why did the macrobiotic lifestyle spark my interest?
Macrobiotics caught my attention because I think it was able to keep up with my infinitely curious mind. When someone recommends to eat this or drink that I always have questions to ask. Since I believe everyone is unique in their own right and I find it hard to believe that there is ONE diet that suits everybody’s body type, I usually ask “how is this going to affect me as a UNIQUE & WHOLE individual?” Overall, I usually I have to be convinced that any recommendations I am given have a sound, sensible, rational explanation behind them. Macrobiotics sparked my interest because it looks at the WHOLE person and it captures the BIG PICTURE. “Macro” means big, “bio” means life.” It becomes a way of life. One in which you embrace natural, seasonal, local, organic foods and balance your physical, mental, & spiritual states. Macrobiotics is DEEP- it goes beyond just diet recommendations, there’s actually a whole philosophy behind it. I enjoy that the philosophy entails using food & awareness to create a rich, fulfilling, exciting, & satisfying life for yourself.
what is the macrobiotic diet?
According to the Macrobiotic Guide, “Macrobiotics is an approach to physical & emotional wellness through consuming foods that are balanced energetically (between yin & yang) and nutritionally. It is typically a well-balanced diet with high fiber, low fat, lots of vegetables and grains, vegetable protein, and limited meat, with an emphasis on eating seasonal organic food. Variety is worked into the meal to ensure that a wide range of nutrients are consumed for balance and enjoyment.”
Jessica Porter, a macrobiotic chef & instructor, explains, “The Standard Macrobiotic Diet is a template of recommendations created to develop a sense of balance & strengthening of one’s health. The Standard Macrobiotic Diet is the most recognized set of guidelines. The foods included in the Standard Diet are whole grains, a variety of vegetables, beans and bean products, sea vegetables, soups, pickles, desserts, condiments, and non-aromatic teas. Occasional foods include fish, fruit, and some alcoholic beverages. Normally avoided are highly refined sugars, chemicalized and processed foods, nightshade vegetables, dairy products, eggs, and most other animal foods (except fish). However, the diet is different for everyone & nothing is forbidden in the practice of macrobiotics because more than anything, macrobiotics is about freedom.”
If you follow a Macrobiotic Lifestyle are you basically a glorified vegetarian or vegan?
No. In macrobiotics some types of fish and other animal foods are included according to individual needs. Meat consumption is not looked down upon because within Macrobiotics nothing is considered “bad,” but there is the belief that when you become more in tune with yourself & nature, then animal products won’t make up the majority of your total food intake. Macrobiotic philosophy models itself off of the idea of balance. Animal consumption & salt are at one far end of the spectrum while sugar & alcohol are at the other. This does not mean that these foods should be banned from your diet, but rather, acknowledging that consumption of foods at one end are going to seek balance from foods at the other end of the spectrum (ever crave red wine with your steak?). Macrobiotics tends to operate on keeping your life balanced without of the source of that balance constantly coming from see-sawing between extremes. For example, pulling an all-nighter drinking binge can be balanced by sleeping off the hangover for 12 hours the next day, but it may not be the ideal way to live your life. It’s also not to say that it’s “unacceptable” do this from time to time, but it’s also acknowledging “is this the way I operate a large majority of the time?” Macrobiotics is all about freedom of what you choose to do and using any consequences of your actions to influence future choices. Although some people follow Macrobiotics and choose to include animal products in their diet, others find that a vegetarian and even vegan version of macrobiotics is what suits them best.
What does it mean to consume foods that are balanced energetically (between yin & yang)?
Lets first try to get a grip on this Yin & Yang thing! Yin & Yang is a concept used to describe how seemingly opposite forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world. Although these forces seem contradicting to each other, they actually arise & thrive by depending on the other, thus they are complementary opposites. Yin & yang interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system. Everything has both yin & yang aspects, but one of the qualities may manifest more strongly in particular objects than the other, but there’s also the ability for the expression of either yin or yang to change over time and within certain circumstances. Whoa. Deep Stuff! Basically, from repelling & attracting to expanding & contracting- at the end of the day Yin & Yang is all about BALANCE.
Macrobiotics is not just about understanding food, but it’s about understanding the way the world operates around you. When you simplify the way the world turns round and round to the concept of yin and yang it may be easier to see the constant expansion (yin) & contraction (yang) of life. Yin and Yang can be applied to everything you encounter- nature, humans, ideas, art, relationships, sports, history, politics, religion, food. In knowing that everything is governed by yin and yang forces you can use it to learn to cook in a way that uplifts your mind, body, & spirit.
More specifically to food, every thing you can eat can be placed on a spectrum of yin to yang. Foods are categorized as more yin or more yang depending on it’s characteristics and qualities. This is a discussion that is SO deep that I cannot go into in enough detail to do it justice, but understanding this is actually what Macrobiotics is all about. Creating the awareness of seeing the yin and yang in everything you engage in (but especially in food) is the bulk of the work you do when studying this lifestyle. You must pay attention to the subtleties in life & that requires you to be in tune with yourself & your surroundings. Eventually you can heighten your intuition to the point where you can create meals that have a balancing quality and energy to them, leaving you feeling more centered and vibrant.
what has been your experience & what are your insights on Macrobiotics?
At the end of the day, to me, it makes sense that eating foods created by nature allows you to be more in sync with nature and eating highly processed foods wires & connects you to what is no longer pure. One thing that I love about the Macrobiotic Lifestyle is that there is the recognition that by eating more natural and energized foods, the more we can sense our intuition & be divinely connected to everything. I don’t think our intuition is emphasized enough in most things we do. So that fact that it is within this philosophy really draws me in. When you’re not used to trusting your intuition, and then one day you wake up and you say “I am going to trust my intuition” that is first and foremost the most POSITIVE thing you can do for yourself, but you may find that after ignoring it for some time you may feel disconnected to it. This is why the Macrobiotic Dietary guidelines are given- so that you can eat more natural, organic, energizing food that will desludge from all the processed chemical gunk that’s blocking you from working from your Higher Self. This helps in developing sensitivity and an intuitive sense. Then the goal is strive towards intuitively sensing the effects of food so that you can be less governed by rules and regulations, and shift towards trusting what’s right for you body at any given moment.
If I had to think of a quick way to describe in a nutshell why I enjoy Macro thinking, Jessica Porter takes the words right out of my mouth when she says, “When considering food we need too look beyond the bikinis at the overall picture. You are a human with a physical self, an emotional being, creativity, intellect, relationships, and a spiritual life. All these aspects of who you are get nourished (or malnourished) by the foods that you eat.”
This all sounds like flowers and puppies, no? Yes, it indeed does. The difficult part when it comes to making changes that address the WHOLE person is that it requires a change in attitude & a shift in your thinking. When you make the commitment to do these things it can become frustrating at times and sometimes a little discouraging to know that you’re ALWAYS a work in progress. With that said, I haven’t gone whole hog Macro, because it requires time and energy to dedicate & educate myself on the topic. The nice thing is that you can always take baby steps into the process. You can start with the food component or you can dive into the philosophy. Personally, I’ve dabbled in the food aspect a little bit, but what I fully embrace is the philosophy.
I personally found it hard to adopt a lot of the dietary recommendations because there are some foods that are unfamiliar to me and others that are hard to find unless I went to specialty stores. I also think that the more I learn about Macrobiotics through philosophy, the more I become open to experimenting with foods that are not the norm for me. For others, they may find that food is what they are more connected to, where as the philosophy portion confuses them and feels unfamiliar. I think we all approach life in different ways, and there is no right or wrong way of doing things. I also don’t believe that Macrobiotics is the end all be all of diets and philosophy, but I think it has a lot to offer and it nicely integrates the body, mind, and spirit!
Any helpful resources you recommend?
I have just scratched the surface on all of this Macro mumbo jumbo, so if you find Macrobiotics intriguing, I encourage you to pursue it further! Although, targeted toward women, I feel that men can benefit JUST as much from the one resource I found very helpful, Jessica Porter’s book…The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics. It’s witty, simple, and informative- I highly recommend it. Check out her website here for the audiobook option, virtual cooking classes, recipes, a much more in depth look at the macro world!