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Madonna's one. so's Gwyneth Paltrow. No, not bottle blonds with contrived English accents who party with Donatella Versace. Madge and Gwyn are both macrobiotic.Anyone with a vague memory of the 60s shudders at the crunchy granola stereotype of the macrobiotic diet -- brown rice and steamed veggies. But after seven years of reviewing restaurants, the toll on my body is starting to show: weight gain, a rocketing cholesterol count and sky-high blood pressure.
Fed up with foie gras and bored with boeuf bourguignon, I undergo an intense 10-day macrobiotic detoxification under the guidance of lifestyle guru Anne Rosenberg of Macrobiotic Living (see sidebar, page 39).
Day 1: "You're not nearly as bad as I expected," she assures me at our first meeting in the NOW Lounge, looking straight into my bloodshot baby blues. "The eyes are the window to the liver, you know."
I scan the Lounge menu (today's special: Philly cheese steak) and notice little that's remotely macro other than lettuce. Even the allegedly good-for-you cranberry juice I sip is loaded with refined sugar. Luckily, Rosenberg's brought lunch: a thermos of hearty lentil soup, a container of brown-rice sushi made with blanched carrot and kale, and kukicha twig tea bags. She asks for hot water and, tea brewed, announces she can taste the bleach the mug was washed in.Not that I can. Automatically falling into critic mode, I also think the veggie soup desperately needs salt and that the sushi would be better dipped in soy and wasabi.
Rosenberg patiently explains that since my taste buds are shot after decades of overindulgence, I'm going to have to re-educate both my palette and brain. My job is killing me.
Rosenberg advises me to give up meat, eggs, dairy, sugar, chocolate, all nightshades -- tomato, potato, eggplant, peppers (good-bye hot sauce) -- as well as coffee, tobacco, stimulant teas, tropical fruit, recreational drugs and booze. In their place, whole-grain complex carbs, root vegetables and seaweed. Hoo boy. Also, I'm to chew everything 100 times to help the digestion of all of the fibre I'll be eating.
I'm to do a daily series of tai-chi-like stretching exercises that stimulate vital organs (didn't Vital Organs open for the Stranglers at Larry's Hideaway in 82?) and sing a happy song. (No Motörhead.) But I draw the line at wearing natural fabrics and only watching TV 30 minutes a day. Get real!
On my way home, I hit the market and stock up on macro staples like organic short-grain brown rice, nori, wakame and both leafy green and root veggies.
I borrow a pressure cooker so the brown rice I make will be energized by steam during cooking. Between shopping, prepping and cleaning up after three meals a day, I'm spending six hours a day at being macro. Somehow, I can't imagine Madonna scraping brown rice off the bottom of her pressure cooker.
Day 2: I'm delirious. The food looks very attractive. I start the day with tasty made-from-scratch soup of barley miso garnished with raw scallion and chopped mung bean sprouts, a bowl of steamed collard greens and a small cup of leftover room-temperature rice mixed with wheat berries.
Lunch sees brown-rice sushi and a cabbage-radish salad with umeboshi plum vinaigrette. For an afternoon snack, I have unleavened hemp flatbread that tastes like birdseed.
At dinner, I pack away another whack of rice garnished with a tiny bit of freshly grated horseradish, a delicious pumpkin-and-fresh-corn casserole, tofu egg foo yong made with shiitake 'shrooms, and pureed kale soup that really could use some butter and cream. But that would be wrong.
Day 3: Partway through, I develop nuclear gas. That night I awake at 3 am with projectile diarrhea.
Day 4: This morning I'm convinced I have the flu, but Rosenberg later says otherwise. "You're in Day 4," she says. "That's a normal reaction to the diet. You feel sick because the toxins are leaving your body."
Soon I'm feeling OK -- good even. By Day 10, I fall into the macro regime and can feel my lower back, kidneys and liver loosening up. I plan to stay on a macro diet to counter the demands of my cursed career.
So I'll eat macro at breakfast and lunch, and with luck that'll balance out the damage at dinner. The important thing is that I'm now conscious of everything I put into my mouth.
Despite our best efforts, we remain part of the ecosystem, living macrobiotic (from the Latin "macro," meaning big, and "bio," meaning life) machines. Instead of literally processing crappy food into shit, why not maximize the metabolism and morph food into energy and health? Little wonder people who eat macrobiotically often live much longer.
I still crave the things I shouldn't eat, but I don't want to die at 62 of a steak-house-induced stroke. My luck, that damned Madonna will live to 114. firstname.lastname@example.org