Jane Quincannon Stanchich
The blue skies, crisp air and magnificent mountains of Colorado beckoned this North Carolina woman, so in 1980, I resigned from my teaching job, packed my hiking boots, down coat, and granola and flew off to Denver, Colorado. I was ready for some fresh air and fresh insights - a sort of Rocky Mountain natural high. I found it in Boulder, one of the most beautiful and friendly cities in America. The clear mountain view refreshed my mind and energized my spirit. It was great to be in the right place, at the right time, with freedom, friends and enough funds to live simply.
A real "Health Nut", I did all the "right" things for my body...(or so I thought). I ate lots of salads, fruits, cheese, yogurt, and swallowed great quantities of vitamin pills, washed down with huge glasses of fruit juices and distilled water - all these still considered by many to be excellent health foods. I ate delicious vegetarian meals each day in restaurants. Daily exercise included invigorating hikes in the hills and trails of Boulder. My spirits were high and life was good, except for one thing. With all my "right" way of living, I was beginning to develop very painful arthritis.
With every step I took, my body was shouting "Heal! Heal!" Oh, actually the words were "Heel, Heel!" because my heels hurt terribly. In addition, my hips creaked, my knees knocked and my feet ached. This young, free-spirited woman began to hobble around feeling debilitated and frightened that it would only get worse. "That's what happens as we get older" Right? Wrong! This Southern rebel was not about to let the pain continue. Not if I could help it. I began to search for ways to help myself.
I poured over nutrition books, medical reports, and health magazines. I tried supplements, hoping that a magical pill would remove the pain in my joints. I visited an orthopedic physician who wrote a prescription for cortisone. I went directly to a library and looked up the drug in the PDR - The Physicians' Desk Reference. The information I read was PDR: Pretty Darned Revolting. The PDR contained four columns listing the side-effects of cortisone, a steroid whose major side-effect was stated as “bone loss.” I didn't need a Ph.D. to realize that drugs were not the answer. I knew I had to find the cause of my joint pain and stop the cause!
My quest for the cause continued. I encourage everyone who has an illness to do your homework and read about your problem. The determination itself is empowering. As my research continued, I discovered that over 50 million Americans have reported cases of arthritis, with an estimated equal number of unreported cases. That's 100 million people in the United States suffers from some form of arthritis, spending billions of dollars each year on medical costs, drugs and treatments to alleviate the pain. Most arthritis institutes and books offered few insights into the cause, prevention, or treatments, only surgery, joint replacements, and pain-killers to "live with the pain." I sought another path.
I was soon to learn how the Universe gives us a nudge once we begin a journey down the right path. A friend invited me to her "back-to-the-earth-style" wedding at which she served a vegetarian feast, including brown rice and hummus. I had eaten brown rice occasionally, but the hummus, made of chickpeas, was a delicious new treat. I ate my fill of the gently spiced bean puree. The next morning I felt terrific. My pain was noticeably diminished.
Blessed with a natural curiosity and a passionate desire to feel well, I racked my mind to discover why the pain had reduced so greatly. What had been different the day before? What had I done? Finally, I wondered if it had been the food I had eaten at the wedding. Could it be? Could food have that much to do with my arthritis pain? None of my doctors had ever discussed my diet. Yet, eating these foods had made a difference. My body was telling me something. And I was listening.
My next hobbling, but determined step was to locate a professional to guide me to a healthy diet. While visiting a local health food store, I asked the owner which local nutritionist he could recommend. I was directed to Lino Stanchich, a macrobiotic educator and counselor. A specialist in natural foods, macrobiotic theory and Oriental philosophy, Mr. Stanchich (Lino to everyone), counseled in a Boulder clinic with two physicians and an acupuncturist. Several of my friends who had received counseling with Lino gained sparkling eyes, greater fitness, and renewed energy. But was I ready for macrobiotics?
The macrobiotic diet seemed to be extremely healthy, but extreme. The notion of giving up dairy was ridiculous to me at first. That is how ingrained the old "Four Food Groups" teachings were to me. Perhaps this change was what I needed. Even with my nutritional studies, I knew too little about diet. The choices I was making were not working. For me, change was very difficult, yet I knew that until I changed my path, I would only keep going in the same direction. Down that old path, I only saw more pain, pain-killers, drugs, surgery, canes, and wheelchairs. And I didn't want that! To achieve my goals, I needed guidance and education...so I made an appointment with Lino Stanchich.
Upon first meeting Mr. Stanchich, his friendly exuberance created a warm rapport. His vast knowledge of whole foods and their effects was impressive. For the first time, a health professional answered my lifelong health questions, inspiring me to take charge of my health. Most importantly, he gave me practical information, useful methods, and clear guidelines to take home and begin to change my life. He was tossing me a rope in a rough sea, providing a strong connection to the shore. But I knew I still had to do the swimming.
To save my life, I went into the kitchen, a room previously used for blending chilled fruit juice and powdered protein shakes. I opened macrobiotic cookbooks and made the kitchen my "pharmacy". As Hippocrates, the father of medicine wrote, "Let food be thy medicine". I began using God's natural grains, beans, and vegetables as my medicine. This simple solution is just what God would give to us, I thought. The key to health and happiness would not be hidden, but would be under our noses each day, perhaps at each meal. The initial concentration and efforts, while difficult, were much easier than living with a lifetime of pain and suffering. The hours spent in careful preparation of my daily meals were worth gold to me in establishing wellness. I began the powerful process of cooking balanced, nourishing meals, and in taking greater responsibility for my own life.
I took classes in macrobiotic theory at a local center. Macrobiotic cooking teachers were kind enough to allow me to assist in their cooking classes. I learned about the miraculous qualities of rice, millet (which I had never tasted), barley, and all the nutritionally powerful grains. Common vegetables such as onion and carrots and unfamiliar vegetables such as daikon and burdock became new medicinal treasures. Where had they been all my life?! I savored the rich taste of miso soup and sea vegetables, encouraged perhaps by my knowledge of their healing qualities. To me, a simple meal of soup, grains, beans and vegetables satisfied my taste buds and my very soul. I felt I had come home.
Through macrobiotics, I learned fascinating facts about my body, its organs, systems, and functions. I knew I had kidneys but had never given them a thought. I learned how these small, yet vital organs are connected to the health of my bones and joints. Eureka! This was the answer. My former dietary habits had depleted the minerals in my bones and the energy in my kidneys. The macrobiotic diet provided the high-mineral foods to revitalize my kidneys. Its low fat foods allowed my body to eliminate years of accumulated fats, creating a greater flow of blood and energy through my kidneys and entire body. Humans were designed to eat this way, yet, we trust and follow government guidelines and colorful advertisements as we prepare convenient, processed, refined, packaged foods…all at the expense of our health.
Within one week on the macrobiotic diet, my pain had totally gone. My energy increased. A long-time feeling of fog lifted in my head. I breathed easier, slept more soundly and felt more hope and inner power than ever before. I got the message loud and clear. I don't argue with success. Macrobiotics was my solution. I studied with the world's top macrobiotic teachers, including Michio and Aveline Kushi. I achieved my nutritional license from the state of Florida. After thirty years, I continue practicing the macrobiotic way of life and continue to be free of arthritis and free of joint pain. I am deeply grateful to each of my macrobiotic teachers for sharing their profound knowledge and wisdom, and, with tireless dedication, creating books, classes, and institutes in which people learn the macrobiotic way of life.
Almost from the start, I was asked to teach others. I discovered that, like myself, people are truly “hungry,” “starved” in fact, for information to lead a healthy, balanced life. To teach macrobiotics is a great privilege and joy. When people ask me what I do, I am tempted to say, "I teach people to save their lives." Though I know that the universal spiritual energy is what truly heals, practicing macrobiotics clears the path for that healing energy to flow. I am reminded of the ancient teaching, “God helps those who help themselves.” When we begin to embrace a natural diet, balanced daily lifestyle, to honor our bodies, trust our intuition, and realize our power and place in the Universe, we can heal ourselves and then know true freedom. And that is a beautiful path to walk.