How did you come across macrobiotics?
When I was younger I was pretty rebellious and still am. I have always looked for alternatives and solutions to models of life that do not convince me or don´t make me feel good. Aged 24 I became a vegetarian for animal-rights and environmental reasons and I moved to the countryside thinking that this could be a good personal contribution to the decline of consumerism and a much more ethical way of life. When I finished university in 1991, two months later I was already working as a teacher in occupational training programs, suffering from stress-related physical and intellectual strain. My back hurt and I also felt that I wasn´t working to the best of my capabilities because of daily tiredness and tensions. I also felt scattered and did not make the most of the time. The unconscious need to give a 180 degree turn to my life led me to study nutrition as an inner voice told me that I was neither balanced nor happy. So, following a friend´s advice I ended up attending the first oriental medicine and macrobiotic training course that was imparted in Valencia in the Zen Dojo by Antonio Areal. Everything I heard and felt there seemed coherent and not only matched my ideals but I was also deeply moved, so I decided to change according to the guidance I had received by practicing yoga and readjusting my eating habits.
The beginnings were hard because 25 years ago it was difficult to find the variety of organic and whole-grain products now available. Besides, the wide range of training courses or teachers currently available for guidance and personal transformation didn´t exist, but life always guides us. If we allow ourselves to flow with who and where to be. So, after experimenting the macrobiotic cooking on my own for 6 months with the only help of some notes I had been given in a consultation and having no idea about the theory behind it, I noticed that I wasn´t making any progress due to lack of information, so I said to myself: “I have to study.” Since then, I have not stopped getting training and there has been no turning back on my lifestyle.
I regard macrobiotics as a way of life adaptable to whoever is concerned with making a change in their lives. Macrobiotics encompasses both the material and the spiritual aspect and it is really a way of life. It is accessible to all. It is better known as a way of eating, used together with techniques for greater body consciousness and also to balance your energy, the understanding of all phenomena in the Universe and the steps to achieve Infinite Freedom through its most philosophical side to organic-food sovereignty.
Nowadays, macrobiotics can be said to be no stranger any longer to most people though I do believe that there are still some confusion about it (e.g. “a rigid diet that can lead to nutrient deficiencies”) and false myths (e.g. it is expensive, a diet for artists and famous people to look more attractive).
If someone hasn’t heard about “macrobiotics” before I would tell him/her to listen and feel if s/he needs to make any changes in his/her life. Then, feel the most specific aspect of yourself you want to improve and in case you are willing to make any changes, go to cooking courses and read macrobiotic books. The study and practice of macrobiotics is a great help to cope with life and raise awareness. In fact, in its beginnings, George Ohsawa always talked about it as a tool for personal evolution and this is the most interesting thing that can bring about if practiced non-dogmatically and with a deep knowledge of its foundations. If a person wants to get initiated, I would tell him/her to start at their own pace, being specific about their priorities. A change leads to more positive changes if it is consistent and feels positive. Obviously, suitable food is an important part of overall well-being and balance, but also our lifestyle is important (stress, rest, social life, work environment, where and who we live with, physical exercise, etc) and our mental projections (where we focus our goals, how we live our emotions, how we observe ourselves with a neutral attitude, etc).
I would finally say to him/her that life is a series of tests to better ourselves and no circumstance, no matter how adverse it might look like, goes against us but rather it only exists for us to ponder what we can improve and how.
How is macrobiotics different from other “diets” (e.g. veganism or vegetarianism) … is it not the same?
Vegetarianism rules out consumption of meat and fish, but admits eggs and/or dairy.
In my opinion, veganism is a lifestyle that rejects animal suffering and therefore avoids all animal food and animal by-product (e.g. clothing and cosmetics), etc. And that´s just about it. A few vegans are also concerned about the environment and/or view it as a political stance. Initially, a vegan may be concerned with keeping a well-balanced diet or not, just avoiding animal food without any further consideration (e.g. the contribution of nutrients to health, energy balance in their diet, low quality, refined, processed foods with pesticides and artificial preservatives like those in supermarkets). This attitude takes its toll in the end.
Macrobiotics, like veganism, are not diets but ways of life. Macrobiotics can be vegan or not and it doesn’t follow strict dogmas because it is based on the Unique Principle. There are macrobiotic people who are also vegan and animal rights activists.
The purpose of macrobiotics, according to George Ohsawa, is infinite freedom and the realization of our personal dreams or our mission. Changing our way of eating and adapting it to our needs can create the best condition to undertake all we have to do in life.
Often people feed beliefs and attitudes which they reinforce through having certain foods or eating habits that are not conducive to their personal development and limit themselves without being aware of it. They function on a levels of consciousness that is not free (Mechanical, Sensory, Emotional, Intellectual or Ideological).
I believe macrobiotics is NOT a cult or a religion, or a body-mind healing system, or a diet which promotes whole grains and Japanese products, or a diet that classifies food into good or bad, or a fashionable diet among celebrities.
It does have to do with:
- ECONOMY OF LIFE / de-growth or low consumerism.
- CONSCIOUSNESS: macrobiotics embraces all aspects of life and the self we can understand through YIN-YANG / 5 TRANSFORMATIONS
- Antagonistic forces complement each other and form unity.
- Yin and yang are opposite stages of a cycle of states and nothing in the natural world escapes this relation of opposites.
- EAT according to:
- our constitution and condition,
- the climate and the region where we live
- the seasons
- our physical and intellectual activity
- our age and biology.
- ADAPTABLE TO EVERYONE.
- SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT THROUGH COMMITMENT TO PEACE.
Macrobiotics is often accused of being a religion with no scientific basis. What would you say to those who say this?
Being or not religious goes with the person who practices macrobiotics or not. There are religious macrobiotic people and non-religious macrobiotic people. To those who claim it is unscientific, I would tell them to practice it for at least seven years and then speak from their own experience. They will see what it is to change cell memory and have a much better life quality.
Information in mass media against many things that can transform people´s lives and help them be less subject to manipulation because they give them inner power have become everyday events. Scientific validity is the great excuse to infuse fear or disqualify everything that is not demonstrated by it. Along with mass media manipulation, channels of powerful alternative information already exist that have also shown that behind many studies there are economic interests and that many scholarships are funded for commercial purposes.
George Ohsawa endorsed “non-credo”, which involves first-hand experience in your own body, observing and feeling what is most appropriate. Our own experience and observation of the effect of macrobiotics on people around us is the best scientific proof of all it can bring. Today, thousands of people can provide testimonials about its effectiveness.
Is macrobiotics nutritionally adequate? Will I get essential nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, etc?
Yes, at a nutritional level it is totally adequate and complete if it is carried out having studied its main guidelines and cooked in a varied way as any other type of varied and balanced food can be. I would even say that it is more balanced than traditional diets because it avoids refined foods, pesticides, sugar and excess animal protein and also takes into account the vibrational energy of food and vegetable cutting and cooking styles. In 25 years I have been eating whole foods, mostly vegetables and applying the Unique Principle, I have never had any nutritional deficiencies.
In the macrobiotic pyramid we can find all the essential food groups such as:
- CARBOHYDRATES: whole grains (rice, wheat, barley, millet, oats, rye, corn …) and grain products (bread, pasta and wholemeal, couscous, bulgur, flakes …). Whole-grain syrups, apple juice concentrate, dried fruit …
- PROTEINS: legumes: chickpeas, lentils, beans, peas, white, green or black soybeans and soy products like tofu an natto. Nuts. Fish and eggs occasionally if needed.
- FATS: olive, sesame, corn, nut butter.
- MINERALS (calcium): algae, seeds (sesame, pumpkin, sunflower), green vegetables …
- VITAMINS: fruits, vegetables … B12: fish.
Often worried mothers ask me if macrobiotics is safe for children? Is it not dangerous to follow a macrobiotic diet?
Children eat what is cooked at home and sometimes what they see their schoolmates eat. If a child has grown up in a family that already has whole, fresh and organic foods before the child is born, they will have no problem adapting to this kind of food. On the other hand, if the parents start eating macrobiotically when the child is growing up, they should not ask their child to change their eating habits all of a sudden, but let them choose what they like by offering them a flexible and open diet.
The practice of macrobiotics is not only safe for children but will make them healthier than the current modern eating model with too much sugar, fat, animal protein and lacking in whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fresh seasonal fruits. This supermarket food model tends to promote fast food and both unnecessary and harmful ingredients, while macrobiotics aims to bring back home cooking based on natural foods and healthy living habits.
Is macrobiotics against the medicine practiced in hospitals?
Absolutely not. Macrobiotics and allopathic medicine are two necessary options in case of illness. The methods that each person uses to cure or heal a possible illness or disease are personal. Each patient should be able to freely choose the healing path that feels appropriate at every moment, free from fear about the reliability of natural remedies as free from fear about possible side effects of allopathic medicine. Allopathic medicine gives us some tools and natural medicine gives us different ones. More and more health professionals are embracing Oriental and macrobiotic medicine. Fortunately in my courses there are always doctors, nurses, midwives, etc, who come to complete their graduate and post-graduate training. They have become aware of the relationship between food and health problems and the great importance of food to recover from diseases. They have verified that macrobiotics boosts positive changes and they introduce it in their consultations in order to give a more holistic attention to their patients.
I also help doctors in their diagnoses and in their opinions to be more accurate with their advice on food and the kind of lifestyle I promote.
In your opinion, what challenges does macrobiotics face in the future?
The same ones it has been facing until now:
- To adapt to the social and climatic changes without renouncing its origins.
- To find its place in every part of the world respecting and making popular gastronomy more healthy.
- To continue to expand beyond dietary trends. Many people become more interested in macrobiotics through the interesting personal changes they experience by changing their eating habits. Others are attracted by the deliciousness of macrobiotic cooking. How fantastic it is to be able to boost our energy level, personal health, our relationship with the environment and take pleasure in healthy eating! But what about our personal contribution to the environment? Is it enough to buy organic and eat according to the Unique Principle to improve our health? Are we happy just like that or do we want to go a little bit further by committing ourselves to a more sustainable way of life for the planet by embracing de-growth in our lives? To achieve this, Ohsawa used to summarise his food and life system under the notion of vivere parvo, that is to say, “to live only with what is just necessary”.
- To contribute to FOOD SOVEREIGNTY, which is understood as “the power of each State to define its own agriculture and food policies in accordance with objectives of sustainable development and food security. “Food sovereignty involves political and economic positioning in the face of the current development of the agro-food industry. It promotes bringing back traditional agriculture to supply people from their own fields. It involves being able to control and decide how food is grown and its origin (and therefore its quality), avoiding genetic and commercial manipulations.
These are the biggest challenges in my opinion, given the fact that when something becomes popular and begins to become a fashion, you run the risk of losing its authentic essence.
To give you an idea, I hope the same thing doesn´t happen with macrobiotics as is happening with the whole organic movement. Organic food is regarded as cool by the general public. It has become a trademark where the absence of pesticides gets confused with the money making business it has become. Organic food (e.g. vegetables) is often ripened in ripening chambers and shipped using fossil fuels. It is often sold in supermarkets controlled by multinational companies which very often belong to food industry lobbies and promote the use of GMO’s, slave-like working conditions and other contradictions which have nothing to do with authentic environmental and organic policies, besides they are highly contradictory.
I look forward to macrobiotics to continue to be a means for personal and social change, to create a fairer, better, peaceful world.
Where do you carry out your job? Can you describe the way you work?
I currently teach in two different places. Ca l’Agnes is in Cubelles, a quiet and beautiful seaside town 50 minutes away from Barcelona and 40 minutes away from Tarragona. It is easily accessible by train and by car. The second place is Llíber (Alicante). It is a beautiful Valencia traditional house, with a stone patio, an orchard and a riurau on one of the main streets of this Marina Alta village (Alicante province).
I offer sharing these premises for training courses, talks and personalised consultations for self-development.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / Tlf: 638 893 371