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Macrobiotic Remedies: What are they?

In our standard way of thinking, we differentiate between food and medicine. The previous one is eaten every day to keep our energy levels up, the last one is taken only when we are sick.

This same outline is used in the macrobiotic theory. The standard macrobiotic diet, explained in other posts [1], is what we eat to be able to keep doing our daily activities. But when we are sick, we try with the macrobiotic remedies instead, which are dishes, drinks and external remedies that are used until we recover our normal condition.

MACROBIOTIC REMEDIES THAT ARE DRINKS

The macrobiotic remedies that are drinks consist of boiled foods. Even if they are called tea, they are not prepared with the tea plant and they have no theine. They are normally boiled for a short time, between 5 and 10 minutes, and common ingredients from the standard macrobiotic diet are used in it. Some examples of these ingredients are shiitake mushrooms or adzuki beans.

An example of these remedies is shiitake tea, which is used to help reduce fever and relax a contracted condition because of an excess of animal food or stress.

The following video shows briefly how to prepare shiitake tea.

Shiitake tea (quick version) from Macrobiótica Mediterránea on Vimeo.

MACROBIOTIC REMEDIES THAT ARE DISHES

The same dishes that are used in the standard macrobiotic diet can also be used as remedies. In order to do so, we need to know which properties does every dish have and if it is appropriate for the condition the person is in. Some examples of these dishes are: miso soup, sautéed (kinpira) or cooking without water (nishime).

MACROBIOTIC REMEDIES THAT ARE EXTERNAL APPLICATIONS

Food can also be used externally, by applying it to our skin for a period of time. The most representative example and the most used in macrobiotics is the ginger compress. Salt compresses, tofu poultices and buckwheat poultices are used too.

The application of macrobiotic remedies follows a way of thinking that is based on two theories: the ying-yang theory and the theory of five transformations. Both of them are widely known in the East and they represent very valuable knowledge used to treat small instabilities as well as to prevent us from health issues in the long term.

Macrobiotic remedies are a simple part of macrobiotics, possibly the simplest one, and therefore, they are the easiest way of starting to learn more about it.

I will shortly publish the first set of original contents, exclusive for Macrobiotics students (MS students), which will be about macrobiotic remedies.


NOTES

[1] Picture: Kushi, M. (1985). Macrobiotic Home Remedies. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, Inc.

[2] Posts where the foods used in macrobiotics are described: The Macrobiotic Pyramid, Foods of the Macrobiotic Diet

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Macrobiotics: A simple approach for weight loss

Macrobiotic Weight Loss

The healthiest, simplest and least drastic approach to lose weight is still reducing calories and exercising more.

It is true that this does not work in all the cases, but this principle must prevail even in the cases in which it does not work.

This way of losing weight is the one that macrobiotics defends, in which calories are reduced, people exercise more and food is selected carefully [2], avoiding those ingredients that contribute to the development of chronic diseases (obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol).

Michio Kushi (1985) wrote about this way of losing weight:

Although many complex explanations are frequently offered for why and how individuals become overweight in the first place, it is really quite simple: they eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods and they don’t exercise enough. The modern diet is about 42 percent fat (mostly saturated animal fat), which has more than twice the calories of protein or complex carbohydrates. Food processing has also condensed many of the foods commonly eaten. Since their bulk (natural food fiber) is removed, it is easier to fit more food -and calories- into the stomach in less time.

On the macrobiotic diet, up to the 10 percent of average meal is bulk, compared with about 2 percent or less in the diet eaten by most people today. The added bulk gives satisfied feeling of being full, without adding calories to the diet. It also helps the body to more quickly and efficiently eliminate the food it does not use.

Unlike the foods that comprise the popular high-protein weight loss diets, which tend to drain energy and stimulate cravings for sweets, the complex carbohydrates in the macrobiotic diet reduces cravings for sweets and other fattening foods, and provide plenty of energy as well.

Losing weight and then maintaining the desired weight is not difficult on the macrobiotic diet. As a group, people who shun foods high in saturated fats (such as red meats, dairy products, and poultry), and simple sugars, are trim-and tend to stay that way. Depending on how much you weight now and the extent to which you adhere to macrobiotic principles, your weight should normalize in a matter of days, weeks, or months. As in William Dufty’s case, fifty or more pounds lost over a period of months is not uncommon.

On the macrobiotic diet, as long as you eat until satisfied, two or three times per day, you will meet your bodily nutritional needs. You can generally expect to lose about one to three pounds a week. Of course, if you also begin even a moderate exercise program (see Chapter 10) your results will be enhanced. As an added bonus your blood fat and cholesterol levels, and your blood pressure will normalize as well.

Despite the passing of the years, Kushi’s text is still valid.

This is the approach you will find if you opt for a dietetic consultation with the aim of losing weight.


NOTES

[1] Picture: Kushi, M. (1985). Macrobiotic Home Remedies. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, Inc. P. 62

[2] To choose foods carefully, and according to the macrobiotic approach, you can visit the following posts: The Macrobiotic Pyramid, Foods of the Macrobiotic Diet.

[3] Quote: Kushi, M. & Blauer, S. (1985). The Macrobiotic Way. Wayne (New Jersey): Avery Publishing Group Inc. P. 24

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Definition of Macrobiotics

Macrobiotic teacher
Denny Waxman, teaching in the late 1970s

What is macrobiotics?

On 27 August 1978, on a rainy night in Philadelphia, a doctor who had just been diagnosed with cancer asked the same question to a macrobiotics teacher in their first meeting.

This is how the doctor tells us about it in his book:

“What is macrobiotics?” I asked him

Basically, it’s a way of life, incorporating a diet and philosophy to help bring about improved health and happiness. The diet varies some, depending on one’s condition, the time of the year, and the place one lives. But you should eat fifty to sixty percent whole grains, especially brown rice; twenty-five percent locally grown, cooked vegetables; fifteen percent beans and sea vegetables, and the rest made up of soups and various condiments”

He then told me in greater detail which foods I should be eating. Nearly everything he mentioned was unfamiliar. On the other hand, when he said which foods I should eliminate from my diet, he described my standard fare to the letter. Stop eating all meat, dairy products, refined grains, including white bread and flour products, he said. Cut out all sugar, all oil, nuts, fruits and carbonated beverages, and foods containing synthetic chemicals and preservatives. He said that the standard macrobiotic diet normally includes some fish, fruit desserts, and other natural sweeteners, but because my condition was so severe I should eat strictly until I showed real signs of improvements.

Almost 40 years later, the same teacher proposed a definition of macrobiotics that was supported by the entire macrobiotic community. Not only individuals but also schools agreed on that definition (dictionary style):

Macrobiotics, noun, (used with a singular verb)
1. a way of life that guides one’s choices in nutrition, activity, and lifestyle.
2. a system of principles and practices of harmony to benefit the body, mind,
and planet.

macrobiotic, adj., such as macrobiotic philosophy or macrobiotic diet.

Origin: from Ancient Greek: Macro (large or long) and Bios (life or way of living).

From Macrobiotic School, I would like to express that I agree with that definition.


NOTES

[1] Sattilaro, A.J. and Monte, T. (1982). Recalled by Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. (pp.66-67)

[2] Definition agreed upon by the International Macrobiotic Conference 2017 in Berlin, with 45 macrobiotic teachers, along with GOMF, SHI, Macrobiotic Association, IMP, IME, Chi Energy, IMS, and other schools, institutes, and organizations. Link to International Macrobiotics: Macrobiotic Definition

[3] Photo credit: Michael Rossoff.

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Remembering Michio

Michio Kushi from World Government to Food from Macrobiótica Mediterránea on Vimeo.

Leaders are important. They start a new movement, which is the most difficult thing to do, so that their followers keep it alive afterwards. In the case of macrobiotics, Michio Kushi was the leader par excellence. He popularised macrobiotics as a movement to improve our diet and lifestyle. He gave it a Japanese touch, maybe a Spartan touch and a very strict one in some occasions, but it was useful to revert many health issues.

Since December 28, 2014, macrobiotics does not count on Michio Kushi. He died at the age of 88 as a consequence of a pancreatic cancer. Since that day, the health of the Kushi Institute, in Becket, Massachusetts, started to decline and it finally closed its doors in February 2017. And with that, the dissemination of macrobiotics is in the hands of its students and their respective schools.

If we want to meet Michio again, we should travel to the past. For that reason, I am bringing you a fragment from an interview that was recorded in October 1996. Michio tells us how he changed his mind from trying to change the world by creating a World Government to starting to change it by teaching macrobiotics.

TRANSCRIPTION

Then, while I was studying, I started to wonder even if World Government is done, World Federation is done, what about a sickness? Government, Parliament, World Parliament can’t prevent sickness. How about crimes? How about arguments between people? How about race discriminations? Law maybe can be prohibiting, but individual, emotional hate amongst citizens would still be there. What shall we do about this? Government, World Parliament and Law would fail. There had to be some other way. So, I started to wonder and wonder and wonder. So, after a few weeks deep thinking, I quit everything: the political science studies, the international and law studies and the PhD course. I quit it all. And then I stood in New York, on Fifth Avenue, Times Square, and from morning to night I started to watch thousands, thousands, thousands of people. In order to know what a man is , what humanity is. Soon I was confused, so I decided what subject to observe. This week I will watch their eyes, the week after I will watch their nose, the week after I will watch their mouth. Some weeks I watched the way they walked or their hair or the way their clothes, etc, etc. Then, I was amazed when I realised everybody is different. I had not noticed it clearly before that. Everybody is different: the way they walked, their eyes, the way the spoke, their clothes… everybody.

The human being has been created by the environment and by what we eat. Among all the factors, eating is the most direct one and the one we can control. Whatever element we receive from the outside like solarisation, cosmic grace, sun, colours or stimuli, nervous stimuli,etc. We also breath air, and all those things come and influence us, but day to day, what we can control 100% is, by our free choice, is food, food and drink, and I came to the conclusion that food is the one we must manage well.

If we do not manage it well, then we become sick, we become mental hateful or narrow-minded or egocentric. If we manage it OK, then we become peaceful, we become high-spirited and we become healthy, etc. So, then, suddenly I recalled, while I was pursuing the way for peace, George Osawa said to me: “Michio, one day you will encounter food”. I could see it then: “Ah! He meant this!” And, in that moment, I became very serious about food. Before that, I sometimes ate hamburgers and sometimes drank Coca-Cola. By the way, the first Coca-Cola I drank was together with George Osawa at Hiyoshi’s school in Tokyo when I visited him. Then he said to me: “Michio, let’s drink Coca-Cola. Do you know Coca-Cola?” I said: “No”. “Lima, please, bring Coca-Cola”. He called his wife. She brought it. [George drank] “Mmm, it is delicious! Drink!” I drank: “Yuck” It tastes like medicine!” Then Lima said: “Don’t give it to Michio. It’s very yin”.

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I thought macrobiotics was an old-fashion diet

Macrobiotic old-fashion diet

I work in Sha Wellness Clinic, a resort on the Mediterranean Coast, in the east of Spain. 

I had dinner with guests some weeks ago and one of them mentioned she was surprised by how delicious the food was. She thought macrobiotics was an old-fashioned diet.

Macrobiotics evolves as well as other fields do. “Vintage macrobiotics” does exist. I invented this term in order to distinguish it from other more modern versions. If macrobiotics had a golden age, it would be the 80’s. During that decade, there was a great increase in the number of publications, speeches and schools.

The macrobiotics that was practised during that time is the macrobiotics that has remained in the collective mind.

How was macrobiotics in the 80’s?

It was a type of diet with the following characteristics: 

  • Almost vegan. White fish was consumed either once or, at most, twice a week. 
  • Soft flavours (bland diet). Spices, salt or foods with intense flavours (eggs, meat, fats, dairy products, sugar) were barely used.
  • Low-fat diet. Non-animal fat sources. Sesame oil was used for sauté recipes, a very small quantity (1 teaspoon every day or every two days per person, as The Macrobiotic Way book recommends)
  • Japanese orientation. Typical products from Japan were used, as for example, condiments (rice vinegar, umeboshi, shiso…), rice, seaweed, and miso soup. 
  • Presence of grain, little bread and pasta. Grain was consumed three times a day.
  • No sweets. At most some some desserts made with apples or pears.
  • Neither frozen nor canned foods. Consuming fresh and organic foods was promoted. 
  • Cooking took time. Grain and pulses were of great importance on this type of diet.
  • Several courses. Another factor that took time was the elaboration of several courses: soup, second course, steamed vegetables, tea. 
  • Little use of raw foods: fruit and salads. 

Nowadays, with the contribution of the second and third wave (see “Start Here” and read Kushi’s Students), the practice of macrobiotics has turned into something more complex. There is not only one model or type of diet, but several, depending on the teachers and on the case that it is applied to. We may find such extreme cases from teachers who recommend a total vegan diet to teachers who include some portions of meat and bones broths.

I will try to explain in other post why such a coexistence occurs.

In any case, we may observe the evolution in the practice of macrobiotics, as for example: 

  • In some cases, there are more animal source foods. 
  • It is tastier. It contains a bigger quantity of healthy fats like olive oil and avocado.
  • It does not depend on Japanese products, but on the traditional products of the place where it is applied.
  • Practical and fast ways of applying it are looked for, with the help of planning and of the fridge. 
  • More fruit and salads are included. 

To sum it up, although the origins take us to a diet from the 80’s, there has always been progress through the activity of Michio Kushi’s students. Despite the fact that teachers sometimes take different directions (more or less animal source foods), in every case the diet is richer, as it includes a bigger variety of dishes, and more options from other cultures as well as more flavours. For that reason, the guest I had in Sha found it to be such a rich diet. 


NOTES

[1] Image of the post coming from the book: Kushi, A. and Esko, W. (1987). Macrobiotic Family Favorites. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, Inc. P. 87

[2] The book where 1 teaspoon of sesame oil a day was recommended: Kushi, M. y Blauer, S. (1985). The Macrobiotic Way. Wayne (New Jersey): Avery Publishing Group Inc. P. 76