Food, Faith, and Healing

The following article appeared in Macrobiotics Today, November/December 2010 issue, excerpted from Ginat Rice’s book Food, Faith, and Healing.


The US National Cancer Institute estimated approximately 750,000 cancer cases among men and 692,000 among women in 2009. Breast cancer accounted for 26 per cent of these cancers.

I was never supposed to be one of them. I was an experienced macrobiotic practitioner, diagnostician and counselor. In 1999, after twenty years of dedicated macrobiotic practice as a health counselor, I discovered a small lump in my breast.

I couldn’t conceive of the possibility of cancer in my life, so I ignored it. Ever so gently a friend suggested I see an oncologist. She brought me to his office where I had a full examination. The results are the subject of this book: the role of food, faith and feelings in reversing serious illness and the desire to understand on a deep level what happened to me and to so many others.

The opportunity to explore my burning questions could not have been better timed. My husband Sheldon and I had long dreamt of exploring North America by motor home upon his retirement in late 2000. It became an opportunity to explore opinions with hundreds of new friends across the US and Canada on the subjects of health and healing. For the better part of three years I conducted 175 interviews with people who had relieved or reversed illness with healthy eating, especially macrobiotics.

I heard stories of true heroism as people battled their way back from cruel statistics. I met people who I knew would not live to see the publication of this book. I had to examine death, the meaning of healing and of success. I examined the paths people used to heal, and inquired into their purpose of life once illness was past.

I developed a four-page questionnaire exploring the following issues:

  1. What is illness? Why do people get ill? Why did you get ill?
  2. What’s your story - - how did you become ill? What happened to you?
  3. What kind of support did you have? What were the reactions of those around you?
  4. How does one rediscover well being?
    How did you get well?
    What changes and transitions did you experience along the way?
    What worked well in your journey?
    What difficulties did you come across?
    What was hard?
  5. Food Issues.
    What was easy in adopting a macrobiotic way of eating; what wasn’t?
    What tasted good to you at the beginning; what didn’t?
    What “shoulds” are in your life around food now? How do you make food choices?
  6. What is macrobiotics? This is the mystery at the heart of our movement.
  7. Now that you’ve healed, will you do anything differently?
    What have you learned from your experience?
    What do you do now?

Many of these conversations dovetailed with our research on the relationship between macrobiotics and cancer with Dr. Jane Teas in her landmark study at the University of South Carolina School of Public Health (1).

Others were part of my project entitled “Profiles in American Macrobiotics,” as published by Yogen Kushi in his former e-zine, Non Credo (2).

This book is my attempt to understand well being on the deepest and truest level. I discovered that even more powerful than food is a person’s mindset. Food is pivotal in cleansing our mind-body, but my negative attitudes and mood swings were poisoning my life. Even the best food cannot counteract a toxic mind. I applied myself to spiritual teachings that inspired me to deep inner well being.

This book is intended for those who are or have been ill and those who seek to understand the mystery of health. It will inspire and encourage those who may have received a negative medical prognosis, or face peer pressure to follow conventional healing modalities when they seek alternatives. It addresses issues of illness and health that lie in the heart of every thinking person. Most of all, it lights the way to recovery in its deepest meaning of spiritual health.

It took time and, for my inquisitive mind, investigation in order to be at peace with my experience of cancer. It was not something I took lightly nor something I’d wish for. Yet today, I can look at my experience of illness and say with true conviction, “Thank God I had breast cancer. It healed my life.” This book is my account of that journey to well being.


The following survey developed from conversations with scores of macrobiotic friends and new acquaintances that Sheldon and I met as we traveled throughout North America. At each new location we would seek out macrobiotic activity and practitioners at local health food stores, schools and clinics, and through health directories.

Eventually I standardized my poll to provide a consistent basis of conversation and comparison. It became a springboard for deep and satisfying interchange.

  1. What is your macrobiotic background?
  2. Have you had?
    Cooking lessons?
    ho cooks in your household?
    Formal macrobiotic study?
    A health consultation with a macrobiotic counselor?
  3. Do you eat out frequently? Do you eat homemade lunches?
  4. In what direction do you want to you have support?
  5. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the lowest, how would you rate your macrobiotic practice, if at all?
  6. What has changed in your macrobiotic practice as it has developed?
  7. Is your macrobiotic practice comfortable?
  8. How do you define/understand macrobiotics?
  9. What is the main benefit you have garnered from macrobiotics?
  10. Assuming that everything has a front and a back, what is the backside of macrobiotics for you?
  11. What is illness? What is health? Is health synonymous with happiness?
  12. What do you understand as the main cause of [your] illness?
  13. How did you / does one heal? Why doesn’t everyone heal?
  14. What is the benefit of illness for you?
  15. How do you replace fear with love and let go of attachments to change?
  16. Is macrobiotics for everyone? Is a macrobiotic diet the ideal diet in your eyes?
  17. What does it mean to be a spiritual person?

Book Review by Julia Ferre

Food, Faith, and Healing by Ginat Rice is a book about recovery from illness. It details accounts from forty people and how each coped with their respective situation to return to health, using everything from food, doctors, support, and faith.

This sort of book is not new—macrobiotic books often talk about people beating incredible odds. But this book offers more than a one-approach-fits-all commonality. This book spans a range of experience that is described best in people’s own words.

The bulk of the book is in quotations—people’s own words—and the author, Ginat, has done an exacting job of sorting out these quotations into respective chapters and themes.

No two stories are alike—few people experience illness in a similar way. Yet there is a connecting thread among all of them, a deep conviction in the desire to live and be whole. Many themes are concurrent: faith and trust in the process, follow through with the details, the role of food in healing, and learning lessons about things in life that matter.

Ginat interviewed each person for the book. She divided the interviews into segments and organized them into chapters of similar ideas. There are segments on Causes of illness, Support, and Rediscovering health. From there, the segments blossom into chapters about each person’s experience, each unique and each offering ideas on the role food and faith have in healing.

I really enjoyed reading people’s explanations of what they think caused their illness, everything from food to environment, childhood traumas, and karma. The depth of experience is phenomenal. The breadth of experience is just as vast. For example, some people chose alternative treatments for their illness. Others have conventional treatments first and then alternative. Still others combine alternative and conventional treatments. Food is instrumental for everyone, in some measure or another.

Overcoming illness is not easy, but it can be done. Ginat’s testimony bears witness to the commitment and dedication of forging ahead. Shortly after her own experience with cancer, she began a journey to understand how other people dealt with theirs. She and husband, Sheldon, traveled around the United States in a motor home conducting hundreds of interviews. This book is an outgrowth of that information, compiled into a comprehensive volume.

Food, Faith, and Healing is sure to inspire and offer encouragement for anyone dealing with illness, a source of inspiration on the power of food and the power of the human spirit.