Ever since I became interested in Living the Big Life I have been warned by various people who follow the macrobiotic way that it won’t be an easy journey. I shrugged this idea off when I first began. Of course, I could see how chopping and preparing vegetables every Sunday afternoon in an effort to keep things easy and on track during the week could be irritating – what did you do on Sunday? But I was excited at the challenge and figured, if nothing else, I would get good at chopping. I’ve always wanted to do the whole slicing-so-fast-you-nearly-chop-your-fingers-off knife skills thing. I could also see it was going to take some time to understand the new foods I was being introduced to, and some time to adjust in the kitchen and learn new recipes. It’s easy if you eat the same foods over and over, but who wants to do that? And anyway there is so much new food out there I want to try, I am just going to have to get more organised.
So the practical aspect of living a macrobiotic lifestyle is not easy. But the biggest difficulty I have come across so far is other people. Friends, family and almost anyone I talk to about macrobiotics. My mum thought I was joining a religious cult because I was so intent on having my Miso soup every day and was trying to explain to her about the different energies in foods and how they make you feel. Other people have commented on how awful brown rice and tofu is (it is pretty awful if you don’t know what to do with it), and close friends have made jokes about how boring it must be to live in Paris and yet avoid the cheese and bread and cakes it is so famous for. I’m not sure if eating cakes makes a city more interesting (I have certainly seen and appreciated the beautiful displays in the shop windows), but what surprises me the most about all these negative comments is that I am not doing anything bad. I am trying to make myself better. Although it worries me that my allies feel this way, I guess I have to step back and remember when I first heard of macrobiotics I thought it was a fad diet left over from the ’60s for crazy Hollywood stars.
Society is not kind to those who want to be healthy. We have a habit of taking the mickey out of people who don’t drink or people who eat organic foods. We imagine vegetarians wearing knitted socks and hemp tunics and sitting on beanbags eating lentils. We roll our eyes if our friends go to the gym or play tennis on a Friday night instead of sitting in the pub. I’ve been there and I’ve thought those thoughts. I think the attitude and the jokes are born out of being defensive, which is connected to fear and even jealousy. I remember being a bit irked when people chose the path less travelled and said they were “off alcohol” or “getting fit”. I remember thinking I could do that – if only I did. When I was young I never even considered doing anything other than sitting in the pub, or eating the crap food in the canteen, or buying sweets at the cinema, just because that’s what most people did. It was the norm. Eating sweets while watching a film is just another choice we think we make, when really it has been heavily weighted towards us doing exactly that. Do you buy the Pic ‘n Mix because you are hungry and actually need it or is it just something you have always done when you go to the cinema? Isn’t it what everyone does? We’ve stopped thinking about what we want as individuals and do what we are expected to do. What is laid out for us. All I’m trying to do is think for myself and for my body and think about what it wants and listen to what it needs. Sometimes I don’t listen – I go out and have a heavy night drinking with friends – and I enjoy it at the time – but I don’t think I ever enjoy the day after. You’ll see from this blog I waver all the time from being healthy to being pretty unhealthy. But as I get older it is becoming more apparent that my body doesn’t want me to do that any more.
So I am choosing my own path. It’s a bit wiggly but I am gradually learning that what makes me feel good is to continue down this path, my own way. It would be nice if people close to me encouraged me on my way to a healthier lifestyle, but I don’t need their blessing. I won’t get too het up about it if people take the mickey – I don’t take myself that seriously – but I won’t change just to fit in with everyone else either. Now where is that rice cooker?