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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Macrobiotics and Seasonal Health

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I recently read a blog called “A Season Pattern to Mental Health.”

Macrobiotics plays a large role in this pattern for a couple of reasons:

Our blood sugar follows the suns movement, thus it follows the seasons as well.  As humans, blood sugar should slowly start to rise after midnight so that we can wake up early in the morning ready for activity.  Gradually, it should start to fall shortly after lunch around 2pm so that we can fall sleep.

Unfortunately, the natural cycles seems uncommon.  The opposite of healthy blood sugar is called hypoglycemia.  In a hypoglycemic situation (hypo means low), our blood sugar doesn’t rise early enough so that we can get up and go in the mornings.  We need caffeine and sugar to wake us up.  Most often, eating too much sugar is an overreaction to our lower level of blood sugar in the mornings.  Our pancreas secretes insulin and once it is processed, our blood sugar falls rapidly so that we become useless in the afternoon.  We suffer from sleepiness, low energy, and slow thinking.  As blood sugar dips, we feel anxious and irritable until sometimes we reach a level of anger.  When this anger erupts, we can feel our heart rate rise which contributes to a  sudden spike in blood sugar.  After any sudden spike, we experience a drastic decline.  It is very common that blood sugar will fall so low that we feel restless.  At this stage, we actually need to raise it to be able go to reach a state of sleep.  Overnight we secrete insulin to lower our blood sugar, and when the sun rises we’re not ready to wake up.  The pattern goes on and on.

We all know we feel better in the summer, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  When the sun is out and the days are bright, it is much easier to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. When the days are shorter and darker, it makes it harder for our blood sugar to come up in the morning.  In the winters, to sustain healthier blood sugar, eating more cooked foods will ward off the urge to raise and lower blood sugar in an effort to gain energy.

In reference to the blog: Certain diseases and problems are much more common in the winter.  Depression, anxiety, and chronic pain have been documented as more prevalent during these darker  and shorter days.  This is exacerbated by a poor diet and chaotic eating habits.

The remedy to this blood sugar problem is simple: Eat quality food in an organized timely manner.  The most important meal in reseting this cycle is lunch.  Eat lunch every day between 12 and 1pm.  It resets the biological clock.  Also, walking outside can have this effect as well.  Get outside and enjoy yourself as often as possible, even in darker or gloomier days.  When these habits become part of your life, it will not take long to notice the change.  You’ll feel better physically, feel things deeper, and be more present in your life.   

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Cooking Friend or Foe?

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotics

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.

No Comments | Tags: Macrobiotic Counseling, Macrobiotic Diet, Uncategorized

The Importance of Eating on Time

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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.

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

Pick Me Up Vegetables

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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.

No Comments | Tags: Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotics

A New Year’s Resolution That You Will Want to Keep

Posted on by Denny Waxman

My wife Susan wrote a blog today that inspired this blog. I was fortunate to discover a health practice many years ago and to adopt it into my life. This practice has become so much a part of my life that a day without it does not seem the same. If you do this practice in the morning your day goes better and if you do it at night you have deeper and more refreshing sleep. I am referring to something that I call the Body Rub or The Art of Skin Rejuvenation. It takes 10–15 minutes in the morning, night or both.

This is a traditional technique that has been practiced in various ways in different parts of the world to help improve the skin, lymph and general health. I originally learned it from my teacher, Michio Kushi, as the body scrub. It is generally recommended to scrub vigorously with a damp cloth, dry cloth or body brush to invigorate and exfoliate the skin and improve circulation.

After years of practicing the body rub in different ways, it occurred to me that a gentle rub is even more effective than a vigorous scrub in many ways. I would like to explain the reasons I have made this fundamental change to this long-standing practice.

Our skin renews itself every 28 days. As long as your skin can get oils, moisture, nourishment and oxygen from inside it will always be young, fresh and blemish free, at any age. This sounds too good to be true. but it is not. The body rub is a life changing technique. You can think of it as technique that literally winds back your biological clock.

A gentle rub with a hot damp cloth encourages our pores to open and allow fats and toxins stored in our skin to release. The harder we scrub, the more we seal our pores, preventing this release of toxins. I have observed for many years that people who do the body rub the way I recommend have skin that looks much clearer, brighter and fresher than others.

Simply fill your sink with hot water, dip in a folded cotton cloth, wring it out so that it is damp, and gently rub your skin. Try to cover your entire body. Do the body rub separate from the bath or shower. You can learn the specific details in my book, The Great Life Diet, or at an Intensive Seminar at The Strengthening Health Institute.

I am now going to make some more bold claims about the benefits of the body rub. The only way you will know if these claims are true is to do it faithfully everyday for three weeks. You can then determine if you want to incorporate this practice into your life. The body rub cleans your mind as much as it cleans your body. You will find it much easier to let go of worrying or irritating thoughts after doing the body rub. Day by day you will find that you become more aware of your body and will experience an improved self image. Make sure to rub the areas that you are not fond of. The body rub is also a mindfulness and spiritual practice. It is a deep expression of your self appreciation. I hope that you find the body rub to be an enjoyable and valuable addition to your life and a resolution worth keeping. This is your time, no kids, cell phones, iPods, etc. Just gently rub your skin and allow your mind to be free.

2 Comments | Tags: 7 Steps, Exercise, Macrobiotics

Year End 2012

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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.

No Comments | Tags: Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics

My Most Important Discovery of 2012

Posted on by Denny Waxman

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.

No Comments | Tags: Allergies, Immune System, Macrobiotic Counseling, Macrobiotic Diet

Ending Breast Cancer, Part 2

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Yet another blog has got my attention. It is amazing how many doctors choose to ignore or disregard current and life-saving research. In this case, the dangers of serious harm caused by early detection for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.

The end of breast cancer can be in sight with the Strengthening Health Institute taking the lead. It is widely known and accepted that cancer, including breast cancer, is diet related. The combination of diet and varied activity or healthy lifestyle practices is even more powerful. When these factors are combined with an open and positive attitude the results are even better. Give yourself the gift of health and life by attending an Intensive Seminar at the Strengthening Health Institute. Under the direction of Denny and Susan Waxman, you will begin a journey towards health. This is a life-enhancing seminar that will give you the tools and inspiration to create lasting health for you and your family. It is a perfect gift for this time of year.

No Comments | Tags: Cancer, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotics and Medicine