Experiments in Macrobiotics

A chain of events, which included at one point the incorporation of input from a blogger, hardly ever known as Captain Angsty-Brains, lead me to read ‘Kamikaze Cowboy’ by Dirk Benedict.

This has become important, because it gives me something to talk about. My life at present derives of working rather hard on a project that has maybe a 20% chance of panning out and equalling a pay-day, but I’m doing it anyway. Also, I’m having a romance that for reasons of jinxing, and personal space, etc., I don’t wish to disclose to anyone I know. That means big portions of those things taking up my attention revolve around stuff I can’t really talk about to family and friends.

That really only left me with the thin conversational fodder of ‘books-I’m-reading’ and my new geek passion, BSG. So why not combine the two! Dirk Benedict was the original Starbuck from the first Battlestar Galactica series. Allegedly, Benedict cured his own prostrate cancer through diet and the practice of macrobiotic principles, and then he wrote about it in his book, ‘Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy‘.

Kinda neat, huh?

After looking into macrobiotics a bit, it looks very much like a list of foods one would derive no enjoyment whatsoever out of eating. If you enjoy cheetos, soda pop, ice-cream, juicy steaks, blueberry muffins, or any flavors at all that don’t fall in the muted gray-scale of gastronomic experience, then macrobiotics looks almost as fun as oral surgery.

But there were a few things that hooked me in the book. Benedict claims that following the macrobiotic principles works because you don’t feel any cravings. His explanation is that cravings do not derive from a lack of will power, but rather like any addictive behavior, they stem directly from chemical reactions in the body. 

I don’t wanna get into the ying and yang business cus my grasp of that is sketchy, to say the least, but in westernized culture so many of our foods are so *excessive*- excessive fat, excessive animal flesh, excessive sugar, excessive salt, that the body gets put on a yo-yo course, constantly trying to balance itself, and this is what produces the cravings.

For example, he says that for every portion of animal protein, the body needs 7 portions of carbohydrate. So what’s a real quick way to balance a big meat eating day? 

Pepsi, anyone? Is a sugary donut sounding good about now? Something made of refined flour and coated with sugar is going to hit you *hard* with any kind of carb intake the body desires. Of course then you have a spike in the blood sugar, and your body needs a whole bunch of other stuff to regulate those responses.

And on and on, in an endless cycle from one pole to the other of diet extreme.

I’m not a nutritionist, but this makes sense to me. The other thing that spoke to me was this one line, likely paraphrased as the book has moved on to other hands. He says, ‘There’s precious little food in our food nowadays.’

Makes you think. What value are you getting out of what you consume in a day? Are you deriving balanced energy and nutrition from your food, or getting stop-gap spurts of energy and a lot of chemicals, free-radicals and carcinogens to boot? How much of it becomes waste product, how much of it goes into fat storage? 

And most of all: How do you feel?

That’s the weirdest question of all for me. I ask people that several times a week, and I’m asked in return. I’m pretty good about striving for an honest answer, and that answer is generally representative of my emotional state.

But physically? Try this: Stand still for a moment, just stand, in the center of a room and try not to focus on any of the millions of things that you usually do. Don’t think about recreation, relationships, work or who won the Phillies game, just strive for a moment of physical awareness.

When I tried this, it was really weird. I became aware of my joints, first. That my fingers are a little stiff, that my left knee is just every so slightly uncomfortable. I felt my back muscles, what was tight and what wasn’t. I became aware of my breathing, whether it was clear or congested, how my head felt, the actual pull of gravity. I became aware of the beating of my heart.

In truth, I’m okay, but I’ve been better. I could feel better than this. I don’t feel great.

The mind is a remarkable thing in that, it has the ability to actually make us unaware of our physical state most of the time. Unless you are ill or injured enough to have extreme physical discomfort, most of what happens in your body takes place unconsciously. You are able to focus on whatever you want to think about, and minor discomfort might not even pierce your awareness for hours, days, weeks at a time. It’s kind of strange that you can inhabit a body and be that disconnected from it. It’s kind of amazing that the average American probably doesn’t have any idea how they feel, physically, 9/10ths of the time.

And so, I’m trying this out. Not because I really think I can stick to it, or for any other reason, particularly,  except curiosity. Will this safe guard my health? There’s no guarantees, but the evidence seems to be that healthier eating improves your chances of making it into old age. Can I make it one week eating this shit without buying a crate of cupcakes and a big gulp Slurpee? 

Probably not, but what’s the hurt in trying? I’ll say that, after a couple days of macrobiotic eating, I do feel remarkably un-hungry, most of the time. And energy’s pretty high. And cooking this shit into some kind of edible form does present a challenge, which I need, so we’ll see how it goes.

And, of course, it gives me something to talk about.

For the curious, some macrobiotic resources:

1. The book

2. The food list (run away! run away!)

3. Wikipedia

4. Michio Kushi Institute










6 thoughts on “Experiments in Macrobiotics

  1. I’m all for getting healthy but my impression of macrobiotics is that it is very woowoo. Had friends who took it up and its as though they went into slow motion and slow thought. Showed me pictures how that if I was healthy the whites of my eyes would show above my irises (eyes would look like a setting sun). (They abandoned it after a few years).

    One thing though is that I don’t think its a bad thing that we are disconnected from how our bodies are feeling all the time for a couple of reasons. 1. Much of this self centeredness and how do I feel and I have to find myself is I think a byproduct of leisure rather than need. Nature abhors an imbalance and when life becomes more shallow, we dive or are drawn inside of ourselves. 2. Being unaware allows us to pay attention to the outside world which I would argue is always more important than the inner one. Its one of the reasons I dislike most religions: they turn their back on wonder.

    If the current food shortages are teaching us anything its that being out of touch with our selves doesn’t come close to comparing with being hungry.

    Forgive the rant but I find that people who pay too much attention to whats going on inside tend to walk into things.

  2. Mmm, well I pretty much only eat healthy food, cook everything from scratch, loads of fruit and veg, no fast food, but I do drink the odd glass of wine or four (grin) and I could feel so much better…..I’m permanently tired, though that could be down to two small boys and burning the candle at both ends and let’s face it stress, nothing is worse for your body……maybe I should go macro too………problem is I’m a pig, love food, live to eat. Good luck with it……let us know.

  3. How weird you wrote this today. Some niggling irritant has been plaguing me for a week or so. I do not answer when my body speaks apparently. Finally the index finger right hand would be ignored no longer. Okay, I looked. The darn thing was red and had a hard bump. So that’s why I started rolling the mouse wheel with that nasty middle finger. Oh well, probably arthritis. No problem. The glucosomine and condrotin I take daily has miraculously taken pain from two knees (scheduled for surgery), a shoulder and two thumbs. All fine now. I expect to be pointing toward a healthy index finger in a few weeks. And your macrobiotic diet–very similiar to what we eat right now.

  4. I was aghast when I saw the new Starbuck was (yes, I’m gonna say it) a girl. Benedict was superfly back on the original BSG (okay, to a nine-year-old boy). But, the new Starbuck is pretty cool too.

    There was once a cook at a summer camp I worked at who cooked macrobiotic for the staff during orientation week. She preached the benefits. There was a rebellion and she quit after three days.

    I’m starting a healthier regime and wish you all the luck with your experiment. Keep me updated.

  5. Recently I came across a “daily state” diary I kept for about two months last year, trying to track some correlation between how I felt and what I was eating. I had cut refined sugars and wheat almost entirely out of my diet, and cut way back on caffeine and animal proteins. I was curious as to whether having done that would help my fatigue or my F****ing sinus problems.

    It kind of did, but I became so horribly depressed from paying attention to how crappy I felt all the time that I couldn’t continue tracking it. There’s a damned good reason why my mind decides to ignore my body most of the time … if it didn’t, I’d just give up.

  6. My family used to make fun of me because I was so health-conscious — NEVER eating donuts or processed junk. I don’t know what’s happened, but I eat all that stuff now. Not a bunch, but enough to definitely make me feel kind of yucky.

    I don’t dare say I’m going to cut it all out, because if I do I have a feeling I’ll fail (at this time in my life). But this post certainly is making me think about what I’m eating.

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