Melanie Waxman is the type of mum you thought only existed in the pages of Cotswold kitchen catalogues – think earth mother with a hint of free spirit and a juxtaposing soupçon of city-girl spark. Living close to Philadelphia she writes, cooks and teaches the art of macrobiotic living; but this isn’t a woman promoting an inaccessable fad, Waxman lives by the practice she preaches and has proved its workability by raising her own children on the lifestyle … all seven of them!
What does macrobiotic mean?
Macrobiotic actually means ‘great life’ and is a holistic approach that explores the health of our body, mind and heart. This includes food, meditation, exercise, healing, eating habits, connecting to nature, self-awareness and cooking. The dietary aspect is enjoying organic, whole, living, seasonal foods including whole grains, beans, vegetables, sea vegetables, nuts, fruits, seeds, and natural fermentation. Added to these are different seasonings, whole-wheat pastas, sourdough breads, sugar-free desserts, fish, cracked grains and herbal teas.
How did you first become interested in macrobiotic eating?
I first heard about macrobiotics when I was twelve when my mother ate a macrobiotic meal prepared by the son of one of her friends – I was horrified to hear that she ate seaweed! I dabbled with eating brown rice when I was sixteen but my feeble try lasted three days: I gave in to some biscuits which seemed infinitely tastier than the three small bowls of brown rice I had eaten in an attempt to cleanse my system. I actually started in full force when I was twenty-one when I was in the fashion world. Ironically the son who had cooked for my mother became my boyfriend; he told me I would never gain weight if I ate this way – that was good enough for me! I learned to cook and then embarked on an in-depth oriental medicine course at the Community Health Foundation in London. I was very enthusiastic and idealistic – Macrobiotics made sense and it seemed to be the way of life I had been searching for.
Why did it interest you so much?
For me, natural foods tasted absolutely delicious, the macro philosophy made sense, and it was practical and easy to implement. I loved the idea that macrobiotics has its roots in the cooking of all long-standing cultures and I felt that I was making a difference to the planet by the choices I made. I also felt fantastic and appreciated the fact that I could stay slender, look younger and have bags of energy both mentally and physically.
Isn’t it very restrictive? Doesn’t it make eating out a bit of an issue?
I never felt restricted; rather it opened me up to a world of different tastes, textures, ingredients, cooking styles and combinations. Macrobiotics used to be thought of as a diet to cure cancer but it is much bigger than that. You can enjoy Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Indian or any ethnic style of cooking. It is learning how to choose carefully when dining out so that you are making choices that nourish you.
I have raised all seven on macrobiotic foods and they still enjoy cooking it for themselves today.
Children can be pretty fussy when they are small though – was that a problem?
When my children were small it was relatively easy to feed them a plant-based diet. As they got older; sitting down, sharing and eating together became a vital part of healthy, family life. The family meal helped to create happy memories around food and a strong foundation. They also started to develop their own tastes with certain likes and dislikes so of course I took those into consideration.
Obviously one of the big areas that you focus on is chemicals/pesticides on food … why are they dangerous and how do you avoid them?
Processed foods are full of chemicals, aromas, flavors, pesticides, preservatives, colorants and sugar; these are poisons that affect our health deeply. Choosing to eat organic foods is a huge step towards becoming healthy. It may seem more expensive in the moment but improved energy and well-being has no price; the cost of days off work due to illness, trips to the doctor and not being able to fully enjoy life is far more expensive. We need energy to grow, think, move, play and develop. Processed food has almost no energy and that is why people are eating more and more to get what little they can, or they use strong stimulants to keep going. When we eat organic, living foods we get a strong energetic charge that nourishes us on all levels.
What difference have macrobiotics made to your wellbeing?
The biggest effect has been increased energy, incredible stamina, and my creativity has blossomed. Many people experience mental clarity; deeper, restful sleep; aches and pains disappear; emotions become calmer; and they feel more able to handle stress. Others look younger, have wonderful skin and hair, and generally feel happy and joyful. Macrobiotic foods help to prevent simple ailments such as headaches, PMS, allergies and a quick recovery from fevers, flu and colds. It has also helped those with more serious problems form diabetes and heart issues to cancer. It is empowering.
Everyone can start to make healthy changes by simply including new ingredients rather than cutting their present foods out. Increasing whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits, and vegetables on a daily basis has tremendous results. Start slowly. You can find most foods in supermarkets today and it’s a good idea to get some books on macrobiotics and macrobiotic cooking or sign up for macrobiotic cooking classes.
Is there anyone in particular who would benefit from it?
Everyone! It is a wonderful way to eat on a daily basis. The food tastes delicious and the results speak for themselves. Macrobiotics is very adaptable and non-prescriptive. You can vary the diet according to lifestyle, age, location, race, culture and traditions!
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