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Why do people sabotage their own healing? March 30, 2010

Filed under: Living out Loud,Macro-chat — purecommunicationspr @ 6:48 pm

I have spent the better part of today trying to talk people out of their need to cheat on their diets, or trying to persuade them to release old food habits, such as eating hot cross buns during Easter, or continuing to juice or eat raw salads on a daily basis.

Once having started on the healing diet, with the body working on redressing its intrinsic homeostatic balance, eating at the extreme ends of the food spectrum will throw the body out of whack again, and therefore, more work will need to be done to rebalance the body.

The see-saw proccess, especially for those in delicate health, is not good and takes alot out of the body – taking up energy and other resources that could be directed towards healing.

Today, I realised that the relationship with our food goes so deep that in spite of an intellectual acceptance of the efficacy of macrobiotics, people still cannot break the link. Food is linked to childhood choices, rewards for good behaviour, the food eaten on the special first date…loads of emotional baggage is linked with food choices.

I think of this as the last frontier in the road towards total health.

Once people are able to cut these ties, and exorcise themselves of this unhealthy tie, they will well and truly be on the road to healing. Until then, the diet, true healing will remain elusive.

Macrobiotics means a total break with everything that brought you to the point in your life when you decided that you had to try macrobiotics – in my case, it was a cancer diagnosis.  In my practice, these tend to be cancer patients with no further medical options. It is very painful to watch people at this stage of their lives still sabotaging their own healing with poor food choices.

Ironically, it is at this stage of their lives that they reach for familiar comfort provided by food. And even more ironically, it is at this stage of their lives when they need most to make a break with the past, understand how they have arrived at this state of health and decisively take steps into their own, healthy, future.

It is frightening to make this total break with everything that has defined you in the past. But in order to survive, and to become the new, better and healthier you, that break is essential. Let go, and reach for the future – the first step is the hardest. The rest becomes an adventure of discovery.


Just what does ‘cheating’ mean? June 10, 2009

Filed under: Macro-chat — purecommunicationspr @ 5:04 pm
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j0315598IN 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?


The More you Want It, The More You Will Commit February 1, 2009

Filed under: Living out Loud,Macro-chat — purecommunicationspr @ 8:59 am
Good changes require a strong commitment

Good changes require a strong commitment

IN recent months, with the election of the first African American President, the word CHANGE has never been more pregnant with significance. It has come to mean the dawn of a new era of hope, of home-and-hearth values, of ‘right-ness’. Going back to basics and fundamentals underline this movement of CHANGE.

For people who are embarking on a macrobiotic journey, I speak of change as well. For when we begin to eat macrobiotically, and practice the macrobiotic lifestyle, we begin see positive change emerging in our lives. We feel lighter, more full of energy and vitality. Old aches, pains and sniffles we had come to take for granted suddenly just aren’t there anymore. Our skin takes an a firmness and a glow. And the well-being spreads, from feeling good in our bodies, to feeling good about ourselves and our lives and our relationships.

Why do people seek change? Mostly because they realise that the current practice simply does not work anymore. Whatever brought on this realisation – illness, fatigue, or just an inner prompting – they come to macrobiotics because they are at a watershed and want change for the better. Or because they have been diagnosed with a dread disease. The reasons are varied and many, and they are all valid.

Quite a few do not stay the course. Some eat macrobiotically, then fall off the bandwagon. Some do come back to macrobiotics because they recognise its benefits. But – as with most changes – macrobiotics does require a commitment of time and effort. We must give the diet a chance to work on the body. We must commit to eating well, and within the framework of the diet. Constantly eating outside the diet dilutes and even undermines the goodness of macrobiotics. So, if you are eating macrobiotically only 50% of the time, I would say that it is better than nothing in terms of overall health. But I would also say that you are not getting any of the benefits of the diet, if at all, because your body is not being given the chance take the goodness from the food and heal itself before the onslaught from the next ‘questionable’ meal.

What you don’t eat is as powerful as what you do

Many people then say – yes I ate in a restaurant but I made good food choices. I only ate the vegetables and brought my own brown rice.

People sometimes forget it is the unseen factor in the food that can cause as much damage – the Teflon coated non-stick pans, the salts and other seasonings used. In Chinese restaurants, even simple stirfried  vegtetables are laced with monosodium glutamate and the special XO sauce.

In macrobiotics, one has to remember that it is as much about what  you don’t put into your mouth as it is about what you do. Sometimes it is better to eat sparingly, rather than to eat everything at the table.If you have just begun eating macrobiotics, I would advise strict adherence to the tenets of the practice for the first  6 months to begin the process of re-educating your body and boost your immunity. After this period, some eating is possible but also within the tenets of the diet.

There is a story told about George Ohsawa,the grandfather of modern macrobiotics. He healed himself of tuberculosis by eating scraps of vegetables from restuarants because he was destitute at the end of the Second World War, having spent much of it imprisoned in Japan for being a pacifist. This would be unthinkable for most of us. And most of us think that to be in good health, we have to eat lots of food and in the absence of macrobiotic food, we eat whatever is there because we have feed our bodies. But macrobiotics also tells us that the body is better off having simple plain food – even vegetable scraps – because it is able to utilise almost all the scraps. But if we ate well cooked but (what our body might consider) poor quality food  –  fois gras, cream sauces, rare Wagyu beef, fpor example –  the body would probably be able to use only a fraction of the intake and the rest has to be processed out of the body. This taxes the digestive system and eventually the heavy duty elimination required takes its toll.

As a PR practitioner, I am obliged to eat out alot. But I have devised some coping mechanisms. For example, I make sure I have eaten a bowl of brown rice before going out so that I am comfortably full and will not leap at the food the minute it arrives at the table. I try to bring my own brown rice and eat only at Chinese restaurants where I can trust the quality of the vegetarian fare.  I eat stir fried vegetables, steamed fish, and vegetable soups – in other words, the plainest food I can find on the menu. And I drink copious amounts of hot tea!

How badly do you want it?

CHANGE also asks for a commitment from all of us. Barack Obama asked for a vote and time for him to make the change work. This is also what we need to give our bodies when we make the change and switch to macrobiotics.

When people tell me that macrobiotics is hard, is anti-social, and time-consuming, I ask them – how badly do you want the change? How much do you want to give yourself a chance at better health? Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. If you really want it, you can and will make it work. HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT IT?

The commitment from Lusher Than Life is that we will work with you to help you make it work. Together, so many good things are possible. But that first step – well, that courageous undertaking is yours alone to make.


Getting Started – What You Will Need January 31, 2009

THE basic starter kit for someone wanting to begin eating macrobiotically is not different from what you would need in any kitchen – the usual round of pots and pans, and cooking utensils. The main difference, though, is that for macrobiotics, we ask that the utensils be ‘clean’ ie, that they are not treated chemically, as are, for example, teflon coated pots and pans.

Apart from the cooking utensils, you will also need some foods which are not part of the average Asian diet.

Here is a list of things you will needs to get started:


Stainless steel or cast iron pots and a skillet


Pressure cooker

Steamer – for cooking and for re-heating food.

Chef’s knife and a paring knife

Bancha twig tea is the aqua vitae of the macrobiotic world!

Bancha twig tea is the aqua vitae of the macrobiotic world!

Foundation foods:

Kombu & Wakame

Other sea vegetables – arame, hijiki, agar agar (or kanten)

Sea salt (as dirty-looking as possible, for these contain the highest content of natural minerals)

Shoyu or tamari

Bancha twig tea

Medium or long-grain brown rice

And that’s it. You will probably add to this as you begin to cook different foods. And if you are already an avid cook, then you would probably already have most of the tools you need.

One last thing. Macrobiotics is about TRUTH – being true to your body and yourself. Don’t feed yourself food which is not ‘true’ – ie overfertilised, over-hormonised, over-chemicalised food. While our bodies were built to last, the assumption is that we would co-operate and feed them with fuel that they know and understand.

Chemicals which are not naturally occuring in the ground, but which have been added to it to increase crop yield, are not something our bodies ever thought they would have to deal with. And so, they may react in ways unanticipated – for example, through uncontrolled, abnormal cellular growth.

I recommend trying to eat organically as much as possible. And if not, try to get the best quality possible (ie, grown with good, reliable farming practices). It might cost a little more – but ultimately, it is still alot cheaper than any medical bills you might have to pay for chronic illnesses which arise out of poor eating habits.

I will say now that I avoid all foods from China, as much as possible. But the farming practices there are not reliable. And given the number of food scares coming out of China over the past years, TRUTH is something that is not yet established in its farming industry.

Having said that, I also acknowledge that it is cheaper, generally, to buy from China. So, if you must buy your food from China, I encourage you to soak all your vegetables (from China and elsewhere) for 20 minutes before use to leech out any chemicals. If you wish, you can add a few drops of apple cider vinegar to the soaking water to strengthen the leeching process. But beware, not too much or you might end up with a pickle!


The Macrobiotic Diagnosis

Filed under: Macro-chat,What is Macrobiotics? — purecommunicationspr @ 4:45 pm
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When I speak to people of macrobiotics and its ability to help support the body as it heals itself, I find they zoom right to the last chapter and say: so, what should I eat to heal my diabetes/cholesterol problem/cancer/asthma…and so on.

The fact is that macrobiotics is not just an easy fix for health issues. It takes more than popping a few ume plums, and calling me in the morning. The typical macrobiotic diagnostic process is an fairly extensive one, where I seek to understand my clients in their various contexts – work, family, friendships, lovers, enemies. Their loves, their hates. Their dreams and their nightmares. Their highest aspirations. Their deepest fears. The extensive questionnaire which takes at least 2 hours to complete looks at:

1. The emotional state, current and potential

2. The personality, – his ideals, views of life, his character

3. The constitution – both physical and mental

4.  History of ailments suffered, past and present

5. Recommendations – what changes must be made (diet, lifestyle, outlook) to bring the person back to health

6. What highest aspirations (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) can be aimed for to achieve happiness

7. Encouragement – what support is required for the person to develop his or her endless possibility to achieve happiness

So you see, it is never just a matter of the physical with macrobiotics. It is a holistic view of health that the macrobiotic counsellor strives for, for the benefit of the client. And because it is such an involved process, I feel that it is important to cultivate in the client a sense of excitement and interest about the journey they are about to embark on when they begin macrobiotics. So I work with the whole person, not just with their pancreas, or their liver, or their spleen. Everything the person is and everything they want to be is in the frame and must be considered for a proper diagnosis.

This is why, when macrobiotics is applied well, words such as ‘hope’ and ’empowerement’ and ‘healing’ come to be associated with the practice.And also why when I talk to my patients, I sometimes simply ask: how do you feel? The field is open for a response – unhappy, depressed, fantastic, full of energy. All of these are the symptoms that have to be considered. And sometimes, I don’t recommend food. I simply ask people to wake up earlier, and take a walk just as the sun is rising, breathing deeply and slowly of the fresh morning air, as they move through the early morning silence. Sometimes just eating the food is not enough and one needs to access other healing aids, such as simple nature.

As I practice macrobiotics, I am continually being made to feel awe at the wonder of the human body and its ability to find  what it needs to heal itself. The body is hard wired to heal itself and if we just gave it half a chance, it could do just that. The trick is to be able to understand what your body needs, and why.

This is the other part of the counselling process – to help people understand enough of macrobiotic theory to be able to adapt elements of macrobiotics to suit their needs as they heal, and their bodies become stronger. To empower and equip them to work with their own bodies for the rest of their lives for better health – and stronger living, on every level.


Living Macro November 8, 2008

Filed under: Macro-chat — purecommunicationspr @ 6:10 pm
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Recently I was chatting to someone who was new to macrobiotics, as I now seem to do on a daily basis. She was someone who was familiar with alternative therapies, and diets, having tried many therapeutic approaches herself. And in explaining macrobiotics, and what the diet can do, I found myself focusing alot on the physical aspects of the diet – what sea vegetables can do for you, how it affects your immunity etc. Then she asked me: How has your life changed since you went on the diet? And again, I rattled off the physical information – weight loss, no more bouts of the flu, no more headaches, more energy.

But then I caught myself – there is so much more to it! I am now also a much more positive person that I have been in my life. And what a strange time to be positive! – two years out from a diagnosis of advanced cancer, with no job and trying to make a living doing projects if and when they come along. Put out to pasture by the corporate world at my relatively young age, with many, many more productive years in front of me.

Is it due to the diet? Yes, in part. If your body feels good, full of energy, your mind feels good, alert, active. Overall, you feel 110% and that means morale and mood is enhanced. I am one basket of can-do-isms.  I focus on gratitude for what I have. I focus on the joy of each day, especially so if it is raining! I awake with a song in my heart and give thanks starting with breakfast thru to dinner.

I am careful to tend my mental garden. In other words, I am very particular about what grows. I make sure I think positive thoughts. That I do not pollute my garden with inanities, emotionally draining discourse or unsavoury visual or audio material. Forget rap and forget video violence. And what of the constant parade of idiots masquerading as customer service personnel here in Singapore? Well, I am learning to simply walk away. Sometimes it does cost me in money – but the wierd thing is that when I eat well, it is alot easier.

And so, while it all may have begun with just a diet, it is now a total lifestyle for me. And this is the promise of macrobiotics – the promise of good health, a good, active and energetic mind, and a positive mental outlook. I now appreciate silence alot more. And live quietly without the need for constant movement and external stimulus of pubs, bands, parties and dinners with large amounts of people.  I prefer to take time to get to know people better rather  than rushing through each encounter.

Appreciation. Gratitude. Joy. Peace. Macrobiotics.


Transitioning to Macrobiotics – Staying the Course

Most people have their favourite foods, foods which they have been eating for years and with which they have associated an emotional tag. It could be that chocolate in their families have been used as a reward to good behaviour when they were children and as adults, chocolate might have continued to be a favourite food because of the ‘feel good’ associations. In fact, when one drills down to the first time she or she had a food which they particularly enjoy, it is amazing how many emotional memories are associated our favourite foods.

In my family, we were mad about the big-head prawns fried with lots of chopped chillis, onions and swimming in the red chilli oil. We would fight over who would get the serving dish once it was empty so that we could put in some pure white rice, stir it around until it was a glistening vermillion, then eat it with the crunchy bits of burnt chillies.

As an adult, I look back on those days and shudder. But while I don’t eat that particular dish anymore, those big head prawns still stir memories in me of happier times with my family, before death and disease began to take people away.

Today, I may eat one single such prawn in a 12-month period. You see, even though I know, in my head, that such food may not be entirely food for me, what with the cholesterol impact and all, my heart says – let me revisit that memory once again.

And it is this emotional aspect of food that is the tough part about staying the course in the macrobiotic approach to eating. This is even more difficult if, because of a health condition, you might have had to switch to macrobiotics ‘cold turkey’, as I had to. There is no transition, and therefore, when your taste-buds are instantly deprived, they protest – and loudly.If you are taking chemotherapy when you make the transition, it is even worse because you are feeling poorly, and your tastebuds are going nuts, crying out for all sorts of sustenance because the body needs nourishment due to the assault from the drugs.

A good transition means a strong race

How do you stay the course in such circumstances? Well, mainly, transitioning is a mind-over-body effort. In other words, use your mind to manage the demands of your body.

Eyes on the Prize

First of all, be clear about why you are on the diet and what you expect it to do for you. If you choose the diet because you want to end up stronger than ever before at the end of treatment, or at the end of six months, then focus on this goal. There will always be temptations – try to resist. If you can’t, don’t be too hard on yourself. Enjoy your detour for what it is, then gently bring yourself back on track by eating to balance out the detour.

For those taking chemotherapy, it is essential that you continue to eat. Many times, I encounter people who are unfamiliar with macrobiotic cooking styles and end up cooking  bland, boring food for fear of ‘breaking’ the diet. They end up resenting the food because it is boring and unappetising and they cannot eat it.

Again, understand that this is not what macrobiotics is all about. Macrobiotics is about freedom and empowerment. So we ask that you first understand what your body is going through and try to support it macrobiotically. Learn how to substitute. Learn how to cook the food within your own capabilites or interest level. Understand your body’s signals. Try to give your body what is wants, but make the appropriate adjustments and compromises, based on what you know about the food and its ability to support your health. But the food cannot help you if you do not eat. So, make all efforts to eat – even it if means taking drugs to enhance your appetite.

Being Unfaithful

I am sometimes asked about planned cheating. How often can you stray from the diet? Well, if you are on the healing diet, I would say – as little as possible. During a course of treatment like chemotherapy is the ideal time to rebuild your body. Your cells, having been decimated by chemo, are regenerating. With good quality nourishment, those cells will be good cells, just what you need to combat years of poor quality cells. Sometimes it is as much as about what you don’t put in, as it is about what you do put into your body. However, in the initial stages, it is hard to remain faithful – so plan your ‘cheating’ so that you ensure you are eating macrobiotically at least 80% of the time. If you are in good health, then you make your choices based on what your body feels. If you have been eating macrobiotically even for 2 weeks, eating too widely will produce a reaction that will tell you what your body will and will not tolerate.

It’s about Quality

Secondly, if you have to eat outside the stricter guidelines, then do so with high quality ingredients at the centre of the food spectrum. For instance, choose organic ingredients, choose vegetarian, and choose vegetables that are close to the centre of the spectrum ie those which are close to the top of the soil, or root vegetables.Avoid meat and meat products, even chicken stock. The kind of growth hormones used in most meats these days make them poor health choices. Even so called organic meat is not ideal since the food chain is so long and complex, we can never be sure if there was hormones used in the animal feed, for example.

Operation Dinner Out

Thirdly, be strict about the condiments and seasonings used. For  example, if you choose the fish course, ask your waiter to tell the cook to use olive oil instead of butter. Ask for steamed or poached fish. Ask for steamed vegetables with the dressing or seasoning on the side. Choose local white fish. Choose clear soups rather than cream soups and try to get a soup with vegetable stock. Avoid cream sauces. These days, with the focus on health, most restaurants do have a vegetarian section on their menus. To ensure they do not try to add more seasonings to make sure you feel the food is ‘tasty’, tell them that you have a heart condition, a food allergy, etc. The thought that you might have a fit or some sort of health event in the restaurant will usually keep our seasoning-happy chefs on the straight and narrow.

Conversations With Your Navel

Finally, it is sometimes about the mind-body conversation. Your body is crying out for Kentucky Fried Chicken, or a Big Mac. Rather than suppressing that cry, forcefully telling your body that it is bad for you, try to understand why you have these cravings. Usually, it is not the food itself, but the taste sensation you might want. Out tongues have 5 taste sensations – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent. In any one day, We should try to satisfy all sensations, or the unsatisfied one will start to demand its stimulant. So if you feel like eating something sweet, give your tastebuds something naturally sweet – like corn, or dried fruit. Be gentle with yourself – try to reach a compromise with your body. You don’thave to deny it completely.

There is also the possibility that you may be out of balance. You may have been eating too many yang foods – such as fish, beans, or lentils, or food that is highly seasoned – and so to rebalance things, your body is crying  out for something yin. Be aware of this, and bring your eating back to centre. Focus on something else and your body will soon settle down.

Changing lifestyles can often be uncomfortable. But you made the decision to change for valid reasons. Stay the course, remind yourself of the whys. Bring your mental faculties into play when your body makes demands, and your body will eventually thank you by being stronger – with more energy, vitality and a positive life outlook.