Hipchick's Guide to Macrobiotics

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Macrobiotics?

The word macrobiotic comes from "macro" which means large, big or great, and "bios" which means "life". So to practice macrobiotics is to practice the art of a great life. Sometimes this means that your life is totally groovy, but it also means that the person eating macrobiotic foods begins to perceive things from a wider and wider perspective; we see the ups and downs of life and ride them like good surfers. When you perceive a bigger picture, you can let go of the small stuff.

What do you eat?

Most people practicing macrobiotics mix and match from the following foods: whole grains, beans and bean products (like tofu), organic vegetables (local and in season), soups, sea vegetables (a/k/a seaweed!), desserts (sweetened with rice syrup, barley malt, fruit and sometimes maple syrup), a little fish, a little fruit, pickles (to aid digestion), condiments (to provide minerals), nuts, seeds and non aromatic teas. However, every person has different needs depending on their age, gender, lifestyle and ambitions. Plus, the real spirit of macrobiotics is about freedom; one eats healthy food most of the time so that one can eat more extreme foods some of the time. So people in good health can go out and "play", having a glass of wine, or a piece of chocolate cake, or . . . whatever, when they feel it's appropriate to the occasion. They then return to their regular macro foods in order to maintain their health and eventually "play" again.

What are Yin and Yang?

Macrobiotic philosophy comes down to explaining everything through the lens of yin and yang. Yang force creates contracting and inward movement while yin force creates expansion and outward movement. From these fundamental forces we get everything: light and dark, speed and slowness, hot and cold, hard and soft, etc. All dualities can be seen through this lens. In macrobiotic thinking, it is believed that if we eat foods that are whole, local and in season, that our bodies get the perfect yin ness and yang ness needed for the natural environment in which we live. When we harmonize with nature, we experience strength, flexibility, freedom and happiness. Tropical foods are great for people living in the tropics; they provide the perfect yin ness and yang ness to balance the extreme heat. Likewise, blueberries are a great fruit for people in New England. When we start to eat really really yin foods like bananas, pineapples, yogurt and sugar (smoothie, anyone?) day after day in New York City, we lose touch with the natural world and eventually become weakened by all the excess yin force.

Why do people use the macrobiotic diet to recover from cancer and other serious illness?

In macrobiotic thinking, all illness begins with becoming out-of-sync with the natural environment. And the primary way that we do that is by putting food inside of us that has nothing to do with nature. Yes, there are other factors—lifestyle, emotional stressors and living next a to a nuclear power plant—and they all need to be addressed, but food is always either working for or against your health and freedom. Many people have found that when they return to whole, macrobiotic foods and respect the laws of yin and yang, their bodies rediscover a natural balance that supports their healing.

Isn't it too much work?

I'm not going to lie to you, cooking macrobiotic food takes time. That's why in The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics, I encourage people to start by simply cooking and eating whole grains on a daily basis. Most whole grains take about an hour to cook, but if that's all you're cooking, you can just put the pot on and then leave it while you get ready for work. In my experience, after people begin to eat whole grains daily, the one hour a day of cooking necessary to stay macrobiotic creates itself—suddenly you need less sleep, you don't want to watch as much TV, your body feels light, happy and begins to demand that you cook for yourself. So by the time you get to cooking an hour a day, you will want to cook an hour a day—it will be creative, pleasurable and empowering. But don't worry about that right now. Just make some brown rice and chew it well. You don't have to do anything perfectly.

Will I lose weight?

By sticking to the basics (whole grains, vegetables, beans, etc.—see above) most people with excess on their bodies lose it. And usually pretty fast. However, if you're downing jars of almond butter slathered on bread all the time, it will be harder to lose the weight. Trust that your body knows where it's happy. By eating whole foods (especially grains) on a daily basis, chewing them well, your body will find that place on its own, without your obsessing about it. It will also trip upon health, emotional balance and inner peace. Cool.

Where do I get the food?

Most decent health-food stores have a section that houses its weird macro stuff—like sea vegetables, condiments and kuzu (a natural thickener). Just ask anyone at the store. Organic vegetables can be found just about anywhere these days (thank You Goddess). Ditto grains and beans. If you have trouble finding a macrobiotic food, check the resources section of this website or of The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics to get help.

Is it expensive?

Some items are pricey. Sea vegetables, for instance, are expensive, but you don't use them really quickly and they are well worth it in terms of your health. Umeboshi plums and miso are also not cheap, but they are also like SUPERPOWER foods, and any expensive macro food is balanced by the incredibly low prices of grains and beans—your staples. If you're trading red meat and dairy for grains and beans, your overall food bill should go down.

video cooking classesHow can I learn more?

A good way to learn is to download one of my online video cooking classes. Classes are 90 minutes and feature a wide variety of Macrobiotic topics. Click here for more information on my cooking class videos.

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