Stanislaw Jerzmanski, also known as Happy Stan, was born on the 3rd of June 1984. He has an interesting story to tell. His Macrobiotic journey started when he discovered the huge impact food had on his body & mind. Enjoy reading this article and learn from an experienced Macrobiotic cook what food can do for you! Stan predicts:”It will be a really MACRO year for me.”
I became a vegetarian
Funny enough, I became a vegetarian with the beginning of the 21st century, so almost fifteen years ago. It was a long path for me to understand that lifestyle and especially everyday food has a tremendous impact on our lives and its quality and as time has showed – it was a good choice not only for me, but as well for my family to take a closer look at the food-health connection.
I had to learn things step by step. After I stopped eating meat, from ethical reasons at the time, I lost a lot of weight – within 6 months the fat layer under my skin gradually disappeared. Now, when I look back I know that this is simply what we call “discharging” in MB (macrobiotics), or getting rid of excess in TCM(traditional Chinese medicine).
I had as well constantly problems with stuffed-up sinuses, irregular bowel movement, often bleeding from my nose, blood in my stool and many other minor health issues as well as catching all kinds of “seasonal illnesses”.
We say in MB/TCM that people with strong constitution (body type we have as a result of many factors during the time we spent in our mother’s womb and the first seven years of childhood) are less susceptible to diseases. So “thanks” to my strong constitution, it took me a long time to understand and apply all the changes in my daily life.
I should try to cut down my dairy intake
I was 19 years old, so I was already a vegetarian for three years but I was still consuming amazing amounts of milk and dairy-products every day. One day I went to ask about my stuffed up sinuses to a specialist. Luckily enough, he didn’t prescribe me pills but pointed out that I should try to cut down my dairy intake. I started to read more about it and I decided to give it a try. It’s obvious for me right now that that doctor was right, because dairy is one of the most mucus-producing foods and lungs and sinuses are the “containers” where the excess of mucus gets stored to be discharged later if you will give your organism a chance to do so and don’t stuff it with more mucus-producing foods.
I just couldn’t stop with all milk-products at once, I stopped eating unfermented dairy, still consuming cheese, yoghurt and so on, but only from organic source and very seldom comparing to what I used to consume before: 2-3 times a week. It had already helped. Within two years the situation with my sinuses got healed.
It sounded like a no-no diet
Now the lifestyle of Poles is changing more into the direction of the western style of no-time-for-cooking-let’s-buy-something-ready-and just-heat-it-up, but when I was growing up I was lucky enough that my mother was preparing every day food from scratch for the whole family and I was as well always keen to help out in the kitchen, so I could learn many things from my mother as well as from my grandmother. I always loved to cook, what later on led me in my study times to work as a cook in a little bookstore, which was also a vegetarian café. Back then I was busy with photography, as one of my hobbies, and I was making pictures of my every day meals.
What terrible photo’s were that! But anyway, thanks to them I met a girl that was interested in TCM. We became friends and decided to make a cookbook. So we spent half year and made together two seasonal vegetarian cookbooks in Polish. I had to go through many materials while making these cookbooks. I was interested in the western dietetics and also in the TCM approach to diet, as the cookbooks we were making where about seasonal cooking and according to the five transformations theory which is a part of TCM. Already then I’ve stopped consuming refined grains – from now on only wholegrain was the real thing for me. One day I was searching for interesting cookbooks in a health foods store and I came across a book about Macrobiotics. I don’t remember the author’s name, but I decided to buy it. I came back home and started to read it. I was terrified! Almost everything was forbidden, it sounded like a no-no diet, almost nothing was allowed, the book was written in a very strict and rigid way, so it successfully kept me off the subject of MB for at least two years.
I need to change my lifestyle
I was 26 years old – it was my third year of studying Dutch language and culture in my hometown-Wroclaw in Poland and at some point I decided that sitting all day behind the computer screen is just not my thing. At the same time I realized myself that reading TCM/dietetics books on my own is not enough, that I need to change my lifestyle and start real studies in order to fully understand the connection diet-lifestyle-health and learn real healing cooking. So I did half year research on TCM/MB schools in Poland and in the Netherlands. Finally I decided to interrupt my Dutch language and culture studies and move to Amsterdam, where the Kushi Institute (KI) is situated, as well as many good TCM schools in the surrounding areas. After many emails with different TCM and MB schools, doing some more research and attending several cooking classes at the KI I decided in 2011 to start studying MB at the KI in Amsterdam. That was the time that I understood that MB was what I was looking for all of these years!
I tried namely to go vegan before studying MB in Amsterdam, but I failed -I became very skinny, lost physical strength and at around 6pm every day I had very strong cravings for sweets, so I had to go to buy and immediately eat at least a bar of chocolate or package of cookies or both at once. So i decided to start eating eggs and cheese again.
I was so happy!
I was very enthusiastic about MB, I completely eliminated eating sugar,eggs and dairy and after completing level 1 of the Art of Life, the most comprehensive study program at the KI in Amsterdam, I emailed my parents to ask how are they doing and…my father was diagnosed with diabetes type II. I really wanted to help him, but I didn’t know how to start with all of these yin, yang and other odd sounding, for ordinary Europeans, oriental theories.
So I started to read more about diabetes and eventually wrote a 5 pages long email to my father with many attachments, photos, diagrams and information about how food choices can influence your state of health. I ended the email with a conclusion that all you have to start with is just eliminate everything that’s refined (so no more sugar, refined flours, refined oils and no kitchen salt-NACL) and otherwise within two years time diabetes type II can transform into a chronic state, where you have to constantly monitor your blood-sugar level and if it goes too low, you need to immediately inject insulin, that you have to carry constantly with you, otherwise you can fall into a coma and die if no one around you will notice your condition. That helped – my parents stopped eating refined foods. I was so content! But still the base of their every day breakfast was bread, so I told them as well to stop eating commercial bread made with yeast and I emailed my mother how to bake sour-dough bread. She learned how to make it and after few months she became so good in it, that she was baking bread now and then for the neighbours and my brother’s family. Everyone loved her bread, because it tasted just like the “normal, real” bread – without all these chemical additives. After 5 months of eating wholegrain, unrefined foods and no yeast bread my father went for a test and he wasn’t diagnosed as a diabetic any more! I was so happy!
I was so happy again!
After completing level 2 at the KI I went back home to visit my parents just to hear that my mother has the beginning of osteoporosis, the so called osteopenia, as well as hashimoto thyroiditis and bad blood test results. I came directly in action and told my parents that they need to go one step further and stop eating meat and especially dairy products – the biggest mineral loss cause, so actually the root of my mother’s osteopenia. It wasn’t easy to start with the new lifestyle, but luckily I brought with me to Poland a BIG suitcase, that I barely could carry on my own – it weighted more than 50kg. The suitcase was full of macrobiotic specials: few kinds of miso paste, umeboshi, kuzu, 25kg of calasparra brown rice, umeboshi paste, natto-miso, mirin, agar-agar, nama shoyu, natural baking powder, three kinds of Hokkaido pumpkins, many kinds of seaweed and other high quality foods that were hard or impossible to buy at that time in my hometown. My parents thought I’m a bit crazy carrying all of these strange foods all the way 1000km from Amsterdam, but somehow I convinced them to try it out and started to cook for them every day for these two weeks I was there. I showed them also some basic Do-In exercises and we started as well to run in the mornings.
I was so happy again!!!
Two days before my bus ride back to the Netherlands I made a sushi evening with my parents. I showed them how to make it and was really surprised when my father tasted the sushi and told me that my wholegrain vegan sushi tastes better than the sushi from the sushi bar! I was so surprised to hear that from a heavy meat eater! I was so happy again!
I did my best but somehow I felt that they don’t take my efforts and all of that food-illness connection too seriously and I thought that when I will go back to Amsterdam they will just start eating every day dairy and meat again.
So finally my stay in Poland was about to finish – I entered the bus going back to Amsterdam, found a place to sit down and started to look out the window at the passing kilometers. I kept thinking about my parents and what they will decide to do, feeling somehow a bit worried that they won’t be able to keep up with their new regime. Finally I fell asleep. Suddenly I got woken up by a telephone rang. It was my mother. She called me to ask: “Could you tell me one more time how did you make that tofu for the sushis, because our friends invited us to a party and we won’t have anything to eat over there – the food at the party will be all made with meat, dairy and refined products, so I’ve decided that I will prepare some sushis and bring it over”. I was shocked with this unexpected call and simply couldn’t believe what I’m hearing! They actually went on a MB path! Two days later my mother called me again to tell me that everyone at the party loved her sushis and just couldn’t believe that she made these strange asian rolls all just by herself! I felt so excited!
My parents always preferred pretty traditional Polish/European cuisine and they couldn’t bear the taste of seaweed, ginger and many other oriental tastes in general. So I’ve advised my mother to add a little piece of kombu, because of its mild taste/smell comparing with other seaweed, when cooking beans and as well to add it to soups and add a bit of wakame to dishes with strong taste, so they won’t feel the seaweed taste.
About half year later my mother called me to tell me that a friend of her invited her to a free of charge osteoporosis test. So she went there and…her bone mineral density loss has dropped down to 11%, comparing with 18% from half year before! She did as well blood tests and…everything was within the norms! Amazing – it took her 57 years to get to a point of 18% bone mineral density loss and it dropped down to 11% just within 6 months! ! I was so happy again!!!
My own cooking demonstration
So I continued my MB education and after completing level 2 I started to work, as a MB cook, at Deshima, the restaurant of the KI in Amsterdam. That was so inspiring time for me – I met so many nice souls and had opportunity to cook for people from all over the world! I worked there more than 1,5 year, I took part in two Summer Conferences organized by the KI Amsterdam – biggest MB events in Europe, where you can study MB theory with the best MB teachers from all over world, learn more about healthy cooking, train all kinds of oriental disciplines like Do-In, Shiatsu, Yoga or Tai-Chi, practice art and many more. Last year during the Summer Conference I gave my own cooking demonstration about traditional Polish dishes made in a MB way. I made barszcz (borsht or simply red beet soup) and two kinds of stuffed dumplings: a classical savoury type with sauer-kraut, onions and champignons and a sweet summer type with a fruit filling. It was so much fun!
I would like to give thanks to all of my teachers at the KI in Amsterdam for their great work: Wieke, Horriah, Valentina, Jasmijn and Adelbert Nelissen, Karin Baank, Jarka Adamcova, Nini Kossen and all the people I had opportunity to work with during my study/work time over there: Eva Komarkova, Bini Sharman, Adam Trnka, Julia Vol, Stavros Karagilanis, Petronella van der Hallen, Kovacs Andi, Gideon Nelissen, Elvira and Jelmar Decnop, Serge Matev, Patrick Sturzenegger, Rob Baank, Daniela Apice, Yuma and Loki Berends, Karel Becvar and many others as well as all the teachers and staff from the summer conference 2013/2014! The list is simply too long – you know who you are! All the best for you all!
All of what has happened in the last five years of my life pushes me to continue this path, go on and study more in 2015 and beyond! I just started giving MB cooking workshops, I’m working to organise more of them, I’m busy with writing a MB cookbook and want to start a MB blog. Right now I’m studying with Verne Varona, within a week I will go to Lisboa to attend there level 3 at the Instituto Macrobiotico Portugal and I have many more plans concerning my MB/TCM education! It will be a really MACRO year for me! I’m so happy for all that has happened til now, that’s why I’m Happy Stan J!
To be continued!