A candid interview with GoMacro co-founder, Jola…
There’s a part of me that I would consider “flat.” Not in the physical sense of the word… I mean, like… sometimes I can be hard to move emotionally. And then I cross paths with someone who can unlock it, just like that — and overwhelming understanding and appreciation springs forth.
I first connected with Amelia and Jola — mother, daughter and cofounders of GoMacro –when they donated their organic, vegan and gluten-free snack bars for our latest FP Escape. Dedicated to a natural and whole-food based lifestyle, they pride themselves in this core principle: “The pursuit of health is a path of living in balance with ourselves and nature with products that have positive effects on the world.” Of course, it’s always impressive to read about large companies treading lightly on Mother Earth whilst sharing healthy food with the masses, but what struck me most of all was how GoMacro came to be.
Back in 2000, the family bought a 120-acre farm in Wisconsin. Overgrown with weeds, “we knew it was someplace special and saw its potential, in spite of the weeds and dilapidated farm. We called it Posilippo, which is Greek for “pause from pain” or “medicine for sore eyes.'” It was here that they received Amelia’s cancer diagnosis in 2003, and the farm became their safe haven. At this time, Jola called her aunt who had been diagnosed five years prior and was now cancer-free, thanks to what she believed was her macrobiotic diet. “I weighed my options,” said Amelia, “and decided to do the same. After a lumpectomy and brachytherapy, I turned down five years of tamoxifen drug treatment and embraced the macrobiotic way of life.” Posilippo became her literal pause from pain as she eliminated processed foods, dairy, refined sugars and flours, and more, and ate from Posilippo’s garden. Her health, albeit slowly, began to improve. Today she is healthy, happy and a true testament to the incredible impact clean eating can have on your body. Below, we chat with Jola as she speaks candidly about transitioning to a macrobiotic diet and how to be your healthiest self.
Can you tell us a little bit about how GoMacro began?
My mom and I started GoMacro after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 and we decided to go macro (i.e. go macrobiotic). We were familiar with the lifestyle because my aunt was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma cancer and cured herself with macrobiotics.
When my mother’s health started to improve and she was ready to incorporate sweets into her diet, she started to experiment in the kitchen since she was unable to procure anything which catered to her needs. She created a delicious cookie which my husband casually suggested we sell. I was teaching in the Chicago Public School system at the time so, after school one day, I wrapped a few of her cookies, printed up an ingredients label on my home computer, and called them MacroTreats. The first store I visited loved them and bought 6 dozen!
What exactly is a macrobiotic diet?
By definition, a macrobiotic diet is all about achieving the balance of yin and yang through a diet of whole grains, vegetables, beans and sea vegetables. It’s a holistic approach that recognizes that more damage can be done to the body by deprivation than eating things in moderation (on occasion). Personally, since I am not in need of a healing diet, but simply looking to live a long and balanced life, I don’t follow the principles of yin and yang. Instead I focus on other macrobiotic principles such as eating organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables (though somewhat limiting fruit), eating foods only with health benefits, focusing on grains and mildly cooked vegetables, limiting dairy and avoiding meat, and staying away from processed foods.
How hard was it transitioning from a regular diet to a macrobiotic one? Really.
It is not as hard as people may think, so long as you are flexible with the transition. Since I was not focused on the yin and yang aspect, but rather on simply eating clean and listening to my body, it was quite easy. I found that as I became in tune with my body and recognized what foods made me feel energized and healthy, my cravings started to decrease. However, I do recognize there are a handful of obstacles for some — finances, convenience, and education, to name a few. But these obstacles are gradually becoming less of a challenge as we are witnessing a cultural shift, where consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits of eating clean. It’s this movement that is forcing retailers and restaurants to offer healthier options, which makes the transition an easier one.
What tips can you give people trying to transition to clean eating?
People often stray from their clean eating habits when they don’t have healthy ingredients on hand. I recommend making an effort to always have a few staple ingredients in your fridge and pantry at all times so that you aren’t tempted to eat unhealthy foods. My family’s kitchen is always stocked with fish, whole grains, beans and seasonal vegetables — all staples of a macrobiotic diet.
If you have a local farmer’s market, incorporate a visit into your weekly plans. Instead of meeting friends at a coffee shop, plan to meet them at the farmer’s market to find fresh, seasonal macrobiotic ingredients.
When I started going macrobiotic, I referenced a book called the “Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics” by Jessica Porter. In it, Jessica recommends cooking on a daily basis and setting aside one hour to prepare your daily meals. In return, it will help you sleep more, watch less TV and, soon, your body will want to cook an hour a day.
What kind of changes did you feel in your body?
The increase in my energy was immediately evident and served as great motivation to continue on this path of clean eating. I felt lighter and my skin was more radiant. I also noticed that my mind and body felt more in balance with each other, in turn translating into less stress. All around, it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What does a typical menu look like for you?
The macrobiotic principles I incorporate into my family’s lifestyle are eating only ingredients which yield health benefits, eating seasonal organic produce (and locally grown), limiting our dairy and meat intake and, of course, staying away from processed foods. We’ve been able to experiment with new foods and ingredients over the years and have discovered some fun recipes that the whole family loves. Some of our favorites include vegan lasagna, farro, roasted veggies & homemade black bean burgers. In general, every dinner includes a protein, a vegetable dish and a grain dish.
Do you have any health and wellness routines? Do you mind sharing them?
Of course! I try to find the time for some sort of workout every day during the week. Whether it’s yoga, a quick cardio session or core workouts, I find that it helps clear my head, in addition to the obvious physical benefits. During the weekends, we make working out more of a family activity, whether it’s playing kickball in the front yard, riding our bikes to the smoothie shop down the street, or even just watching the kids play their organized sports.
What would you say to a beginner trying to transition to macrobiotic eating?
The transition really isn’t as hard as you might think. When I adopted the macrobiotic lifestyle, I really embraced the principles of balance and moderation. I prefer to use the word lifestyle because when people hear the word “diet” they think of restrictions, which is really not what being macrobiotic is about. If I am craving something not typically considered macrobiotic – think dairy or meat – I let myself have some, in moderation. I found that, as I became in tune with my body and recognized what foods made me feel energized and healthy, my cravings started to decrease. I also recommend focusing on ingredients, not nutrition facts!
I have lupus and a kidney disease so I am totally intrigued by the macrobiotic lifestyle. What kind of advice would you give someone like me?
I think that eating a clean diet, full of wholesome food, can have more impact than one would think. Eliminating processed food is life-changing and I truly believe that someone’s diet can have a major impact on their health.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us and for sharing your helpful insight and inspiration.
*We would like to ensure readers know that a macrobiotic diet is not for everyone and is not a cure-all for health disorders. Please talk with your doctor before considering a microbiotic diet.
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