I know it’s not cool to make Chewish jokes, but Oy, did we have a good time today! The first Annual International Celebrity Charity CHEW-A-THON went off without a hitch. Chewlia Roberts masticated on the red carpet. Robert Downey Chewnior dazzled with his pearly whites and Judge Chewdy made sure it all stayed legal.
But seriously, chatting in the Chew Room this morning were chewers from Italy, Switzerland, and Austria. Later in the afternoon, while the Europeans slept, chewers from Maine, Chewcago and The Berkshires joined to support each other. I swear to God this chat room is the center of the Chewniverse!!!
Please, someone stop me.
But seriously (seriously), today was great. I chewed and chewed, and felt present and peaceful. I also had a big insight into chewing: I realized that so many people who have difficulties with chewing–who only get to 30 or so chews–may need to hear this: at a certain point, chewing is not about tasting, or enjoyment, or any type of eating you are familiar with. Chewing is simply the brutal stomping of the food to get the most energy from it. Like someone stepping on grapes to make wine. So after those 30 chews, don’t seek to recognize the experience. Just keep mashing the stuff in your mouth so that the microscopic bits–floating in saliva–give up their goodies. As your chew-count increases, you will feel that you are creating high-octane fuel in your mouth!
Going to bed now as I pass the torch to the Europeans…
FOR A VIDEO TUTORIAL ON CHEWING: CLICK HERE
There’s real science to this chewing business; in his wonderful book, The Power Eating Program: You are how You Eat, Lino Stanchich talks about the enzyme ptylin which is released in the saliva after some vigorous chewing. This enzyme, critical to the breakdown of carbohydrates, is released only in the mouth and without it, all the other digestive enzymes–which are secreted at different points in the G.I. tract–don’t work so well. So when it comes to eating carbohydrates–grains, vegetables, beans, fruits, bread, noodles–if you ain’t chewing, you ain’t really eating!
When a complex carb is broken down in the mouth with ptylin, it converts to glucose–right there in your mouth! This glucose is then absorbed easily into the bloodstream to become blood sugar. "Big deal" you say and, well, it is a big deal. You see, your brain uses more sugar than any other organ in the body. Because your brain is totally bathed in blood, the quality of that blood is vital to your mental health. When your blood is low in sugar, your brain is like "I hate my life… what’s on TV?" and when your brain is bathed in good-quality blood sugar, it’s like "WHAT’S NEXT, BABY?" and gets all excited to play ball with life. Low blood sugar has been associated with moodiness, depression, fatigue–even dizziness and the shakes.
Even cravings for sweets–or food in general–are caused by low blood sugar because your brain is constantly yelling "FEED ME!!!!" When you chew your food one hundreds times per moutful, and those carbs become glucose, and your blood sugar rises and the brains gets bathed in the sweet, sweet stuff it says "AHH… I love you". All nice like that. And the cravings disappear.
Well-chewed saliva is alkaline, and therefore reduces the acidity of any food you are eating. That’s unbelievably cool because if acidity isn’t buffered in the mouth, it gets buffered by minerals in the blood and bones. This can lead to weak blood and even bone loss. HEY, WHERE’S YOUR FEMUR?
Finally, when you chew your food, your body doesn’t have to work so hard. It isn’t sitting around processing big rocks and chunks of food. Chewing is like mainlining food, and that makes for a very smooth ride. I find that my thinking, my emotional life and even my general consciousness becomes very clear and un-neurotic when I chew. Life gets simple. So-called "problems" (usually just created in my mind) go "poof"!
So Fletcher was onto something. As is Lino Stanchich. If you don’t like the idea of counting your chews, please order Lino’s chewing tape/CD which plays pleasant music with a little ‘ding’ every sixty seconds, telling you to swallow. Also, you gotta read his book: amazing stories of him surviving a POW camp by chewing! Chewing literally saved his life.
Western medicine has even gotten on the chew-chew train; here’s an article (thanks to Kevin Oshiro!) about how gum-chewers recovered faster from colon surgery.
But… don’t chew gum. Chew food.
Have a great weekend,
With the CHEW-A-THON fast approaching, I put together a little chewing tutorial so we could all get on the same page re: technique.
For more info on the CHEW-A-THON, click here.
As we gear up for the CHEW-A-THON starting September 8th, I want to give us all some inspiration. I’ll be posting stuff on the physiology of chewing, the benefits, the technique… even giving a little instructional video. But let’s start right now with some history:
This guywas King of the Hardcore Chewers. Named Horace Fletcher, he was known as
"The Great Masticator". Ahem. Born in 1849, Fletcher was one the early American food faddists and he believed that chewing was the absolute bomb. By chewing, or "fletcherizing" your food (32 times a mouthful or about 100 times a minute) he claimed that one could get more energy from the food, while eating less of it. It seemed to work for him; at 58 years old, Fletcher challenged student athletes at Yale to physical endurance tests and he outperformed them all.
Horace counted among his fletcherizing friends Henry James, Mark Twain, Upton Sinclair and John D. Rockefeller. Fletcherizing was actually quite popular for a while until its spotlight was stolen by the next big thing: calorie-counting.
Practice Fletcherizing today. It’s your patriotic duty. Go for 50 to 100 chews per mouthful. Start with grains and vegetables; they’re the easiest to chew. Get your friends, macro and un-macro, to join the CHEW-A-THON starting September 8th.
In 1998, I took a trip to Peru. In preparation for this trip, my boyfriend and cooking partner at the time, Howard, prepared intelligently; he took Spanish lessons and read guide books about the country. Me, I just freaked out; having been macrobiotic in a pretty clean way for 7 years, I was terrified that I would not be able to get the right foods. And it wasn’t just a control thing–I was afraid of feeling unwell with a radical change of gasoline and that seemed to defeat the whole purpose of travelling. I knew that Peru was the home to quinoa and choclo (corn) but I also knew I could easily find myself diving headfirst into a picarone (donut) cart. I was stuck between my desire to stay healthy and an equally healthy desire to experience the world freely.
I fretted and freaked until I struck a remarkable deal with myself. This simple contract cast a blinding light on a chaotic, fearful situation: I could eat anything and everything I wanted in Peru, but I had to chew every single bite of it thoroughly. Like, one hundred times. EVERY single bite.
Now that might sound insane, and maybe it was, but it was also one of the best decisions I have ever made. Upon arriving in Peru, my mission began. At first, it was embarrassing and a pain in the butt. I explained myself by saying I had to chew really well because of some problem with my teeth. Ahh, white lies–So helpful! My body, used to having food-bricks launched into it, had to re-train itself to absorb liquid food, and my mouth–the lazy bastard–had to go to the gym. I sat out entire conversations, or just participated between bites… but I tell ya, I really, really tasted that food. And it was a smart decision because it took us a couple of days in Lima to get our bearings and find the one vegetarian restaurant in our guidebooks. It quickly became clear that we weren’t gonna find brown rice, let alone seaweed anytime soon. In fact, I found the picarone cart on the second day and chewed the heck out of an amazing Peruvian donut!
We even took a trip to a tributary of the Amazon. It required two days on a bus negotiating fatally skinny switchbacks, and then four days in canoe-ish type things, camping in the jungle. I had NO control over the food… white pasta, Oreo cookies and tuna fish were staples. I chewed and I chewed and I chewed. Instead of experiencing headaches and depression and fatigue, I chuckled as the monkeys threw things at us from the tree tops. I lay in my tent, eyes closed and listening to a mind-blowing symphony of buzzing insects in the jungle. At night, I saw the phosphoresent glow of weird Amazonian bugs and plants on the river. I may have been eating Oreos but I was totally awake and experiencing every single mind-blowing moment of my life.
More benefits of chewing; sparkly eyes, great physical energy and co-ordination, a total in-the-moment absorbtion and enjoyment of people, places and things. An overall good mood. I started losing weight and my skin looked gorgeous. Meanwhile, Howard–who was speaking great Spanish but wasn’t chewing quite as religiously–would experience dips in energy, moodswings and all the infamous South American digestion problems. I had none. Honest to God, because I kept my contract with myself, it was one of the most seamless, enjoyable, and conscious experiences of my life. All six weeks of it. Chewing is amazing.
So I’d like to start a week-long CHEW-A-THON with all the readers of this blog. I’d like to suggest that we chew each bite 50 to 100 times each. Every bite. For one week. I think we will all be amazed. You can post your experiences on my blog and I will write and tweet every day that week, supporting us all to experience what our lives are like, thoroughly chewed. I will talk about the bio-mechanics of it, the spiritual dimension of it, and give practical tips, including a chewing video!!!!
The CHEW-A-THON begins on the Tuesday after Labor Day, September 8th and goes through September 14th. And remember: You don’t have to be macro to do this, so invite your friends of all culinary paths to try chewing on for size…
You might want to practice a little before then, sitting down, focusing and really masticating. Keep the back of your mouth closed and DON’T SWALLOW until you’ve reached your 50, or your 100. That’s the key. You can do it! YAHOO!!!
I love saying stuff like "so I was in Vegas the other day…". Sounds so Rat Pack, so Entourage, so The Hangover. And I was actually in Vegas the other day, after a couple of friends of mine, plus one dog, piled into my car and decided to drive to Joshua Tree, which looks like this:
After taking in all the natural wonders for about, oh, 20 minutes, out came the iphones, and it was determined–thanks to Google maps–that the scenic view to The City of Sin would require a breezy four hour detour. What the heck! It was a holiday weekend! One of my friends was visiting from the East Coast for God’s sake!! MICHAEL JACKSON HAD JUST DIED!!! The whole moment reeked of "if not now, WHEN?" Frankly I was quite impressed with us, considering you don’t always get three people over 35, plus one Husky mix, in 100 degree weather, brimming with such spontaneity and joie de vivre.
And why not? Vegas is a very spiritual place. You heard me. I mean, if we stretch the definition of "spiritual" to "containing human faith". Vegas is full of faith. Faith in the next hand. The next hooker. The next roll of the die. Just watching a woman sitting, hypnotized, at a slot machine is a portrait in faith: pulling, pulling… hoping… pulling, pulling… trusting… pulling, pulling… knowing that the magical religion of numbers will smile on her because she has been patient and waited. She has faith in God of The Odds. Maybe she will finally be granted a purse like this: or stay in a hotel with a ceiling like this:
There’s so much faith in Vegas that, if we were to harness it and use it for good… who knows what we could do! We are just humans, and every day we commit our energy in certain directions. We can build things or destroy things. We can love people or hate them. We can eat a Twinkie or some kickass miso soup. Don’t get me wrong: I make less-than-stellar choices all the time… but maybe it’s time to consider how we leave our personal Las Vegas.
Eat whole grains. Chew them well. Get stupid happy. Hip Chick Audiobook available here.
As kids, my sister and I would spend every other weekend with our Dad. Not the greatest cook, he would take us to various diners and other eateries for Saturday breakfast. Invariably, Dad would order half a grapefruit, and I remember being hypnotized by his precise slicing around the rim of the fruit and down the sides of each triangular wedge. Finally, with a spoon, he would scoop out his bounty, and pop the grapefruit chunks–perfectly bite-sized by nature–into his big Daddy mouth.
It’s only been recently that I developed a taste for grapefruit. As a little girl, it just seemed bitter. And even though the bitterness came with some serious sweetness, my young tongue couldn’t appreciate that dance of taste. And the fact that the bitterness and sweetness sat on either side of sour…? Well, that just seemed like God doing drugs or something.
But I appreciate the miracle of it now. The grapefruit wins the Triple Crown of fruit by somehow combining sour (Springtime energy), bitter (Summer energy) and sweet (late summer energy). And in so doing, it produces the most fantastic range of taste and satisfaction. Biting into a wedge of grapefruit on a hot, summer day is like letting my head be blown off by fireworks. When I close my eyes and just let my tongue and my brain receive it, the grapefruit delivers a punch perfectly reflective of the sexy, out-of-control, sun-drenched excitement of summer. And I don’t need a lot. Just a few bites does the trick.
Yes, I live in Southern California now, so grapefruits have become local to me. For those of you reading this in a more temperate climate, pick a fruit that’s at its peak right now and let it be that lovely exclamation mark to your day. Close your eyes and hear it speak to you. And if you’re in good health, and the thermometer creeps up into the "holy crap it’s hot" zone, blow your head off with some grapefruit!
FYI: Here’s a radio interview I did recently on Breaking Through with Georgiann
It’s been a big week.
My mother died on Thursday.
I don’t know how to write that sentence without dropping it on your foot like a brick. Not that you knew my mother, but no matter how you slice it, mothers are a big deal, and death is pretty huge itself. In fact, of all the clubs I’ve ever been a member of, “People-Who-Have-Mothers” is by far the biggest and of all the things we fear, I’m thinking good ole death is tippy top of the list.
I would say that I’m in shock, but I don’t believe I am. I was in shock earlier this week, when I was making trips to a hospital unknown to me, visiting the body I came out of–in a coma. I was in shock when I got the news a couple of months ago that my mother’s melanoma had returned and had traveled to her precious cerebellum. I was in shock four years ago, when she got that first mole biopsied. But between all those slaps in the face, I think my subconscious mind has been preparing for motherlessness… preparing for this moment right now when it somehow feels normal, or okay, that she’s gone. Holy crap.
So I’m thinking that we are actually wired for death, as much as we are wired for birth, or sex, or love. It’s as if my current response to death is embedded in my neurological make-up and has its own organic flow. And I’m not talking about Kubler-Ross’s Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Grief and Acceptance (although I recognize cycling through those stages, as did my mother). I’m talking about my brain tripping out on this experience in ways I couldn’t have expected–patterns shifting, walls falling, complete with wacky revelations–already! So my mother, one of my greatest teachers, continues her work:
Things I’m learning from my mother’s death:
Priorities: We are hearing from so many people who knew her about what she gave them. It wasn’t stuff, or her accomplishments that made her valuable. Again and again, it was her tenderness and lack of judgment that left their mark. People felt seen and heard by her. It doesn’t seem to matter that she never made a zillion dollars. They didn’t care that she watched ‘Deal or No Deal’, which we all thought was embarrasing and beneath her. No one’s mentioned how show dressed, or her table manners. It was her vibe that mattered. Her spirit. What an amazing gift–to eavesdrop at a deathbed…
Macrobiotics: My mother practiced MB in a wide way for the last ten years of her life, with a couple of strict years thrown in there after the first diagnosis. Before that, she pretty much ate your average sludge. I suppose we will never know what her life would have been like had she continued her previous habits. What I do know is that she got happier and happier in the last years of her life; that she opened emotionally and spiritually in a way she never had before, and that her light began to emanate outward in a powerful, palpable way. The combination of good love and good fuel made her a powerhouse, and although it would have been amazing to see it all continue, I’m so grateful that she ended on such a fine note. She taught me that it’s never too late to get better.
Yin and Yang Lessons: #1: As she waned, others have waxed. As my mother’s light faded, friends and family came shining forth with such beauty. It’s been amazing–like a brilliant dance of love I didn’t know I was a part of. Bittersweet balance.
#2: As much as this is a colossal loss, it is also a gain–I am feeling a particular strength I have never felt before–a propulsion forward which excites me. I think mum would be happy and excited for me too.
#3: In the absence of our mother, my sister and I are silently re-negotiating the terms of our sorority… energy is always shifting and finding balance. Yin and yang amaze me.
“Nature takes care of Her own”: That was one of my mother’s favorite sayings, and it’s proving itself right now. Within 72 hours of my mother’s release, I am feeling gratitude and enjoying some perspective. You see, I expected my brain to hang out in the mud a lot longer than a day, but it did not. That’s what I mean by “Nature takes care of Her own”; my brain seems wired–almost callously and without my permission–to move forward. Will I cry some more? Buckets. Will I miss her? Forever. But will life stop? Well, all I know is that, in the last two months, this family did everything we could to honor the life force: We ate good food, walked barefoot on the grass, thought positively, communicated honestly, and even took our turns on the goddamned exercise bike. So now, with one member missing, to turn our backs on the life force and get sucked into depression feels… wrong. Not morally wrong, just energetically weird and off-course. My mother has expanded. She is free. The morning she died I felt a joy so complete I could have exploded from it. And it was so… natural. Life becomes death and death becomes life. Yin and Yang.
It would have been my mother’s 70th birthday tomorrow… but she’s actually just beginning.
Love your life,
P.S. Dear Bloguees, I have just read the comments that you’ve posted in the last few weeks. Thank you so much for your love and support and prayers. I am overwhelmed.
Life is funny. I’m on a cruise in the Caribbean right now. Yeah, like azure waters, warm ocean spray, lovely, happy cruisers, and I’m a mess. Well, not exactly a mess, but the waves this ship keeps riding feel like wet, rolling metaphors. My mother is thousands of miles away, in England, on her own journey–possibly out the door of life. She is literally riding her own waves, of nausea, the ups and downs of each day, the physical imbalance caused by the tumor in her cerebellum. I check my email religiously to get updates from my stepfather, who is cooking for her and watching as his daily life contracts into a nursing home drama. We are open enough to indulge in what we call “tumor humor”: I wrote yesterday “You’re not missing much, Mum. We’re hitting some rough seas, and everyone is complaining of nausea and walking around like they have brain tumors!”
Meanwhile, my little sister had a baby yesterday!! A boy!!! The first boy in two generations of my family. Boy-without-name apparently looks like a rugby player, and came bouncing into world in four hours, weighing 9lbs. 8oz. so the rather delicate names his parents had contemplated pre-natally have been thrown out as they search the collective unconscious for his rightful moniker. Maybe “Yang” will do.
Between this wane and wax of the lifeforce, I am teaching classes about yin and yang–how appropriate–with a thousand other people interested in food, health and living the big life. Marilu Henner is here, rapidly becoming a personal hero–she is a truly hip chick living a truly big life. I am meeting all sorts of people who have used macrobiotics to bring themselves back from the brink of death and destruction–breast cancer, Crohn’s disease, lymphoma, bladder cancer, fibroid tumors–all gone. Those amazing stories are difficult to ignore. And I’m so grateful to be reminded of the power of food. Whether this gentle path of whole grains ushers my mother onto twenty more years of life, or makes her Big Transition smoother and kinder, it doesn’t matter. It is a sane, humane and loving choice.
I said before that I am a mess. That’s not true. In fact, I think I’m amazed at how un-messy I am right now. I definitely wish I were with my sister, and my mother–and those aches are real–but I’m struck by just how gentle the waves of life can be when I treat my body well. I could pick up a cup of coffee now, or some sugar, and create a huge drama, driving home to my consciousness the big messages “THIS IS SO HORRIBLE!! YOUR MOTHER MAY BE DYING! YOU ARE MISERABLE!” And those substances would create a very real, chemical misery for a few days. But I’m not. I keep thinking: “Everyone loses their mother at some point. It’s natural. It’s in God’s plan” and because it’s in God’s plan, I’m treating this experience with reverence, like a birth. Maybe it’s meant to be gentle. Maybe it’s okay to have a mother one day and not the next. Maybe God isn’t going to come along and smash my head against a wall–like a doppio soy cappuccino would. Maybe She is holding us all right now, to make this as sweet and gentle as possible for my whole family. Yes, there are tears, and very real pain, but not misery. Misery, I’m seeing, is a human invention.
I think, when we die, we make the journey from the visible, material world back to the infinite, invisible one. And in that respect, our spirits expand, like a gas. So my mother’s spirit–an unbelievably gentle, non-judgmental, generous spirit–will be released into the great expansive realm of spirits in the ether. And then it won’t matter that I’m on a cruise ship in the middle of nowhere wishing I were near her, because she will be here, all around me–in the ocean spray, in the clouds, and in the warm, pumping heart of that baby boy.
Chew life well,
Update: I heard this morning that my darling mother has been hospitalized. I just got off the ship and am flying to London tonight.
I’ve hesitated to blog lately because some serious poop has hit the fan of my life; my mother, diagnosed with malignant melanoma four years ago, is experiencing a recurrence. I’m in London right now, where she lives, cooking my butt off for her.
It is, as my friends in South Africa would say, “hectic”–only they pronounce it “hictic”. That’s their word for what we North Americans would call “intense”, “insane”, “screwed up”, and everything stressful in between. You see, I’ve never been this close or attached to someone with a terminal diagnosis–and, to the doctors, this is a “go home and get your affairs in order” affair. And even within the world of macrobiotics, malignant melanoma is a bitch. But not impossible. Nothing’s totally impossible in macrobiotics–in theory–and that’s what I love about it.
However, this is my mother. So my clear, objective, teacher’s eye is sometimes clouded by the cataract of fear. Fear of losing her. Of going through the seismic shift which that loss represents. Of crying my guts up for the rest of my life. You see, I am in the lucky, lucky club of people who genuinely and greedily love their mothers. She has given me the closest thing to unconditional love I think one human can give to another and I have had the good fortune to recognize the good fortune in that. So I don’t want her to go before she has to.
And all this feels like my career–my path–is being put to the test. But I need to be really careful as I say that. First of all, it’s ridiculously self-centered, and reveals a rigid, dualistic, perfectionist streak. It’s also fueled by my fear of being judged–by you, the readers I’ve promised all sorts of macro miracles to in my book. And believe me, MB is pretty freakin’ fantastic. I know, personally, at least two handfuls of people who have recovered from conditions considered terminal–using food alone. That’s real. And it totally blew my mind to witness those recoveries. However, I’ve also been around long enough to know that macrobiotic practice does not guarantee recovery–it simply gives nature a fighting chance to take back Her territory, if it’s not too late, and if that’s what’s meant to happen.
So I need to focus on the rainbow of benefits that macrobiotics brings, no matter what: It makes the individual eating the food much more peaceful than would often be the case. It gives perspective, and right now, is reminding us all of the yin and yang of things (my mother took care of me as a vulnerable child and I am tending to her in this time of vulnerability). It is reminding me and my mother that we are just energy, expressions of a much greater whole–and we can actually talk about that stuff, without laughing. It is keeping God in this house, not just through our thoughts, but through the food–its wholeness brings the oomph of the universe right into our cells.
MB philosophy tells me that everything has a front and a back. Until now, I only ever saw death as a horrible black door down a long hallway that everyone tried to avoid. I felt deeply repelled by it. But now, as this situation brings me closer to that door than I have ever been, I can see that there are lovely flowers springing up around it. I see how beautifully it’s carved. In fact, it’s looks very much like the door I came in through. I’m even learning that it can open without too much fear and with a helluva lot of love. Before, death was all back. Now I’m seeing some of its front.
But enough about death–my mother’s gonna live for a very long time!! You see, I’m also reading all the recent books about the Law of Attraction, The Secret, etc. and although my critical mind says things like “that stuff is so cheesy” (because it happens to be popular right now, and I’m a snob) and my arrogance says “I’m a hypnotist–I KNOW ALL THAT”, knowing it and living it are two totally different things. So we’re all applying the principles of vibrational healing, and this situation is ratcheting up my vibration like nothing has in a long time. Although macrobiotics provides the excellent fuel that can support my mothers innate ability to heal, we must surround her–and support in her–the attitudes and belief systems that drive her forward to a new, healthier, more integrated version of herself. And macrobiotics also backs that up: George Ohsawa identified three Categories of Cure: The first was Symptomatic, the second Educational, and the third he called Creative or Spiritual: “A life without fear or anxiety, a life of freedom, happiness, and justice–the realization of self. This is the medicine of the body, the mind and the soul”
Every morning my mother and I do a gratitude list together. We mention one another, our family, the wind, London, good food, kittens, my stepfather, our health, friends, good movies… the list goes on and on. As I lie with her in bed, holding her hand, I swear our spirits expand beyond ourselves, into the room, out onto the street, going as far as God-only-knows where. As our bodies relax and we merge into one being, I realize that I am fully alive.
Please visualize my mother in perfect, joyous health. Her name is Susan. And she’s a redhead.