Alicia Silverstone: “Macrobiotics taught me to listen to my body”

My story started innocently enough – a little girl wanted to save the dogs. Yes, I’ve always been an animal fanatic. My mom did too: if we saw a dog on the street that looked like it needed help, my mom would hit the brakes and I would jump out of the car and race towards the dog. We made a great tandem. I still do dog rescue to this day.

Every little child is born with an unconditional inner love for animals. Animals are perfect and different creatures, each has its own personality, and the child knows how to see it. But then you grow up and they tell you that interacting with animals is so childish. I know people who grew up on a farm, they were assigned to take care of a piglet or a calf. They loved these animals. But there came a moment when one of the parents took the pet to the slaughterhouse with the words: “It’s time to get tougher. That’s what it means to grow up.”

My love for animals collided with my love for meat when I was eight. My brother and I flew in a plane, brought lunch – it was a lamb. As soon as I stuck my fork in it, my brother started bleating like a little lamb (he was already 13 at the time and knew perfectly well how to make me suffer). Suddenly a picture formed in my head and I was horrified. It’s like killing a lamb with your own hands! Right then, on the flight, I made the decision to become a vegetarian.

But what did I know about nutrients and nutrition in general – I was only eight. For the next few months, I ate nothing but ice cream and eggs. And then my convictions were shaken. I kind of started to forget about my aversion to meat – yes, I was so fond of pork chops, bacon, steak and all that …

When I was 12, I started studying at the acting studio. I liked it. I liked talking to the older guys. I liked to feel that I can touch another world that gives so many experiences and opportunities. Then I realized what I have a passion for, and at the same time I began to understand the meaning of the word “commitment”.

But my “commitment” to not eating animals was somehow uncertain. I woke up in the morning and declared: “Today I am a vegetarian!”, but it was so difficult to keep the word. I was sitting in a cafe with a girlfriend, she ordered a steak, and I said: “Listen, are you going to finish this?” and ate a piece. “I thought you were a vegetarian now?!” my friend reminded me, and I retorted: “You still can’t eat all this. I don’t want the steak to go to the trash.” I used every excuse.

I was 18 when Clueless came out. Adolescence is a strange period in itself, but becoming famous during this time is a truly wild experience. It’s great to be recognized as an actor, but after the release of Clueless, it felt like I was in the middle of a hurricane. You may think that fame brings more friends, but in reality, you end up in isolation. I was no longer a simple girl who can make mistakes and enjoy life. I was under tremendous pressure, as if I was fighting for my own survival. And in this situation, it was difficult for me to maintain contact with the Alicia that I really was, it was impossible.

Almost impossible. One of the benefits of going public is that animal rights groups found out about my love for dogs and started getting me involved. I participated in all campaigns: against animal testing, against fur, against sterilization and castration, as well as in animal rescue campaigns. For me, all this made a lot of sense, against the backdrop of the general chaos in my life, it looked simple, understandable and correct. But then no one talked to me seriously about vegetarianism, so I continued my game – either I’m a vegetarian, or I’m not.

One day I came home from a heartbreaking day at the animal shelter – I brought home 11 dogs that were supposed to be euthanized. And then I thought: “Now what?”. Yes, I did what my heart demanded, but at the same time I understood that this was not a real solution to the problem: the next day, more dogs would be brought to the shelter … and then more … and then more. I gave my heart, soul, time and money to these poor creatures. And then it was like an electric shock struck me: how can I spend so much energy on saving some animals, but at the same time there are others? It was a deep crisis of consciousness. After all, they are all equal living beings. Why do we buy special dog beds for some cute little dogs and send others to the slaughterhouse? And I asked myself, very seriously – why shouldn’t I eat my dog?

It helped me solidify my decision once and for all. I realized that as long as I spend money on meat and any products that are associated with cruelty and abuse of animals, this suffering will never end. They won’t just stop at my will. If I really want to stop animal abuse, I have to boycott this industry on all fronts.

Then I announced to my boyfriend Christopher (now my husband): “Now I am a vegan. Forever and ever. You don’t have to go vegan either.” And I started talking nonsense about how I want to save cows, how I will build my new vegan life. I was going to think and plan everything. And Christopher looked at me tenderly and said: “Baby, I don’t want to cause suffering to pigs either!”. And it convinced me that I am the happiest girl on earth – because Christopher has always supported me, from the first day.

That evening, we fried our last steak, which was in the freezer, and sat down to our last non-vegetarian dinner. It turned out to be very solemn. I crossed myself as a Catholic, although I am Jewish, because it was an act of faith. I have never cooked without meat. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever eat something delicious again.

But just two weeks after switching to a vegan diet, people began to ask me: “What is happening to you? You look so amazing!” But I ate pasta, french fries and all this junk food (I still eat it sometimes). All I gave up was meat and dairy, and yet I looked better in just two weeks.

Something really strange started happening inside of me. My whole body felt lighter. I became more sexy. I felt that my heart opened up, my shoulders relaxed, and I seemed to become softer all over. I no longer carried heavy animal protein in my body – and it takes a lot of energy to digest it. Well, plus I no longer had to bear the burden of responsibility for suffering; cortisol and adrenaline are produced in the body of frightened animals before slaughter, and we get these hormones along with meat food.

Something was going on at an even deeper level. The decision to go vegan, a decision I made solely for my own sake, was an expression of my true self, my true beliefs. It was the first time my “I” said a firm “no”. My true nature began to emerge. And she was powerful.

One evening, years later, Christopher came home and announced that he wanted to become a macrobiota. He read interviews with people who said that thanks to such nutrition they feel harmonious and happy, he was intrigued. I heard (as it turned out later, I was wrong) that macrobiotics are suitable only for sick people and that fish is a key product in such a diet. It wasn’t for me! Then he looked at me tenderly and said: “Okay, baby, I’ll try macrobiotics, and you don’t have to do it.”

Ironically, at that moment I was experimenting with a different kind of food – a raw food diet. I ate tons of fruits, nuts and other raw treats. Although I felt good in sunny California when I had to go to snowy, cold Manhattan – we worked with Kathleen Taylor and Jason Biggs in the play “The Graduate” – everything changed. After a few days of work, my body became cold, my energy levels dropped, but I continued to eat my raw food. Between rehearsals, I boldly walked into the winter cold in search of juice from wheatgrass, pineapple and mango. I found them – this was New York – but I didn’t feel well. My brain did not want to hear anything, but my body continued to give signals that it was out of balance.

Other members of our acting team constantly teased me about the “extreme” diet. I swear Jason once ordered lamb and rabbit just to annoy me. Every time I yawned and looked tired, the director would announce, “It’s because you don’t eat meat!”

It’s funny how the pieces of the puzzle of your life one day fit together. On the same visit to New York, I walked into Candle Cafe and saw Temple, a waitress I hadn’t seen in years. She looked amazing – skin, hair, body. Temple said she sought help from a macrobiotic consultant and is now healthier than ever in her life. I decided that I would give Christopher a consultation with this specialist for his birthday. She looked so gorgeous—that macrobiotic must make sense.

When it came time for the consultation, my worries resumed with renewed vigor. We walked into the macrobiotics specialist’s office, and I sat down, crossed my arms over my chest, and thought, “That’s stupid!” The consultant politely ignored me and worked only with Christopher – making recommendations for him. When we were about to leave, she suddenly turned to me: “Maybe you should try too? You will have more energy and I will help you get rid of acne.” Crap. She noticed. Yes, of course, everyone noticed. Ever since I stopped taking birth control pills, my skin has become a nightmare with cystic acne. Sometimes I had to ask for a second take during filming because my skin looked so bad.

But she didn’t finish. “Do you know how many resources it takes to deliver some of the foods you eat? she asked. – Coconuts, pineapples and mangoes fly here from all over the world. It’s a huge waste of fuel.” I never thought about it, but she was definitely right.

I felt my prejudice go away. “How can this food suit you in a cold winter in New York? If you eat a product from a different climate zone, what should your body do with it? Your body is here in cold New York. And mangoes are made to cool people’s bodies in tropical climates.” I got hooked. Acne, mango, fuel overrun, she beat me. I decided to give her a chance, and after a week of following her recommendations, the condition of my skin – acne haunted me for many years – improved significantly. It was magic.

But this is the real superhero diet. And I don’t expect everyone to become superheroes overnight. The recommendations included simple advice: add whole grains to every meal. I made miso soup almost every day and ate vegetables all the time. I made sure all my food was seasonal and local, buying apples instead of pineapples. I said goodbye white sugar and all sweeteners. I stopped eating white flour baked goods, store-bought prepared foods, and of course I still didn’t eat meat or dairy products.

A few adjustments and everything has completely changed.

Although I felt good as a vegan, after switching to macrobiotics, I had even more energy. At the same time, I became very calm and peaceful inside. It became easy for me to concentrate, my thinking became very clear. When I became a vegan, I noticeably lost weight, but only macrobiotics helped to remove the remaining extra pounds and brought me into perfect shape without any additional effort.

After some time, I became more sensitive. I began to better understand the essence of things and hear intuition. Before, when they said, “Listen to your body,” I had no idea what they meant. “What is my body saying? But who knows, it just exists! But then I realized: my body is really trying to tell me something all the time, once I erased all the barriers and heard it.

I live more in harmony with nature and the seasons. I live in harmony with myself. Instead of relying on the people around me to guide me where to go, I go my own way. And now I feel – from the inside – what step to take next.

From Alicia Silverstone’s The KindDiet, translated by Anna Kuznetsova.

PS Alicia spoke about her transition to macrobiotics in a very accessible way – about this nutrition system itself in her book “The Kind Diet”, the book contains many interesting recipes. After the birth of the child, Alicia released another book – “The Kind Mama”, in which she shares her experience of pregnancy and raising a vegan child. Unfortunately, these books have not been translated into Russian at the present time.

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