Metabolism Basics

Posted on by Denny Waxman

This article in the Huffington Post struck my interest.  The time is now for macrobiotics because as this articles explains, people are exposed to obesity for longer periods of time. Simply stated, westerners are becoming fatter, earlier in life.

My definition of metabolism is the ability to digest food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste.  Two factors control metabolism: what we eat and when we eat it.  What we eat is obviously important, but when?  Why is that a key factor?

The digestive system, contrary to most beliefs, is not “on call” for all hours of the day and night.  It has highest capabilities in the mornings between 5am and 8am, 11am to 1pm, and in the evenings between 5pm and 7:30pm.  These are meal times:  breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  If you eat the right foods at the right times, it activates your metabolism.  Remember that one component of metabolism is elimination of waste.  If you give yourself nutrition at these meal times, you can most effectively get rid of what you don’t need.  If you eat the right foods at the right time, your body processes what you will use and then can detox the rest.  Weight cannot build up on the body.

Think of it like this: In a three bedroom house, you have ten people and everyone must leave.  People grab their stuff and go out the door easily.  Bump that number to 100 people, and it gets tougher to leave the house.  And then, what about 500 people?  If you’re in the back, you’ll be waiting a long time until you see the door.

Obese people have a slow metabolism and experience this sort of back up with their food intake.  But there is hope because everyone, even the morbidly obese, has the ability to improve their metabolism.  The health of the western world concerns me greatly, and I’ve been thinking about what caused this epidemic of obesity in the first place.  Generally speaking, the contributing factors that changed are food quality, adherence to meal times, and activities that connect us to our natural surroundings.

Through the industrial revolution and the aftermath of World War II, our food quality diminished with pesticides and modern food preservation.  Fast food restaurants, two working-parent households, children uneducated in proper nutrition, and many more factors have lead to what is now an eradication of regular meal times.  Lastly, activities that connect us to our natural surroundings are not mainstream either.  Working on a computer and staying seated all day can not be undone through scheduled exercise.  Higher levels of outside activity would prevent this obesity problem for the majority of people that suffer from this condition.

Here are my simple rules to activate metabolism:

  1. Eat exclusively when you sit down.  Pay attention to the food that you put in your body.  Make sure you’re not doing anything else because you won’t remember you ate and will want to eat again.
  2. Never skip breakfast or lunch.  It will be answered with weight gain.  Within these time frames, your metabolism can be activated, so you don’t want to miss it.
  3. Eat a comfortable amount of grains and vegetables and a variety of other plant-based foods at your meals.  Hold no restrictions to how much healthy food you want to eat.

DennyW

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A Good Night’s Sleep

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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.

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Creating Order Out of Chaos

Posted on by Denny Waxman

After Superstorm Sandy has slammed the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, it is hard to imagine that nature alone is responsible. Even if you deny that there is global warming and that we are at least part of the cause, it is hard to miss the fact that the severity of storms and earthquakes is steadily increasing. The five most expensive natural disasters in history have occurred in the the last 18 years, since 1994. Two of these disasters have been in the U.S. It is still too soon to say which number Hurricane Sandy will be on the list.

It seems evident to me that our excessive diet and lifestyle, together with our complete disregard for nature are strong contributing factors to the recent changes in weather. Some people think that the weather is a reflection of our inner feelings, thoughts and turmoil. Everyone knows that a happy person brightens a room when they enter and that happiness and laughter are infectious. The opposite is also true when someone who is upset or tormented shows up. We influence our environment in the same way that our environment influences us. We usually feel more uplifted on a bright, sunny day.

They say that people with a green thumb talk to their plants. I know my wife does and we have a house full of beautiful, happy plants. It stands to reason that nature is a reflection of our overall health, including our innermost thoughts and feelings. From this subtle to a more gross reality, our daily choices of what and how we eat can have an enormous impact on the health of soil, waterways, ecosystems and the global climate. Part of one whole, it is not a coincidence that the general public and environment simultaneously face ill-health on catastrophic and pandemic proportions.

In health, our energy, thoughts and emotions go through a range of ups and downs that are not overly extreme. Some days are better than others but we generally feel and act okay. As we start to loose our health, these physical, emotional and mental extremes start to increase. We experience more physical, emotional and mental ups and downs. Nature is loosing it’s health and these extremes between hot and cold, floods and droughts are increasing worldwide. These extremes are also causing storms and earthquakes to become more severe.

As nature looses it’s healthy order it is increasingly more important to bring order into our daily life. Order and chaos balance each other. Try to keep you mealtimes, daily activities, rising and sleeping times as regular as you can. Go outside for a walk, meditate or do your yoga at the same time each day. Try to be as regular and consistent as you can in a comfortable way. Life pulls us in different directions so it is not always possible to be as consistent as we would like, but having an intention of such a routine will always pull us in the right direction.

At the Strengthening Health Institute we teach people how to create lasting health and personal fulfillment through order in diet, eating habits and lifestyle practices. I am always amazed to see the power of these simple practices as I watch people transform each day of our seminars and into their daily lives. I hope to see you here soon to help bring some order to the mounting chaos around us.

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Achieve a Healthy Weight Naturally!

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I just finished reading this blog on metabolism and it brought a number of things to mind for me. I have heard many people’s stories about exercising on a regular basis and loosing little to no weight. I have also heard stories about personal trainers who could not loose the bulge in their mid-section. There seems to be a contradiction here or maybe something is missing. In most cases, exercise alone is not enough to regulate our weight or trim our waist lines. If this is due to our sluggish metabolism then how can we remedy the situation and maintain a healthy weight?

Having a problem with our weight is a symptom of an imbalance in our diet and activity. Carrying excess weight is not the problem, it is the symptom of an overall imbalance. We have created this imbalance because of a lack of understanding about the relationship between diet, eating habits and activity in our life. This is why attempts to loose weight do not work in most cases. Weight loss techniques or methods are temporary at best for most people.

A healthy metabolism, our ability to digest foods, absorb their nutrition and eliminate the excess efficiently, is the key to maintaing a healthy weight. Diet is the missing link. Our metabolism is regulated by the two factors, the time we start our meals and what we eat. In addition to a healthy diet and eating habits, exercise helps as long as it does not make us overeat or crave more rich foods and sweets. The wrong exercise or pushing to hard can backfire and actually make us gain weight. I like to encourage a variety in daily activities before implementing a structured exercise program.

Through my macrobiotic counseling practice, I have helped many hundreds of people loose weigh and keep it off with these simple health practices. Finding a healthy, satisfying way of eating is the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. I would like to make a few suggestions that can help you solve your weight problems once and for all.

Plan your meals around cooked whole grains and vegetable dishes.
Eat a serving of steamed greens daily.
Sit down to eat your meals or snacks without working, TV or reading.
Start eating your breakfast by 9 am at the latest.
Stop eating 3 hours before going to bed.
Walk outside for at least 30 minutes a day.

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Body, Mind and Spirit

Posted on by Denny Waxman

It seems common sense to me that food nourishes us on many levels including our mind, and that a healthy body and mind are the prerequisites for developing a strong and effective educational system. There has been a lot in the media recently about how Americans are comparing unfavorably with many other nations in both health and education. There has been a steady decline over the years in these areas. The decline seems to reflect our poor diets and lack of natural outdoor activity. We hear about and can even see the alarming rates of overweight, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. I find our decline painful to watch in so many ways.

Food is energy or spirit. When we eat physical food it breaks down to liquid and then energy. Most of the food we eat goes to nourish our energy on physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual levels, rather than maintenance and repair of our bodies. If this does not make sense to you, try meditating after eating a meal of brown rice, miso soup and sautéed vegetables. Then try the same meditation the next day after eating fried chicken or pizza and a soda. Doesn’t it seem that there would be a difference in these two meditations. Would you even want to or be able to meditate after the fried chicken or pizza meals?

I was a terrible student growing up. I had no interest in school other than recess. I was also a total junk food eater with a steadily declining diet. It was only after I discovered macrobiotics and started to eat a primarily grain, bean and vegetable based diet that I wanted to sit down and read books. As time went on I wanted to know about and study everything! I became a wonderful, self-motivated student on my own. When my body was open to real nourishment, so was my mind. My children are all interested in education, the children of my friends and clients are as well. The common point is healthy foods create a healthy body and mind. Health craves health on every level, diet, activity and education.

The combination of a healthy diet and healthy activity helps us to develop a strong nervous system and a powerful memory that enables us to understand and figure things out. Healthy food gives us this kind of mental clarity. This sounds like a bold statement, however, it is based on my observation of myself, friends and clients over many years. A plant based diet helps us create connections. It naturally encourages us to connect with each other, nature, the environment and most importantly our life dreams.

It is time to realize the connections between body, mind, spirit, society, nature and environment and that the solutions my be right in front of us, on our dinner plates.

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Helen Stevenson Memorial

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Helen Stevenson was a dear friend for many years. She passed on July 16 and she is missed already. Helen had a gentle smile and a wacky sense of humor. She also had a sharp tongue when needed and an ability to just shrug things off after.

We became friends when we sat next to each other on an Amtrak train to Harrisburg to fight the Dietician’s Licensure Bill around 1986. Being a Number 6 like me in 9 Star Ki Astrology, I found her a little intimidating at first and was a little nervous about sitting next to her on the train for the next hour. They say that Number 6 is the most intimidating number. By the time we arrived in Harrisburg, her warmth, gentleness and humor had shown through and that train ride was the beginning of a long and close friendship for the next 25 years.

Helen was more than a friend. She was a member of my family and was designated as the “surrogate granny” of my children with Melanie. She was part of birthdays, holidays and vacations. Helen was also a good listener and a good advisor. She was my client and student and also my friend and mentor at the same time. I found her common sense and calm guidance invaluable over the years. My love and admiration for her will be shared by many.

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True Nourishment

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Susan and I are still feeling the peaceful effects of Saturday’s “Day of Mindfulness.”

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Ben Franklin was Macrobiotic

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Ben Franklin is one of my heroes because of his practical, creative genius and his connection to Philadelphia. While rereading his autobiography recently it occurred to me that he was not only one of our founding fathers but also a father of macrobiotics. Ben Franklin is a role model for macrobiotic practice.

He became a vegetarian at 16 and tried to share this practice with his friends. He also had a grain-based diet with regular eating habits and lifestyle practices. It is very reminiscent of my 7 Steps, which I refer to as the pillars of macrobiotic practice. I think of the 7 Steps as a regular and orderly approach to diet and lifestyle. This is completely in line with Ben Franklin.

Ben Franklin was closely tied to nature through gardening and seed exchange and the range of his social activities is legendary. We now enjoy so many of the institutions and inventions he created including hospitals, libraries, fire department, etc.

It deeply saddens me that we have moved so far away from the nature and values of Ben Franklin. It is one of my goals to show that the roots of macrobiotics are shared by all of the world’s longstanding cultures. They are common to all of us. What better place to start than Ben Franklin. There is no better time to start re-establishing these connections than now.

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Remembering Aveline Kushi

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I first met Aveline in 1969 when she accompanied Michio to Philadelphia for a lecture. It was a great joy for me to read Ed’s article about Aveline and it brought up many memories for me. As Ed says in his blog post, Aveline was among the greatest of women. Her wisdom, grace and adventurous spirit always kept me in awe. In addition to everything she accomplished socially, Aveline was a major force in my life personally. I considered her my spiritual mother. She encouraged me every step of the way in my personal development and in the creation of many macrobiotic projects. In her later years it was always a great joy for us to meet and spend some time together. Our last meeting was when Aveline again accompanied Michio to Philadelphia for a lecture. It was a wonderful and very sad meeting as I knew it was the last time I would see her. Aveline is always close to my heart.

Read more about Aveline here

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Concerns Surrounding Recent Events in Japan

Posted on by Denny Waxman

We at the SHI, including my wife, Susan and all of the staff, wish to extend our most sincere prayers of health and healing to the Japanese people, the land and the ocean that has been effected by the devastation of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plants.

With regard to the effect of the tragedy on imported macrobiotic staples, namely the quality of present and future Japanese miso, umeboshi, shoyu, wakame and other seaweeds, here are my thoughts. As of the earthquake on March 11th and the subsequent tsunami, nuclear meltdown and radiation release in Northeastern Japan, the most recent shipment of Japanese macrobiotic foods was already at sea before the earthquake hit, according to the suppliers of the SHI. The coming shipment is untainted but as far as future supplies are concerned, seaweed will be most effected by radiation fallout. If you have further concerns, please speak to your favored macrobiotic foods importer.

Shoyu is made in Sendai, as are some misos, such as Onozaki, and they take a long time to make. It takes eighteen months to make shoyu and two years for miso. Hatcho miso comes from Okazaki, nine hours southwest from Fukushima. Ryujin umeboshi plums come from Wakayama Prefecture in south-central Japan and so should remain unaffected. In the end, a big part of the quality of the product depends on the ingredients: wheat, soy beans, salt and waters, as well as the environment in which they are made. We will have to wait and see how the radiation settles, but for now, this might be a good time to start exploring American macrobiotic products, e.g. South River Miso, Miso Master Miso, Maine Coast Seaweed and California-made Umeboshi.

As for the plume of radiation headed for the west-coast of the United States, the radiation levels are very low and most likely will have dispersed to a non-threatening level, according to Scientific American on March 16, 2011. Maintaining a diet that includes brown rice, miso soup, moderate amounts of seaweed and adzuki beans are especially important for keeping blood quality strong. Seaweed also has the unique ability to bind with heavy metals, such as cesium, one of pollutants found in radioactive fallout. However, over-consumption of seaweed creates a mineral imbalance and could lead to thyroid problems and extreme weight loss, due to the high mineral content of sea vegetables.

I recommend an increase in sea vegetable consumption only in a case of heavy exposure to radioactive metals, and not otherwise. The current levels of radiation on the west-coast to not warrant increased seaweed.

In the case of heavy exposure to radioactive metals, foods to avoid include sugar, soft drinks, fruit, juices, chocolate and highly processed foods. It is also important to avoid extreme yang foods such as meat, chicken and eggs. Someone in Sendai or someone who has been exposed to the meltdown in or near Fukushima needs a simple diet of brown rice, adzuki beans, strong miso soup and a bit more seaweed, well cooked vegetables, such as nishimi and kinpira, and drink small amounts of kukicha tea as a beverage. It would also be imperative that all sugar, excess liquids and all extreme yin or yang be avoided.

People living on the west-coast of the United States should maintain a standard macrobiotic practice, making sure to include brown rice, miso soup, adzuki beans and a normal amount of sea vegetables, no more than usual, along with the usual variety of foods. I will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

With continued prayers for Japan,

DennyWaxman

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