IN A previous post, I wrote that it was possible to ‘cheat’ on the diet, if it was well planned. Well, I’m afraid it is now time for me to eat my words.
First of all, let’s think about the word: cheating. It implies that something is verboten, forbidden. It implies that we are out of bounds if we reach for that something. For the macrobiotic practitioner, you might think it would be that 400g steak, or that triple chocolate cake. And you would be wrong – just a little bit.
One of the things I love about macrobiotics is its flexibility. You want a steak? Go for it! Macrobiotics doesn’t forbid – it just asks you to balance things out. But it will take some doing to balance such big yang as a steak.
But now, putting on my macrobiotic counsellor hat and say this – have that steak as long as it is with the full awareness of what toll it will take on your body and ultimately, your health. One steak a year won’t kill you. But if that one steak turns into the monthly steak, and if that steak leads to sticky gooey super sweet desert to balance out its strong yang energy, and then a roast leg of lamb to balance that out…well, you see what might happen. That first decision to cheat could be a slippery slope, the thin end of the wedge. Pretty soon, your body will start to signal that it feels rotten – something small first – heart burn, then the see-saw between a lack of energy and a trigger temper, increased weight, shortness of breath…and so the spiral begins.
But that’s an obvious ‘cheat’ – the big fall off the straight and narrow path, as it were. It’s the little ‘cheats’ that are more dangerous because we hardly notice them. Very often, people eat the odd small bite off the macrobiotic diet – and excuse themselves because it’s, well, just one curry puff. Or one cream biscuit. Or just a scoop of icecream. Maybe just a couple of French fries.
In my experience, it takes an extraordinary person to just have that one curry puff, then get back on the path. Usually, that one ‘cheat’, if it results in no physical reaction, will lead to another, then another, and when you do start to feel out of sorts, it is when the damage within has been done and your body feels that it has to signal you.
If you are in good health, it might take a little longer for your body to signal you that all is not well, with symptoms such as weight gain. Or zits. Or a sore throat. But if you are on a healing diet and want to eat outside the recommendations, my sincere advice to you if you want to cheat is: resist.
The fact is, the more I understand macrobiotics, the less I think I know. There is so much we do not know about the workings of the body. It is a huge and remarkably complex topic, and there are so many areas that baffle even the experts. Think of all the illnesses that we cannot heal or predict with any accuracy – cancer being one of them. All I know is that over time, science has begun to recommend dietary practices that are increasingly closer to the macrobiotic recomendations that originated thousands of years ago. So, just because science has not proven macrobiotics conclusively, it has proven enough of its precepts that makes me think that there is more to this than meets the eye. And so, I eat within the guidelines.
In working with people with illness, and in navigating my own health journey with a macrobiotic compass, I have to say that if you believe in macrobiotics enough to want to try making the changes, don’t shortchange yourself, your health, and your chances of a recovery by eating food that is not recommended. Persistent cheaters who are on the healing diet need to ask themselves why they are sabotaging their recovery. The healing phase is about 4-6 months. Isn’t your continued good health for the long years in front of you worth eating well and strictly for an initial 6 months?
Because that’s what ‘cheating’ really means. You are not just rebelling against the counsellor. Or against macrobiotics. You are rebelling, ultimately, against the idea of good health.
And why on earth would you want to do that?