem. It is more likely that our food combinations and methods of preparation are the real causes of the reactions.
I have used these grains in my macrobiotic healing practice for many years with positive results. I have also witnessed many people loose their food sensitivities over time. It has been my long-time observation that the combination of dairy foods and fructose is behind most allergies. Any type of dairy from cheese to yogurt together with fructose in the form of concentrated fruit sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar or honey are the basis of these allergic reactions. Tropical fruits and animal foods, especially poultry, tuna and shell fish compound these problems. Cold dairy such as cold milk, yogurt and ice cream together with cold drinks also seem to worsen the harmful effects.
I have also found out that when these grains are refined, baked or toasted they cause stronger reactions than when they are consumed in their whole or cracked form. When grains, including whole grain products, are exposed to dry heat through baking or toasting they react more like simple sugars in our body and worsen the reaction from these grains. Many people with gluten sensitivity can eat whole wheat or barley without an allergic or inflammatory response if they are cooked together with brown rice.
It now turns out that brown rice, another of the worlds principal grains is not safe because of arsenic contamination. I have already published my thoughts on this in three previous blogs and I hope that you will continue to enjoy organic brown rice as part of your healthy way of eating.
Soy has been under attack for quite some time now and I will write more fully on this subject in a future blog. I have also regularly used the traditional soy products, miso, shoyu, tofu, tempeh and natto in my macrobiotic counseling practice with excellent results. These products actually have a balancing and protective effect on our hormonal systems. They protect against harmful estrogens. On the other hand, texturized vegetable protein (TVP) and other non-traditional soy products do not have these same benefits.
Finally, the Stanford study that claimed organic foods are not more beneficial than commercial foods has been discredited. Common sense tells us that foods grown naturally in healthy soil are beneficial to those not yet born, babies, children, adults, animals, plants and the environment.
It is my hope that common sense and collective human experience will guide science in the coming years and that respect for local and sustainable practices will continue to grow and prosper.