Growing up in rural Pennsylvania Dutch Country, my family was always important to me. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and extended family. When I was in my teens, some of my relatives began to develop degenerative health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol. I became concerned that the same health problems could become part of my future, since science showed that many of these health problems were hereditary. While I led a very active lifestyle throughout my high school years, college food (and beer) caught up with me, and I began to be concerned about my own health.
Over the next few years, as I watched many of my close family members struggle with health problems and making healthy lifestyle changes later in life, I decided I would rather make changes to my own lifestyle while I was young. I knew that many health problems were diet-related, so I eliminated sugar from my diet. As I became more interested in eating for health, I also became aware of the cruelty involved in raising and killing animals for daily food, and subsequently stopped eating meat.
It was around this time that I enrolled in martial arts classes. One night after class, my sensei, Ralph, who was also a shiatsu massage practitioner, invited me to attend a lecture on macrobiotics given by his shiatsu teacher, Patrick Riley.
At this time, I was working in the social services field. I had a degree in Human Relations and was contemplating graduate school. Needless to say, going to that lecture changed my life. Macrobiotic philosophy made perfect sense to me. I liked the idea that we are all in control of our destinies. I was already eating brown rice, beans, and fresh vegetables, supplemented by the occasional miso soup, so for me to transition to the macrobiotic diet was just a matter of making a few small changes to my diet and lifestyle.
Going to this lecture was also my realization of what I wanted to do with my life. It was like a light bulb going off: I was going to study and become a macrobiotic counselor. I had known previously that I wanted to work with people, help them and do work that is meaningful in the world. I was already a counselor of sorts through my work in social services, but I realized I would really be able to help people with their health on many different levels through macrobiotics.
Shortly after this, I began my macrobiotic studies. I started reading books by Michio Kushi and George Ohsawa. I also completed a Level I Zen shiatsu class. The next step for me was to formally study macrobiotics at the Kushi Institute. After completing my Kushi Level One studies, my teachers encouraged me to teach cooking. At this point, I didn’t think I knew enough to teach, but I decided to follow their advice and taught some beginner classes from home. People seemed to enjoy my classes and it was a great way to gain confidence and experience for what would be my eventual career.
After finishing my studies at the Kushi Institute, I began advanced studies with my future husband, Denny Waxman. I found Denny’s insights into health, macrobiotics and food to be detailed and innovative, completely broadening my understanding of macrobiotics. I thought he was brilliant. Studying with Denny was my graduate school of macrobiotics. In 1997, Denny founded The Strengthening Health Institute (SHI) to train and educate teachers and counselors; I was part of the first graduating class. You might say that the rest is history, as I am currently the co-director of SHI.
I have dedicated my life to understanding the energetic nature of foods, cooking styles, and creating dynamic, healthful meal plans. All this has helped me to further develop myself as a person, my teaching, and my craft, macrobiotic cooking. Macrobiotics was one of the first things that kept my full interest; it never gets boring. As the world changes, as I change, we continuously evolve our practice of this art and way of life. I love sharing what I have learned with my students.
Check out Susan’s blog “Taste with Integrity” at www.susanwaxman.blogspot.com.