What is Macrobiotics?

Macrobiotics is so much more than just the next nutrition or diet trend. It’s a philosophy for a healthier and more balanced life. I will ask expert Rick Vermuyten exactly how this works.

08-08-2016 -  by Kevin Van der Straeten

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Macrobiotics is so much more than just the next nutrition or diet trend. It’s a philosophy for a healthier and more balanced life. I will ask expert Rick Vermuyten exactly how this works.


Hi Rick, welcome to our studio.




Today’s topic is macrobiotics, but what is that about?


Well if you look at the word, it's originally from Greek. Yeah. It’s originally a Greek word. So it’s Macros Bios which means a great life. So it goes back to, you may say the word itself goes back to Greek ancient history. Which is pretty Socratic philosophy, and those philosophers in those times, before Socrates had a point of view, which is actually completely oriental. And so of course the word macrobiotics became known in the west due to a German doctor, Christian Hufeland, who wrote a book about it and it said, macrobiotics is the art of to live long.


That sounds good.


It sounds good. Of course he explained the principles of how it works and what it is, but based upon actually a Greek interpretation of an oriental philosophy. and of course the oriental philosophy, let’s say, is the foundation of macrobiotics, because oriental people came here to teach here and started in the 50s, and of course the Greek people had a connection with the oriental way of life. It’s not so strange because even our, let’s say our culture has like Christianity, but Christianity is basically an oriental philosophy.


It is?


Yes. Jesus Christ lived in the orient. You see. So in the middle orient, but that means his,

his way of thinking is completely oriental. So it’s interesting that we adapted a way of thinking,

that’s originally oriental in a western society.


Yeah indeed.


So macrobiotics is actually based upon oriental principles, but of course we can find it back in our western way of thinking. Of course in the orient in macrobiotics and in oriental philosophy we use a way of looking at life. To live a great life, how do you do it?


Yeah, how do you do it?


So their point of view is, if you want to live a great life, you have to do it first in balance. You have to find your balance and then how you do your development. This is like a child. When a child starts to walk, first it looks and finds its balance. Once it’s found its balance then it can advance. You see. So macrobiotics is using the same principles. How does this balance work? That we don’t know in the west. Nowadays, I mean, even in many diets they start talking about balance, but nobody really explains balance between what.


How does that work then? What is the explanation macrobiotics has for it?


So macrobiotics uses the way of thinking which is oriental. So they use the principle of what do we see in nature, but what we also see in our body. That is there is contraction. Everything goes together, like in your heart. See it contracts. That they call it the yang tendency. It may depend on the different point of views. Sometimes the Chinese change the word, but it doesn’t matter. It’s one tendency contraction and after your heart contracts, it starts to expand. That’s a Yin Tendency. But if you see in your body, every cell does that, and every organ does it. The lungs do it. The stomach does it. Your intestine does it. Of course at different organs, so they do it with a different rhythm. The heart like 70 times, the lungs like at 16 times a minute and your intestines like every three times in a minute. So that’s a different way because the organ structure is different. You have, for instance, contracted organs, like the heart, or you have like the liver and you have like the kidneys. Those are contracted organs. They call it the Yang organs. You also have the Yin organs. That means expanded organs. It’s hollow organs. So we would see when we breathe we contract ourselves and then we expand ourselves. So that’s a natural mechanism in our body which is the same in nature. So macrobiotics is using that point of view that between human beings and nature there’s no real difference. So we are part of nature.


How can we use that yin and yang principle to have a great life?


So when we develop ourselves, of course we start as a child, which is very young, contracted and then we grow. So first our body physically expands. So growing is becoming yin. Once we are, let’s say adult, we stop growing physically then we should grow like mentally and emotionally and spiritually. So that’s the development of yin. So we need to know how we do that, and of course our body all the time, our spirit lives in the body. So we keep the body in balance and then use development. Development like exercising, of course it’s our body that’s movement and of course we use to develop our thinking and we use our emotions and it’s all developed by which our consciousness expand. So expansion of consciousness is actually a yin phenomenon, but first we made the body, and of course in the body everything works with yin and yang. Heart contracts and expands and the lung contracts and expands, and then we learn how to put that work in the rest of our development as well. So for instance, we look for where is balance between movement and rest. Most people exaggerate.

You know, one or the other direction. Of course that becomes like extremes. So we have then extreme yang and extreme yin. So being over contracted. People work, work, work. Get tense. Get tight. Get stressed. That’s over yang. Afterwards they need a rest in a hospital or burn out. So they’ve burned up their energy so much that afterwards, they force themselves to be able to not to do anything for quite a while. That means first it’s over yang, then it’s over yin. So microbiotics is using trying to keep it in balance, so that you don’t become too yang, neither too yin, but that you can be remaining in balance and develop.


I always thought macrobiotics was about food, about diet, but it’s much more than that.


Yeah. Of course that’s the way how it got known in the 50s, because in those days there was an interest in, okay what’s the influence of food for health and especially how can you use it to make yourself healthy, and of course in those days, it was like the 50s and the 60s, people were looking for what is the influence of food in our body, because it was studied in the west like at the beginning of the 20th century and then, with all those works we lost track. Then of course there was like a movement, okay yes, there is more and more problems in health. What can we do? So macrobiotics came up as a way, to recover your health using, for instance, what you eat and of course when we look at eating, you have breathing is the most important. Second is drinking and the third one,

actually the least important is the physical way of eating. So food itself, and of course they have,

the different proportions in your life. The breathing we’re doing more than eating. At least, most people.


Yeah, we can’t do without.


Of course that’s giving nutrition to our body. You have to build it up. So we build it up in such a way,

that there is a balance between yin and yang. Between contraction and between expansion.

Between yang and yin. So we keep that in mind by making health,

because that’s the most important issue. We cannot develop ourselves if you don’t have a healthy body.

So we do that with yin and yang. So we look at food, okay, what is the effect of food?

Which foods makes us contracting and which foods makes us expanding?

Of course we do that a little bit in the west. We have omelette with eggs and tomatoes.

This one is the omelette and the eggs are very much contracting, and the tomatoes are very much expanding or we do it with mushrooms. Mushrooms is also expanding, relaxing, that’s why we take sometimes. If you want to relax toast with mushrooms, and then we relax, or after eating beef with egg, red wine. So that’s what we know more or less, you may say, instinctively.


So the red wine isn’t that bad at all.


No, of course it’s balancing the beef. Of course the issue is there are foods that are extremely contracting, like beef and eggs, and cheese and eating birds, that’s making you very contracted. Then of course you skip the balance in the middle. That’s the most balancing food which is like grains and beans and seeds and vegetables, which used to be the majority of human food in all areas except in the polar areas or in the tropical areas, and then of course we go from that extreme yang and we go for the wine, or we go for a very sugary dessert. You see. So we cannot live within this yin and yang because it’s a natural principles. Of course in macrobiotics you say, okay, instead of switching all the time like that from, being overly stretched and over worked to burn out which is all the time switching. So let’s keep the balance so that your body can, instead of, like, your intestine by eating meat goes like, you see, and then afterwards you need something sugary too aah. So that’s an extreme movement. Let’s keep it in balance so that your health is not damaged, because if first your intestine goes like that and afterwards too much expansion. That’s why so many people create, by eating those kind of foods, create intestinal problems, which are enormous in our western society. Intestinal problems because we skip the balance. Well we do balance with extremes. So macrobiotics we learn how to do the balance, in the middle way which the oriental people called the Dow*. That’s the middle way. So the Dow* is doing that on many other levels of consciousness and the way of life, and practically in food we use the same yin and yang in order to know what is the balance.


I think we can conclude with this for today. But the topic is so interesting. I want to have you back in the studio in the next few weeks, if that’s possible?


Of course.


So thank you very much for coming over.


Gladly done. Thank you.


You at home thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.