Book Review: Food and Healing by AnneMarie Colbin
I found this book very informative and easy to read. Much of the content was already familiar to me having studied macrobiotics. Even though this book doesn’t claim to be about macrobiotics, Colbin explains food in a yin/yang, expansive/contractive, cooling/warming way, which rings true to the macrobiotic way. She is basically moving people towards macrobiotics without freaking anyone out or making the info sound too new age.
The book is broken up into three parts. In the first one; Dynamics of Living Systems, Colbin shows the reader how sick Americans are today. When I say “sick” I mean “not well”, and she backs this up with many disturbing statistics about disease, violence, medication, and the limitations of modern medicine. She gives examples of studies done on the effectiveness of medication and specialized tests given to patients to figure out what is wrong with them. The statistics are startling and are surely a wake call to people who are reading. This section brought to light what I feel like I’ve always known; that modern medicine does not work well. Doctors incorrectly diagnose their patients; try to pump them full of drugs that prove ineffective, and never really get to the root of their problem or ailment. And, most of the time doctors do not even talk to their patients about what they are eating. Western doctors make no connections with food and disease. Colbin then talks about human functions and the seven universal laws. I strongly believe in these laws, but people who are conservative might get it. Then she goes on to energy fields and life force of food. I wonder if she starts to lose some people around this time. If the reader isn’t open-minded to the idea of energetics of food, it might be a hard concept to grasp. I think she explains the idea so everyone can understand without sounding too hokey.
I love the nutrition charts she uses on page 56 to really show us what our food is made up of. I’ve never seen food explained in such an informative way, which doesn’t use a bunch of numbers to have to sort through. Following these charts she explains the concept of balance, making sure the reader knows that their body will always try to balance itself when given food that throws nutrients out of proportion. I think her charts in the third section are easy to understand, and they give the reader an understanding of many macrobiotic principles.
The second part talks about food and it’s effect on your body. Colbin also details many of the diets that Americans follow. I’ve never seen modern diets explained so well. I’m sure the reader can identify themselves as well as their friends and family into one of these categories. “The Effects of Different Foods” chapter is very convincing and full of useful information. If I weren’t already eating in a macrobiotic way I would be looking at my overall diet after reading this part. I believe that the next chapter “Changing the Way We Eat”, is the most important chapter of the book. Most people need someone to tell them how to eat better, because either they are too lazy or lack the motivation. Colbin gives the reader a chance to take a look inside and ask himself or herself what ails them. Most Americans are so out of touch with their own bodies they have no idea what’s going on in there. On page 212, the “Food Choices in Context” chart is helpful in making the connection between food and everything else in our lives. Then she says “DON’T BE AFRAID OF FOOD”. This is my favorite line in the whole book. It is very important that she includes a chapter on what to expect when you make diet changes. We in macrobiotics have all experienced unpleasant changes, discharge, cravings and withdrawals. It’s not glamorous, but something that must happen to relieve all the toxins in our bodies.
Part three of the book is on healing. Colbin gives her own take on what it means to be healthy. The requirements follow George Ohsawa’s “Seven Conditions of Health”, but she elaborates and adds a few of her own. I like the way she breaks the conditions into physical, psychological, social, and spiritual. I prefer the way she explains the guidelines of health better than Ohsawa. Colbin’s writing is less rigid than Ohsawa, so I think more people will relate to this book than to say Essential Ohsawa. She explains how to use natural remedies to heal many common ailments. It is easy to understand, which will help people to not be afraid to try an alternative to western medicine.
Overall, I think this book is wonderful, very informative, and has some of the best charts I’ve ever seen in a health/diet related book. On page 251, I feel like I get the purpose of the book when she says, “my purpose here is to show how we can use food to heal ourselves continuously, every day, with the simplest of natural ways accessible to us.” Macrobiotics isn’t just about healing the sick, it’s a way of life that can be used daily and heal you on many different levels. I’ve learned that everything I put in my body is going to have an effect on my body, mind, and soul from this book.