David McCarthy (55) and his wife Nicola are the owners of Big Life Organics. Together they run a wholefoods shop and macrobiotic teaching school in Haywards Heath, near Brighton in the U.K. They also have an online store, where they ship products all over the world. Nicola and David both teach Macrobiotics. David says:”For me, Macrobiotics is about freedom; having the freedom to choose the healthiest way to live using fresh, natural, plant based foods.”
Can you tell the readers something about yourself?
I worked for many years as a pharmacist. It wasn’t until my son, Jonathan, was diagnosed with a brain tumour with only 6 weeks to live in 1997 that my life changed for good. I immediately turned my attention to healing through food. After he passed away I became fully committed to spreading the word about the amazing benefits of wholefoods and then discovered the healing power of the Macrobiotic approach to living
Is your company related to Macrobiotics?
Yes, aside from our shop, Big Life Organics, we also have an online store, www.macrobioticshop.co.uk which ships all over the world. Big Life Organics is a wholefoods shop with a difference in that we also teach people how to prepare the ingredients we use in a Macrobiotic kitchen, most of which are very unfamiliar to people in England. We have an in house chef based at the shop who currently produces daily lunches and snacks and we also run pop up supper clubs from here, which are hugely popular. We have a teaching arm to our business, running regular workshops and study days. We are excited to announce that we are about to commence teaching the Kushi Institute Levels 1 and 2, in association with the Kushi Institute of Europe. This is the most prestigious Macrobiotic qualification there is. It’s truly the Gold standard of Macrobiotic education and we are honoured to be offering it in the UK
What made you live by the rules of Macrobiotics?
It is my view that in Macrobiotics there are no rules, and this was a conscious choice for me. My motivation was to find the best health that I could. Michio Kushi said that Macrobiotics was a “…common sense flexible pattern of eating that differs according to climate, environment, your condition, sex , age and activity level and personal need.” For me, Macrobiotics is about freedom; having the freedom to choose the healthiest way to live using fresh, natural, plant based foods. There are various principles that exist in order to help the individual to balance their own health and wellbeing but ultimately the choice of how to use these principles is down to the individual. In my experience, once these food choices are correct for you personally and you understand the consequences of what you choose to put into your body, you will feel free. This is what we teach in our classes
How is your way of life different now than it used to be?
In the past I was always overly busy and stressed running around from one problem to another and my health was compromised as a result. Nowadays, I am more steady in every aspect of my life, my mood is calmer and life is much smoother and happier. I have masses more energy, in the past I would have dips during the day when I would need to rest, I now feel younger and fitter than I did when I was much younger.
Have you changed a lot about the way you live?
I live a much more natural life. I have never liked using chemicals but have become much more aware of my immediate environment. From my previous career as a pharmacist, this is a huge change. I almost can’t relate to the person I was before, and what concerns me is that the majority of people in the world live as I lived before. Since changing my diet my whole perspective on life has changed too. I am now much more aware of my surroundings, the seasons and the energy around me.
What part of Macrobiotics do you find the hardest?
I honestly don’t find any of it hard. For those who don’t know of macrobiotics I can understand that it may look like a life of deprivation, however both my wife and I are free from our previous illnesses and health imbalances and eat a more dynamic, varied and tastier diet that we did before . We have freely chosen this lifestyle because of the positive way it makes us feel, so it’s completely illogical to us to go back, why would you, when you feel so great!
Do you live a 100% plant-based lifestyle? If so, does that extend to your clothing, shoes and such?
I prefer to wear natural clothing like cotton and bamboo and use organic cleaning products. In our home we like to surround ourselves with natural and organic materials, such as wooden flooring and non-toxic paints etc. We don’t have Wifi as we can feel the disruptive and negative energy from it – I find that it particularly disturbs my sleep.
Prior to starting Macrobiotics I had been vegan for ten years for health reasons, so it has actually been less of a change than it might have been. I do occasionally wear leather but I try wherever possible to seek out ethical, sustainable brands. I am very careful about where I buy things from, especially when sourcing products for our business and shop. I would never support companies that exploit the earth or its inhabitants and I am deeply committed to providing only the most respectfully sourced products.
Who was your inspiration?
I have had many inspirational teachers during my Macrobiotic journey but my true inspiration was my son, Jonathan. I am proud to have contributed so greatly to his health and wellbeing and hope that by educating others about the benefits of this lifestyle, many more people can feel healthier and live a more fulfilled life.
What do you eat on an average day?
There is no average day, every day is differnt – however, each day typically involves a grain, some kind of bean product -beans, tempeh, tofu – plenty of vegetables and a soup. It’s important that the food is varied, tasty and interesting, after all, we are what we eat! Nicola and I were privileged to have fabulous teachers Adelbert & Wieke Nelissen who brought up their five children in a purely Macrobiotic way. We continue to teach others via our classes and workshops.
How has Macrobiotics changed you physically and mentally?
The first thing I noticed was that I lost my ‘muffin tops’ and ‘Moobs’ (man boobs!) Since moving over from veganism to macrobiotics I feel much healthier than I have ever been. I used to live with a number of different allergies, asthma and rosacea. I was particularly allergic cats and often took medication, including an inhaler before any exercise. After starting Macrobiotics very quickly all my illnesses disappeared, I have not needed or taken any medication now since I started macrobiotics 12 years ago. There isn’t a pill, potion or lotion in the house! Now that’s a BIG change for a pharmacist!
Can you tell our readers your view on Macrobiotics?
Firstly I would say that it’s not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle. I believe that it was probably practised by most civilisations in the past, it just didn’t have a specific label. It doesn’t need a name as it is simply something that’s based on common sense, living in harmony with nature and our intuition; a practice that I believe has sadly been lost in modern times. It was probably only with the event of the industrial revolution that we began to make unhealthy changes to our diet.
Macrobiotics had quite a ‘hippy’ image for a while. Do you think that’s still the case?
No. I would say that it possibly has more of a perceived connection with Japanese lifestyle and culture these days. However the hippies did everyone a favour by asking us to focus on world peace, and individual peace in our hearts. This is very close to the view of Michio Kushi, the ‘grandfather’ of Macrobiotics. He was also a philosopher and has shaped the modern day view of food and healthy eating more than people realise. In effect, he brought the wholefood idea to the world.
Are there less enjoyable side effects to Macrobiotics (such as incomprehension from people around you)?
Not really. I view incomprehension of others either as their view which they are entitled to, or a challenge for me to rise to in order to gently educate them if they are open to it.
Have you done study courses in Macrobiotics?
My wife Nicola and I have studied the Kushi Institute Levels in Amsterdam and many other courses throughout the world. We have been privileged to learn from many hugely inspiring teachers and these days we are proud to bring our knowledge to others through our own courses and workshops, but we never stop learning. It is a dream come true for us to be teaching the Levels ourselves now here in the UK.
Are you still studying Macrobiotics? If so, what are your latest eye-openers?
You never stop learning. Every day is an ongoing study and we never stop absorbing new insights from each other, from our children, from nature. Yin and Yang is in everything and from this you find your own balance. In every class we teach, we learn something new from our students, and this is the way it should be.
Is there a sport you practice?
I enjoy practising yoga, I still run, but probably with a less intense approach. I also practice Do-In, meditation and chanting and I really enjoy gardening and swimming. While some of these may not be seen as ‘sports’, in my view they are all past times that encourage and promote fitness and wellbeing.
Have you done Pilates before?
Yes I have, and I often incorporate Pilates techniques in my fitness.
What is your dream/goal in life and how are you going to achieve that?
It is our joint dream to make Macrobiotics more mainstream, even to the point at which there is no longer a label for it, it’s just instinctively normal for everyone. Teaching the Kushi Levels has brought us one step closer to achieving this dream; we simply want to share our passion for Macrobiotics with as many people as possible and to show them that it is not a drastic exercise in food denial exclusive to celebrities – it’s simple, it’s delicious and it works!
Big Life Organics
112 South Road