Taking The Road Less Traveled
Shortly before the first day of my “ Year To Live Experiment” I received an e-mail from The Kushi Institute in which they were looking for volunteers to participate in a breast cancer study. It’s been a long time since I thought about Michio and Aveline Kushi, and Lima and George Ohsawa, and Herb Hiller. Herb, via my sister, was the first to introduce me to Macrobiotics and I have that first book since 1977 (pictured below). I had tried eating macrobiotically but I just wasn’t getting it and in spite of all the fresh vegetables we grew and ate, it seemed too different and too hard. But the literature and testamonials asserting the health benefits of eating macrobiotically continued to intrigue me. I even had a copy of The Cancer Prevention Diet which is written by Michio Kushi and Alex Jack. And so, I immersed myself in the Kushi Institute Website.
The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Here I was readying to retire from active nursing and the parade of patients with multiple co-morbidities, chronic illnesses, lost limbs, medical dependencies, and all consuming terrible food. I ate meat, dairy, some sweets, drink wine, and have some caffeine. I also ate whole grains and plenty of fresh vegetables. We use only olive and sesame oils. My health wasn’t bad, especially after the Lyme Disease Debacle. But my curious bone was tickled and I saw that the Kushi Institute had a volunteer program. Can you believe that? It was going to cost $50.00/wk and 40 hrs of work /wk, and I had to apply, and have references. It was strongly reminiscent of application to Graduate School but, because I was ready to launch my ‘One Year To Live Experiment’ I got my application in before I got busy.
It’s Enough To Scare Anyone Away!
I really wanted to experience what it was like to eat only well prepared, macrobiotic food for 5 weeks. This was 5 weeks of no animal products (meaning no dairy or eggs either), no sugar, essentially no caffeine, no alcohol, no processed food, very occasional flour or any baked goods, and less so white flesh fish. The upside was that I didn’t have to cook at all for 5 weeks, or wash dishes, or grocery shop. Instead, I volunteered in Housekeeping. Everyone wants to volunteer in the kitchen and I said I would do anything they needed. I got housekeeping. And I got strong(er) hauling big bags of laundry, levitating the industrial sized mop & bucket up & down stairs, scrubbing where no human has scrubbed before. It was a deal, a very good deal. Or so I thought.
Greens, Greens, Greens, Greens
Being ever on the lookout for Wonder, I am open to experiences, and it’s not unusual for me to wonder ‘what in heaven’s name have I gotten myself into this time?’ The stomach fluttering, gut clenching, and the fight or flight battles are familiar friends. Go with the flow. Do The Tao. With open mind and empty belly I approach my first ‘strict’ macro meal: Rice, Adzuki beans, Squash (roasted or stewed), Veggies, Greens, Pickles, Onion Soup, little cup of tea. Then Breakfast: Soft rice, Greens, Miso soup, tea. Lunch: Rice, Tempura / sesame Veggies, green lentils, Greens, tea. Dinner: Rice w/Barley, Adzuki, Squash, Nishime, Greens, Sesame dressing, Pickles, Soba & Broth, tea. There was a rumor running that we might be having Macro Pizza soon. I had to stay for that!
There’s a pattern here: greens. Subsequent to my first meal, which was satisfying and unusual, I began drafting a plan to set up a black-market for chocolate and chips. There was, already, a captive pool of potential customers with whom to conduct my market research. For the first 5 days, most of the ‘guests’ were students in their final 3 weeks of their 3 month program in Macrobiotic Leadership. A fascinating group from all over the world: Israel, Tasmania, Canada, Spain, Japan, Korea, Boston, California, England, and on and on. I even got to ‘room’ with two precious, young women. And no one was interested in chocolate or chips. By the third day, neither was I. It was hard to believe that I had no food or drink cravings, not even for the wine & cheese.
With The Exception of One Starbuck’s ‘Vente De-Caf’
One day a week, I retreated to a Barnes & Noble about 15 miles away to have a cup of coffee, read, think, and watch people. The coffee was extraneous. Beyond that I injested only what was prepared at KI. By the third week I was feeling better. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t feeling as well as I could. My body was stronger and lighter, my skin tone was more even and ‘things’ I thought belonged on my face disappeared. I no longer use any skin lotions or creams. My nails are strong again, also. I continued to take 2-3 walks a day. Sometimes only 1/2 mile, and sometimes more. By the end of 5 weeks I had lost 15 pounds and no longer needed the distance glasses I’d been wearing since being a college senior. This was a surprise and, I believe it was also because I didn’t wear my glasses when going for the walks and my eyes were exercising while taking in the mountain and valley vistas. Two days after returning from this adventure I had blood drawn for routine lab work. They were the healthiest lab values I’d seen in over 10 years.
But It Wasn’t Only Me
For 5 weeks people from all over the U.S., and the rest of the World, were coming and going. Some stayed for a meal or two. Others for a week or two. There were plenty of newbies seeking healing, and there were life-time practitioners, teachers, and chefs. World travelers would talk about the ease or difficulty of finding macrobiotic restaurants in various countries. I had no idea that Italy had a robust macro-culture. Better yet, I learned that macrobiotics didn’t have to be so Japanese a cuisine. And I listened to peoples‘ stories of being cured of various cancers, diabetes, hypertension, organ weaknesses, etc.
I Watched a Transformation
Among a new group of guests enrolled in the “Way To Health” Program was a rather despondent looking woman with quite angry looking red blotches and cold sores on her face. Her skin was, both, oily and dry, as was her hair. In addition to participating in ‘the program’, she availed herself of a consultation with a macrobiotic counselor. By day 4, and I kid you not, the redness and cold sores were gone, and her demeanor was now one of hope and lightheartedness. With a giddy, yet animated calm, she told us how her previous heavy in dairy, nuts and fruits diet, exacerbated by long hot baths, were affecting her condition.
Life is simple and it’s not simple, and it’s everything beyond and everything between the two.
Is This A Commercial? – My Main Reason For Experiencing a Macrobiotic Diet
I wanted to experience, in a very focused and pure way, whether a plant-based diet (even if not macrobiotic) could positively affect health, and it did. I’m also convinced that the eating habits of most of us are contributing to, if not actually causing, our collective poor health.
It’s been 15 months since this experience and I continue to follow a primarily macrobiotic diet. I don’t always find it easy to do, but I know how good it feels. I’m not sure I could have stayed with it had I not experienced the full effects of five weeks. One of the things that is happening during the change in diet is that the blood chemistry is changing, and it takes a month, and more, for it to change completely. I experienced that. Had I not it would’ve been much easier to just give up. It’s still challenging to go to restaurants, and to resist buying ice creams when I’m with the grandchildren but, sparingly, it’s OK. I recently returned from a 4 day refresher at KI which I will, likely, report about soon.
For another slant you may want to take a look at The Hippocrates Institute. Remember? Part of the “Hippocratic Oath” is to “Do No Harm”.
And from Mark Bittman, NYT Food Columnist:
The Food Industry’s Solution to Obesity
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Healthy Eating to All.