It was 1983. I was 26 years old. My mother had just passed away after a long battle with colon cancer and I was just…how can I explain it? I was over it. Over struggle and sadness; over life, really. So it came as no surprise when I faced my own mortality just mere months after my mother’s death. I remember thinking that it was the perfect ending, in a twisted sort of way.
I could not have known that it was really a new beginning.
As I faced my own health challenge, a friend introduced me to Robert Pirello who introduced me to the macrobiotic way of life. It’s important to note, at this point in the story that I had heard of macrobiotics, even experimented with it when my mother was ill. I remembered that it was shrouded in mysticism: yin and yang, order of the universe… and that the food was…well, boring.
I had cooked from scratch all my life and loved everything about food and cooking, but this…this was so weird. When I look back, I laugh as I now embrace all that I thought was weird as normal and the lens through which I view the world.
So What is Macrobiotics?
A lot of myths and misconceptions surround this wonderful lifestyle, so let’s ditch those before we get too far in. While Georges Ohsawa and Michio Kushi are considered the fathers of macrobiotics in America, it is in fact a style of living in harmony with nature that was embraced by all cultures. It is not only Asian, although it is influenced by ancient Eastern wisdom.
Macrobiotics a lifestyle that hearkens back to a more traditional way of eating and living. No matter the culture, every society was steeped in traditions with respect for…and connection to nature that was universal. Macrobiotics suggests that we choose and prepare food in a manner that serves our health condition and lifestyle.
Choosing to live in harmony with nature and realizing that we are part of everything around us is the basic tenet of macrobiotic thinking. We realize that we are part of a giant web of life, all connected to each other as one life form, one energy. We realize that our choices; from food to lifestyle creates who we are as it becomes part of us…literally. We realize that our choices have an impact on all of us, not just our own personal health and well-being.
Macrobiotics gives us an understanding of food as energy which makes it easy to create delicious, healthful meals.
What a Macrobiotic Lifestyle Looks Like
Simply stated, macrobiotic eating is largely plant-based seasonal foods cooked with respect for your own lifestyle and health condition. It is living more naturally, connected to nature.
Macrobiotics is founded on the thinking that whole grains, beans and vegetables nourish humans best. Not necessarily vegan, most people living a macrobiotic lifestyle do, in fact, eschew animal foods of any kind (me included). In macrobiotics we view food as energy and use that energy to serve the larger purpose of our lives.
So what does a macrobiotic meal look like? It will very likely begin with soup (typically miso). We hold the belief that soup prepares the digestive tract for assimilation of nutrients and so soup begins most meals (once or twice a day, every day, every season).
Your plate will be gorgeous as it will be brimming with nature’s bounty. Whole grains are the cornerstone of any meal as they provide us with complex carbohydrate nutrition so essential to human health. Balanced with grains will be plant-based proteins, like beans, tofu and tempeh…in any proportion you desire or need. People who are active may require more protein than those who are less so, but you have freedom to create and build your meal as your health requires. Veggies rule your macrobiotic dinner plate from sweet roots like carrots and parsnips to centering ground veggies like cabbage, winter squash and cauliflower as well as leafy greens like kale and collard greens. Rounding out macrobiotic eating is the use of nuts, seeds, good quality fats and oils, fruits…and some deliciously homemade sweet treats.
The beauty of macrobiotic eating is that…contrary to what you may have heard, it gives us an understanding of how food works in the body resulting in total freedom of choice. For so many of us, we go through the day blindly making choices; from habit or belief system or environment. In macrobiotics, we understand food and its impact on us and that drives our choices. We are never in the dark wondering why we feel as we do. We know that we have laid a foundation upon which we have built our health and it’s either solid or well…not so much. We can choose whatever we like to eat; from brown rice to chocolate; from vegetable juices to smoothies; from whole grains to pasta and breads…because we understand food which frees us from fear and uncertainty about the effects of food on health.
Benefits of Macrobiotics
The good news is that for most people living a macrobiotic lifestyle, once we discover the truth about the impact of food on health and once we see how great we feel most of the time because of the choices we make, we make better choices…for ourselves and the planet.
I always say that you cannot un-know what you discover. In macrobiotics, once the awareness of our connection to each other and nature is awakened, we make our choices based on human health and the health of our environment. It becomes nearly impossible to pollute or step heavily on our fragile planet.
Macrobiotics woke me up. It was as though a veil had been lifted from my eyes and I saw clearly the impact of my daily choices on my health and all of humanity.
And the truly gorgeous thing about macrobiotics? It all begins with delicious food provided us by Mother Nature.