A Personal Perspective on the Journey

Like many of us, I have been challenged by food behavior issues and their resulting effects for most of my life. After a chubby, nutritionally ignorant childhood, I discovered macrobiotics in my very early twenties. Within a few months I was in better shape than I had ever been in my life, and I vowed to never allow myself to go back to my old ways.

And during my 20s I was more or less able to maintain that, though I had help. Living in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, I lived a busy life. For a good portion of that time I owned a vegetarian restaurant, The Sweet Life Cafe, and lived and breathed vegetarian whole foods day in and day out. It’s kind of hard to go off the wagon when you are driving the wagon.

I was also a founding member and president of MOST, the Macrobiotic Organization of St. Thomas. We had regular whole food pot luck dinners, and we also brought down some of the top macrobiotic counselors in the US to give talks, cooking classes and individual consultations. I lived and breathed natural, whole food nutrition.

However, moving to Cape Cod in 1991 brought new challenges. My career changed from restaurants to technology, I spent a lot more time glued to the computer screen, and, most importantly, I was no longer driving the wagon. Within a few years I lost the momentum I had gained in my 20s and, as I sadly joke, I was back to my old high school weight.

For many years I battled back and forth, trying to rekindle my vigilance and passion of yore. I would have temporary success, only to slip back to unsupportive habits. All the knowledge that I had about whole foods and natural nutrition seemed worthless. I felt as if the problem weren’t what I knew, but some character flaw that prevented me from following through.

Then the world changed. Michael Pollan and others exposed industrial food, the Slow Food movement brought attention to the joy of locally grown, organic foods. More and more, organic, whole food nutrition was becoming mainstream. I was re-enthused.

But I found that despite this new enthusiasm there were still challenges. I explored and concluded that knowledge itself was not enough (but is an essential component). Willpower is not enough. A key component for all of us is an understanding of who we are and how we operate. Our relationship with food is tightly woven with every aspect of our lives. I needed to look at those relationships and modify them to accommodate my desire for a sustainable, whole foods lifestyle.

Joshua Rosenthal, founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City, speaks of a concept he calls “primary food”. This is the “food” that feeds the soul and sustains your pure being. It isn’t corporeal food that you chew and swallow, it is the absorption into your life of those things that truly energize your being. For me, it is playing music and inspiring others to achieve their dreams. For you, it may be different.

Understanding our primary food needs helps us manage our corporeal food habits. Many of our primary food needs are met in social situations that involve corporeal food. The trick (as it was for me) is to separate the primary needs from the corporeal. From a very practical standpoint, this meant looking at each situation in my life that involved interaction with food, and observe how that fit in to those things that truly sustained me. It required forethought and planning, right down to conversations when making a food order. This is what works for me. How about you?

And I have come full circle, back to working with whole foods and inspiring others. In my 20s this was done with the energy and blind idealism of youth. Now, the energy is more targeted and the idealism more informed. So here I am, driving the wagon again.

Want to go for a ride? Hop on…