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 loss

Learning From Isaiah: The forgotten step

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Recently my wife Susan published a blog on the importance of expressing gratitude, illustrated by a photo of our grandson Isaiah. Her blog got me thinking about the practice of giving thanks before every meal. It is something that I adopted in 1969 when I began practicing macrobiotics. It is something that I do whether eating at home or in a restaurant. There is no “right” way to give thanks. It is just the expression of our thanks and gratitude that is important.

This is a practice that my son Joe grew up with and he passed it on to his son, Isaiah, who needs no encouragement to give thanks. He puts his hands together and moves them slightly. You can see from the photo that it is a gesture of great joy and peace.

As I was thinking about this practice, I realized that it is the missing step in my 7 Steps to a Great Life. It was a realization that moved me. It made me think about how easy it is to overlook or take for granted things or practices that are so much a part of us- things that are vitally important to our life.

It also made me think that perhaps I should start doing this in other areas of my life, especially with those who are important to me. This photo of Isaiah praying and giving thanks will now serve as a reminder for me to look around and acknowledge all of the wonderful things that I have to be grateful for every day.

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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 loss

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.

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Revolutionary Resolutions Day 6

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Only one more day left in this series! Make sure you check back and read over the previous posts on the other five steps.

6. Format is more important than quality.

The format of your meals is more important than the quality of your meals. On Day 3 of this series, we learned that a complete meal includes a grain dish and a separate vegetable dish. Ideally, all the components of your meal should be of the best quality possible. However, what if you go out to eat and the restaurant doesn’t serve whole grains? Or what if you go over to a friend’s house for dinner and the vegetables are not organic? In these situations, there’s nothing you can do about quality, but you can control the format. In the restaurant scenario, stick to pasta and a salad, or some white rice with a vegetable dish of sorts. In the situation at your friend’s house, don’t worry about the quality of the vegetables and enjoy the meal, as long as you try to include a grain product and a vegetable dish. If you stick to this format and are flexible with the quality of your meals, you are far more likely to consistently make healthy choices while enjoying your food and feeling satisfied.

Tomorrow we’ll be finishing up this series, so be sure to check in again for the last of the 7 Steps.

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

Revolutionary Resolutions Day 5

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Just in case you just started reading this series, each day I am focusing on one of my 7 Steps to a Great Life. Adopting one or a few of my 7 Steps is a great way to begin the New Year because they are resolutions that you can actually keep. Every one of the 7 Steps is a small change with a big return. Check my other posts for the previous four steps.

5. Create a more natural environment.

Your home should be a recharging station- a place where you can relax, return to balance, and enrich life. You should look forward to coming home each day. While we all might not be living in our dream apartments or houses, there are some small things that you can do to make your home more pleasant.

Try keeping green plants around at home, especially in the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Ordinary, green house plants are best, nothing fancy. Plants absorb many harmful contaminants, such as formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide. Many building materials, such as plywood, particleboard, decorative paneling, floor covering and carpet backing contain formaldehyde, which is thought to contribute to the high cancer rate in the United States. You can also find formaldehyde in grocery bags, facial tissues, permanent press clothing, tobacco and cooking and heating gas. Wow. Happily, houseplants will absorb formaldehyde and other unwanted substances while generating the negative ions in the air we breathe.

Despite their name, negative ions are actually a positive thing- they promote a feeling of freshness and well-being. When you open the window and let sun and fresh air into a dark room, you are actually changing the positive ions to negative ones, which is why the room feels great after letting in some fresh air. This is also why it’s a good idea to let some fresh air into your home for a few minutes every day, even if the weather is less-than-ideal.

Check in again tomorrow for another resolution worth making!

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Revolutionary Resolutions Day 4

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Welcome back to my series on the 7 Steps to a Great Life. Check my previous posts for other ideas for resolutions for a revolutionary 2012.

4. Make your daily life active.

This isn’t about what you think it’s about. I am not suggesting that you subject yourself to a purgatory of Stair Masters and step classes. Everyone thinks they need “exercise” but what we really need is to move our bodies, to challenge ourselves physically and mentally, and to play.

Rather than “exercise,” I recommend that you try to do life-related activities. Walk to the post office, or park in the back of the lot and carry your groceries farther. Squeeze in a quick walk in the morning, or on your lunch break, or after dinner. 30 minutes of walking outside a day, rain or shine, is best to balance both your body and your mind. Try a yoga class, or go for a bike ride. Remember, physical activity should be enjoyable!

What do you do to move your body?

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Revolutionary Resolutions Day 3

Posted on by Denny Waxman

See my previous posts for more ideas for revolutionary New Year’s resolutions. Today we’re going to talk about the format of the meals.

3. Eat two or three complete and nutritionally balanced meals every day.

Repeat after me: a meal is not complete unless it includes a grain and a separately cooked vegetable dish.

Grain and vegetables together form the basis of balanced nutrition. If you center your meals around whole grains and a variety of cracked grains (think brown rice, millet, whole grain pasta, barley, couscous, etc) supplemented by a separately cooked vegetable dish, you will be getting the most complete nutrition and you will feel more satisfied after your meal.

Notice that I said a separately cooked vegetable dish. This means that a grain dish that includes vegetables (such as vegetable fried rice or a pasta dish with lots of vegetables) does not count. Think steamed greens, squash, pressed salad, blanched vegetables, etc for your separately cooked vegetable dish.

Here are some examples of nutritionally complete and balanced meals:
Brown rice with chickpeas, steamed kale
Oatmeal with maple syrup, blanched watercress
Pasta with vegetables, pressed or raw salad
Couscous with vegetables, blanched salad with carrots, radishes and napa cabbage

Read The Great Life Diet for more information about the format of meals.

What are some of your favorite balanced meals?

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