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

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

The Deal With Miso

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Miso is a unique food. It is a fermented soybean paste often made with brown rice or barley as well. It is used as a seasoning in various types of sauces, spreads, soups, and for pickling other foods such as vegetables, tofu or fish. Miso soup has become very popular in recent years. A good bowl of miso soup leaves you with a wonderfully satisfied feeling that is soothing, calming and strengthening at the same time. Miso is a very nourishing food that aids digestion and strengthens our blood.

Miso soup made with wakame seaweed and leafy green vegetables is a wonderful source of high quality protein, B-vitamins, calcium and other minerals. It also provides protection from environmental pollution from the air, heavy metals and even radiation. In Oriental medicine, it is used to promote digestive and reproductive health.

There are many types of miso to choose from. In macrobiotics we use three main types of miso for maintaing health and for healing: soybean/Hatcho miso, barley miso or brown rice miso. The two that I recommend most in my counseling practice are barley and brown rice miso. Hatcho miso seems to be too strong for regular use.

From a macrobiotic perspective Hatcho miso is the most strengthening. Barley miso also has a more deeply nourishing and strengthening effect on our health, though not quite as strong as Hatcho. Brown rice miso is the most relaxing and soothing. It depends on our health and desires to decide which miso is best for regular use.

We can use the principle of yin and yang to understand the nature of each. Soybeans are the most yin food of the group followed by barley and then brown rice. Since soybeans are by far the most yin they have the ability to absorb more yang and become stronger and more yang over time. Barley is more yin than brown rice. Using the same principle, barley miso has the capacity to become substantially more yang than brown rice miso over time. All types of miso have a strong polarity of yin and yang elements, which gives them the ability to balance out extremes. Miso can balance out the harmful effects from animal foods, dairy foods, sweets, alcohol and many pollutants.

It is easy to think that a stronger miso is a better choice. This is not the case. We are after balance. If we move to either extreme too strongly, we can harm our health. For people that ate too many animal foods, well-cooked and salty foods, brown rice miso may be the best choice to help lighten their condition. The sweet richness of brown rice miso can effectively balance out the harmful effects from meat, hard-salty cheese and baked foods. It has a more relaxing, calming and soothing effect on us. If we became depleted from too many sweets, alcohol or other weakening foods, barley miso may be the better choice. It is more deeply nourishing and strengthening and can more easily cancel out excesses and extremes of yin. Simply speaking, barley miso for strength, warmth and activity, and brown rice miso for relaxation and unwinding.

Experiment with the various types of miso and try to observe their effects on your digestion, vitality and overall feeling of well being. You can also blend two types of miso for a unique effect.

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

Going Macrobiotic

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Exercise, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics, Recipes, Weight

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

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.

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

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

Walking: Exercise for the Body and Mind

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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.

No Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Exercise, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics, Macrobiotics and Medicine, Mental Health, Weight