You have probably all heard of the expression:
We are what we eat
a view shared across the globe that the food we put in our bodies fundamentally influences the health and nature of our being. What you may not have realised is that this motto stems from macrobiotics.
So what does it mean?
Well the term macrobiotics derives from the Greek word ‘makro’ meaning large or GREAT and ‘bios’ meaning LIFE. Greek physician and father of medicine; Hippocrates was credited for being the first person to to believe that diseases were caused naturally and not as punishment from the gods. He taught:
let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food.
Another expression you have no doubt heard of.
The macrobiotic way of life today continues to stay true to these initial teachings; that quality food is the foundation of maintaining optimum health.
Since starting my journey to clear skin through healing my gut, I was introduced to macrobiotics by one of my friends. Eager to learn more I signed up to The Art of Fermentation class at the Kushi Macrobiotic School in the U.K.
Anyone who follows my instagram and facebook page will know that I left the class, buzzing and thirsty for more knowledge.
The school is run by world renowned teachers; Nicola and David McCarthy, who’s passion and wealth of knowledge in macrobiotics has inspired me to learn more about how this change in lifestyle can effect all aspects of health.
After an illuminating day of learning how to make miso soup, tempeh and other fermented delights, I caught up with Nicola to see how macrobiotics could help me on my journey with acne.
An interview with Nicola McCarthy:
What is macrobiotics?
The word macrobiotics literally means ‘Big or Great Life’, its not a diet, but a natural way of living and eating to achieve balance and tranquility, understanding the rejuvenating power of food. Macrobiotics teaches what we choose to eat and choices we make in our life is the key to achieving and maintaining ultimate health and creating an inner and outer glow!
Can you describe how macrobiotics has affected your health?
Macrobiotics has completely changed my life, actually on all levels! I had a whole list of ailments! I suffered with joint pain that had plagued me since my teens, I would wear a support for my back and often take medication, I had allergies that were so scary, I would often wake with such a swollen face I couldn’t open my eyes, my tongue would swell and I had no idea what I was allergic to! This led to panic attacks and depression… My skin often broke out in patches of acne, not what you expect in your mid 30’s! I was very over-weight, lethargic and miserable!
By changing to a macrobiotic lifestyle everything began to change so rapidly I could hardly believe it! I was cooking recipes from macrobiotic cookbooks, so didn’t really understand how to achieve ‘balance’ but by making some adjustments and generally ‘cleaning-up’ my body one by one all my problems disappeared. It hardly seems possible, but I have seen this time and time again with our students, food really is that powerful! After a very short time I had gone from a dress size 16 to a size 10, my joint pain completely disappeared, my allergies never returned and my skin began to clear up! People around me couldn’t believe it. It was such a wonderful feeling after being miserable for so many years! I look years younger, am confident, happy, fulfilled and to this day I have never needed to visit my GP or take medication for anything. That’s pretty amazing to me after being so sickly for so many years!
In the past I have tried healing my skin both holistically with natural skincare and medically with pharmaceutical drugs. How can a macrobiotic lifestyle help someone like me who has struggled with acne for thirteen years?
Macrobiotics is really a philosophy for achieving a radiant mind and fabulous body!
In the fifth century B.C. Hippocrates, the philosopher said to be the father of Western medicine, coined the famous oath ‘let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food’. Food and healing were very much entwined in more ancient times but sadly forgotten.
The skin receives about one third of the blood supply of the body. The nourishment that gets to the skin is vital to its health and appearance and this depends completely on the quality of nutrients fed to it by the blood.
In macrobiotics we look at the body ‘holistically’ as a ‘whole’. The face actually reflects the entire body, it reflects the condition of our organs and systems, so we can often see what is going on ‘inside’ our bodies by studying the face. Problems with not only the skin, but the hair and nails and our overall appearance is a clear reflection of our internal condition and no amount of skincare or drugs will solve this, they simply mask what is going on deeper inside us. Acne is an attempt by the body to eliminate some kind of excess, be it food, medication or chemicals.
Macrobiotics teaches us that to achieve this natural glow and radiant beauty, by following a balanced diet, looking at eating local, seasonal foods, focusing of whole grains, fermented foods and other health giving and strengthening foods that cleanse our bodies and strengthen our digestion, creating balance and harmony and a natural radiant glow.
For someone new to macrobiotics, what books can you recommend to get them started?
I would definitely recommend ‘the Hip Chick’s guide to Macrobiotics’ by Jessica Porter.
It’s been described as part ‘Joan Rivers’ part ‘Mahatma Gandhi’, and makes macrobiotics meaningful, hilarious and totally life-changing.
Can you describe a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner in the McCarthy household?
This can be anything from:
- Wholegrain Porridge with a Miso Soup
- Buckwheat Pancakes with Maple Syrup
- Scrambled Tofu with Sourdough
This can vary depending on time, I can make something in 15 minutes like:
- Shoyu Noodle Broth with Tempura or Sweet & Sour Tofu/Tempeh Stir Fry with Udon Noodles
- Stir Fried Rice, a Lentil Soup or a Sushi with Tempeh, Pickled Ginger, Wasabi and a Shoyu & Mirin Dip
A typical evening meal would look like this:
- Rice & Barley
- Hiziki (sea vegetable) with vegetables and seitan tempura
- Sauerkraut, Apple & Carrot Salad
- Broccoli with Tahini Dip
- Green Tea Kanten
- Spaghetti with Lentil Bolognese with Almond ‘parmesan’
- Pressed Salad
- Baked Blueberry Cheesecake (no cheese though!)
We spoke a little about nightshades causing inflammation in the body, can you talk to us a little more about this and how this could effect our skin?
Nightshades include tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines and peppers and can all cause inflammation. In macrobiotics we are looking to live our life in a balanced way, so by eating nightshades, this can really upset our system. As I mentioned earlier, the skin is a reflection of our whole body, it will show what is happening on the inside, this may be redness, soreness or inflammation.
If someone wanted to stock up on macrobiotic food, what would their first shopping list look like?
- Seasonal and local vegetables and fruit
- Local Wholegrains
- Sea Vegetables
- Fermented Foods, such as Miso, Shoyu, Pickles
- Dried Beans and Pulses (Lentils, Split Peas etc)
- Bean Products such as tofu and tempeh
- Natural Sweeteners – Maple Syrup, Rice Syrup, Barley Syrup
This is a general starter list, but there is so much more variety in my diet than I had before (and I was a ‘foodie’ then!)
Whether you are looking to learn more about macrobiotics, the art of sushi or how to make delicious dairy and sugar free deserts, Nicola and David run numerous classes throughout the year that can really change the way you think about food. I couldn’t recommend it enough!
If you want to hear more about how macrobiotics changed Nicola’s life listen to The Lifestyle News Hound podcast.