This macrobiotic chef shares 4 easy tips to eat and feel healthier

Speaking Nutrition and Healthy Habits With Macrobiotic Teacher Nadine Barner


Nadine Barner is a macrobiotic teacher specialized in nutrition and oriental medicine. She discovered macrobiotics when she was diagnosed with cancer and decided to study nutrition and food. She has worked with many sick private clients and various celebrities in the entertainment industry. In our conversation, Nadine introduces us to macrobiotics and shares some advice and habits for a healthier life.

What is your background? 

Nadine Barner: I left France when I was 18, went to Canada first, then to Florida and eventually to California. There, I attended college to study journalism and photography. I have a son and was married to a French guy. It didn’t work out, as I was young and immature. [laughs]

Can you explain what is macrobiotic?

Macrobiotic is a way of life that guides one’s choices in nutrition, activities, and lifestyle, an orderly approach to diet and lifestyle. I would say it is a set of principles and practices to benefit body and mind. Basically, it is a diet,  philosophy, and medicine.

The ultimate goal is to have health and vitality to do everything you want in your life and to pursue your dreams. When not healthy, you cannot follow your dream, nor do what you wish to do. Hippocrates is the first one who coined the word Macrobiotic. In Greek, macro means large, big, and bio means life. Macrobiotics is basically having a “big life.”

Do you have some tips for people who want to eat and feel healthier?

Your health depends on a lot of things you do but basically, it is diet and lifestyle.

  1. Try to sit down to eat at the same time every day.

    Ideally, breakfast at 8 am, lunch between noon and 1 pm, and dinner at 6-6.30pm. In this way, you’re following Nature’s cycles.

  2. It is better to avoid eating three hours before bedtime as digestion slows down in the evening.

  3. Try to chew your food better.

    Put your fork down between chews and count 20 to 25 chews before swallowing your food, and see how you feel.

  4. When sitting down to eat (at least for 25 minutes):

    Relax, don’t do anything but eat. It means not being on the computer, reading, or watching television. Your digestive system is also connected with your nervous system, hence it needs to be relaxed to digest your food properly. Digestive problems, cravings, feeling agitated, and gazy all springs from poor digestion. Last but not least, try to not overeat.

Regardless of the food you eat, if you follow this method for 10 days, you will feel a bit change in you. Those simple steps will start to regulate your hormones (great for women) and regulate your blood sugar and sleep. You will feel calmer, satisfied after eating and your digestion will improve. Just applying those few rules will make you feel more stable and grounded. 

Oriental medicine looks at the “constitution” which you are born with and is your hereditary bank account. We can’t change that. Then, there is our condition, how we take care of ourselves day to day, how we manage our lives. On this, we have enormous say over it, and this what determines our health, and the quality of our lives. I’m sorry to say, in my observation, people are really losing the ability to guide their lives, really make smart choices day and day out, and not making the best choices both with their foods and their lifestyle.

One of the goals of macrobiotics or holistic medicine is really basic to learn how to make smart choices to guide your life. Perhaps as many people know, white blood cells ls changes in 10 days, while red blood cells in about 120 days. This before your organs get affected by diet and lifestyle. In short, over time, everything in our body can change with the proper diet and lifestyle. I’d like to suggest watching a documentary on Netflix called The Game Changers. I think you will like it.

How do you adapt this lifestyle to modern life? 

Everything is a question of choice you make every single day. For example, I never travel in the morning as I like to prepare the food I will take with me on the plane. As everyone knows, the food at the airports is really bad!

How did you discover it?

I started macrobiotic in 1984 because I was sick. At the time, I was going to college and working in a French restaurant. Besides, I was always tired, dragging myself, and suffered from various ailments. I moved to LA, felt sicker, and eventually diagnosed with ovarian and breast cancer. I was made aware of this on an April Monday attending a seminar in Santa Barbara.

So there I was, one morning sitting across a guy named Stan, eating my third bowl of cereals and milk, and conversing with him. At one point,  Stan looked up at me and said “I think you have a problem with your reproductive system, don’t you?”

Imagine my surprise! He then discussed iridology, a technique in which one can look in your eyes and according to various discolorations in the iris, identify potential issues in the body. Later, Stan and I took a walk outside in the garden,  and gently asked: “Have you ever heard of something called macrobiotics?” This is how I started.

What happened after that?

A week later, I had a consultation with a macrobiotic counselor, which I am now. She sat me down for two hours of diagnosis and my whole world changed right there. Needless to say, after everything I had learned that was wrong with my diet, I came home, opened my cupboard and refrigerator, and threw out everything. From there on, I would eat grains, beans, vegetables, basically just whole foods.

In those days, 1986, vegetarians and macrobiotic people were lucky. There was a big macrobiotic center on the corner of Melrose and Fairfax and a restaurant as well. There, I started macrobiotic cooking classes steeped in oriental medicine classes for six weeks. Most of the attending students had various illness and many also had cancer.

We learned a lot in those six weeks. Physical and emotional changes were startling and we didn’t look anymore the way we had walked in. While this was going on, my doctors were pushing me towards chemotherapy and radiation but I opted out. Instead, I applied the principles I was learning, cooking healthy food, taking special baths, and specific applications on my breast.

The most important thing was to let go of fear and doubt. It wasn’t easy but eventually with some good support from friends, and practicing macrobiotic, I gained enough faith in myself. It took about two years to completely heal my cancers, but finally, I was free of it without surgery, without radiation, without chemotherapy.

Besides nutrition, do you have other wellness and self-care rituals?

Yoga, the gym, walking, I love reading, I don’t know if you noticed but I have tons of books [laughs]. I read many different things, a lot about nutrition, oriental medicine, and even “politics.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

Read, go to the movies, see friends. I love cooking, I spend about 4 hours a day cooking for myself. When I had cancer, I was in the kitchen for 8 hours. I know, it sounds daunting but really, I didn’t know how to cook, nor take care of myself properly. 

What is your definition of success?

I have done it. I was very successful at my job. To me, my idea of success is being able to share the knowledge that one learns along the way.

What is your perfect breakfast?

Miso soup, soft grains which are porridge are my perfect morning breakfast. One thing to know, grains contain all the B complex, including protein, fiber as well as trace minerals such as iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium. B vitamin is great for our skin and energy. I found that eating and chewing grains also make you calmer.

Do you have a morning routine?

Cooking first, then I will do yoga or some stretching at home. When I have time, I go to the gym. Presently, I am working on two cookbooks when I have a couple of hours to spare during the day.

Your favorite destination?

Hong Kong!

Who would you suggest we interview next?

You should interview Denny Waxman, he is very inspiring.

Save as a photo and add it to your takeaways album.

If you like this article about macrobiotic, our editor recommends: 5 healthy benefits from drinking Kombucha [/mepr-show]


Romain Wawrzyniak is our Editor-in-Chief. His enthusiasm and kindness make his guests feel comfortable creating intimate conversations and priceless insights.

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