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Editorial: Road to Health: Step #1

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Road to Health: Step #1

by Morgan Jones

12 November  2002

Recently a friend asked me to suggest some first steps a person could take on the path to improving health. I was unable to answer her. There must be a hundred things I could suggest—each one a very simple, almost obvious change. But where would a person start?

“What is the first thing a person should do if they want to be healthier—or they want to help their kids to be healthier?” Seems like a simple enough question, no? After all, what we macrobiotic teachers claim to teach is exactly that—how to improve health by making better diet and lifestyle choices everyday. If you were to attend all the different classes at The Natural Epicurean (as the two-year Culinary Program students do at this healing-cuisine cooking school in Austin), you could learn to prepare at least 500 incredibly delicious dishes that can be used as part of a healing regimen. (I’ve never really counted the recipes, but maybe I will, now that I think of it.) And you could learn how to drink less but use water more effectively for true hydration of the cells of one’s body. And you could learn that unless a person addresses healing from a holistic perspective—meaning psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects combined with the physiological issues we address with food, exercise, and environmental changes—real, deep healing does not happen. And a bunch of other touchy-feely stuff like that, along with a lot of practical nuts-and-bolts details for living large and living well.

So why did I find my friend’s question so puzzling?

I guess because there is no simple way to tell someone that most of the millions of bits of information we have gotten about health and nutrition—from mass-market magazines, from TV, from the American Medical Association, from our government (think food pyramid), from pharmaceutical ads, and from the 101 new diet books that seem to appear each year—most of this stuff is dead wrong! (With dead being the operative word here, in case I have become a little too subtle as a result of my recent brown-rice fast.)

Good health is not something we can purchase in a package or a bottle or a shot or an operation. If this were possible, don’t you think some enterprising capitalist would have found the formula and started a business to manufacture and market it?

But money—as the song explains—money changes everything. No one makes any big money when I buy brown rice and collards and miso and carrots and umeboshi plums and sesame seeds and onions. (Maybe this explains why the simple lessons we teach are not widely publicized in our culture.) Each farmer and each distributor makes a few pennies from each of my purchases—typically just enough to live modestly. But corporate America does not want to wake up one morning to a nation full of people like me who try to consume less and less (in order to become more and more healthy and happy). Especially since eating and living by simple macrobiotic principles means I choose not to buy health insurance; pay for visits to a doctor; or buy processed foods, vitamin or mineral supplements, chemical cleaning products or personal care products, medicine (other than some occasional lotus root for nasal congestion), clothing or blankets containing synthetic materials, microwave ovens, fast food at McDonalds, or even slow food at restaurants that use vegetables grown with pesticides and herbicides.

And I always try to answer, “I’ve got my own,” when I am asked, “Paper or plastic?” And then I drag out my well-worn cloth shopping bags, even when I shop at Home-Depot and Pep Boys.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no saint, no monk. The keys on the computer I am using to type this message are plastic. I DO own a television. My car is full of toxic plastic and other artificial materials, and it is definitely powered by oil. I have a pair of running shoes made from goddess-knows what petroleum-based super materials. The salt-cured daikon pickles I eat for a steady supply of intestine-friendly microorganisms come in a plastic package. And even though what I throw away each week adds up to something like a gallon of waste (compared to my neighbors two large trash cans), I don’t compost and thus I still rely on the city to collect my four quarts of trash in trucks that run on gasoline. (I fall short of my personal goals for living a simpler life in far too many ways to list them all here, but I think you get the idea.)

But the point is this: If everyone were to choose a simpler, healthier lifestyle, think how much smaller the profits for Monsanto, Dow, General Foods, Kraft, Pfizer, Merck, Union Carbide, Hospital Corporation of America, Burger King, Coca Cola, Denny’s, International Paper ... the list goes on and on. (And think about the companies that exist only to supply the needs of these large corporations.)

So is it really any wonder that in our society the messages we hear are all influenced by the need to keep the money flowing, rather than by—dare I say it—the truth about what is good for human beings?

The source of good health is not mysterious. (Yes, I’ve said this before, but I think the message bears repeating.) Use your brains and judgment and intuition and the wisdom you’ve accumulated just by living to make better choices each time you put something in your mouth, each time you interact with another person, each time you make a purchase (or decide not to buy something), and throughout your lifetime you will enjoy far better health and much greater happiness. (It is tough to be happy when waiting for your scheduled hip replacement operation, even if you own everything advertised on TV.)

But back to the question at hand. I don't believe there is any single thing a person can do—or even 2 or 3 things—that will change your health from poor to good. At least not without some understanding of the why.. Knowing what causes illness means that you can make better decisions all day, every day. I think it is the accumulation of many better choices that create good health.

So that's it! That's the answer to my friend's question. What is the first step? It’s simple. Learn the why.

To find good health, you have to know where to look. You have to invest some time (and maybe a little money) to discover for yourself where illness and disease originate (different for every person) and thus what NOT to do in order to be healthy.

And the first step I recommend is that you join us for our weekend conference entitled
The Origins of Disease—The Road to Recovery. We will try our best to start you down the road to becoming your own nutritionist, your own doctor, your own counselor. And we’ll explain how—when your challenges call for help—you can best engage and utilize all kinds of experts and healers. Whoever you look to for guidance—be they doctors or herbalists or surgeons or chiropractors or naturopaths—we'll help you understand how to work with them to your best advantage, without completely delegating all responsibility for your health to someone else.

So then what? What if you get inspired by our weekend conference to want to take charge of your personal healing right now? OK, we’ve got a plan for that too: Just sign up with The Natural Epicurean for their most basic and most important course—a program they call The Fundamentals of Cooking for Disease Prevention that is offered almost every month.

On a personal note: I teach about macrobiotics because I believe health is the natural state of human life and because I want every member of my community to have access to the simple wisdom that can make this so. And I do it because I love seeing the positive changes our students experience. I don't get paid for teaching at One Part Harmony—well, not with cash anyway. I hope one day—as our seminars and lectures grow in attendance—to be able to make a living by teaching, but for now I do a little consulting for a local computer company to pay my rent and buy gas for my car. I thought I would mention this since I’ve talked so much about money. Yes, our non-profit endeavor needs to charge for seminars so that we can pay the rent for our meeting room and buy the food we cook and cover the airfare and stipends to bring in other teachers, but we try to keep the cost our programs as low as possible and still stay in business.

As for me? Well, even without much money—and thanks to the gifts of some wonderful teachers (macro and otherwise)—I am already rich!

Hope our paths cross one day soon ...


Peace, love, and brown rice,


Last modified: 02/21/05