Obah-chan’s Advice on Good Health
Health advice has become quite popular these days. Obah-chan (grandma in Japanese) thinks that it is because the standard of living is higher than ever and individuals have more time to pay attention to their own health. At the same time, it is becoming harder to practice health advice consistently since the so called experts continue to discover new facts, overturning and abandoning previous health "rules” and “truths”.
For example, we were once told that we should avoid eating many eggs because it contains cholesterol. But many years later, other experts began to say that we should eat more eggs because they were a good source of protein. Just as she began to follow that advice, Obah-chan heard the advice from one of the doctors in Japan stating that we should eat only 1 – 2 eggs per week to avoid having a cholesterol problem. She remembers that similar things happened to other food such as coffee, chocolate and butter. More recently, information on eating meat surprised her. In the past, we were told to limit the consumption of meat as we get older. However, the experts now recommend that we should eat more meat to maintain our muscle strength.
In this essay, Obah-chan wishes to share the health tips that she has obtained over the years, but also where and how she gained this information so that you can understand why she began to pay so much attention to what she eats daily.
Mm. Reviere and Macrobiotic Diet
The most impactful time of Obah-chan’s life, as far as health is concerned, was when she was in Paris in 1970. She was working first as a waitress and then as a chef in a restaurant called “Tenryu” (天龍), a very popular health food restaurant in Paris at the time. Located in a quiet suburb, it had a small dining room seating just over 20 customers. The interior was decorated with dried and elongated bamboo, cut in half and fastened to the walls, creating a serene, oriental-style scene. There, Obah-chan met Mm. Reviere, owner of Tenryu Restaurant.
Mm. Reviere was a petit and very graceful Parisian. With her blond hair, which was neatly piled up on the top of her head, she looked in her fifties at a glance, though Obah-chan later discovered that she actually was 72 years old.
There was a story about Mm. Reviere which fascinated Obah-chan. When Mm. Reviere was a little girl, she had contracted an illness that made it difficult for her to walk. And by the time she was 14, she was confided to a wheelchair. Fortunately, she happened to learn about the Macrobiotic diet from Dr. Ohsawa. By following his strict diet, she was completely cured from her illness and was eventually able to walk again. So by the time Obah-chan met her in Paris, Mm. Reviere looked so healthy and energetic, it was hard to believe that she was once wheelchair bound.
The Macrobiotic diet founded by Dr. Ohsawa deserves some mention here. His story is as fascinating as Mm. Reviere’s. The following is a short summary from the Internet of his background:
Dr. George Ohawa was born in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan in 1893. When he was a child, he lost his mother, who was a midwife, and his three older brothers and sisters to tuberculosis and a disease which they couldn’t diagnose. He himself suffered from tuberculosis and stomach ulcers. Dr. Ohsawa then decided to learn about Eastern medicine, as Western medicine could not cure the disease he had. At 19 years old, just by following the Chinese teachings of yin and yang and a special diet, he cured himself. He then went to Paris to spread what he learned. Because of him, many French people were healed from various illnesses in the 1920s. This special diet is called the Macrobiotic Diet, and apparently he wrote many books about it in French. Eventually he became well known in Paris for what he accomplished.
Mm. Reviere was one of those Parisians influenced and ultimately cured by Dr. Ohsawa’s Macrobiotic diet in the 1920s. She was very grateful to Dr. Ohsawa and what the diet taught her. In return, she decided to help other people who were suffering from a variety of diseases in France by spreading what this special diet could do. This led her to the ownership of the Tenryu Restaurant and a health food store.
To help her to deal with her clients and the business, Mm. Reviere hired a counselor, M. Clim, from Belgium, another Japanese gentleman like Dr. Ohsawa. Just like Mm. Reviere, he also learned the Macrobiotic diet from Dr. Ohsawa, and was a strong believer of this special diet.
While Obah-chan was working at Tenryu, she met many people who came to seek health advice from Mm. Reviere and M. Clim. Apparently, most of those who followed the Macrobiotic diet under their guidance were healed from their diseases. But Obah-chan clearly remembers one sad case in which they couldn’t help the patient. One exceptional case where Mm. Reviere was quite honest and up-front about the limitation of the diet.
It was a cold winter day. To the grocery store next door to the restaurant, Obah-chan went to collect ingredients for the restaurant meals for that night. A woman in her 60s, dressed in an expensive grey chinchilla coat and matching hat, came through the entrance door to see Mm. Reviere. The elderly woman had fourth stage cancer. After she introduced herself, with her feeble voice, the woman said to Mm. Reviere,
"None of the doctors in Paris could help me. In fact they all abandoned me… You are my last hope…”
With these words, she clung onto Mm. Reviere and began to weep. The color of her face was ash blue. When Obah-chan looked closer at the woman, she noticed that her body was just a skin and bones. The warm expensive fur coat that covered her body could not hide the fact she was nearing her death. Mm. Reviere held the woman sympathetically, but gently said to her,
"If you were in the early stage of cancer, there may have been a way to help you. Believe me, we really want to help you but we can’t… I am terribly, terribly sorry…”
Obah-chan saw tears in the eyes of Mm. Reviere when she bowed down deeply while taking the woman's hands. Even now, she remembers the moment it happened that day in Paris. Obah-chan then realized that the Macrobiotic diet was not one of those fad trends which falsely claimed that “if you follow the diet, you would be cured from any illness”. It is a serious and proven diet which has the potential to save people who are sick but clearly has its limitations. It’s for the prevention of illness. It’s not a cure.
So, what is a Macrobiotic diet?
Here is what Obah-chan learned while she was working at Tenryu. The Macrobiotic diet is a special diet based on brown rice, beans, and vegetables. Vegetables were cooked thoroughly and never eaten fresh. This diet prohibited the eating of meat, fish, dairy products, especially foods containing chemicals. To supplement protein, beans such as soybeans and other bean products were included in the diet. Refined wheat was also prohibited. Thus, they only cooked whole wheat and grains as a staple food. You would find this type of diet among monks in Japan and it is called “Shojin” cuisine. And it is a very strict diet.
At Tenryu, the main dish was brown rice. With it, mostly cooked vegetables, such as vegetable tempura, were served as side dishes. As meat and fish were prohibited, non-meat product was made out of the steamed gluten. This is how it was made: First some unrefined flour and water were mixed as if you were making a bread. After the firm dough was kneaded, it was run through water to wash out most of the flour. Then a small amount of the sticky gluten remained. When it was cooked with a steamer, the food had a similar texture of meat. She remembers cutting the steamed gluten into cubes and putting it on a skewer with leeks. Then she deep fried them. It was delicious!!
Sugar was particularly prohibited as they called it "poison". So deserts were only made from fruits which were cooked/baked or dried. As mentioned before, the vegetables were never served raw. So they were boiled, baked, or fried. And to make bread, cake or pie, it was prohibited the use of yeast, baking soda, or baking powder. The bread which was made without yeast was so hard, she lost her appetite even to just look at it in the beginning. However, after she tried it a few times and got used to the taste, she found that it had a unique flavor, and gradually learned to like it.
While she was working in Paris, she once took the night train with Mm. Reviere. Being a typical Parisian, it was very difficult for Mm. Reviere to fight the temptation of eating sweets. Once in a while, she would fall off the wagon and end up eating some desserts containing a lot of sugar. That train trip was one of those times. Mm. Reviere gave in that night and had some dessert after eating a typical French dinner. Because of the sugar in the dessert, she was complaining that she did not sleep much at all that night. Apparently, she had joint pain and also had very vivid dreams throughout the night.
This trip with Mm. Reviere left the lasting impression on Obah-chan as to the kind of harm sugar could do to our bodies. As a result, throughout her life she tried to avoid having too much sugar in her family’s diet.
About four months into working at Tenryu, Obah-chan learned how to cook most of the dishes on the menu. So when their annual camp was held in Chamonix in March, she was sent there to cook for the guests. Despite being called camping, the accommodation was a very stylish two-story cabin with a large fireplace. She was asked to work there for about a week. The guest list was composed of middle to upper class people who lived in or near Paris. There were 15-16 guests at times. M. Clim from Belgium also participated for several days teaching the Macrobiotic diet. The purpose of the camp was to learn the basics of the special diet while enjoying nature and participating in some energetic activities such as skiing. It was another memorable event for Obah-chan.
She baked brown bread every morning, cooked brown rice, fried or stewed vegetables and taught the guests simple Macrobiotic cooking methods. But in between meals, she enjoyed having tea with the guests at the foot of Mont Blanc, soaking in the beautiful sceneries of the Alps, and taking a walk along a snow-covered path where the accumulation of snow was twice as tall as her height. She even managed to ride on the skis with one of the guests, an experience she never had before. She also visited and shopped in Chamonix. There she had a chance to taste foods such as cheese and meat fondue and delicious cakes. She had a splendid time there.
While Obah-chan was living in France, she faithfully followed the Macrobiotic diet except on special occasions. However, she began to wonder if the diet was good for all circumstances as she had discovered some problems with it.
One issue was about what she experienced herself. Since she began eating only brown rice and vegetables, her muscles seemed to become weaker. As a consequence, the frequency to visit the washroom increased. To the point, if she wanted to go out to downtown Paris, she had to know where toilets were before she left her apartment. Even after she went to the washroom, she immediately felt the urge to go back to the washroom again. Fortunately, the symptom only lasted a short time because she knew that she only needed to eat more protein. It improved even more after she moved to Canada when she began to eat a small amount of lean meat and fish.
Also she heard from her co-workers an interesting story about M. Clim’s son. He was raised eating a strict Macrobiotic diet since he was a baby. Unfortunately, he had trouble walking even at three years old. Eventually, his parents discovered that the child needed fresh fruit in his diet. So they gave some oranges to him. Soon after, his muscle developed strong enough and he finally was able to walk. How fascinating and strange!!
Hearing M. Clim’s story and also from her own experience, Obah-chan concluded that the Macrobiotic diet works best when a person was just trying to maintain good health or to recover from various diseases because it helps suppress the growth of cells. That was why all fruit and vegetable were needed to be cooked thoroughly so there was no live cells in the food. As a consequence, the diet slows down the progress of cancer and other diseases. But this special diet is not for everyone, especially for healthy children who need more protein, raw vegetables, and fruit to grow.
So that was what a Macrobiotic diet is to Obah-chan. Based on this special diet and also what she has learned since, here are 10 main points she now personally believes to maintain her good health:
1. Three Meals Daily. Eat to 80%.
Obah-chan quite often heard that some people skip breakfast. However, a recent study says that you should eat a decent breakfast to maintain a healthy body. This is because breakfast will wake up your digestive system first thing in the morning. Also, when you skip breakfast, it apparently affects the production of insulin which absorbs sugar in our blood. A lack of insulin leads to unwanted sicknesses such as diabetes. So you should eat three square meals each day.
Obah-chan watched an interesting TV program of a 10 year study on the eating habits of some monkeys. In the study, there were two groups. In one group, the scientists limited the food intake of the monkeys to 70% - 80% where another group, they allowed the monkeys to eat as much as they wanted. After 10 years of the study, they discovered the monkeys who only ate 70%-80% were healthier and their appearance was much younger. Those monkeys were healthy and kept their thick and lush fur and had strong bodies. Conversely, the other group developed thinning and shortened fur, weaker bodies, and appeared much older than their counterparts.
2. Eat a balanced meal.
Here is the recommendation of food intake information from Canada’s Food Guide for an adult, though Obah-chan believes that a small person such as herself needs much less:
1) Vegetable and Fruit: 7-10 servings depends on age
1 serving =
Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables: 125 ml or ½ cup
Leafy Vegetables: Cooked 125 ml (1/2 cup)
Raw 250 ml or 1 cup
Fresh, frozen or canned fruits: 1 fruit or 125 ml (1/2 cup)
100% juice: 125 ml (1/2 cup)
2) Grain Products: 6-8 servings depends on age
1 serving =
Bread: 1 slice (35g)
Bagel: ½ bagel (45g)
Flat Bread: ½ pita or ½ tortilla (35 g)
Cooked Rice, Bulgur or Quinoa: 125 ml (1/2) cup
Cereal: Cold 30g, Hot 175 mil (3/4 cup)
Cooked Pasta or Couscous: 125 ml or ½ cup
3) Milk and Alternatives: 2-3 servings depends on age
1 serving =
Milk or powdered milk (reconstituted) 250 ml (1 cup)
Canned milk (evaporated) 125 ml (1/2 cup)
Fortified soy beverage: 250 ml (1 cup)
Yogurt: 175g (3/4 cup)
Kefir: 175g (3/4 cup)
Cheese: 50g (1 ½ oz)
4) Meat and Alternatives: 2-3 servings depends on age
Cooked fish, shellfish, poultry, lean meat
75g (2 ½ oz)/125 ml (1/2 cup)
Cooked legumes: 175 ml (3/4 cup)
Tofu: 150 g or 175 ml (3/4 cup)
Eggs: 2 eggs
Peanut or nut butters: 30 ml (2 Tbsp)
Shelled nuts and seeds: 60 ml (1/4 cup)
Oils and Fats:
- Include a small amount (30 to 45 ml or 2 - 3 Tbsp) of unsaturated fat each day. This includes oil used for cooking, salad dressings, margarine and mayonnaise
- Use vegetable oil such as canola, olive and soybean
- Choose soft margarines that are low in saturated and trans-fats.
- Limit butter, hard margarine, lard and shortening.
Having the amount and type of food recommended and following the tips in Canada’s Food Guide will help:
- Meet your need for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
- Reduce your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, certain types of cancer and osteoporosis.
- Contribute to your overall health and vitality [through exercise and clean living???]. ( This is exactly what it said in Canada’s Good Guide so I can’t add anything..)
Canada’s Food Guide includes much more information than the above, so if you are interested in finding out more, please visit their website.
Grandma includes most of the food listed above into her three meals every day. Especially, vegetables and fruits.
3. Eat vegetables/fruits first, then meat/fish and carbohydrates last.
It was Obah-chan’s husband who first learned this method when he tried to lose weight many years ago. These days, we hear more experts say that this is the healthy way to consume food - eat vegetables/ fruits first (taking 5 minutes), then meat/fish, and if you are still hungry, eat carbohydrates. Apparently this is the most effective way to lose weight, too even if you continue to eat the same food. Basically, eat food which contains less calories first, then the essential foods that contains protein. Then if you are still hungry, you can eat carbohydrates. She also learned recently that eating vegetable and fruit first helps your insulin to work property, thus reducing the risk of getting diabetes.
4. Limit your intake of sugar and salt.
The most recent information Obah-chan has obtained on this issue was that taking excess sugar and salt not only leads to heart diseases, but it may also cause dementia, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. Apparently, sugar also increases the rate at which cancer cells multiply. Therefore, the experts say that you should avoid sugar as much as possible. You should also avoid adding salt to your food, limiting our daily intake to 5g with some experts saying that even that is too much.
As Obah-chan mentioned before, Mm. Reviere suffered from joint pain whenever she ate sugary food. Obah-chan wondered if this was a similar phenomena she experienced when she was very young - every time she ate a bar of chocolate or a piece of candy, she felt sharp pain in her teeth.
5. Choose unrefined grain over refined.
Unrefined grain is highly nutritious. It also contains a lot of dietary fiber, which keeps you regular. Obah-chan eats brown rice every morning and her husband chooses to eat toast which includes a variety of grains. However, she admits that white rice and bread baked with refined flour are so delicious that it is very hard to remove them from her diet completely.
6. Include protein rich food, alternatively eating bean products if you choose not to eat meat or fish.
Protein rich food is essential for us to maintain a healthy body. It keeps our muscles strong. So we should eat some lean meat and/or fish each day. But meat and fish are not your preference, then you should eat various bean-based foods.
Obah-chan heard that soybeans contain the best protein, so in addition to some lean meat/fish in her diet, she makes an effort to eat various bean products regularly. For example, she drinks soy milk every day after learning that soy products are a great benefit for women due to soy containing some type of estrogen. By drinking soy milk since she was young, Obah-chan was able to avoid the common symptoms of menopause, such as a sudden rise in body temperature, excess perspiring and often feeling irritated without any reason.
In additional, though cheese is a good source of protein and very tasty, Obah-chan tries not eat too much of it. When she decides to eat it, she balances it with eating more vegetables and drinking plenty of water. Otherwise, she feels bloated and it seems to block her digestive system from working properly.
7. Limit the consumption of alcohol and refrain from smoking.
Everyone knows that drinking and smoking excessively causes various severe illnesses, such as heart disease, dementia, osteoporosis, etc. Recently, one of Obah-chan’s acquaintances had PAD (Peripheral Artery Disease) or also called foot infraction. Apparently, it would have progressed to the point that the doctor would have had to suggest the removal of his leg. Fortunately, the early detection saved his leg and the only thing he lost was a big toe. Obah-chan had never heard the term “PAD" nor "foot infraction” before, so she didn't know how dangerous the disease was. However, she recently watched the Japanese TV program called "Gatten" and learned more about it. Apparently, the main cause of this disease is excessive drinking and smoking. It causes the disappearance of the fine blood vessels in legs and toes and, thus, cuts off circulation of blood to the toes.
8. Exercise every day.
Obah-chan believes that a daily walk and light exercises are necessary to maintain your good health, especially for those who entering old age. This is primarily because as you get older, your body stiffens and you begin to notice more aches and pains. She knows many friends who needed various surgeries for their knees and hips because of this. It seems natural to her that one would prefer exercise everyday to having surgery.
As there are so many kinds of exercise available, it can be very difficult to decide which ones to choose. But she thinks that if you pay close attention to your body, you will know which exercise you will need. For example, if you have uneasiness around your hips (like her), you should concentrate on hip exercises.
Walking seems to be the best exercise anyone can do. She learned this from some old Hungarian friends of hers. Many years ago, she would watch them walk every day and they lived to be over 95, despite a life expectancy of 72 at that time. Influenced by the Hungarian couple, she and her husband take a daily walk. In addition, they try to do 30 minutes of light exercise. For example, Obah-chan does her “heel drop” (stand straight and let your heels drop with force 30 times per day (proven to prevent osteoporosis) and hip exercises, while her husband rides a stationery bike and does a few sit-ups to keep his heart strong.
Walking 10,000 steps a day each is their current goal. Since beginning this activity, their health seems to have improved a lot. Be aware that walking 10,000 steps each day requires considerable discipline.
9. Have 7-8 hour sleep each day.
There is a Japanese saying "a good sleep helps a child’s healthy growth". Obah-chan thinks that even as adults, it is important for us to sleep well each night. Apparently, a recent study revealed that lack of sleep causes dementia which will lead to Alzheimer’s disease. According to a health program she watched, the brain needs time to reorganize memories while sleeping. The less you sleep, the more you forget.
Obah-chan found that exercise helps her to sleep better. When she was younger, she sometimes had trouble sleeping because of the stress she felt from her work and taking care of her family. In those days, she hardly slept well at all. However, after her retirement, she now sleeps at least 7 hours. Of course, when she neglects to do exercise, she still has problems sleeping.
10. Have a regular health checkup.
No matter what kind of illness you have, early detection could save your life. Therefore, Obah-chan routinely has her annual checkup with her various doctors (e.g. medical, dental, and eye specialist), and faithfully takes their prescribed medical examinations (e.g. blood tests, urine tests, mammography, and bone density tests, etc.).
So far, she has mentioned 10 common health tips which you have also heard over the years. In addition, Obah-chan recommends the following.
1. If you are serious about physical health, consider your mental health, too.
According to many experts, mental health is closely related to physical health. So you should try to be always positive and control your anger about things over which you have no control. Obah-chan thinks that no matter how careful you are with your physical health, yielding to depression or anger can keep you far away from becoming truly healthy.
These days, we hear quite often about “a deep breathing method” to help the autonomic nerve system. She agrees with this method, especially when you tend to become angry or nervous. Taking a few deep breaths makes you calm down quickly and helps you to assess the situation logically. For example, she typically uses this method just before she sings solo in public.
2. If you are in the early stage of an illness, try to change your diet as soon as possible, preferably to Macrobiotic diet.
If Obah-chan’s health deteriorates suddenly, she is willing to change her diet to full Macrobiotic diet before her sickness becomes too serious, especially after undergoing surgery for a form of cancer. This is because she believes that strict Macrobiotic diet will help slow down the growth of cancer cells.
3. If necessary, take supplements.
Obah-chan takes some various supplements every day. Since she was a young woman, she has been taking two tablets of cod liver oil daily. Also for a while, she took iron pills when the doctor diagnosed that she lacked iron in her body. Now she takes a calcium supplement to prevent her from getting osteoporosis and also collagen supplements for her joints before they deteriorate. A recent addition is Omega 3 which supposedly very good for your overall health, but especially for your eyes. She found that the cod liver tablets she has been taking contain a very small amount of Omega 3 (57 mg) which is not quite sufficient as it is recommended to take 250 – 500 mg per day.
Before you take any supplements, first try to find out exactly which vitamins and minerals your body is lacking. Then choose what type of supplements you really require to prevent future sickness. A word of caution, though: taking too much of a certain supplement, such as iron, may actually be detrimental to your health.
4. If you have children, pay attention to their diet.
Recently, she sees so many children getting sick despite improvements in medical technology. When a child becomes seriously ill, the parents generally say that they would even sacrifice their lives in order to save their child. There could be situations where the proper knowledge about diet could have saved the child’s life, but the parents simply weren’t aware of it. This is true especially for women during their pregnancy. It is hard to do the right thing every day, but if you think about the consequences if nothing was done, it is worthwhile to keep trying.
5. If you want to keep a young appearance for a long time, maintain your weight and avoid rapid weight changes.
Obah-chan thinks that the easiest way to keep yourself looking younger is to maintain a certain weight once you become an adult. We have a tendency to gain more weight as we progress through middle age. But as we get older, some people generally begin to eat less, losing weight as a consequence. So our skin begins to sag and wrinkles start showing all over the body. So, she believes that if you want to keep your youthful look for a long time, maintaining your weight can help prevent the symptoms such as skin stretching. Of course, minimizing exposure to ultraviolet rays, or taking preventative steps to keep from getting serious illness that causes sudden weight loss can all help to maintain your youthful appearance.
I hope the above points have given you some useful insights into maintaining good health. Next, here are some health related personal experiences that may also help.
Change of Diet for Canadian Husband
Obah-chan's Canadian husband ate meat and potatoes as a staple dish followed by a sweet dessert every day when he was young. It seems that many of his relatives were suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes due to this regular diet. In particular, some of his uncles died from heart problems when they were still young. As for his father, he had two severe heart attacks and he was unable to work since he was in late 40s. So when Obah-chan met him for the first time many years ago, his father was no longer working and was relaxing at home to avoid another heart attack.
When Obah-chan married her husband, she cooked Canadian dishes and desserts every day in the beginning. But she knew that Western food was not very good for her and her family’s health, so she changed the ingredients little by little to heathier choices. After about ten years of marriage, her husband was okay with having dessert only once or twice a week. She gradually reduced the amount of sugar in his coffee without him noticing, too. Now, he hardly puts any sugar in his coffee. Also the number of cups of coffee he drinks has been reduced from 5-6 cups a day to just one cup a day. She was determined to make healthy meals to protect the health of her family. Of course, she also told her husband about the Macrobiotic diet, but it was very difficult to change someone else’s diet completely, especially if she/he is still relatively healthy. That was the reason why, she decided to change the diet of her family members little by little so they wouldn’t even realize that changes were being made. Sneaky? Yes, but for the good of everyone.
Recently, Obah-chan saw a TV program about a successful campaign which was held by the UK government. It was about the reduction of salt intake of its nation. The government secretly reduced the salt in the bread sold by stores across the country in order to improve the health of its people. Surprisingly, they have been doing this for the last 10 years without the population even knowing what was going on. Apparently, the result was very positive and it seems to have improved the health of its nation significantly.
As for Obah-chan’s husband’s health, when he was still working, he often ate out at restaurants and kiosks. She was left without much input into what he ate outside of the home. Most of these meals he ate while he entertained clients and were invariably a full course meal. In addition, he didn’t pay much attention to his health at that time and ate as much as he wanted. Into his forties, he gained more weight than he wished and developed high blood pressure.
Around that time, Obah-chan watched a Japanese health program which covered the subject of weight loss. They recommended graphing your weight twice a day and write down what you ate for each meal. Then it asked for you to analyze which food caused the weight gain. Once you determined this, all you needed to do was to avoid those foods suspected of causing the weight gain. As a result, 80% of people who tried this method lost weight according to the program.
The program recommend one further tip, while you are dieting: it is better to lose weight gradually over many months. Sudden weight loss increases the chances of gaining it back quickly and, what’s worse, you may continue to gain even more after you stop dieting.
When Obah-chan mentioned this method to her husband, he became very interested. By simply graphing the weight twice a day and writing down what he ate, he lost about 10 kilograms in 7-8 months. After a while, even if he ate out he paid more attention to what he ate and began to choose healthier food. Now, during meals, he always eats vegetables first and then meat, and if he's still hungry after that, he eats carbohydrates. Because of his efforts to control his diet and eating habits, he appears to be very healthy and strong. As for dessert, he now only indulges in it when the family gets together on weekends or special occasions.
Obah-chan’s Past Health Issues
As she mentioned before, Obah-chan learned the importance of a Macrobiotic diet while she was in her 20’s. So she has been very careful with what to eat each day. However, when she past the age of 50, she began to have some health problems with which diet did not seem to help.
The first thing she experienced was a pain in her gums. When she was a child, she was taught that brushing teeth was only required in the morning. Also, during that time in her childhood, chocolate became very popular in Japan. This caused her to develop many cavities. Though she hasn’t had any new cavities after she learned about the Macrobiotic diet, she began to have cavities under the filling of her teeth. Because of this, she needed to have couple of root canal surgeries. Also because of the stress of having a new job when she was younger, her gums started to have periodontal disease. This caused terrible pain when she turned 50.
Obah-chan didn’t want her children to suffer from the same problems. So she taught the importance of brushing teeth to her children from a very young age. Because of her efforts, they haven’t have any cavities nor periodontal disease, even as they approach fifty.
The next health problem Obah-chan experienced during middle age was a pain in her shoulders, arms and wrist. At the time, she started to work for a new company so she needed to work overtime to catch up with her assigned tasks. As a majority of her work was computer related, she began to have problems with her right shoulder, arm and her wrist. In Japan, there is the saying "forty shoulders and fifty back", which means when you are 40, you would suffer shoulder pain, and at 50, you would suffer from back pain. She never imagined that shoulder pain could be so excruciating. Sometimes the pain was so acute, she shed tears. As she was a new employee in her job, she didn’t want to take time off from her work. She started visits to a chiropractor and massage therapist, after which she began to feel much better. Her shoulders and neck still makes a glaring noise when she exercises, but she has almost no pain unless she has the flu or a cold. Now she receives chiropractic treatments regularly before the pain starts. However, she notices that her back often becomes quite stiff, so she exercises every day to prevent back pain.
A few years later, she had a problem with her eyes. Because of software changes at her work, she had to work overtime again to make sure the conversion of the data was done correctly. After a few weeks of working days and nights to complete the project, she began to have a vision problems and severe headaches. She initially took it lightly thinking that it was because of working on the computer for long stretches. However, the symptoms did not improve even after the project concluded. When she finally went to her medical doctor, a blood test and urine test showed nothing unusual.
However, within a month, she started to see a small golden spot in her left eye. It looked like a gold fish swimming in her pupil. So her eye doctor referred her to a retina specialist. According to the specialist, there was a hole in her left retina and surgery was urgently required. Unfortunately, the same thing started to happen in her right eye while she was waiting for the operation. So the Doctor operated on her right retina first in April and then on her left retina in July that year. He reasoned that it was better to save the good eye first just in case the left retina’s problem was severe. Before the operations, any objects she saw became blurry. Even worse, people that she looked at had no noses, a very scary sight for her. She took a total of seven months medical leave from her work which included 2 cataract operations (removal of the impurities in the eyes that accumulated after the two surgeries). Thankfully, both operations were successful and her vision improved to the point she no longer needed her glasses for a while. Obah-chan was very grateful to the doctor who operated on her eyes.
One day, she asked the doctor what could be the cause of the holes in her retinas at her age. He suspected that she must have had an accident and hit her head hard when she was young. She confirmed that such an incident did indeed occur when she was 10 years old. She was at her brother’s work in downtown Utsunomiya. Her brother was busy with his work so he asked his friend to take her home. He kindly accepted the responsibility and gave her a ride on his bicycle. Obah-chan was still a small girl and she was uncomfortable about holding on to a man she didn't know. So while carrying a big bag in her both hands, she rode on the back of his bicycle without holding on to anything. Unfortunately, when they were about to cross the bridge over the Kinu River, the bicycle fell into a big hole, causing the bicycle to jump high. Obah-chan was thrown far away from the bicycle, and fell on the concrete road. She hit the back of her head very hard and it formed a big lump. Her head bled a little. She showed no tears when it happened, but as soon as she got home, she began to cry. However, the adults who saw her at home decided that as long as the child was crying, it was nothing serious. So she was never taken to the doctor for it. It seems that it was that accident that caused her retina problems many years later.
Another health-related event occurred about ten years after her retina surgeries. When Obah-chan and her husband traveled to Peru, she had a stomach problem because of some fresh cream in her coffee. Fortunately, she recovered from the sickness when she returned to Canada after the trip. However, a few weeks later, the same problems resurfaced again. She became ill whenever she had some water and began to lose weight.
Around that time, Obah-chan was watching a weekly Japanese health program on TV called, "Gatten". One night, the topic of the program was “Pylori bacteria”. It was said that Pylori bacteria was generally transmitted by the parents to a child when the child is under the age of six. Mothers in some countries pre-chew food for the baby before giving it to the baby directly from their mouth. Apparently Pylori bacteria does not not cause problems until a person advances in age (over 60). If not treated, it can cause an ulcer and, eventually, stomach cancer. After she saw the program, Obah-chan urgently saw her doctor. Learning that her father died because of the stomach cancer, the doctor immediately ordered her to take the Pylori test. The result was positive. The doctor even advised her to ask her immediate family members to take the same test just in case. Meanwhile, he prescribe an antibiotic to treat the bacteria. After taking the antibiotic, she had two more tests to make sure that she was free from the Pylori bacteria. But it took 2-3 years for her to fully recover from feeling sick. She is very thankful to the Japanese program “Gatten”. It may have saved her life.
Recently, her stomach started acting up so she went to the doctor again. It seemed that she felt sick after taking vitamins in the morning. When she pointed out that it could be the iron supplements which was causing the sickness, the doctor was quite surprised as he didn’t know that Obah-chan had been taking iron supplements. This is because the iron was prescribed by a different doctor many years ago when she had a problem with dizziness. After having a blood test, it was confirmed that in fact she had too much iron in her body. Doctor told her to stop taking the iron supplements immediately and also to donate her blood as it was the fastest way to lose the iron from the blood. She followed his instructions and the problem ceased within a few months.
Because of all these incidents, Obah-chan began to pay closer attention to what she eats or drinks each day. For example, peanuts have been a cause of acne for her since she was young, so she now totally avoids them. She later found that cold milk or cream cause diarrhea, raw tomatoes and lemons give her canker sores, coffee keeps her awake if she drinks it after lunch, and wine wakes her up middle of the night.
There are other reasons that cause problems with her sleep. Thoughts of worry is one of these. Ingesting foods with caffeine and sugar is another, preventing a good sleep altogether. More recently, Obah-chan noticed that it's difficult to get to sleep after having used the computer or the smartphone a couple of hours prior to bedtime. And as mentioned before, she can’t sleep well if she has skipped exercises.
Obah-chan realized that blood and urine tests alone can’t tell what is really going on in a person’s body. So she recommends that you pay close attention to changes in your body to maintain good health.
These days, Obah-chan gets a little anxious when she goes for a medical checkup. She found that it is the hardest while she is waiting to hear the results from various tests from her doctor. After all, there are so many friends and relatives who have undergone breast or uterine cancer operations. She feels that can’t be an exception--she is part of the “normal” population. She truly admires those who endured these operations. First of all, it must have been very shocking to hear the diagnoses from the doctor. It must have been even harder to go through various procedures such as chemotherapy and/or being treated with anticancer drugs. She is not sure how she would react if she were the one experiencing all of that. It certainly would take tremendous courage and perseverance. She hopes that she can be as brave as those who have already gone through it if and when she is faced with it herself.
Obah-chan is not too hopeful about her future health as she heard that one in four women in Canada will have breast cancer. In Japan, it is said that one in two people will eventually have some form of cancer. It would be a miracle for her to be spared from such a fate even if she is vigilant about her own health. Besides, no matter how careful you are, there are things simply can’t be avoided as you get older. We all eventually cease to exist. So who knows? Tomorrow, she herself may be up against a terminal disease.
But she realizes that she should not maintain a pessimistic outlook as long as she lives on this earth. So she will continue to eat carefully. Eating brown rice every morning, includes a lot of vegetable dishes, and takes care to control her daily intake of sugar and salt. She also tries to drink a lot of water throughout the day. For lunch and dinner, three quarters of the dishes are filled with vegetables with red, green, and yellow colored foods, broccoli, kidney beans, mushrooms, and beans etc. She takes care to eat salad every day(?). And when she eats something too greasy or sweet, she tries to drink hot water more than usual.
In short, to stay healthy, Obah-chan thinks that the most important thing is to pay attention to the latest health information, incorporate it in your daily life, and make an effort to be healthy in all aspects. These days, she has been learning a lot about health from Japanese programs called "Gatten" and "Choice". She would like to thank them from the bottom of her heart.