When I first started practicing a macrobiotic lifestyle, I was on my own. No one in my immediate circle of family and friends had ever heard of macrobiotics, let alone what it meant. And although everyone in my life supported what I was doing, especially because it was for health reasons, no one was ready to dive in and take the plunge with me. It took me some time to figure out the intricacies of this new diet and lifestyle, particularly the cooking side of things. It was, in the beginning, very challenging. Eating miso soup for breakfast, sea vegetables and tofu, not to mention all the grains, was new to me. And I had to figure out how to cook these new foods and make them a part of my life.
It can be challenging to follow a macrobiotic diet in our culture, considering food is such an integral part of our lives. We no longer just eat to stave off hunger and to survive. We eat and use food for many reasons. Eating is ritualistic, and it can give us a sense of belonging. We socialize at dinner with another couple, have Sunday brunch at a friend’s home, lunch with a colleague, and even sip a cappuccino after a workout at the gym. Food, and not necessarily good food, is everywhere. We get no relief from the constant hocking of food. I can’t watch the six o’clock news without being brainwashed about some new food item. The golden arches signal to me as I drive to the dry cleaners. An innocent shopping trip through the mall is interrupted by the offering of samples of teriyaki beef or the gooiest cinnamon buns. Even my weekly visit to the food market turns out to be a danger zone with trays of cheese and brownie samples beckoning. Is it always going to be a contest of willpower to avoid such temptations? Even my own kitchen is hazardous with yogurt, parmesan cheese, and meat in the refrigerator.
As adults we need to respect each other’s decisions about how and what we choose to eat. I have made a decision to eliminate animal protein from my diet and to add certain foods like sea vegetables, daikon, and lotus root, which are foreign to most Americans. I know that the way I eat is healthy and safe. I know that I have to eat this way for my health. Since I do not accept any criticism regarding my food choices, I also need to respect the food choices and decisions that people around me make. We all have personal preferences about food and it is difficult to give up foods that have been a part of one’s life since childhood.
Early on in my macrobiotic practice it became difficult for me to even touch beef or poultry, so I asked my husband to give macrobiotic food a try. He was very supportive and immediately said yes. I think that he hoped to lose some weight while eating this way. I was thrilled that he was going to be eating the same foods as I was. At some point over the course of a year, my husband decided that this wasn’t working for him. Perhaps it was the frustration of not losing weight or the difficulty of finding appropriate food choices away from home. So, what does it mean to live with someone who eats a diet different from yours? How do we continue to socialize with our friends without comprising our beliefs and needs?
First of all, I realize that it’s impossible to be perfect. I like to say that when I “fall off the wagon” that I need to get back on as soon as possible to the “straight and narrow.” There are, however, certain behaviors that I have developed that make it easier for me to resist “forbidden” foods. I have found that eating fresh, organic food that is seasonally available works well for me. Miso soup, vegetables and brown rice for breakfast often get me started in a balanced manner. Lunch can often be more forgiving. If I eat out at noon, then dinner is back on track with grains, lots of veggies, and beans. None of this food has to be boring. After all, variety is the spice of life. I often find myself commenting on how delicious macrobiotic food is when it is prepared in a loving and creative manner.
I know what my body needs so that it can work optimally for me. Why do I not listen 100% of the time? It is because I begin to listen to other people in my life. I attend a local cooking class where the instructor says that eating miso soup for breakfast is “old fashioned,” I see an herbalist who advocates for animal protein in my diet. I give in and then realize that it’s not good for me.
There is always something to learn about our mistakes. Falling away from my food plan starts small with the elimination of miso soup for breakfast. That creates an imbalance in me, which then produces cravings to which I then submit. I know what works for me and it feels great to succeed at something that makes my life so much better.