MY GET- HEALTHY MACRO BOWL

i’ve been under the weather.  to put it bluntly, which i think is appropriate at this time, crohn’s is a real asshole of a disease (you can read about my background with it here).  it likes to kick you when you’re down, sneaking up and overtaking your life at the most inopportune times.  not that there’s ever a good time to get sick, but you know what i mean.  {more after the jump}

at the end of last week, i was down, so to speak.  i’d been running around between ojai, palm springs and san diego, shooting a wedding, spending time with friends, working my face off in between.  i’d worn myself out planning lou’s birthday and then even further by celebrating it like it was my own.  there was a lot of my plate, work-wise and i was tired.  i let my healthy eating habit slip a little.  and then, like a dreaded ex boyfriend, crohn’s came a knocking.  it’d been 8 months since i’d had a single symptom but i’d pushed it too far.  i’d pushed myself too far.  my body’s defenses went down and invited crohn’s in to remind me that i wasn’t taking good enough care of myself.

for me it always starts with a dull headache that won’t go away.  i remember it from the week after i was released from the hospital.  it seems like so long ago, but the headache, i remember it like it was yesterday.  it just won’t quit.  around the same time the headache starts i begin to feel a tightening in my abdomen, sores forming in my esophagus, my skin becomes sore to the touch (much like the flu), my body starts to ache and if it goes much farther i start to have pains in my stomach that will double me over.  when it’s really bad i can’t stand straight, the dull pain in my abdomen makes it impossible and i hobble around hunched over like i’m 100.  

i hate that lou sees me this way, i know it reminds him of when i was really sick, it brings back bad memories and worries him to no end.  this upsets me more than anything else.  i sometimes feel so guilty, wishing that lou could have a healthy wife.  i have to remind myself that i am healthy, most of the time.  i do everything i can to not let me head go to dark places.  this is the hardest part for me. 

and this my friends is having it easy.  i know that, i think about it all the time.  there are so many who suffer far greater with crohn’s and other autoimmune diseases.  what i described above, from my understanding, typically develops into a full blown “flare up” that often results in hospital stays and surgeries.  i’m fortunate that i have found a way to re-route my disease, to turn things around before it gets really bad (and i’m hopeful that as i get better at finding balance in my life i can eliminate these little bouts entirely, preventing instead of re-routing).  

for the next week while i’m getting better i’m going to share a few of the things that help me turn it around, starting with the yummy bowl of food above. and i’ll be double posting them on the crohn’s archive page so that they don’t disappear into the archives.  and, by the way, that macro bowl can and should be enjoyed by the supremely healthy right alongside the under the weather!  it’s so yummy, full of nutrition, easy to prepare and pretty to look at!

i’ve gotten so many emails and comments from readers who are struggling with their own health and i just want to you to know i think about you all the time.  i am so grateful for my own health, as temperamental as it may be, and i hope that i can inspire you to keep trying to find your answers and your own path to a better quality of life.  

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHEWING:

one of the things i took with me from the limited studying of the macrobiotic diet is the importance of chewing.  chewing food thoroughly until it is liquid in your mouth is a real challenge, but one that is well worth undertaking.  macrobiotics recommends 50-100 chews per bite!

chewing food thoroughly accomplishes many things.  it starts with signaling to the digestive system that food is coming, and the digestive system in turn starts producing digestive acids that help the body absorb nutrition.  additionally, the enzymes in saliva play an important role in breaking down food and preparing it to travel through your digestive track.  you will get the optimal amount of nutrition and place the least amount of strain on your digestive system if you chew your food until it’s completely liquid.  the longer the better.  on the flip side, not adequately chewing food puts a strain on the esophagus / the entire digestive system and can cause gas, bloating, sluggishness, loss of energy, stomach aches, cramps, diarrhea. yikes, right?!  so CHEW CHEW CHEW.  chew until you think you can’t chew anymore, and then chew some more.  try this for a day, see how you feel.  i promise, you’ll love it.  

*added bonus: eating slowly and thoroughly chewing food makes you appreciate it more, gives your stomach time to signal your brain that it’s full and prevents over eating!

 

MY GET HEALTHY MACRO BOWL:

this is a classic macrobiotic dish, perfectly in balance (yin, yang, yada yada), and something i eat on a regular basis but especially rely on when i’m trying to maintain my health.  it’s so easy to whip up, and such a great meal to practice heavy chewing on!   i don’t have a recipe since i throw it together with whatever i have on hand, but i’ll break down what’s in this bowl below:

- whole grains should comprise roughly 50% of the bowl (here i used quinoa because i had leftovers, but substitute brown rice, barley, millet etc for a true macro bowl).  are you a low carb eater who just about died reading that?  i promise you grains aren’t your enemy.  people aren’t getting fat from eating brown rice, that’s just not the reality of the obesity problem in this country.  so, unless you have another reason for avoiding grains, have at them!   

- vegetables comprise about 35% of my bowl- and you can choose your favorites!  i love dino leaf kale, sliced into ribbons, with carrot ribbons made from a vegetable peeler.  i throw them into a saute pan with a couple cloves of crushed garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of low sodium soy sauce and cook them until they’re just a little tender. add in sliced onion and some shitake mushrooms and you’re totally winning.

- next up, beans.  beans should be about 10% of the bowl.  i used the beluga lentils i had leftover from this dish so i warmed them in a frying pan before serving and that was it.  easy as pie apple.

- 5% of the bowl should be fermented vegetables.  here is a great read on the benefits of fermented veggies.  i love sauerkraut.  

- this bowl is missing sea vegetables (seaweed).  i eat a half a sheet of nori at the end instead of incorporating it into the meal, but  a true macro bowl has a bit of seaweed. (read more about the benefits of sea veggies and other options besides nori here)

- last up is a dressing. i love a good lemony, garlicky tahini dressing.  again, i used leftover from this meal, so there’s a recipe there if you need it! a miso dressing is another favorite.  i’ll share that another day.

one last note:  eating large quantities of food puts a strain on the digestive system, so avoid over eating. the chewing will really help with this!

*EDIT* i should have mentioned that i’m feeling much better!  usually a few days of relaxation and healthy eating turns things around, and then it’s just a matter of days before i’m fully better so long as i keep things in balance.  

ASK SARAH: are you still following the macrobiotic diet?

question:  

hello sarah, i was just wondering if you still follow a macrobiotic diet? or are you more on the vegan program? i was curious how long you followed it and how it effected you? it seems so strict, but i have a digestive disorder and i have heard it’s a pretty helpful diet to follow. i’d love to hear your insight. thanks!

answer after the jump!

answer:

this is a question i’ve been asked a few times and i’m really looking forward to answering (i’ll also be posting this in the crohn’s section so that as time passes it doesn’t disappear into the archives!) let me preface my answer by saying that i am not a trained health professional and my advice is just coming from personal experience.  i do recommend seeing a macrobiotic counselor, a holistic health care provider, a naturopath, and/or  our physician before making any changes. 

i love the macrobiotic diet (learn more about it here) as it’s truly such an incredibly healthy way to eat. when i was recovering from this i tried to eat as macro as i could.  i never fully grasped the whole yin/yang thing which is a major part, but found that just the basic principles and using the food pyramid helped me understand what i should be eating and what i should be avoiding.  so this meant i ate a lot of whole grains, vegetables, beans, soups and small amounts of fruit.  i added all kinds of new foods to my life and started a love affair with vegetables.  i avoided dairy, meat, fish, eggs, sugar, flour and almost all processed foods.  i made sure that my seasonings were mild- no excess in either salt or sweet.  i chewed my food until it was liquid (amazingly helpful for your digestion!) and i tried to eat mostly local, seasonal produce.  it was incredibly good for my system at the time and helped me get back to health so quickly.  for this reason i swear by it for anyone looking to heal their body-from anything!

macrobiotics is a lifestyle, not just a diet, which is another part of what i think is brilliant about it.  i believe that stress is a huge contributing factor in modern health and illness.  i have to make sure that i manage my stress levels or i see my health deteriorate.  i’ve learned from experience- if my diet is poor and my stress levels are high i am pretty much guaranteed to start having pain in my stomach.  if i continued down that path i would no doubt end up with a full blown crohn’s flare up.  for me it’s always a great reminder that my life is out of balance and i go immediately back to clean eating and take time to do the things that reduce stress (exercise, transcendental meditation, sunbathing, movie dates with my husband, bike rides, etc).

as time passed and my health improved i started to trust myself a little more and began being a little less restrictive in my diet.  this means that if i’m out with friends and everyone is sharing dessert- i’m the first to pick up my spoon and the last to set it down.  when we vacationed in greece i tried all the local fish dishes and ate my weight in feta cheese. i would have been fine had i come home and immediately transitioned back into my clean eating but instead i continued to have “treats” until i started to feel it and was reminded that i really have to eat a certain way to feel healthy.  

my dietary focus now is eating healthy 95% of the time.  this means that 95% of the time i’m eating lots of (ORGANIC!) veggies and fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans, and some macrobiotic favorites (miso soup & sea vegetables).  i avoid animal products, refined sugar and processed foods. lately i’ve been trying to eat more raw foods as they offer the most nutrition and i’ve been starting each day with a glass of warm lemon water and this juice.  i’ve also found that giving my digestive system breaks (through juice cleanses) has been incredible.  i feel my very best when i’m eating very light (ie: smaller, raw meals) and drinking lots of fresh juices.  i’ve been teaching myself how to cook and have so much fun playing in the kitchen.  i don’t feel at all deprived, instead i feel like there’s a whole world of foods that i’ve become aware of since starting to eat this way.  the 5% of the time is when i’m traveling or socializing and i still try to eat healthy but will also have some of the things i normally avoid.  especially sweets, i love a sugary treat.

i know it sounds crazy but i feel so fortunate to have gotten sick.  i feel better now than i ever have, and i attribute that entirely to my change of diet and lifestyle. if you’re reading this and you’re completely healthy- there is nothing better than preventative medicine! i consider every green juice i drink a little bit of preventative medicine and feel confident that this way of life will keep me healthy for the long haul. autoimmune diseases like crohn’s are on the rise in this country and women are the most likely to get sick (statistics here if you’re interested- the numbers are staggering).  i believe that we can prevent and treat most (if not all) autoimmune disease with dietary/lifestyle changes.    

here are two cookbooks that played a major role in my recovery:  the kind dietthe hip chick’s guide to macrobiotics.  both books offer insight into macrobiotics and recipes that aren’t overwhelming.  the recipes that i post are most often things that are a part of my regular diet, but i also post the occasional treat.  it’s all about balance! wishing you all the best, health and happiness!  xx- sarah

ASK SARAH: are you still following the macrobiotic diet?

question:  

hello sarah, i was just wondering if you still follow a macrobiotic diet? or are you more on the vegan program? i was curious how long you followed it and how it effected you? it seems so strict, but i have a digestive disorder and i have heard it’s a pretty helpful diet to follow. i’d love to hear your insight. thanks!

answer after the jump!

answer:

this is a question i’ve been asked a few times and i’m really looking forward to answering (i’ll also be posting this in the crohn’s section so that as time passes it doesn’t disappear into the archives!) let me preface my answer by saying that i am not a trained health professional and my advice is just coming from personal experience.  i do recommend seeing a macrobiotic counselor, a holistic health care provider, a naturopath, and/or  our physician before making any changes. 

i love the macrobiotic diet (learn more about it here) as it’s truly such an incredibly healthy way to eat. when i was recovering from this i tried to eat as macro as i could.  i never fully grasped the whole yin/yang thing which is a major part, but found that just the basic principles and using the food pyramid helped me understand what i should be eating and what i should be avoiding.  so this meant i ate a lot of whole grains, vegetables, beans, soups and small amounts of fruit.  i added all kinds of new foods to my life and started a love affair with vegetables.  i avoided dairy, meat, fish, eggs, sugar, flour and almost all processed foods.  i made sure that my seasonings were mild- no excess in either salt or sweet.  i chewed my food until it was liquid (amazingly helpful for your digestion!) and i tried to eat mostly local, seasonal produce.  it was incredibly good for my system at the time and helped me get back to health so quickly.  for this reason i swear by it for anyone looking to heal their body-from anything!

macrobiotics is a lifestyle, not just a diet, which is another part of what i think is brilliant about it.  i believe that stress is a huge contributing factor in modern health and illness.  i have to make sure that i manage my stress levels or i see my health deteriorate.  i’ve learned from experience- if my diet is poor and my stress levels are high i am pretty much guaranteed to start having pain in my stomach.  if i continued down that path i would no doubt end up with a full blown crohn’s flare up.  for me it’s always a great reminder that my life is out of balance and i go immediately back to clean eating and take time to do the things that reduce stress (exercise, transcendental meditation, sunbathing, movie dates with my husband, bike rides, etc).

as time passed and my health improved i started to trust myself a little more and began being a little less restrictive in my diet.  this means that if i’m out with friends and everyone is sharing dessert- i’m the first to pick up my spoon and the last to set it down.  when we vacationed in greece i tried all the local fish dishes and ate my weight in feta cheese. i would have been fine had i come home and immediately transitioned back into my clean eating but instead i continued to have “treats” until i started to feel it and was reminded that i really have to eat a certain way to feel healthy.  

my dietary focus now is eating healthy 95% of the time.  this means that 95% of the time i’m eating lots of (ORGANIC!) veggies and fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans, and some macrobiotic favorites (miso soup & sea vegetables).  i avoid animal products, refined sugar and processed foods. lately i’ve been trying to eat more raw foods as they offer the most nutrition and i’ve been starting each day with a glass of warm lemon water and this juice.  i’ve also found that giving my digestive system breaks (through juice cleanses) has been incredible.  i feel my very best when i’m eating very light (ie: smaller, raw meals) and drinking lots of fresh juices.  i’ve been teaching myself how to cook and have so much fun playing in the kitchen.  i don’t feel at all deprived, instead i feel like there’s a whole world of foods that i’ve become aware of since starting to eat this way.  the 5% of the time is when i’m traveling or socializing and i still try to eat healthy but will also have some of the things i normally avoid.  especially sweets, i love a sugary treat.

i know it sounds crazy but i feel so fortunate to have gotten sick.  i feel better now than i ever have, and i attribute that entirely to my change of diet and lifestyle. if you’re reading this and you’re completely healthy- there is nothing better than preventative medicine! i consider every green juice i drink a little bit of preventative medicine and feel confident that this way of life will keep me healthy for the long haul. autoimmune diseases like crohn’s are on the rise in this country and women are the most likely to get sick (statistics here if you’re interested- the numbers are staggering).  i believe that we can prevent and treat most (if not all) autoimmune disease with dietary/lifestyle changes.    

here are two cookbooks that played a major role in my recovery:  the kind diet, the hip chick’s guide to macrobiotics.  both books offer insight into macrobiotics and recipes that aren’t overwhelming.  the recipes that i post are most often things that are a part of my regular diet, but i also post the occasional treat.  it’s all about balance! wishing you all the best, health and happiness!  xx- sarah

*please feel free to email me any questions you have for my ASK SARAH series at sarah@sarahyates.com  

image from here

another inspiring story of a complete recovery through dietary changes

please take a minute to watch this video. marisa overcame 7 years of struggle with ulcerative colitis and healed herself with a macrobiotic diet, just the way i did. it’s so inspiring!  i promise, this can work for anyone! read more here.