It is helpful to think simply of what is important to stay healthy. When looking at various things, four basic foundations stand out: eating, exercise, adequate rest and relaxation, and a good mental attitude. My observation is that for overall health, fulfillment and happiness, it is important to follow as best as we can the principles of balance in our daily lives in these four foundational areas.
I interpret everything in health through the lens of the macrobiotic/longevity principle of balance. I have discovered that underlying one’s health and wellbeing is the quality of practice of the principle of balance. Although the idea of balance is easy to grasp, it can be challenging to be conscious of and to not violate it over long periods of time. We often have many reasons that we give ourselves to sacrifice balance in our lives.
Several books can be written on how to apply the principle of balance to these 4 key areas. I will keep my explanations simple in order to introduce the most fundamental practices. In this article, I will focus on #1 Eating.
To understand the foundational practice of eating, it is important to grasp the idea that in order to stay healthy, physically and mentally, we must maintain ourselves in a highly energetic state. Eating is the first foundation of health because it is through food we take in energy. Traditional longevity cultures teach us that our diets should center on whole grains and cooked vegetables.
The reason longevity cultures centered their diet on grains and cooked vegetables lies in their understanding that certain foods are easier to digest because they promote the functioning of fire energy for digestion. If we are conscious to maintain our digestive fire with cooked foods, we absorb more nutrients that fuel the whole body including all organ functions.
The image of a stove and cooking pot in oriental systems helps us to understand that it is important not to over eat concentrated processed foods such as flour products, fats, and sugars that put a strain on the digestive tract and weaken it.
Eating practices and habits popular today greatly promote poor digestion and low energy. Overeating raw fruits and vegetables, fats in fried foods, refined sugar, sugary drinks, juices, and all sorts of poor quality flour products including breads, pasta, and pastries will eventually lead to digestive illness.
An energetic balance exists between foods that are energizing and foods that are building. Energizing foods are carbohydrates in the healthy form of whole grains, sweet vegetables, beans, and moderate amounts of fruit.
Building foods are animal products in the form of meat, fish, poultry and cheese.
If only healthy energizing foods are eaten without adequate and moderate amounts of building foods the structures of the body including the digestive system weaken. If only building foods are eaten, the body functioning becomes sluggish.
Healthy traditional cultures ate more energy foods than building foods with a balance. Modern diets sometimes feature over energizing foods and drinks such as alcohol, refined sugars, and stimulants.
Overeating food will stuff the fire pot of digestion making the digestive fire overwork; while not eating enough (when not overweight), will not provide enough fuel to stoke the fire of digestion.
The most natural eating taken from the track record of macrobiotic/longevity cultures and the incredible wisdom of oriental medicine is a diet centered around varying amounts and kinds of cooked whole grains and vegetables with regular but moderate amounts of natural animal foods, and smaller amounts of natural fats, natural sugars, nuts, seeds, seasonings, and beverages. Careful adjustments and supplements are important for vegetarians and vegans.
This diet is adjusted according to one’s condition, constitution, activity levels, climate and season by studying the energetic nature of food and health. I offer this kind of study through online courses, and in person classes.
When the diet is stressful or lacking nourishment for the digestive tract, the body draws upon its reserves. This weakens the endocrine system especially the adrenal glands which leads to sickness and premature or faster aging. As we get older, being careful that you eat foods that are easy to digest is even more important for health.