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Macrobiotics and the Mind / Body Emotions

Posted 11-13-2008 at 10:07 AM by shastastar
Updated 01-05-2009 at 05:35 PM by shastastar
As someone who is still in the early stages of my macrobiotic journey ( first year fully commited to the eating part) it occurs to me that there is not much out there on the emotional aspects / mind aspects of discharging. So I wanted to share a few thoughts from my experiences. Forgive the rough style of writing, it is kind of "stream of consciousness" and may or may not really be well crafted to make sense.

I have noticed that as I am shedding the weight, shedding the past, there are a great number of challenges in front of me. I don't think that there are really any books that deal with this aspect of MB, so I inpired by ostarella am becoming my own guru on this.

Mina Dobic on her site comments to paraphrase, that cravings during transition, are merely your body remembering how a specific food tasted that you are now redigesting so to speak as you shed the excess pounds, and then the craving passes. I have found this thought to be excessively helpful in terms of food cravings but it got me thinking.

What about the emotional cravings that are so often tied to eating? We eat to excess when we are stressed, we eat to excess to celebrate ( thanksgiving, halloween, easter, christmas treats, hot dogs and the fourth of july) , we eat to socialize. So all of that is stored in our brain as experiences. But the food we eat is also stored along with those emotional experiences, the food we eat at the time of those experiences influences our brain chemicals and how those memories are stored. The food we eat during each experience we have is used, digested, and stored in some way.

So our whole psyche is then tied to what we eat / don't eat, and as we are losing the weight / shedding the pounds we are losing part of ourselves, changing from the inside out. Losing the bad habits that caused us to have that storage.

I think there is the possibility that as I quoted about Mina earlier, when we lose the weight or discharge, we may have a craving for those experiences also, not just the foods, but the friends and family ( at the holiday / social dinner), or we may even have a fright / depression at what the stored emotion, now being redigested from being stored in our fat is doing to us(stress eating). Reliving that which was the past. It's scary, and I wonder if that is what causes people to stop losing weight. Fear of having to relive the past even in a small chemical way.

Let Go

Total Comments 15


  • Old Comment
    I'm just going to go with that last bit, if I may

    I think one thing that causes people to fail in their weight loss, to fail in sticking to a particular change in diet, habit or lifestyle, is fear. Not so much fear of reliving those past experiences and feelings, but of losing them. As our body changes, our mind/soul/spirit changes as well. Our way of thinking, our perspective, changes and that affects not only the present, but the way we view the past. It can be very confusing, upsetting, frightening even. Everything is changing and many people aren't prepared for those changes. They suddenly find themselves wanting to be back in that "safe place", where they knew what to expect from themselves and from others. Where they were comfortable. Maybe not happy, but comfortable because it was the way things had been for so long. If they can get past that, remember what it is they really want and need to be content in life, they'll persevere. If they aren't ready yet, they'll fall back to the old ways.

    At least that's basically what I found
    Posted 11-13-2008 at 01:24 PM by ostarella ostarella is offline
  • Old Comment
    Yes thank you star... that is where I was going... it is a fear of losing. I am so glad that we can openly discuss all aspects of macrobiotic transition. Thank you for your inspiration
    Posted 11-13-2008 at 02:19 PM by shastastar shastastar is offline
  • Old Comment
    Now that are interesting thoughts! I certainly have a history with diets, but that never occurred to me! However, it makes sense to me. Thank you Shastastar and Ostarella, that's really worth thinking about!
    Posted 11-13-2008 at 02:35 PM by Flash Flash is offline
  • Old Comment
    I found an interesting caveat when I was doing some research that starts as a Q&A and has a lot of good responses. Here is the Link
    Posted 11-13-2008 at 03:03 PM by shastastar shastastar is offline
  • Old Comment
    Just to be brief (mark that on your calendars! ) - the one comment on that link pretty well said it for me - from Ms Pirello

    "We study the ideas that nothing is separated from anything else and yet we do it ourselves. We separate food from emotion, say that we treat one and not the other, etc"

    MB is a "whole" philosophy - everything is connected, related, balanced with everything else. As Ms Pirello states, we don't readily accept that. For one thing, it means that if we do one thing, it's going to have ramifications for another and we don't want that other thing to change. Or don't want to accept responsibility when it does. And it's work (OMG!) to figure out the proper balance between the two.

    There were also comments about the emotionalism of MB "practitioners" - or lack thereof. I have to say I haven't found that coldness, nor have I found excesses of angst being withheld. But I think the degree to which one has "entered" the whole MB philosophy does have an effect. Like materialism, "emotionalism" becomes a matter of degree. (Okay, strike this off your calendars - it might get a bit long ).

    Let me try to draw a parallel (and I'm new at this so give me some leeway ). We have to have shelter. We could live in a one room apartment in a low-rent neighborhood - that's all we need, a roof over our heads. But the more materialistic we are, the fancier we want our digs to be. If we're moving deeper into the MB/"Eastern" philosophy, we realize that bigger is not better - that, indeed, all we need is shelter from the elements. The rest is window dressing, either for the neighbors or for ourselves. We slowly start divesting ourselves of the material. It's not important.

    Now, think back to that case of "puppy love" we've all had. Couldn't *live* without that special someone in our lives. Why? Because we can't be happy unless they're in our lives. How false! Instead, we have to learn to be happy within, by ourselves, with ourselves. If someone comes along who can *share* that happiness (because they're also happy with and by themselves), wonderful. But until we learn to quit demanding that others make us happy, and until we quit allowing others to make the same demand on us, we'll never reach the "happiness" we really want. So, like the material things, we dump the emotions that drain us, that delude us, and instead invest that energy into those which enrich us. And others can't understand why we don't "need" other people, or why we don't beat our breasts in angst - we *must* be cold and aloof, or filled with inner anguish that we dare not let out! It can't possibly be that we are happy within ourselves! God in Heaven, we can't have learned what emotions are needed and which ones are "window dressing"!

    See - I've just proved that MB doesn't make one totally emotionally suppressed.

    I guess it's all that balance thing. Enough material goods to make sure you survive but not so many that you're expending all your energy keeping them. (The Rat Race). Enough emotions to enjoy and appreciate the ups and downs of life without turning yourself into a needy wreck. Just... balance.
    Posted 11-13-2008 at 05:05 PM by ostarella ostarella is offline
  • Old Comment
    Loving this blog & the comments.
    I'm gonna have to 'chew' these thoughts over for awhile before commenting more (thought I'd just post this to show you that I'm cogitating!)
    Posted 11-16-2008 at 04:24 PM by deebeelicious deebeelicious is offline
  • Old Comment
    Hey, I've been getting into this for what, two years now, and I'm still cogitating! Just when I think I've figured it out - (Oh! there's that hidden angst peeping out!) But that's what life is for, I guess - trying to figure it out.
    Posted 11-17-2008 at 12:57 AM by ostarella ostarella is offline
  • Old Comment
    I absolutely agree with you all about food-linked emotions. The associations we have with e.g. birthdays and cake, Christmas and turkey, parties and alcohol can be very powerful. But I think we should not forget that all these associations/emotions/expectations are learned experiences. I mean, we were not born with the knowledge that you need cake to celebrate your birthday or that a party cannot be fun without alcohol. Somewhere during our lives we sort of learned these results through our experiences, you could say got these programmes 'downloaded' into our reptilian brain (the very powerful part of our brain which demands instant gratification). So, IMHO, we 'just' need to reprogramme our brain ... which, I know, is by no means an easy task.
    Posted 11-26-2008 at 07:29 AM by asmay asmay is offline
  • Old Comment
    Right, here's my first post about food & emotion. This first post is just about food ...

    We learn to appreciate the foods our mothers eat even before we are born. See
    "Eating a high-fat diet in pregnancy may cause changes in the foetal brain that lead to over-eating and obesity early in life, research suggests.
    "Tests on rats showed those born to mothers fed a high-fat diet had many more brain cells specialised to produce appetite-stimulating proteins."
    And whilst drinking our mother's milk, we are also eating what they are eating and encountering those flavours.
    "Flavours in a nursing mother's snack can find their way into her breast milk within minutes, research suggests."
    The taste receptors in the brain are located in the 'primitive' (as Asmay says the 'reptilian') brain. Babies like repetition in stimuli, for example the singing of lullabies, rocking movements. It is likely that familiar tastes are also 'pleasurable' to babies, and to children as we grow up. Every time we have that stimuli, we are reinforcing that signal, hard-wiring it into our brains.

    It's possible to 're-learn' our enjoyment of some foods. I know that certain foods I tried when I first tried MB 'tasted' awful to me. But after several months, I tried them again, and they were palatable, if not even tasty! My tastebuds had begun to appreciate the less sugary and less salty foods again.

    But learning to hate chocolate? I don't think my brain could do that. I eat a small piece may be once a month. I've realised that the 'best' enjoyment I get is from the first piece, so no matter how much more I eat, I'll not get that same enjoyment back. So mostly one piece does me.

    Occasionally I'll have more than one piece, for example last week, a special meal out, I succumbed to the wonderful hand-made chocolates and puddings. My brain buzzed, and in fact it kept on buzzing me. It took 3 - 4 days before the urge to eat high sugar foods waned.

    I understand now that I'm a sugar addict, it is extreme and de-centres me. Chocolate enjoyment is hard-wired in my brain. I feel pulled and pushed between extremes, until the urges diminish. I don't think I'll ever be able to 'never' eat chocolate again. But I'm starting to appreciate how I feel when I don't eat it. I like this feeling, and so I hope I'll eat less and less of the sweet confection.
    Posted 11-26-2008 at 10:22 AM by deebeelicious deebeelicious is offline
  • Old Comment
    I just went through a similar experience, except with the opposite reaction. I haven't had any red meat in months. Yesterday, because of a combination of cold weather, lack of groceries and being tied up in a million projects at once, I grabbed a frozen pack of hamburger (kept for my brother) out of the freezer and made some quick chili.

    It tasted like crap and I felt sluggish and out of sorts the rest of the day - in fact until I finally went to bed, early. This morning I still feel crappy but not as bad. And this was fixed exactly the same way I have always fixed it, so I know it wasn't my cooking. But my system, which used to crave red meat, not only no longer needs it - it obviously no longer wants it. Lesson learned.
    Posted 11-26-2008 at 10:35 AM by ostarella ostarella is offline
  • Old Comment
    I can't believe how much I ignored my body before - not listening to it complaining about the foods I was eating or lack of exercise! It's amazing how much we can improve ourselves by just 'listening' to our bodies!
    Posted 11-27-2008 at 04:31 AM by deebeelicious deebeelicious is offline
  • Old Comment
    Right, I've finally managed to put down some words about food and hormones and emotions!
    First, something about hormones and emotions.
    I have noticed many women I've known have had 'emotional moodiness' at some time or other to do either with menstral cycles or pre-menopausal symptoms.
    Here's some selected info from the wiki link above:
    "Mood symptoms such as emotional lability are both more consistent and more disabling than somatic symptoms such as bloating. A woman who experiences mood symptoms is likely to experience these symptoms consistently and predictably, whereas physical symptoms may come and go. Most women find that physical symptoms related to PMS are less disruptive than emotional symptoms.
    So here we have confirmation that 'mood symptoms' can be linked with the menstral cycle.

    Example 1, Me. As a teenager I started to have some real ding-dong shouting matches with my mum. A friend of her's suggested she keep a diary of these arguments (without telling me!) which she did.
    Surprise, surprise, the arguments coincided with my menstral cycle! I was regular, about 32 days long. The arguments were occurring mid cycle. I went for a hormone blood test.

    The first have of the cycle is dominated by oestrogen/ estradiol hormone and is known as the follicular phase. The second half of the cycle is dominated by progesterone and is known as the luteal phase.

    You can find more info on this at these links!

    My problem was that I had a delay between the oestrogen dropping off and progesterone kicking in. I had in effect a 'vacuum' or absence of hormones when my body was expecting them.

    OK, I'm gonna stop there about me and give a couple of other examples before summing up about how this relates to emotions!

    Example 2. Living with other woman.
    I've lived with my mom, and lived in university halls of residence (dorms) with other women for several years. We noticed that emotions would be 'high' in the first month or so (partly excitement), and several roommates would suffer unusually from period pains and cramps for the first couple of months, some would even have irregular periods. But by the 3rd month we had all gotten in sync with each other!
    The same thing would happen after the summer holidays when living with the same people again, and when living with new roommates. Always by Christmas, we'd all be within a few days of each other. And the remaining months would be relatively emotionally and menstrally more calm.

    Example 3. Menopause
    I once as a teenager went out to dinner with my mum and several of her 40-something women friends. It was all women and they all had horror stories to tell about birth, women's plumbing and the menopause. The gist of all their stories is that once menopause has come, the body adapts and is fine. The problem is 'peri-menopause' that time (sometimes months, sometimes years) that occurs before menopause when the menstral cycle becomes irregular (for those that were regular in the first place). As well as hot flushes, they had all felt great emotional responses at this time, eg strong arguements with family over things that they had never argued over much before. Some even admitted their husbands had quietly removed the knives from their kitchen drawers for a day or so whilst they were having an 'episode'!

    To me this indicates not a problem with hormones, but with an absence of hormones when the body is expecting them! Once the body is on an even keel and not expecting any more of a hormone, ie post menopause, then emotional stability improves again.

    OK, they're plenty of women who've never suffered from any kind of hormone-related emotional outburst! I'm not saying it happens to all, I'm just saying many have experienced it at different times in their lives!

    Finally, coming back to food, and the original discussion point of this blog - food and emotion!

    Eating food makes us produce insulin. This is from wiki!
    "Insulin is produced in the pancreas, and released when any of several stimuli are detected. These include protein ingestion, and glucose in the blood (from food which produces glucose when digested -- characteristically this is carbohydrate, though not all types produce glucose and so an increase in blood glucose levels). In target cells, they initiate a signal transduction which has the effect of increasing glucose uptake and storage. ...
    "As its level is a central metabolic control mechanism, its status is also used as a control signal to other body systems (such as amino acid uptake by body cells). It has several other anabolic effects throughout the body. ...

    "Estradiol rather than testosterone serves as the most important feedback signal to the hypothalamus (especially affecting LH secretion)."

    I would say that not only the hypothalamus is influenced by hormones. In
    "Estrogen and progesterone can influence gene expression in particular neurons or induce changes in cell membrane potential and kinase activation, leading to diverse non-genomic cellular functions."

    So the sex hormones have effects all over the brain (neurons) not just the hypothalamus. No wonder then that cyclic waves of oestrogen and progesterone in menstrating women are likely to affect thoughts and emotions.

    Hormones get messed up by too much body fat!

    Oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone are stored in body fat. The fatter a person is, the more likely they are of having a problem with their endocrinology system.
    For example, the Pill is not as effective a contraceptive for fat women. See
    "... the active ingredients in oral contraceptives, oestrogen and progesterone, are stored in body fat - so the more likely the drug is to become trapped in the fat instead of circulating in the bloodstream."

    To sum up, I think it is the switching of hormones and/or the unexpected absence of hormones that can influence the brain, ie emotions. Eating high carb high fat diets leads to more hormones being stored in fat tissue instead of going where it's needed around the body.

    Food leads to insulin leads to fat leads to fat storage of hormones leads to lack of hormones in blood leads to absence in the crucial pathways in the brain that control thoughts and emotions.

    For more info on PMS, please see
    Please note the following for PMS
    "Risk factors
    "High caffeine intake, Stress, Increasing age, History of depression, Tobacco use, Family history, Dietary factors (low levels of certain vitamins and minerals, particularly magnesium, manganese, and vitamin E)
    (Sorry Ostarella - although as you say, you've left that behind you!)
    Posted 12-10-2008 at 10:12 AM by deebeelicious deebeelicious is offline
  • Old Comment
    No problem - makes me glad the "chemistry" part of my life is done with Seriously, though, I wish the health instructors at school had gone into this kind of detail way back when. But back then it was quickly mentioned as "among the physical changes occurring" and the rest was left to poor old Mom.
    Posted 12-10-2008 at 10:43 AM by ostarella ostarella is offline
  • Old Comment
    Very informative Deebee! Since I've been peri-menopauzal for some 8 years already, I took a special interest in your story.

    And from my own experience I can add that eating soybeans or tofu or other soybased products on a daily basis (doesn't soy contain an oestrogen like element which thus supplements the lack of it in the body?), together with about 1 spoon of flaxseed or flaxseed oil a day might really make a difference concerning the unpleasant 'side-effects' like hot flashes, night sweat, severe blushing, irritability etc. These are all symptoms the women in my family suffered severely from. And somehow .... not me! (Probably because of the above eating habits: no meat, no dairy, no smoking, resting when you feel like needing a rest etc. etc.) Now I see why this works more clearly.
    Posted 12-11-2008 at 03:17 AM by asmay asmay is offline
  • Old Comment
    Thanks for your comments.
    I'm sorry I wrote it v badly - I should have edited it a lot more, but it was so late, I thought I'd better post it otherwise it wouldn't have gotten done!

    Re: phytoestrogens! Yes, Asmay, of course, I completely forgot about them - good point. Here's some tidbits from wiki about them!

    Phytoestrogens, sometimes called "dietary estrogens", are a diverse group of naturally occurring non steroidal plant compounds that, because of their structural similarity with estradiol, have the ability to cause estrogenic or/and antiestrogenic effects.

    The similarities, at molecular level, of estrogens and phytoestrogens allow them to mildly mimic and sometimes act as antagonists to estrogen.

    Researchers are still exploring the nutritional role of these substances in such diverse metabolic functions as the regulation of cholesterol, and the maintaining of proper bone density post-menopause. Evidence is accruing that phytoestrogens may have protective action against diverse health disorders such as
    prostate, breast, bowel, and other cancers,
    cardiovascular disease,
    brain function disorders,
    menopausal symptoms and
    Phytoestrogens mainly belong to a large group of substituted phenolic compounds known as flavonoids: the coumestans, prenylated flavonoids and isoflavones are three of the most active in estrogenic effects in this class. The best-researched are isoflavones, which are commonly found in soy and red clover. Lignans have also been identified as phytoestrogens, although are not flavonoids.
    Phytoestrogen content varies in different foods, and may vary significantly within the same group of foods (e.g. soy beverages, tofu) depending on processing mechanisms and type of soy bean used. Legumes (in particular soybeans), whole grain cereals, and some seeds are high in phytoestrogen. A more comprehensive list of foods known to contain phytoestrogens includes:
    soy beans, tofu, tempeh, soy beverages, linseed (flax), sesame seeds, wheat, berries, oats, barley, dried beans, lentils, rice, alfalfa, mung beans, apples, carrots, wheat germ, ricebran, soy linseed bread, ginseng, bourbon and beer fennel and anise.
    Phytoestrogen in men
    In theory, exposure to high levels of phytoestrogens in men could alter their hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. However, studies have shown that such a hormonal effect is minor. It may have health benefits for men. Isoflavones supplementation has no effect in sperm concentration, count or mobility and show no changes in testicular or ejaculate volume. Researchers are studying if phytoestrogens can prevent prostate cancer.

    Phytoestrogen in women
    There are conflicting studies, and it is unclear if phytoestrogens have any effect on the cause or prevention of cancer in women.. Epidemiological studies showed a protective effect against breast cancer ... The generally accepted position on this topic is that phytoestrogens may be beneficial for healthy women and that women with known breast cancer should be aware of potential risks and consider avoiding consumption until more information is available.
    Note from the above that some phytoestrogens act as antigens to oestrogen in the body, ie counter act it! Also note that there is some research that indicates they can be harmful to women with breast cancer?
    Posted 12-12-2008 at 03:36 AM by deebeelicious deebeelicious is offline
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